This city-based father, almost 40, works independently, is an adjunct, all while focusing on living a frugal family life.
My family and I have lived in Columbus for 12 years. We rented an apartment for a while before we bought our starter home, and recently we moved into a bigger place. My wife is a teacher, and I'm a writer and college instructor. We make just enough money to be able to afford this new house, cover our bills, and to contribute toward the kids' college funds. Thankfully, with contributions from the children's grandparents, we are able to meet the yearly maximum amount for each of the children. Without their gifts, we would not be able to meet that number for all three kids.
We were able to afford the new house, including the uptick in mortgage, because we don't currently have any car payments and we sold our old house for a nice return. If both of those things weren't a part of our financial equation, this house might be a stretch for us to afford.
We've made just enough money to have some savings in case of an emergency (our goal is to always have easy access to somewhere between $5,000–$10,000 in the family account), but we've never made enough to become investors or afford any real luxury. The new house is our luxury item for the foreseeable future. We eat out sparingly (once a week for $50 or less), we shop for only what we need in terms of clothing and food, and save gift-giving for birthdays and holidays. Most of our shopping is done at Target, Aldi and Wal-Mart, but we also like to take our time at Half-Price Books on adventures with the kids. Our vacations are always spent at a place we get to stay for free thanks to a family connection.
My wife has a retirement account her father set up for her while she was in college, and an account set up through the school system where she teaches. I just opened up my first-ever retirement account in the last year. Any excess money I've had has been dedicated to my student loans. My parents were generous enough to pay for my undergraduate degree, but I've needed loans to obtain my two post-graduate degrees. Even at the escalated pace in which I'm paying them off, I will still be sending them a monthly check for another 10 years.
Our goals are always to be able to afford the activities the kids want to participate in, which is costing more as they grow up and join teams or when a particular musical instrument catches their eye. But thanks to the way we've juggled our jobs we've never had to pay for child care. That gives us just enough wiggle room to afford some local fun like memberships to the Columbus Zoo and COSI, and occasional tickets to Clippers' games in the summer.
The amount of money left over at the end of each month never reaches $1,000, but we take the time to plan and budget to maximize that number. We try to live frugally. I pay more on my loans when I can. We keep the credit cards as low as possible. As we start to make more money I'm sure we will finally invest in earnest, and maybe take the kids somewhere new for vacation (they have already started to ask about a Disney World trip). Until then, we will keep our savings where it is just in case something happens, and we'll do our best to stick to the budget every month. This house and preparing our children's future is how my wife and I spoil each other for now.