I have had so many requests for posts concerning frugal living. I have decided that once a month would be a good start! I want to kick off January with our story. First, allow me to add a disclaimer – I am not the poster child for all things frugal, nor do I claim to be. I seem to go between living frugal and wanting to live each day as if it is my last! It is a constant battle for me, but one that has taught me much along the way and gave me lasting life lessons that I would like to pass on to you.
When Clay and I got married we were financially secure. Well, I should say that HE was financially secure. Both of us were raised without a lot of money, him probably more so than I. He vowed to never live with that little again. When Clay and I met, my oldest was very young. I guess you could say that Clay was getting a package deal :). Shortly after we tied the knot, we went on a vacation to Disney. Our judgment was obviously clouded when we decided to embark on this expensive 3 day land and 4 day cruise at Disney and Disney Cruise. It was a wonderful trip, but looking back, I shake my head and wonder WHY did we do that? It wasn’t that the trip was wrong, but it took a HUGE chunk out of Clay’s savings even though he still had quite a bit left. It was poor planning on my part to not have budgeted and saved up for this trip.
Taking on the responsibility of a new family, a person also assumes responsibility of the baggage that comes with. Clay took on nasty court cases and battles that ensued pretty soon after we tied the knot over my oldest and his biological father. While my parents helped a lot, much of the rest of Clay’s savings went to private investigators and attorney fees. We have no regrets on where that money went. However, knowing how much money he had tucked away when we married and how much was gone, it was quite devistating!
Next came more babies. More babies means more expenses such as wipes, diapers, clothes, cloths, doctor visits, and the list goes on. We applied for credit cards because the savings was gone. We were living on a military salary and I was doing everything I could to make those dollars stretch. It was very difficult in those days to talk to my husband about money, too. He worked hard to bring in our paycheck and so he felt whenever he needed something, the money should be available. He didn’t think he should wait, save, or that we could possibly be out of money. Basically, he had no idea how much things cost vs how much he brought in. I was scared if he knew the true reality of it all, that he would want me to go to work. Deep down inside he wanted me to stay home, he didn’t want anything happening to our kids in a childcare situation, but at the same time living frugally was not something he cared to do. I felt my only choice was to take out more credit cards. Although I made the payments on time, the cards were always maxed out. No matter what we did, we kept digging ourselves deeper in debt. We were able to stay afloat mainly through the financial assistance provided by my parents business to which I was an officer. I was able to keep this balance pretty well until 2011. My parents encountered tax issues and their assistance slowed and then fizzled altogether when their business closed.
I had to start paying down credit cards, car loans, and start living frugally. I made my own bread, laundry detergent, and got serious about couponing. By this point my husband was an E-6 and we were living in the DC area where the cost of living alone was incredibly expensive. We were approved for WIC and a small amount of food stamps. Yes, believe it or not, we were approved for food stamps and WIC. We were barely making it. I started getting more serious about the coupons, living frugal and realizing money didn’t grow on trees.
This is the beginnng of our long journey to frugal living. It has been difficult, but necessary. I had to return to my childhood. I was raised on a tight budget. We grew our own fruits and vegetables, I was taught to cook from scratch, how to can, make my own dressings, how to sew, etc. It was just a matter of getting back to that way of living.
I look forward to sharing with you a monthly series on living frugal. I’ll share stories and examples that have been passed down from generations before me. I’ll also share with you new methods I have learned over the last 5 years of our marriage. I hope you will pull up a chair and join me. Maybe we can learn from each other.