Our Reduced Income Experience
by Ann Lewis
My husband and I both changed careers and went to 3/4 time jobs last year in order to spend more time with our daughters, ourselves and each other. It's an unusual situation, and we are much happier. I read the Dollar Stretcher with relish and use many of the ideas. Here's some ways we survived the 25% + drop in income:
We rarely eat out. A restaurant meal is a real treat, reserved for birthdays and anniversaries. We always pack finger food ( i.e. popcorn, fruit newtons, graham crackers, fruit) for "outings", so fast food isn't tempting. To ease the deprivation feeling ,we occasionally "splurge" at home - a t- bone dinner on our grill is still cheaper. Lunches at work are leftovers from dinner.
- We use one credit card but pay off the balance each month, even if we have to dip into savings. We can not stay afloat paying interest.
- We also lowered our expectations of meals at home, so that a scrambled egg dinner is welcome and easy. We simplified our meals too; boiled potatoes with butter and parmesan as seasonings, instead of a quick processed box of au gratin potatoes, for example. We eat a lot of homemade soup with hearty breads and salads.
- I learned how to use a pressure cooker to cook beans ( 40 minutes maximum and no soaking necessary) and to cook tougher pieces of beef and venison.
- We set aside 10% of all income for savings and keep at least a $5000 balance. It is part of my peace of mind.
6) We instituted an allowance for the girls. They may choose to do three chores a week for $1.00 a chore. At the end of the week, they are paid for what they've earned. One third of their earnings goes into their wallets for immediate consumption, one third is saved to the beginning of the month at least, and one third is funneled to their "adult" fund. The chores are emptying the trash, watering the plants, and changing the sheets on one's bed. Given their ages ( 3 and 5 ), they are assisting us when these weekly chores are performed, but so far it's working well. There are a few weeks when neither earns money, and there are weeks when they are scrambling to assist.
- We explain to our daughters that we strive to provide them with what we feel they need and that they may use their allowance to buy what they feel they need. For example, we bought sneakers and teva-like sandals for summer. Our eldest used her savings to buy a pair of "jellies". This method really helps with the "Disney-give-mes".
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We're still paying off last Christmas and worry how we'll afford the holidays this year without charging it again! Tell us: Yes, we could use help getting out of the debt trap we're in! or No, debt is not a problem for us but I'm always looking for ways to trim my family's expenses further!