As I've been watching the news lately (or, you know, reading it on the internet at 1:30 am after finishing studying ... not quite as picturesque as sitting at the breakfast table with the paper and a cup of steaming coffee, is it?), I've been realizing more and more how very, very lucky Pat and I are.
We bought a house in June 2008. Lest you think we are completely stupid, let me remind you that in June of '08, we all thought that the sliding home values were a good thing - it was a buyers' market! Kind of like... oh, I don't know... buying a bunch of stock in June of '29, we had no idea how bad things were going to get.
That said (and this is where the first very comes in), we are not worried about losing the house. We can pay all our bills. We even go out to dinner sometimes. Why? Because we, unlike most American homeowners, do not have jobs. I know this seems counterintuitive, but stick with me. We are students - our money comes from the university and good ol' Uncle Sam. As long as we don't fail out of school, we will have income. We are lucky that the recession hit while we were in school, and somewhat insulated from the realities of the job market.
Furthermore - we are used to living very, very frugally. Granted, we have no children, which is a money-saver in itself! But we live on less than $25,000 a year - and do so pretty comfortably. How, you ask?
1. We don't buy convenience foods.
We do buy store bread, now, which we didn't when we first moved - but we are busier with school, and I can't figure out how to keep it from going stale/molding before we can eat it, so we buy bread on sale and put it in the freezer till we need it.
2. Speaking of the freezer. This is the best investment you can make for saving money. Buy everything on sale - meat, vegetables, butter, cream cheese (for baking - the texture goes a little funny after freezing), shredded cheese, bread, juice. It all goes into the freezer. Our grocery budget is low - and we eat meat most nights, and always have balanced meals.
3. We buy everything else on sale, too. Canned goods, pasta sauce, coffee - you name it, we've got it in the pantry. We could probably go for a whole month without buying food, though the meals might be more interesting toward the end.
4. Craigslist. We keep a list of things we're looking for (bread machine, sewing machine, new ceiling fan to replace the one that crapped out, cabinet for the TV, just to name a few) and keep an eye on the list to get things when they're available cheap or free.
5. Sharing a checking account really curtails discretionary spending - every time I buy a coffee, I KNOW he can see that I did... and while he wouldn't care, it does make me think about whether I really need it.
6. Keeping a savings account for household spending, so that if we see a GREAT deal on something we can get it without using credit cards or maxing out the budget for the whole month.