I’ve had a few people email me and ask how we manage to survive on our extraordinarily high DTI. So I thought I’d share with you a little window into the life of the deeply in debt, lifestyle-wise. Here’s how we avoid spending money so that we can make a dent in our debt:
– We make a once a month meal planning menu and shop once a month as well. Aside from a few trips in for fresh fruit and some milk or bread, all of our grocery shopping is done in one fell swoop. If we stick to our list, we can feed our family of six for roughly $400 a month.
– We eat cheap and we buy in bulk when it’s cheaper. We buy the 25lb. box of rice at Sam’s Club, along with the 84 oz. box of oatmeal. We buy generic when we can handle the taste (in some cases, generic tastes even better), and we buy meat in bulk as well. Meals consist of lots of rice, noodles, potatoes and soups.
– We control portions and do our best not to waste food. If a recipe calls for a stick of butter, we use half a stick and add a bit of milk. We use less veggies, meats, and dairy in nearly all the recipes we make. We’ve even made pancakes from scratch without milk and eggs, using water instead. It works, and it saves us money. And 9 times out of 10, we eat all of our leftovers. Throwing food away is a rarity.
– The heat goes down at night and when we’re going to be gone for more than a couple of hours. We’re also saving up to install a wood-burning stove in time for next winter. This isn’t cost-effective for everyone, but since half of our 7.5 acres are wooded, it’ll be a huge money-saver for us.
– Lights out unless absolutely necessary. This is the rule. If you visit our house, you may have to pee in the dark. (Just kidding, of course 🙂 ). But seriously, folks, lights will not be on in this house unless they absolutely need to be. Is this annoying sometimes? Yes, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Our one exception to this rule is living room lights on when we watch TV. And after 3 months of lights out (this was quite common during the Depression), lights on during TV time feels like a huge splurge.
– Home repairs are DIY if at all possible. If not, we’ll work to negotiate with the repair person by asking if we can buy our own parts or do some of the work ourselves.
– No I-phones or smartphones here. Internet access on your phone is not a necessity, for most. We have the pay-as-you-go call and text phone for me. Cost? About $100 a year. We buy 1000 minutes and I don’t use them unless necessary or unless someone texts/calls me. Rick has a work phone, so we’re covered there.
– Entertainment, minimal. Our average for the year for our entire family of six so far is about $40 a month. Probably should be less, given our situation, but we’re trying to stay sane. 🙂
– Kids’ activities. NO, these are not necessities. We paid for the swim lessons we committed to in the fall, but unless something seriously beneficial comes up, there will be no paid activities for the kids this year.
– Personal care. No. The haircuts and highlights are NOT necessities. Do I miss them? YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I think I actually willed some blonde into my bangs this week. :-). But by doing all of our own haircuts and me skipping the highlights, we’re saving several hundred dollars a year.
Without spending too much time on my soapbox, let me just say that I really believe that part of the reason Americans are in the financial mess they’re in today is because we’ve lost all sight of the difference between what is truly a need and what is truly a want.
My dear friend Michelle gave me a wonderful book the other day, entitled, “How to Cook a Wolf” (affiliate link). The writer has a wonderful story she tells that really helped me grasp the magnitude of how far from reality we’ve come in terms of entitlement:
Once, during the last war (WW1) when rationing of sugar and butter had been in effect just long enough to throw all the earnest young housewives into a proper tizzy, my grandmother sat knitting and listening to a small excited group of them discuss with proper pride their various ways of making cake economically. Each fel that her own discovery was the best, of course, and insisted that brown sugar or molasses with soda was much better than white, or that if you used enough spices you could substitute bacon fat for butter, or that eggs were quite unneccessary. Finally, my grandmother folded her knitting and then her hands, which was unusual for her because she believed that no real lady’s fingers should ever be idle.
“Your conversation is very entertaining, indeed,” she said with somewhat more than her ordinary dryness. “It interests me especially, my dears, because after listening to it this afternoon I see that ever since I was married, well over fifty years ago, I have been living on a war budget without realizing it! I never knew before that using common sense in the kitchen was stylish only in emergencies.”
Isn’t that classic???
That one profound line in the book opened my eyes to just how greedy, wasteful and ungrateful we as a nation have become!
Yes, getting back to basics in our family has been difficult. There’s a lot we miss that we used to do. However, getting back to basics has also brought us a profound sense of peace. We feel SO much better knowing that we are being good stewards of all that we have. And on the rare occasion when we do get to do something that’s a non-necessity, it tastes all the more sweet.