How our family lived on $13,000 during graduate school-without food stamps, medicare, or subsidized housing. This is part 13 of the Living on $13,000 or Less series. Click through if you missed earlier posts.
Going shopping with my Dad was sometimes awkward. We’d almost be done in the store, check out, and get the receipt as the cashier listed off how much we’d saved that trip. My dad was always ready with his witty line, ‘I save my money in the bank, not the store.’ The awkward pause after it was just embarrassing for my teenage self.
Couldn’t my dad see they’re just doing their job? I mean did he just want attention? Now as an adult I realize my dad wasn’t after attention from a stranger, instead he was sharing wisdom with his daughter-because he cared more for my learning than a comfortable transaction.
Why on earth do we think we save money at the same place we spend it?
Our culture has somehow skewed the meaning of saving into ‘not spending the regular price’. Who determines what the ‘regular price’ is any way? Marketers, people trained to get people spending. Just as we hand our hard earned cash over to a cashier they hand us a worthless piece of paper and tell us how much we have ‘saved’. If we’re going to make a real impact on our finances we have got to change this mindset.
Combat the saving mindset
Frugal blogs tout the success of: finding deals, stockpiling, and stacking coupons with sales. It can be a lot of buy, buy,buy. I have to say that buying is not how our young family lived on less than $13,000 that year. I did it by avoiding the store like the plague. I researched what meals were the least expensive and kept an eye out for deals on ingredients for those meals. I kept a look out for free items and challenged my creativity to transform them into needed items.
There’s a lot to be said for finding deals, it’s thrilling. When done carefully and correctly, it allows you a lifestyle not otherwise possible. But be careful, the exhilaration of deal hunting can distract from the fact that we’ve created a new hole to pour our money down. Not just money but even worse our time.
Value your time
Since our money was so tight I spent a lot of time making things. That showed me how valuable time is. I could almost price out how much I was worth an hour, because I was saving that much money. It was much easier to determine what crafting and researching was worth my time because I was putting a dollar amount to it.
I tend to look at everything in my life through a Return On Investment, or ROI, lense. If high end business leaders think about their ROI than why not implement the same philosophy into our home economics? It’s not always about money, but more often about time and effort.
Often the benefit is an intangible, like memories with my children, laughter, hugs, or a shy smile. I determine whether the cost and effort expelled is worth the end product. I’ve found being conscious of my ROI helps our budget and stress levels a ton, which in turn enriches our relationships.
Know where to splurge
Being in the best of health was imperative. Our frugal endeavors highly depended on our ability to do a lot of work each day. So our health was one area we did not pinch on. If we were sick, we made a timely visit to the Dr.
We made regular Dr. visits a priority, especially since Sunny was just a toddler. Going to the health center on campus only cost us $10 a visit (this didn’t include vaccines), so it was well worth the time and money. I still had to go to an OBGYN office during pregnancy, but for the most part our medical costs weren’t too bad. We were very fortunate to be in good health which allowed us to use our time to the best advantage.
CEO of your life
Taking charge of your finances and life takes discipline. You need to determine what’s really important to you and then prioritize it. Realize it isn’t heartless to view your life with a Return on Investment lense. We all have a limited amount of time and money. Whenever we say yes to something we’re also saying no to something else. Looking forward to how your time and money is spent means you’re being more proactive, and deciding where you really want to spend your time and money. You’ve become the master of your life instead of your limitations. It’s an exciting place to be.
What’s the best intangible thing in your life?
Want more from the ‘Living on $13,000 or Less’ series? Check these out!
This is part 13 of the Living on $13,000 or Less series. Click through here to read the rest of this series published posts.