I read an article on nbcnews today about newlyweds and affording kids and I thought, "That could be us!"
And then reality set in, and I remembered we live in Orange County off one-and-a-half incomes. Owning a house and a $30k car is not in our future even without kids.
Credit Image: kevin dooley on Flickr
I'm no stranger to budgeting my expenses. The last year has been a real eye-opener in how "adults" manage their finances. You know, when Mom and Dad aren't footing the bill for your education (hello, most of my classmates in college). It's hard! Prioritizing and sticking to a budget are tough things to do when you constantly have success stories shoved in your face or you're only given half the facts. Blogs and news stories and wealthier friends always seem to have it all, don't they?
I want the house. I want the newer car model. I would love a smartphone. I want to travel a little with my husband. I want kids.
But I can't afford these things. Yet.
And that's okay with me.
Like the article's couple, I, too, am in a relationship with someone who's in school. He works -- part time -- and I work -- full time -- and we're able to pay off a little and save a little. Realistically, it would be something like 20 years before we had "enough" for any of our goals. We've tightened our budget belts and told ourselves we're on spending "ground zero."
We sat down and did all the planning, too. Contemplated moving somewhere smaller and cheaper. Stopped driving everywhere. Made dinner menus to avoid eating out. Sublet a room in our rented house. When I talk to my parents and other older couples, that's how they did it, too. You start out small, you find your support and you make it work.
I have a friend who just celebrated his son's first birthday before being laid off. He would like me to believe that "having kids make everything better" and "there's never a good time to have children." As much as I would love kids right now, I heartily disagree. If you're making the effort to plan for kids, then there are times when it is better to have them. I would rather have a system in place to pay off my student loans than add a baby to the household. I want my husband to find a job before we rack up hospital bills and diapers and car seats. Driving with no health insurance may be dangerous, but hey, our baby sure is cute!
I want the American dream. But I don't want it at the expense of my family's happiness. I know myself well enough that not being able to pay bills or having to cut out things that used to be priorities would make me resentful and bitter and unhappy. My kids deserve more than that. They deserve a loving home (not a house), supportive parents (not toys) and an open environment to grow and learn and play. None of these things include a smartphone. Or cable. Or a brand-new car. (Although a safer car is a different story)
This couple's story isn't new. It's not unique. But it IS a cautionary tale of living within your means and prioritizing what's best for you. If you are happy where you are with what you have, that's great. But don't complain when you can't afford more than what you have. My favorite line: "There's no magical tip that can suddenly change people’s financial lives." Preach it, buddy.
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