This is a guest post from Amanda, a Colorado tech writer and an activist for children with congenital heart disease.

I’ve been following Get Rich Slowly and Wise Bread lately, and I find myself fascinated by the reasons people have changed their lifestyles. If karma hadn’t kicked my butt, I wonder if I would have ever moved away from the consumerist culture in which I once reveled.
Once upon a time, my husband and I made almost $100,000 a year, had a mortgage payment of $900 a month for a house in a nice neighborhood, drove two new cars, had two cell phones, a full cable package, nice computer, went to a fancy gym with a sauna, ate out all the time, etc. etc. etc. Once upon a time, I had infinite free time and remodeled our kitchen for $2000, increasing the value of our starter home by $12,000.

Then came kids.
Everyone has to adapt to children. Furniture, diapers, breast milk storage bags, and all the baby accoutrements add up fast, but our first baby came with extras — five open-heart surgeries extra. Even with good insurance, our out-of-pocket expenses for all that — plus two c-sections, and cord blood banking (I support this for chronically ill children) — were $50,000 by the time our son turned three.  Our second child was less expensive, but since she showed up only 13 months after her brother, we had a double diaper/crib/car seat challenge. 
Daycare is not a safe option for a baby on oxygen, going in and out of surgeries, so we had nannies for a while. They were nice girls, but in the end, after payroll taxes and salary payout, it made sense for my husband to become a stay-at-home-dad. I had the higher salary and the better insurance options, and he was willing to give it a go.
Two and a half years later:

  • We have one car.
  • I ride my bike to work.
  • I use the free gym at work.
  • I use the free banking at work.
  • We have only basic cable.
  • We drink only water.
  • I bring my lunch.
  • Our family eats out only when it fits in our budget.

We pay cash for everything, we plan all of our purchases, and we, strangely, have far more cash saved than we ever did when we made significantly more. Even stranger, I am happier now, with my costly kids and leftover lunches, than I ever was burning through money.
Sometimes I want kick myself that we didn’t save more when we were younger. I can’t believe we used to have credit card debt when we had so much more income than we do now! But I figure life is too short and too precious to waste time regretting past mistakes. It’s far better to learn from them and make positive changes for the future.

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