A wise man once told Mr X, “Take care of your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves.” Mr X worked for this man all through high school and held him in high esteem all his life, so that line has always been a guiding principle for us. You can save money on your home purchase a couple of times in your life, on your cars once every few years, but you can take care of your pennies every day. We have spent a lifetime taking care of our pennies, and it has always paid off!
Let me tell you a little about our financial journey, and what I’ve learned. If you have trouble in this area, I think I can help you!
When we got married, at ages 19 and 21, Mr X was working in a machine shop making $5/hour (but with unlimited overtime!) and I had 12 piano students at $25/month. Not a lot of money, even in 1980 dollars! We had no long-term plan. (Dumb) Our expenses were low, though, and thank You, God, my parents were paying for my college. He had dropped out after 3 semesters. We had already dated 5 years and very quickly I was desperate to have a baby. Mr X said we had to buy a house first, so we began saving as much money as we could. In about 16 months of marriage, we saved $7000! I can’t tell you how, except to say we had a goal that was very important to us.
I laid out of school about a year after Sis was born, until my FIL asked when I was going to go back; that it would be a shame to be so close and not finish. I started back immediately. (Note to self: The words you speak have great power; you never know how much impact they might have on somebody!) I graduated 3 months before the Boy was born, then had Sunshine 16 1/2 months later.
During that period I continued to teach piano lessons and play an occasional wedding. Mr X began working as a carpenter and eventually started his own contracting business, but money was very tight for many years! Here are some things we did that I would advise anybody to do:
- Tithe to your church before you pay anything else.
- Buy less house than you can afford, and do repair and decorating work yourselves.
We bought a small, older, frame house for $25,000. Our down payment was almost 30%. (Dave Ramsey says don’t buy a house unless you can pay at least 10% down.) Do you remember the interest rates in 1982? 17%!!! I’m pretty sure Dave would have said wait a while lol! We refinanced when the rates went down, and paid extra when we could. We gradually painted and wallpapered, replaced flooring, and in a large project expanded the original 900 or so square feet to 1200, replaced the siding and put insulation (there was none), replaced the roof and windows. We did almost all the work ourselves and didn’t borrow any money.
- Take anything free that anyone offers you. If your pride rears up, remind yourself that you are being so environmentally responsible! Don’t be picky– just take it! You can pass it on if it won’t work for you, but if you say no, they might quit offering.
I probably didn’t buy any new clothes for my kids! My sister’s 2 girls are right ahead of mine, and friends had kids older and younger. Then I passed them on to friends with smaller children. We just passed them around.
When we had a church dinner and there was food left, the kitchen helpers would often ask if we wanted it–and of course we did! Even if its more than you can use now, freeze some for later. Grow some yourselves– a great activity for the kids, too!
- Don’t be picky about gifted furniture and big stuff.
We were given a table and hutch, a living room set, and a 1/2 ton truck from non-family members! Relatives passed on vacuums, a dining room set, and bedroom furniture, plus some family heirlooms from grandparents: a roll-top desk, a cedar chest, and 2 rocking chairs.
- Buy as good quality as you can afford in things that will last.
Mr X was in the construction business, and he relied on his tools. He learned quickly that it was smarter to spend more for better quality, and he has kept that philosophy forever, whether its kitchen equipment, cameras, or tools. Clothes are an area where you have to decide what you want— if you enjoy shopping, or being trendy is important to you, then it makes sense to buy inexpensive clothes. I hate to shop, so when I find a pair of black pants that fit my short body, I snatch them up and almost don’t care what they cost. Almost. A good rule of thumb is $1 a wearing. If you’ll wear those $50 pants 50 times, that’s okay. And when you’re like me and have clothes older than your students, you are in good shape! Mr X encourages me to get clothes or shoes in more than one color when I find a style and size that works.
- Borrow or rent what you can if you don’t really need or want to own something. Netflix gives you innumerable movies for the price that one might cost. Your library is free, and many libraries offer inter-library loans so they can get books even if they don’t have them on their shelves. If you are tiling your kitchen, using a tile cutter is a good idea. If that’s all you will do, buying one is not.
- Share the cost of high priced items. Mr X and his dad have a mutual-mooching agreement whereby they can use each other’s tools and equipment. *NOTE I understand that the “bro-code” is very particular about sharing tools, and please be extremely careful if you go in together with someone else to purchase something. Be clear about storage, maintenance, loaning, usage, etc. Saving money is not worth losing a friendship.
If you’ve never read any of the Tightwad Gazette books, let me recommend them! They helped me figure out my philosophy.