The Early Years
Financial Advice for Newlyweds
How Newlyweds Can Minimize Financial Stress
Young Couple Finances
I am a 20-year-old housewife. We have no kids yet and we live on one income, 13K a year after taxes. My husband works full time and goes to college. I stay at home and keep house. I was wondering how other people managed those first few years of hardship and how they managed to keep afloat and happy.
Surviving Couple's Tips
I have so many ideas because my husband and I were in the same boat as a one income family.
- Do NOT get into credit card debt! That is a huge downfall. If you can't afford to pay for something up front with cash, save up for it. You will appreciate it more.
- Learn to cook from scratch. I feed a family of four on $300 a month and we eat well, but I cook everything from scratch. Buy a good cookbook (Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens). Even though they a little more, they are well worth it.
- Don't pay for cable if you get local stations with an antenna. We didn't have a TV for our first year and the first one we got was given to us. We still use it today.
- Don't spend a lot of money on gifts for each other. My husband made me cards before he left for work on Valentines, birthdays and anniversaries. I appreciated something that he made opposed to something he would have bought.
- Spending time at home playing cards, board games or so on, opposed to going out to dinner or movies is much cheaper and you enjoy it more because it is spent with the one you love instead of a theater full of people or a rude waitress.
- Make friends with couples. You will have someone to talk with and you will have someone to BBQ with, plan outings with, and so on. It will also give you a way to have fun while splitting the cost of events.
- Never try to keep up with the "Joneses." Be grateful for what you have. Nothing is perfect, and with some planning and saving, you can have anything you really want. Only buy what you need until you are in a position to buy what you want!
Dawn - MO
Find A Job
The best thing you can do to improve your finances right now is to get a job! With no daycare expenses and a healthy dose of frugality, you can save most of your income for the time when you do have kids and want to stay home with them. Make sure you don't spend your income on conveniences.
Hindsight is 20/20
Your question brought back a lot of memories of our struggles when my husband was going to school and held a job. I took care of our home.
If I had to do it over again, I would use my free time to learn about financial matters. This may sound boring, but checking books out of the Library, such as "Financial Peace" by Dave Ramsey, "The Complete Cheapskate" by Mary Hunt and "The Complete Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacycyzn would certainly have given me insights about handling money that would have benefited us for the rest of our lives.
Also, I should have used the time to learn cooking skills, join a web site like Flylady.net, go back to school, do volunteer work, or even get a part-time job. The time goes by so quickly. In hindsight, I see a lot of my time was wasted watching TV and doing menial stuff that really didn't matter over the years. Good Luck!
The Happiest Time of Life
My husband and I also lived on a fixed income when we were first married and in college ($7,200 a year). It's difficult. However, looking back (we've been married for almost 18 years), those turned out to be some of the happiest times of our lives.
Here are some of the things we did to get by happily.
- Scholarships. My husband was one smart cookie. He researched scholarship opportunities at the college financial aid office, applied for relevant ones and received three or four over the course of his time as a student. Some were large, several were small. However, even the small ones paid for books each quarter and you know how expensive they can be.
- We made menus and shopped with a list. We purchased our milk from a local dairy. Cheaper and fresher. We clipped coupons and shopped sales. I cooked simple, tasty meals from scratch. We minimized expensive, packaged foods.
- We couldn't afford much for entertainment, so we tried to maximize our money. Can you believe that our first year we went to Dairy Queen on Friday nights and bought two Dilly Bars for $1? Then we drove up on the highest hill overlooking our town and sat and watched the sunset and ate our delicious ice cream treats. We still remember those "dates" and how special they made us feel.
- We used our library to borrow books and music rather than buying them.
- We walked as much as possible rather than using our car. This saved gas and provided exercise.
- We talked to one another about what we would do with our future. Made plans, dreamed about the house we would own, etc. This is fun and free, plus it helps you realize that you are sacrificing today for a better tomorrow!
Hope this helps. Hang in there. You too will probably look back on these lean years and realize how wonderful they were.
Fine Tune Your Budget
Develop an envelope system for your weekly budget. You can buy a plastic mini-accordion file at the Dollar Store. Label each tab with an expense, such as gas, dates, food, allowance, etc. Then, at each payday, pull out the money needed at the bank and distribute it to the appropriate slot. Only use this money throughout the week and use your checkbook to pay bills. Using cash works as a visual tool simply because you won't use money that's not there. Whereas with credit cards and even debit cards, it can be easy to use more money than you should.
A Word of Encouragement
Congratulations on deciding to stay home and keep house! You would be surprised how many people look down on that, but don't listen to them because it's wonderful that you are doing it. When we first married, I stayed home during the day although I had a paper route. The paper route brought in $200 a month, and my husband made $15,600 gross. I quit my paper route soon after we were married, so we were down to what my husband made.
We rented an efficiency apartment from a relative and were able to pay less rent that way. Living in a one-room apartment brought us closer together. I simply divided the room into a "living room" and a "bedroom" with our entertainment center and dressers. We were considerate when one wanted to sleep and the other one wanted to watch television. It was easier to clean, too. Our rent included utilities, which was great! We paid $350 per month and eventually $400 per month. I also learned to make the most of my space.
We bought a station wagon for $200 from a friend and received an old truck for nothing from a relative who had just received a free truck from another relative. Not making car payments really helps.
When we needed home repairs done, I was very specific. For instance, I called a plumber, asked what he charged per hour, told him how much I had, and told him if he had to spend longer than I could afford to just leave. He was done in half the time!
If you have room for a garden, grow some veggies! Seeds are cheap.
Clothes do not have to be brand name, and if you can mend, they will last a long time.
Finally, keep in mind that saving money is not the key to happiness. Appreciate your husband's hard work, and he will appreciate your hard work around the house. Remember your mission is to be a good homemaker, and it's a tough job but very rewarding. If you and your husband have the same mission for life, you'll be fine. If you are used to a low income now, children will not affect you as much as people say it will. Don't listen when they tell you "you're not ready for kids" because that statement is never true for a married couple.
Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!
Take the Next Step:
- Do you struggle to get ahead financially? Then you'll want to subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!