Living on $13,000 or Less: Lessons Learned (Part 5)

How a family of 3 (with 1 on the way) made it through the first year of grad school living on less than $13,000 without any federal aid for housing, medical care, or food.

This series is based on how our family of 3 ½ made it through the first year of grad school living on less than $13,000 without any federal aid for housing, medical care, or food. I tried a lot of things and failed at a lot of things, but also found success and confidence through that time. I learned that sheer guts can see you through.

This is part 5 of the Living on $13,000 or Less series, if you missed previous installments click on through to read: Storm’s a Brewin’ (part 1),The First Hurdle (part 2),Christmas Unemployed (part 3), and Thriving During Unemployment (part 4).

 

The second year of grad school was also stressful but for all the normal reasons, what with conflicting schedules, all the school work, tests, and such-it was just what you would expect. Now free of the ‘no work contract’ the hubster gained a second internship during the school year with a completely different company than his summer internship.

That little bit made a huge difference on our finances and ultimately led to his current job. So at least the financial stress was off. And yes this definitely means we lived on more than $13,000 that second year.

The main lesson I learned the second year is that it’s a lot harder to be absolutely frugal when you don’t have to be. Yes that means I was not nearly as frugal that second year, so if you aren’t always doing the absolutely cheapest way just know it is ok. Do your best and then allow yourself to feel good about it.

Sometimes other things take precedent, for me it was spending more time with my new baby and not so new baby as we transitioned into this new phase of our family. I don’t regret one bit dropping the couponing ball during that time, and if you find yourself in a similar situation you shouldn’t either!

 

A little preparation makes a huge difference

Living on less than $13,000 would not have been possible if we didn’t have some things already in place. We already had a month’s supply of food and a large freezer. This gave us the flexibility to stock up on items when they were on sale and meet our needs. Otherwise we would’ve had to pay full price and possibly come up short.

I already knew how to cook so we didn’t have to rely on box dinners in the interim while I learned a new skill. We already had incredibly low rent, which was not only a monthly savings but saved us from a possible move which is quite costly upfront.

Lastly we were able to pull off Christmas presents due to my craft stockpile and my sewing/drafting ability. Our nephews certainly had no idea that we were financially strained and absolutely rocked those Jedi robes I made for them.

How a family of 3 (with 1 on the way) made it through the first year of grad school living on less than $13,000 without any federal aid for housing, medical care, or food.

Don’t be proud

The most important thing in place for our family was a supportive network of friends and family. I want to stress that it’s ok to ask for help or let friends know you’re struggling. How else would an envelope full of rent money end up on our doorstep? Somebody knew what was going on with our family and decided to pitch in.

The same can happen for you on many different levels. Friends might start offering extra produce from their garden, soon to expire canned goods, or hand me down clothes or anything really. Most people like to give their extra to friends before the thrift store. Tracy from the prudent homemaker has a fabulous post on this, head on over to gain more ideas.

How a family of 3 (with 1 on the way) made it through the first year of grad school living on less than $13,000 without any federal aid for housing, medical care, or food.

Organization is key

Organization can seem stifling and overbearing but it is often a key to freedom as well. If you know what you have in your pantry you won’t over buy or worse let food spoil. If you know where every dollar is going on paper before you spend, you know it’s going to the most efficient place it can.

Organization frees up your time, you’ll spend less time digging through piles looking for keys or that last pair of clean undies and get more useful things done. The more time available to do constructive work in your home is more money saved-period.

 

Join us next week for a continuation of lessons learned the last installment of our story on living on $13,000 or less. Two weeks from now I’ll start sharing the practical half of how we pulled this off, going into more detail of how we ate, shopped, and more fun stuff.

 

Update: You can now click through here to read the rest of this series published posts.