My husband and I met over a decade ago on an internet dating site. Despite the dire predictions of my mother that anyone I met through a computer must be a maniac or a criminal, he turned out to be a very decent man. The first time I went to his apartment I was taken aback, however, by the sheer amount of cardboard in use in his apartment. His TV stand was a cardboard box, as was his end table. Cardboard covered his bedroom window instead of curtains or blinds. “It’s free and it works better at insulating and blocking out light than any curtains you can buy,” he said.
Now, I was not unused to alternative decorating schemes. I had grown up in a financially stretched household that contained an assortment of rickety furniture, mattresses that sagged deeply, and a heinous 70s decor scheme that we could never afford to update. I myself only owned a tiny 13 inch TV that had been given as a gift, and a papasan chair and folding patio chair served as my living room furniture.
Of course, I was a broke nursing student, working one full time job and 2 part-time jobs to support myself, and my future husband, Mr. Thrifty, was an engineer who made three times my salary. He could afford to buy new if he wanted. Instead, he quickly paid off all student loans and his truck, and saved the rest. Coming from a frugal family, these habits were already ingrained.
Fast forward a dozen years, and we have now been married almost a decade, with three children seven and under, a house in the suburbs, and essentially the same furniture we had all those years ago.
We consider ourselves pretty thrifty. We haven’t had cable in years, our only debt is our mortgage, and I was able to drop to part-time status recently to be home with our children more. I telecommute from home as a nurse on the days I work, and thanks to a host of allergies, I make most of our food from scratch.
We have some lofty goals, however, and that means we are constantly striving to find new ways to reduce expenses, save more, and tweak our frugality skills.
Build our dream home. A round-shaped home with some renewable energy options (geothermal?) that we can age into (think wheelchair bump-out, first floor master, kitchen, and laundry), on a little bit of acreage in our same school district. We are still debating whether it will be a NetZero home or not. We want to save for a down payment of at least 20-25% while we are still living in this home. This is also to be over and above our 4-6 month emergency fund.
Updated 01/2016: We are reevaluating building a bigger new home. We now plan to pay off our mortgage within 10 years or less, finish our basement, and stay put until the kids graduate school. This will help us meet our early retirement goal by being mortgage free. We have decided that less is more. We want the flexibility to downsize by building a smaller permanent home once we are empty-nesters, moving elsewhere (let’s face it, if I have grandchildren, that’s where I want to be), going south for the winter, or even renting (if we move to a high cost of living area) . When we move, we will of course find/build a place without endless stairs. A small NetZero home is still an option.
Max retirement savings. Mr Thrifty is late 40s and I am in my late 30s. He will be retirement age when our younglings are college age. It would be nice if he got to retire before he is 80. Our youngest is due to graduate high school in 2032. We have 16 years to get ready.
Avoid student loans. I am working on my master’s in nursing education. When I dropped to part-time, I lost my workplace tuition reimbursement benefit. My long-term plan is to continue to work from home teaching nursing online. I have 19 months left in my program, and we are paying cash. We just paid off the last of my student loans from degree #2 this past spring while paying cash/using tuition reimbursement for degree #3 (this master’s is #4 for me), and we do not ever want to take out another education loan.
Keep one parent at home. I enjoy my work, and I enjoy working, but we feel working outside the home is not the best for our individual children. Working inside the home, however, seems to be working out well. I work up to 8 days a month at my job. My mother, who is retired, watches our preschooler and toddler a few days per month, and they go to a sitter two blocks away the other days. Our school-ager is in school during the workday.
Invest enough to work because we want to work, not because we have to. Well, this is more for me than Mr Thrifty. He will probably work until retirement age. I, on the other hand, would like to retire at the same time as my husband, if I can. We are just starting with this, but hope to use this method to get there. Now, I enjoy working, and hope to write and teach, but on my own time, on my own terms, in my own home.
Bonus Bucket List Goal:
My first degree (a BA in Anthropology) was funded by a full academic scholarship. Ever since I was awarded that scholarship, I have hoped to fund a full tuition scholarship some day in the future myself. I need my family to be taken care of first, but my pie-in-the-sky dream is to at least fund this as part of my estate planning. And who knows, maybe I can make this happen while I am still alive?
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