This is a guest post from my cousin, Mrs. Darling. It originally appeared on her site in a slightly different form.
I'm going to tell you just a bit about how to live on one income, but before doing that I will tell you how I'm qualified. Number one: I live on one income and have done so all our married life. Number two: we have successfully lived on one income. We are not in debt. We truly owe no man, or bank, or corporation, anything!
So how do we do it?
A peek inside my home will answer some of your questions.
A friend once brought someone from her church to my house After leaving, the new lady says to my friend,”I feel so sorry for Mrs. Darling. She lives so frugally. They must be so poor.” So without missing a beat my friend wonders why she thinks that. “Well,” says the sweet lady, “her microwave is so old. They don't even make those huge cumbersome things anymore and her telephone is still attached to the wall! And the car she drives! That old Monte Carlo is a beast!”
I laughed and laughed when my friend told me this story. I'm happy to say that today I have five phones (none of which are attached to the wall) and I also own a sleek stainless steel microwave. The old '72 Monte Carlo is sold and in its place is a Ford Expedition. The Monte Carlo we bought used for $3000. The old phone, the huge 1980 model microwave, and the old cars all served as a stepping stone to the day when we could pay not just $3000 for a car, but $30,000 for an SUV!
At one time I drove a car that I needed to keep my foot on the gas and the brake both, just to keep it running at a stop light. Many times it died anyway. I was dating my husband at the time and he was quite concerned about my lack of decent transportation. He bought me a wonderful 1978 oldsmobile for 800 bucks. I drove it for years until it was totaled in an accident.
You ask why didn't he just finance a new car for me? Because you never get to the point we are today without sacrifice. You never reach the point of no debt when you're continually buying things you cant afford. It's all part of frugal living.
When we bought the SUV, another friend who was steeply in debt bought a used van that they could not afford nor did they need. She thought it would be nice for hauling the kids friends around with them so she bought it. She was complaining about the huge monthly bill they would have. Their credit wasn't any good and because of that they had to pay a very high interest rate to some rip off car lot. She finished her complaint by saying, “Well at least we can better afford our van than you can that brand new Expedition!” I didn't say anything. Better to leave her thinking that.
The reality of it was that in all the years gone before, my husband had bought used cars. He rebuilt their engines and completely overhauled them until they worked like new. But never had he bought a new car. That year we bought the Expedition he turned 40 years old. I was pregnant. It was the fall of 96 and we bought a spanking new 97 model. We paid cash for our Expedition. Yes, we could better afford our new SUV than my friend could her used van. It was the first new vehicle my husband ever bought. It is now ten years later and remains the only new vehicle we ever bought. It has about forty thousand miles on it. We use it only for long distance comfort traveling or hauling lots of people.
My main car is a 1993 Honda Accord and hubby drives a clunky old company truck to work every day. Could we afford to bring our vehicles into the 21st century and keep up with the Joneses? Of course, we can, but why should we? These cars still work just fine. It's just another way of staying out of debt and living on one income.
Yesterday a friend spied our old Super Nintendo by the TV. He commented wryly on our updated game system. We had a good laugh. That's right — our kids are still having fun with little old Mario. Our kids don't have Game Boys and we don't own an Xbox. Just because they make it and they sell it, doesn't mean you have to have it. The TV that Nintendo game was hooked to is 24-years-old, bought by my husband 24 years ago. It's called living on one income.
Many of our neighbors have motor homes and quads and toy haulers and fifth wheelers. We have a boat. Our first boat was an old 1973 Titanic-type thing. It was heavy and clumsy, but it was fun. My husband and his brother bought it together 20 years ago. They each forked over 600 bucks for it. It's served us all these years. This spring my husband bought another boat and sold the old one. He found us a very nice updated (but used) boat on the internet. Could we have afforded a new boat. Yes, we could have. But why?
On our deck sits an incredible eyesore in the form of a hot tub. Ugly red decking lines its sides, paint peeling and slats missing. The heater doesn't work in it, and it used to leak until hubby fixed it a couple of weeks ago. The inside of the hot tub is beautiful swirled grey and white marble. So why didn't we just go buy a new one when we can afford to do just that? Because this fixer-upper was free, folks! So we have to buy a heating element and put new decking on the outside of it. It is a cheap thing to do in comparison to buying a new one!
Now lets look inside the house and see how you can still have nice things for your kids and home, and how you can serve wonderful nutritious meals to your family, all on one income.
The examples I give for living successfully on one income are real ways in which I make ends meet here at my home.
Every week my husband gives me an allotted amount of money to spend. This is not grocery money or money for bills. This is money for anything extra we might need or I might want; my hair appointments, nails, clothes, jewelry, decorative things for the house, etc. When that money is spent I never dip into the other funds although I have access to all our accounts.
My husband believes that a coat, a new pair of shoes, three pair of pants and five shirts are enough clothes to last the kids for half a year. In the fall and spring we all go as a family and purchase the clothes needed for those seasons. Yes, we buy them new, but on sale. Whatever other clothes the kids have I buy from my weekly allowance and believe me I do buy them more clothes!
At this point you probably expected me to say I shop at thrift stores. Actually I don't. I hate thrift stores. I hate the stench and the grime. I hate the germs. I hate that some other kid has already worn out my kids clothes. I hate faded colors and balls on the clothes. [J.D.'s note: I, on the other hand, love thrift stores, and will continue to advocate their use.] I do, however, garage sale. It's easier to find nice things at garage sales. Go to the pricey neighborhoods and you can find clothes barely worn or with the tags still on them. They are clean and smell fresh.
When my kids were babies and toddlers I bought almost all of their clothes at garage sales! But now that they are older I have problems finding anything. Little boys wearing a size 6, like my son, wear out their clothes so fast you can't even find them at garage sales. Girls clothes my daughter's size are either too immodest or have all sorts of sexual innuendoes written on them. I shop exclusively department store sales for the kids now.
I buy most of my kids clothes from the clearance sales at 50% off or less. By doing this I can get wonderful quality clothes that will last the season and never look like they were pulled from a rag bag.
To save wear and tear on the clothes and to save on the heating bill I dry almost all my clothes either on the line outside or by hanging them on door frames and clothes racks. Towels are about the only thing that don't get hung up. I hate wrinkly scratchy towels. I put fabric softener in all my wash loads except the towels. I need the towels to actually soak up water not have everything slide off of them like they will do if fabric softener is used. Hanging the clothes keeps them from shrinking in the dryer heat and it also keeps the colors bright and vibrant. I never hang colored clothes in the full sun.
We heat the water in our kids swimming pool by solar heat. We also do a good portion of the house heating by solar. All of it used to be heated by the sun including the hot water until we tore things up to remodel. My husband has designed the heating system in the house in such a way that the water is heated in solar panels then pumped to a holding tank in the garage. In the winter we turn the valve on the solar and the water is rerouted to pipes in the back of the wood stove where it is heated and is then stored for use-again in water tanks.
My husband has also designed a little door to open high on the wall above the sun room when the temp in the sunroom hits 72 degrees. The door opens and turns on a fan that automatically blows the warm air into the house. When the temp in the solarium reaches 70 the fan turns off and the door shuts over it. When I don't want the fan to come on, like on these hot days, I just flip the switch on the wall and it keeps it from opening up. This keeps our heating bill down to almost nothing.
Every bathtub, shower, and sink have energy saving faucets on them. Almost all our lights have dimmer switches on them. Although we have natural gas for heating we never use the gas furnace to heat the house. I said never. And I truly mean that. We use the wood stove and the above mentioned sunroom. We live by an unwritten rule that the furnace does not get turned on for any reason. Now admittedly our winter temps don't get as low as some of you folks but we do wake up to mornings of solid ice outside. How do we deal with those temps? We pile more wood on the fire. Wood is plentiful in the Pacific Northwest so it's not like we have to pay an arm and a leg for it. In fact we could actually get it free if we needed to. The upstairs addition to the house is heated by hot water that right now is heated by the natural gas. When we are finished with the remodel the hot water for the heat upstairs will be heated by the sun and the wood stove.
We operate two freezers for food storage. My husband does all the grocery shopping because I positively cannot shop as cheap as he can. He watches sales like a hawk. His commute home from work takes him across town. He “coupons his way home” in the evening that way he never has to go out of his way to hit the sales.
Canning your own food is really not a money saving investment anymore. If you want to can your own food than do it for the taste quality rather than the savings. The only way you can save by canning is if you grow your own fruits and vegetables. We grow a large portion of our food. I have all the blueberries, grapes, apples and plums I need for an entire years worth right in my back yard. I make my own salsa and tomato products and can my own peaches and pears. But again, the peaches and pears are not economical really because they've gone up considerably in price the last few years. I always get a chuckle out of someone telling me they're going to start saving money by canning. You can get your food far cheaper at canned grocery outlets or bent and dent type stores.
I grow my own herbs and what I don't grow I buy by the bulk. Oregano by bulk is .20 a pound. You pay eight or ten bucks for a few ounces in the jar. You will find this true of all spices. If you buy bulk there is no reason not to have your cupboards stocked with all manner of wonderful seasonings and spices to help make your meals special.
Baking your own breads and pastries is still a wonderful way to save money. Unlike canning, you actually can come out ahead by baking. Bake and make as much stuff from scratch as you can. Your bank account will thank you. I even make my own hamburger and hotdog buns. Why not? I'm putting my own home canned ketchup and relish on them so why shouldn't the buns be homemade? They're easy to do and very economical.
Buy all your kids toys at garage sales. To buy them new is foolishness. Kids tire of toys so easily that you can find them like new at yard sales. My kids get new toys at Christmas otherwise it's garage sale stuff. I have never yet had a child cry from disappointment because his toy wasn't new! Do not buy dollar store toys. They are cheap and only clutter up the toybox. Most of the time they will break before your child even gets them home. A bargain is not always a bargain.
I buy all my gift bags, tissue wrapping paper, tea light candles and party supplies at the dollar store. They are good for those disposable items only. If you buy anything other than consumable things at dollar stores you've pretty much wasted your dollar.
Oh my, I could go on and on. Instead I'll open this up for questions. If there's anything else you want to know feel free to ask me in the comments. I'm so out of time!