When my husband and I got married almost 5 years ago, I was halfway through college and he was making $8.50 an hour as an airplane mechanic. We had no idea what little money that was (about $1000 per month after taxes) but we ended up learning to live on it successfully. I had a part-time job--very part time, due to studying for college classes-- and made about $200 per month, which we had direct deposited into a savings account for emergencies. We rented a one room apartment (well, 2 rooms if you count the bathroom) over somebody's garage for $175/month. It had no central air conditioning or heat, just fans and a big heater that plugged into the wall.
After about 8 months, my husband was laid off due to downsizing in his company. However, he is very ambitious. He spent only one week officially unemployed. During that week, he was paid for his vacation time and did some work for people he knew and made what he usually made in a month. We thought we'd use that to hold us over until he found a job, but at the end of the week, he found one that paid twice as much as the one he had before!
Even though our income had doubled, we decided to keep our expenses low and only increase what we put into savings and what we paid for rent. We were sick of that tiny apartment! We looked patiently and finally found a nice one for $350/month. We lived there until I graduated from college and got a teaching job. At that point, our income doubled again now that I was bringing home a paycheck. We decided again to use the same budget for living expenses as we did when we made $1000 per month and look for a house to purchase. We found a really nice affordable home near both our work places. Again, it took patience and careful searching. We have lived in our house for two years now and, over 5 years of marriage, have managed to put nearly $30,000 into mutual funds and an emergency savings account. Our only debt is the mortgage and my student loans, but the student loans will be forgiven eventually because I teach math and there is a shortage of math teachers.
Our trick is that our expenses have stayed low even though our salaries have quadrupled since we were first married. We own our own home, have cable internet, and have basic cable television. These are the only big lifestyle changes we have made as our income has increased. I buy groceries on sale whenever I can, I check the clearance rack first when I need clothing or something for the house, and I check freecycle daily. And I use lots of tips from thriftyfun.com. We shop around once a year for things like phone service and car insurance to keep those costs as low as possible. We've never owned, or plan to own, a new car.
My husband tries to make as many connections as he can with people who own airplanes so he can get moonlighting work, and he works 2 hours of overtime each day that he doesn't have something on the side to do. We have been careful about birth control because we haven't felt emotionally or financially ready for children, but I think we are just about there.
Another important investment we've made is our educations. If I had quit college to go to work or have children, I would not have had as much earning potential as I do now. Now that we are financially stable, we are both planning to continue our educations to get master's degrees. We know that investing in ourselves will help us earn more in the future. I think for young people out there, it is important to know to start saving early, before you have a lot of financial responsibilities (like a mortgage and children), stay out of debt, and get a good education to open as many opportunities for employability as possible.
Allison from Northeast TN
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Well done! This letter should be mandatory reading for any couple planning marriage! All the best in your future together, any child would be blessed to have parents like you.
I'm confused-do you mean that you have no intention of paying back your student loans? That isn't right if I understand what you wrote correctly. If you are doing so well with money then surely you can make payments on your student loans- especially if you plan to continue your education. Otherwise, you have a good head on your shoulders for budgeting and that will serve you well. Good luck!
Editor's Note: I reread the article and she said that her only debts was her mortgage and her student loans but that the student loans would be eventually forgiven because she was working as a math teacher. She did not say that she was not making her payments and not planning not to pay them. There are programs that help teachers pay their student loans if they work in certain areas.
What sensible young people! You are lucky you are living in a region with such low rents! My apartment in Los Angeles is rent-controlled & I still pay almost twice that much & have to fight off a slumlord who would use any opportunity to get me out! There is a great housing crisis here - with practically no affordable units being built & the median rent here is $1200-1500 a month! I used all my legal skills to fight off a landlord's attempt at eviction at a small snafu. I brought the housing commission in and local government, so I don't think he will mess with me any more! (What he was doing wasn't legal!)
What student loan forgiveness program are you referring to? I could use that information for my husband who is in Special Ed.
Trouble is, this is my home - not Tennessee - but it seems to work well for you!
kudos! but, honestly, two hours of overtime every day? is that really necessary?
I didn't realize it was necessary to go into detail about the student loans, but maybe it is. At first I was trying to pay them off as fast as possible and they are over 50% paid off. However, last year, the school where I teach was classified as "low-income." Among other things, this means that in 5 years, teachers who teach in shortage areas and are still teaching at the school can have $5000 of their Stafford loan forgiven. Now I have switched to the payment plan that has the lowest payments, and in 5 years I will have paid off all but about $5000, exactly the amount that will be forgiven. We could work into our budget paying off the loan ourselves, but if we paid for things we didn't necessarily have to, I don't think we could be considered "good with money." We are planning to further our educations without using student loans. We are currently paying for mine with cash and my husband's work will reimburse 100% of his cost if he gets A's and 80% if he get's B's, so it's kind of a no-brainer there.
Here is some information about the loan forgiveness program.
Most rent runs at least $500 per month in our area, we were just very persistent in finding apartments with low rent.
My husband works from about 7:30 to 6:00. He's home for dinner by 6:30. Two hours of overtime really isn't that big a deal, especially if you are willing to start your day early. Plus he has a desk job now so he says it's not really physically tiring work.
Thanks for the explanation- sounds good to me. Unfortunately I never went to college so I don't know much about student loans-not everybody does. I thought you were referring to a "write-off" like what occurs sometimes with bad debt. Have a nice day!
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