Friday, July 8, 2011

Living On Less

I've heard it said more than once: "We could never live on one income!"  I always sit there is a sort of shocked silence, because we live on a single military income, and it isn't much.  And sometimes I seriously think I should teach a class on it.  Is it always easy?  It didn't used to be, but now, yes, usually.  And honestly, neither one of us ever thinks, "I/Kate should go back to work so we would have more money."  We have previously discussed me eventually going back to work for my own independence and as a way to add more money to a savings account.  But we always decide against it.  And I want to tell you that no matter your reasons, if you desire to be a one income family, most times you can make it work.  I always hear protestations to this, but for most people it comes down to choices and to making tough decisions that our self-serving selves don't like to make.

We have chosen to have 1 car for now.  Eventually (probably years down the road) we will end up with two:  a small SUV for our family (SUV because it will have room in the back seat for kids and room in the hatchback for Sophie!), and a tiny gas-efficient car for G to drive to work.  I would like to add a third, my dream car... but that's a ways off, and would have to be because the SUV is sitting in the garage for road trips, which seems silly.   About the one car now... I actually do not want a second, and am trying to put that off as long as possible.  Sure, it's a pain occasionally when I need the car for something, so I have to drive him to work... but for me it's less hassle than owning a second car in the city.

We have become more conscious about our driving.  We do grocery shop more like a European (several times a week), but we try and make sure we're not driving about unnecessarily.  And if something gets forgotten, we usually make do without. 

I cook a lot at home.  We do go out to eat more than the average couple on a budget, but that's because of our other choices, and it's something we plan to limit to continue to increase our savings.  When we eat at home I don't do processed foods, I take the time to put my love for my family into our meals.  Does it take longer than hamburger helper?  Yes.  But is it really all that difficult or time consuming? Not at all.

We buy sparkling wine for our Fridays and save a real champagne for special occasions.  I love Veuve Clicquot.  We've discussed how if we ever had a lot of money I would buy it by the case.  But, honestly, for the every week treat, a good prosecco works for me.  And it allows us the funds to splurge (like I did recently on a 98 V.C. for when G returns) when it's a celebration.

These really are only a few things off the top of my head.  However, the key is that we've said no to the American style of overbuying and the need for more and bigger.  I may purchase something that some would consider insanely expensive, but I own less and I take care to make things last.

Does this life sometimes get us funny looks?  Sure.  But I can tell you that living on a single military income I know that we're still able to live a chic and sometimes lavish life while putting away a pretty decent chunk into savings.  It can work for almost anyone.  The key is learning to say no to always saying yes to yourself.

*Oh, and completely unrelated, but for those who have been asking, you can see my first bump pics HERE on the baby blog!*


  1. As a mother of two (5 and 2 1/2) I totally agree with everything you say. We live in a major North American city, in a condo, and do not own a car. I'm sure many of our friends and family wonder what's wrong with us, not owning a car with two kids. But we made a conscious decision years ago (before we even had kids) that we could save a lot of money by not owning a car and, in fact, we make a little bit of money by renting our parking space (which came with the condo).

    We have made the choice to stay in the city and bring up our kids in the city rather than move to the faraway suburbs. I want my kids to have all the arts and culture and city experiences at their fingertips. I believe it'll make them more worldly and street-smart. When you think about it, you pay one way or the other, it's just a matter of choosing how and what you will pay for. Furthermore, we don't want to "pay" with our time spent commuting. There are only so many hours in a day and I'd rather not spend them in a car travelling to/from work.

    We have chosen to stay in the city and spend our money on experiences (the art gallery, the ballet, etc.) rather than moving to the suburbs and spending our money on cars (which eventually the kids would need in order to have any kind of independence, either that or they would have to be chauffeured around to their activities as teens). Those that spend less on a house in the suburbs end up putting the rest of the money into cars and precious time spent commuting sometimes well over two hours a day. So, either way, you pay. It's just a question of what you value, where you choose to put your money and time, and what kind of quality of life you want. Your are wise beyond your years.

  2. I love this post, and could not agree more! I was telling a friend recently about D going back to school, and how we're going to live on his grad student stipend until I find a job. She looked at me like I had two heads, and was convinced it was impossible. He'll actually be making a decent amount, and we have a ton saved. Plus it's a matter of making sure you can spend on what matters and make do without the extraneous stuff. I'm excited about the challenge, and glad to hear that you manage to do it, and do it well!

  3. Dear Kate, please don't take this the wrong way, I've been reading your blog for some time now and I always get a sense from you how you live on a budget and a small paycheck. Yet you continually show us your take out meals or describe your dining our experiences. We are a family of two living on one paycheck as well and let me tell you we don't even come close to your level of comfort. Not even close. My boyfriend (yes still boyfriend, because we don't have the money to get married) owns a car, if I need to go somewhere I take the bus. All of our food is prepared at home, even stuff people have long stopped preparing themselves, such as gnocchi, homemade jam, I bake bread a lot of times because its cheaper. I can't remember the last time I went out for a proper diner and coffee with friends at least once a week is a distant memory. And did I mention we don't make enough to put anything into our savings account. Vacation this year is going for a walk around our neighbourhood and watch some movies in the evenings. So please do reconsider your words carefully and maybe take a long hard look at your life just to see that maybe your life isn't all that frugal because there are people out there to whom this economy has taken everything, including the means to a dignified life. End of rant.

  4. I did the military one income thing too. While it wasn't always easy, we made it worked. It is *all* about what's important to you. For me, it was more important to be there when my kids needed me (especially because we were moving so often), to be able to clean the house and cook etc., and to not have the stress. Wasn't easy but it was totally worth it.

    The husband is no longer active duty military and we're still on mostly one income (I have a small online store but it's not a full income). We still have fun though and manage on one income :)

  5. Let's all remember that there are two types of one-income families.
    1) Those who live on one income by their own choice. That's fine, they can choose to live frugally and would rather live with less than give their time to a job to make more money.
    2) There are many, many people who do not live on one income by their own choice. Those are the ones who barely get by and have a hard time because they can't do the simplest things, such as Coffee Addict describes, because they just don't have the money.

    Let's all remember not to get to preachy about our situations because not everyone has it by choice. And there are many different sizes of income so one person's one-income household could be rich compared to another's.

    Kate, you are lucky because though you are living on one income, because of the fact that your husband serves for his country you are getting some "perks" that others working a different type of job won't get. I am in Canada so I don't know the system in the U.S., but I'm assumingthings like education, benefits, and pensions all come with a job in the service.

  6. Anon 1-- I love that you talk about the differences between city and suburban living! G and I have discussed moving to the country/tiny town (not the suburbs, I hate the suburbs) because what some land would offer, but is has to be weighed against what this city offers in experiences. So difficult!

    Missris-- it comes down to choices, and having read your blog, I know you guys can do this! So excited for you to move out here to the east coast!

    Coffeeaddict-- I am sure you have your reasons for feeling as you do.

    Amanda-- It really is where you choose to put your money.

    Anon 2-- My problem stems from having read someone's blog and thinking, "Well, money could have not been spent there and there." Having been someone who truly has had to pinch pennies to see if we had enough for gas for the car I don't appreciate being attacked when the person attacking spends money on going out as well! We are lucky, but we live the life we lead because of the way we choose to spend and save our money, not because we have an excess of it each month.

  7. I think that one can share their own situation without getting preachy. Good Lord I think some of you commenters need a chill pill. She shared *her life* which of course is going to be different than how *you* are living yours. *this* is what is working for *her* and if by sharing it she helps someone else realize they could maybe live that type of life too, what's the harm?

    She wasn't being preachy at all, just sharing how they do what they do. And in the end, it is choices. We all have things we're willing to spend money on. For Kate it's coffee out with friends and not a cable bill. It's a give an take.

    For me, I decorate my house with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It's cheap in $$$ but sometimes hard on my body and relationships. I have frequent parties at my house but I rarely go out unless it is to someone else's house because I'm too cheap to pay $10 a drink for something I could mix myself.

    Give and take. It makes the world go round and I think it was the point of her post.