In Part 1, I discussed how Carrie and I travel frequently in part due to the fact that we do so inexpensively. Today’s post will center on how we make travel a priority in our lives by cutting back in other areas of common household expenditure.
Before I begin, I think that it’s worth pointing out that I acknowledge that travel is not a priority for everyone. Maybe you honestly don’t have a burning desire to see the world. That’s ok, no judgement here. But, everyone is usually yearning for something out of life that might seem out of reach due to financial limitations. Maybe your burning desire is to go back to school and earn that degree you never finished. Or you’d love to buy that new house or car. Or possibly you’d simply love to find a way to live off of one income, so either you or your spouse can focus more on your family. Whatever YOU want out of life, you can have. It is a matter of making it a priority and living the rest of your life accordingly, so you can pursue your goal.
Cutting back on expenses
Priorities…It may seem strange at first that a family that spends money on travel “cuts back on expenses”. Travel might initially seem like something that should be thought of AFTER all the other bills are paid! Well, if we thought like that, we might not ever go anywhere! Instead, we think of travel as a priority, and budget for it right along with paying for electricity and buying food!
Here are a few of the areas where our typical household expenditures look a little different than your average American’s:
- Housing. Carrie bought our house for next to nothing, and fixed it up herself, even adding to it through the years. Even if you’re not that handy, still consider my next point: buy what you can honestly afford, and even then, buy less, or in a less expensive area. It can be extremely difficult to afford to do much else with a hefty mortgage payment due each month. Do you really have to have a small mansion in the suburbs?
- Cars. Carrie and I own three cars- all are over 10 years old, all are paid off. As a matter of fact, our oldest car is nearing the 20-year mark! Americans tend to have a bit of a love affair with new cars that in our opinion, is extremely financially wasteful. Cars are an awful investment; in fact, they are no investment at all. Buy, don’t lease. When you buy, go for quality and durability over flashy gadgets that will be expensive to fix in a couple years. All three of our cars are in excellent working condition, in part because we take the time to maintain them properly. Things like simple, regular oil changes extend the life of your car’s engine and shouldn’t be skimped on. While you’re at it, you might consider learning how to do some basic maintenance and fix-it’s yourself. Carrie has replaced a windshield wiper motor, washer fluid pump, and the headlights on two of our cars (I mean the headlights- not just the bulbs!), just by “Googling” how-to videos and ordering the correct parts online. This has saved us hundreds if not thousands.
- Credit Card Debt. We have none. You read that correctly- none. According to nerdwallet.com, the average American household has over $15,000 in credit card debt alone! This number is increasing each year to the tune of about 8%, and means that a typical American household is spending hundreds of dollars a year on credit card interest. What’s going on our credit cards? Well, it seems that more and more Americans are having to resort to using credit cards to cover the cost of medical expenses. This is definitely bothersome and a huge subject for debate in our country! If this is your situation, I genuinely feel for you, and know that I have been in your shoes. Barring expenses of that type, the majority of Americans report that their credit card debt is due to them simply spending too much on things that they don’t need! I hate to break the bad news, but stuff will never make you happy, though our capitalistic society tries very hard to convince us otherwise. Think about what you could do each month with the money that you are spending on credit card debt. If credit card debt is a problem for you, assess your spending, find ways to cut back, look into lowering your interest rates and do your best to get those cards paid off!
- Food/Groceries. Eating out constantly is a huge expense (especially for a bigger family like ours), so we rarely eat out (I would say maybe once or twice per month- really). When we do go out, we frequently opt for lunch out instead of dinner in part, because it is cheaper. For the most part, I do the cooking, and we eat at home. In order to keep our grocery costs reasonable (around $150/week), I do several things: I meal plan, I heavily use online coupons, we order meat in bulk amounts, I utilize Kroger’s Clicklist service, and we grow and preserve quite a bit of our own produce.
- Repairs. The last thing that I think makes a difference in our budget is the fact that when things around here break, we tend to fix them ourselves. This saves us a lot of money over having to hire someone else to fix it, or worse, having to buy something completely new! Just in the past month alone, both the snow blower AND the washer have decided to go on the fritz. Carrie took the both apart, figured out the problem, fixed it, and what do ya know- good as new!
Now, I know. Not everyone is super handy….. but I feel like it might be time to reveal a little secret about Carrie: she usually doesn’t really know what she’s doing! Sure, she has some base knowledge about how things work, and what she doesn’t know she makes up for by researching (YouTube how-to videos are one of her best friends). Plus, it helps that she just seems to have an insatiable curiosity for figuring things out, with a good dose of determination thrown in there. I’ve never seen her take something apart and NOT be able to put it back together again and make it work, so what have we got to lose? I sincerely believe that if you’re going to be a homeowner, you need to seriously consider being willing to try learning how to fix some things yourself, and investing in the basic tools it will take to do so.
If you’re reading some of this and thinking, “I’ll never be that financially free!”, don’t give up! Carrie and I were not ALWAYS in this financial situation. We were younger once, and less inclined to be as financially responsible as we are now. You know, live and learn. Hopefully I’ve provided you with some good ideas for financial goals to shoot for!