My Story: We Saved $700,000

by Vanessa


I'm a counselor at a public school and my husband is an engineer for a power company. I could easily stay home, but I have a great job. We don't make in the six figures, like some of our friend's families do, but we seem to live just as well, and, in fifteen years of marriage, and six children, we've saved $700,000, and hope to retire in 4 years, at a young 40. Most of the Doctors and Lawyers we know can't come close.

How do we do it? We bought an old 4500 square foot house in a nice, but older, neighborhood, and fixed it up using our own labor, and mostly paint. We rent out the downstairs apartment to a college student, and still have plenty of room plus a free emergency sitter. We decorated entirely with used items. You can paint floors, walls, cabinets, furniture, curtains, flowers, bedspreads, frames, statues, paintings, etc.. You can over haul a mattress with old quilts and a pair of pliers(spray it with Lysol and leave it in the sun a week first).

Stenciling can be the centerpiece of a room. We had the carpet dyed instead of replacing it, until our kids got over toddlerhood. We used entirely used furniture and accessories. For example: A beautiful and huge vase and silk flowers bought for $2.00 at a garage sale (originally in avocado and orange), spray painted in navy and yellow to match my oriental motif, is the center piece of our dining area, much oohs and aahs (all garage sale or junk store as well). If you like a picture that's cheap, but don't like the colors, find some paint and go over the section you'd like to change (like color by numbers).

We don't eat out. One night we do fast cooking food (hotdogs, spaghetti, eggs and toast, etc.) that same night we cook a full fancy meal for the next day. My husband and I do brunch together Saturday morning, we take one child with us (by turns, they don't come if schoolwork/chores are not done).

We keep old cars and use our local Junior college to fix them if they breakdown (Junior College does our hair and nails as well, I can't do it cheaper myself). We buy our clothing used (I'm always getting complements). We purchase flour, sliced dried potatoes, and meats, etc. in bulk, . We have a great vegetable garden. All scrap food goes into the compost pile. We buy bread and treats at the discount bread store. I buy can goods at the local bent can outlet (Delmonte for 39 cents, juicy boxes 10 cents). I use powdered milk in bulk, and flavor it for the kids.

I buy birthday presents for my kid's friends in bulk at sales. I buy Christmas at the garage sales, or make it myself. Family tell me they love my presents as unique and beautiful. We keep it simple and avoid fads. We allow the kids one outside event per year, sports or scouts, not both.

We take a yearly vacation. We set aside $200 per month for this event, we go in May when it's cheap most places. We don't decide till it's time where we are going. Then we do last minute specials. We've been to Disney, Grand Canyon, Washington, England, Cozumel.

We make our own wine and beer (my husband's hobby), and drink it wisely. We use the tennis courts and pool at our local community center, and we use the library for books. We use internet for all long distance. We pay cash for what we want, never have we had a balance on a credit card. we use payroll deduction and invest wisely. We don't use a maid or yard service, kids must clean up after themselves, the yard is everyone's duty. It's not hard to do these things, anyone can.

Anyway, in my opinion, the average family in the U.S.A. can easily save $1000 a month. We do much better than that.


My Story is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. It features people who have had financial successes and hopes that the articles will provide encouragement for others who would like to duplicate those accomplishments.

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