My husband and I both came from divorced, working class families. Our parents never taught us about money, life, or marriage. I guess we learned what NOT to do by watching their struggles. When we met at 16, we both had jobs, savings accounts, and vague plans for the future. Plans for WHAT, we didn’t know yet. We’d iron that out as we went.
We got engaged at the end of high school—and pregnant. We had some grown up decisions to make. We were just kids. But we knew enough to know we weren’t going to let being young and having a baby send us down the typical path of debt and divorce and long-term bad decisions.
We sat down in our little apartment, with wedding magazines and brochures in a pile, and decided that we needed to be real about this. Paying rent each month wasn’t securing anything for later and a lavish wedding wouldn’t help either. So we planned a nice but simple wedding and bought a small, old house for a modest price. That was day one of our new “living within our means” budget.
We spent the next six years working hard. We had a young child, bills, jobs. We made ends meet and even managed to put money aside in savings for all those little things that might come up. And they came up! Cars broke down, furnace went out. Things happened. But we stayed the course.
It sounds cliche, I know. We ate Ramon noodles and hamburger helper. We didn’t go out to movies or dinner. We worked, my husband went to school, and we raised our little girl. You’d see from our hours of home movies that we hung out just the three of us in our spare time.
It sounds boring. It doesn’t seem like it was a lot of fun. And it doesn’t set the tone for a fairy tale ending, I know. But we stayed focused. And we talked! We agreed that we both wanted more, but it wasn’t going to come easy or quickly.
My husband sat me down, when I was in the middle of a “woe is me” moment, and he said to me, “Please just stick with me. It isn’t easy, I know. But I have a plan. I don’t want to be like everyone else, running a treadmill. Let me get some of these plans in motion. It won’t take forever. But it will take time.”
And from that moment on, I got it. Work hard, live within your means. You can still have fun without breaking the bank.
We spent hours playing games with our daughter. What you see in our home videos is a young family that loves each other. We had a wedding. It was on a budget, but it was beautiful, and everyone there had a great time. We had a home. Small, but comfortable, and full of happy memories. And we had each other. I don’t think many couples would have stayed in sync through what we went through. In fact, I know it. I’ve seen it.
But my husband had a goal, and I had faith in him. Wasn’t always easy, wasn’t always fun. But he said it wouldn’t be forever, and it wasn’t.
For all the hard work and time we put in, we like to think we’ve made it. We are 34, we have two kids, and live in our “dream home.” My husband has a great job that he loves, which gives me the pleasure of working part time so I can be home with my girls!
We still are frugal with our money. We save a lot! My husband doesn’t want to work until he’s 70, so we haven’t changed a lot of our spending habits as we’ve made more money. That’s the key.
I could babble on and on, but the simplified point is, don’t spend every penny you make. It doesn’t matter how much you make either. We went 4 years making a combined total of $18,000 a year. But we didn’t go hungry. And our bills got paid. Thankfully, we do better now, but if one of us lost our job, or something major came up, we wouldn’t go hungry. And we could still pay our bills.
Our life hasn’t been what we expected, and we’ve definitely made mistakes along the way. Our situation, especially early on, was far from ideal—partly because of decisions we made (like having sex before we were ready to have a baby) and partly from things outside of our control.
But what made all the difference is knowing that when everything else was uncertain, one thing was: our marriage vows. We are always going to be there for each other, no matter what curve balls life throws at us.