My story all begins with my parents. I don't think they realized how much of an impact they made on me, as it relates to money. Even from a young age around 8, I always saved my birthday money and hardly ever spent anything.
As soon as I turned 16, I got a part time job- and still hardly ever spent money, until I paid $2000 cash of my own money for my 1989 Toyota Corolla in 1998. I kept that car through high school and half of college. For college, I decided to stay home and pay my own way for tuition, as I saved money by living at home. Others I went to college with, got apartments. I could never understand that. They would pay for rent, electricity, food, laundry, etc, when they could stay at home for almost free- and on top of that, they got student loans and bought brand new cars. My (now) husband wasn't able to attend college at home, but he got a roommate and stayed in in-expensive housing, and worked part time while in college (paying for part of it, with his parents helping with the rest). When he finished his undergraduate degree, we got engaged and then married the next year. During that year, I planned the wedding with the help of family and we did it pretty cheaply, although it was nice- we did all of the decorations and flowers, shopped at the craft stores every few weeks looking for sales, clearances, and 40% off coupons whenever Michael's printed them. I even found my wedding dress on eBay at a great price. We have a cake decorator in the family, which probably saved us a few hundred dollars.
During that year while I planned the wedding and was still in college, he worked full time and we saved saved saved. We had decided that after getting married, we would move to England and he would get his masters degree- loan free. He had been away to sock away just about every penny that year. That year in England, he went to school full time and I was able to get a part time job that also fulfilled a criteria of my undergraduate degree. After the year in England, we came back to the States, and stayed with family for almost 7 months while I finished my last year of school and he finished his thesis while looking for a job- also saving money. We had kept one car in the states while we were away, but sold my old Toyota. So as soon as he began looking for a job, we decided it was time to start looking for another car. We ended up paying cash for another used car. Both of us had gotten through undergraduate degrees, and him a masters without loans and we weren't about to start now- with a car.
I finished my undergraduate degree and started working just about the same time he found a new job. That was when we decided to get an apartment on a one year lease. Both of us had decent jobs and were able to save money each month, with no car loans, student loans, etc. We were used to living cheap, so it was no problem. Within a year, we had saved enough money for a down payment of a house and so we decided it was time to do so. That was 18 months ago!
We really don't have a "monthly budget", although all the numbers are written down in a spreadsheet and calculated, it's just that we don't have a whole lot of expenses. We are still living like we are in college, with the exception of a mortgage, which is more than an apartment, but other than that, we are living pretty cheap. We cook during the week, but enjoy eatting out on the weekends at not so expensive places. I make lunches for us about 4 days a week, which gets boring, but I try to rotate things around. We have expensive hobbies though- photography, computers, and traveling. Although, some of our hobbies (photgraphy, baking, and crafts) can help a little bit- gifts, saving money by doing things ourselves, but we still like to have fun.
We've set aside an emergency fund, of one year worth of our expenses- just in case both of us lost our jobs and couldn't get straight back to work. We've decided to now start an investment strategy and also are trying to get our 30-year mortgage paid off in a little less than 15 years. We didn't want to lock ourselves into the higher monthly payment, but wanted to pay extra as much as we could.
We are very lucky to have been put in this situation. It all started with our parents- teaching us, but also helping us out by letting us stay with him- but it enabled us to get a good start without getting into debt. The only debt we'll ever be in our house, which is a goal to get paid off as soon as possible. We don't have any kids, and I'm still not sure if we will, but I know that will put a damper on our savings and investment plan, but if that day arrives, I'm still we'll be able to adapt.
This was long, but I've been wanting to get it all down sometime.
Thanks for your time.