Several years ago I saw a series entitled “Living Under the Median” on the Today Show. It featured the stories of families living on under $50,000 per year in America. Many folks not only live, but also thrive, while doing just that. Our family is one example!
After being married just four months (in late 1988) we made a very important decision: We would live within our income and save for future expenses. Our goal was, and is, to remain totally debt free. Since that time we have (after taking just one car loan in 1989 and paying it off in six months) paid cash for automobiles. We bought our first home in 1992 and paid the mortgage off in five years. Then, after living there an additional 13 years, bought our current home four years ago with no mortgage. It has been hard work, but it has been worth it!
Here are some financial principles, which have served us well:
- ALWAYS work from a written budget – and stick to it! Leave yourself “margin”. Don’t spend every penny that you make.
- Write down short, medium, and long-term goals and have a “game plan” for reaching them. Track those goals: I have a monthly synopsis sheet which I show Larry at the end of each month so that we are both aware of “where are are” in terms of the budget and our goals.
- Give generously – We tithe 10 percent of our income and do not count this money toward part of our spendable budget. It encourages a grateful spirit in you, when you consider the needs of others. Our faith plays a HUGE part in why we choose to live like we live! We believe that our monthly income is a gift from God to meet our needs. Therefore, we are responsible to spend it wisely and in a way, which brings Him honor and glory. We have seen God meet our needs in amazing, and often unexpected, ways through the years.
- If you are married, you are a TEAM! Always remember that your spouse is not your opponent, he or she is your ally. Together, you can accomplish so much more than if you are “at odds” about how, when, and where money should be spent. If you’re not married, form a team around you who will support and encourage you in your goals.
- Don’t let others define for you how you should spend your money. (And don’t let them define you as a person, either, based on your income or how you choose to spend money.) Don’t feel badly saying, “I’m sorry, we have spent our allotment of entertainment money for this month. But, if you’ll ask us again in two weeks, then we’d be happy to go to dinner with you.” Or: “I’m sorry, dinner won’t work for us. But, let’s meet for desert later in the evening.” It’s okay to set parameters – It’s YOUR money. You’d be surprised how many folks will admire your tenacity and actually tell you that they wish they had your self-discipline.
- Practice delayed gratification. Practice delayed gratification. Practice delayed gratification. (Did I say that enough?) Know who you are and where you’re headed. It will help to keep the ultimate goals in mind when you are tempted with purchases which will side-line you. When you are working within a limited budget, it really doesn’t take too many of those “little purchases” to add up to a big, fat “goal killer”!
- Know when to “kill that fatted calf” and CELEBRATE! If you’ve saved for your new living room furniture and found the perfect pieces (hopefully on sale or – even better – second hand) then joyfully spend that money! Believe me, when we moved in to this house – owing no bank one dollar – we did a “happy dance”, whooped, and hollered. Can’t imagine what the new neighbors thought. J
Joyfully living under the median,