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When my husband and I married, we had full intention of living on a dual-family income until the day we retired. I was earning a great income as a sales rep and he was steadily moving into leadership roles within his career in education. And then, I had our first baby.
The moment my eyes met hers, my world shifted dramatically. The only job I could imagine dedicating time and effort to was raising this sweet little one. But, how on earth would we make that leap?
It took years for us to figure out the math, but when she was four and my little guy was two, I turned in my resignation and headed home to do what has ended up being the most challenging, fulfilling, and life-changing ‘job’ of my life.
Now, that shift home came with a lot of other shifts, for sure. My job not only provided me with a great salary, but I also had bonuses, incredible perks like a company car, and a solid 401(k) plan. I started a part-time work-from-home business that provided us some additional income. But our financial life still shifted pretty significantly almost overnight. So, how did we do it?
1. We planned and worked for it.
We saved and saved and ran the numbers over and over again. Once we knew exactly what I needed to earn to make this transition work, we patiently waited until I was making that in my at-home business before we pulled the plug on my full-time job. It was scary and exciting and nerve-wracking but I remember thinking that if we never went for it, I would always regret it.
2. We embraced the experience.
The most important thing we did was accept that we were going to have to make sacrifices. We could have sat around for years moaning about what we couldn’t afford. Or, we could have gone into deep debt trying to live like we had when I was working full-time. We chose neither of those options. Instead, we mentally accepted that we were going to have to give up some of the perks that came with our previous income and decided to accept those changes gracefully (most of the time). Enter…the family budget.
3. We set a family budget and stuck to it.
This was really the first time we had ever created a monthly budget that we reviewed BEFORE the month happened. We sat down, divvied up where our money would go, and monitored where we were landing throughout the month. And I fell in love with Dave Ramsey and his teachings. We started using cash for almost every purchase and became pretty ruthless about how we were going to spend it. With this kind of planning, we were still able to save money, go on vacations, and have a solid emergency fund. This period was such an empowering time for me, as I realized we could not only ‘survive’ this time, but actually sustain and prosper through it.
4. Going out to dinner became a planned, special event.
Before, we would grab lunch as a family on a Saturday, go out to dinner almost every Friday, and usually squeeze in another dinner out during the week. Once I was home, not only could we not afford to go out that often but, luckily, I had the time to plan and cook the meals we’d be eating so we were able to quickly adjust. I started to incorporate a bit more fun into our meals—think cheese boards for dinner, make your own pizza nights, and ‘fancy’ meals on Saturday nights—so that we still got the excitement that comes with eating out without all of the expense.
5. We eliminated the unnecessary.
After evaluating everything in our monthly budget, we eliminated whatever we didn’t NEED. We cut out the lawn care service that treated our lawn monthly. We no longer paid for someone to clean our house (the hardest one of all!). I cut out random Target runs. We quit Costco. (I know…crazy!) And we kindly declined some invitations that we knew would extend us beyond the limits of our budget. At first, it seemed a bit limiting, but soon, we fell into a groove and it became our new normal.
6. We slowed down.
My daughter started kindergarten during this time and with that, came the onslaught of available activities. Before school running club, after school enrichment programs, sports of any kind, art classes, summer camps. You name it, it’s out there and available for purchase. Because we didn’t have the disposable income to afford #allthethings, we were able to make choices that best suited our family. We spent more time together than on the sidelines of a sports field. But, in hindsight, I don’t think her not being in a sport at age 5 has had any effect on whether or not she’ll make it to the Olympics one day.
And 3 years later, we’re still plugging along. My youngest starts kindergarten this fall so my income will increase significantly and we’ll have room for a few more luxuries in the coming years. But, I know we won’t be ditching the monthly budget anytime soon, as it has become a way of life around here. These last three years have brought my husband and I closer as a couple because we’ve worked together for the greater good of our family. And our family has grown closer because we didn’t have a lot of outside activities or events to pull us away from one another. In truth, what we once viewed as a time of sacrifice I can honestly look back on and call it a gift.