I spent the first six months of my marriage without an income, so we lived solely on what my husband earned. The following five months, I would double our income, but our lifestyle would not change.
Here is the outline of how we budgeted:
We lived on 45% of our income when my husband only worked. This included our spending money, living expenses, and tithe. We stored away about 15% to savings and 40% went to paying off the loans.
When I started working, we kept the same budget but added my income to savings and loan payment. Now we were living on 25% of our income, while the rest went to savings and loan payments.
Here’s the tricky part. Depending on how much you earn, it is very difficult to live on 45% of a single income or 25% of a double income. If you don’t have a lot of cash flow coming in, it may take you a couple years to pay the debt off compared to our 11 months. Or, it may go much faster if you do have a lot of cash flow.
What matters is that you are willing to live as simply as you can and surrender some of your comforts for a limited amount of time in order to become debt free.
Here is what we did or currently do to cut living costs:
- We use the envelope system. We use only cash to pay for our food, gas, and personal expenses. Though you can earn money through credit cards, we were not in the place to keep an accurate record on how much we were spending. The envelope system has worked best for us.
- We eat out as much as our food budget allows. Otherwise, we cook at home.
- We share a cellphone. Or, my husband has a cell and I don’t. We only pay $35 a month, but you can find way better deals. My husband is contracted and we had to work with what we had.
- We do not subscribe to internet, cable, magazines, games, or music streaming services.
- We lived in the cheapest apartment we could find or we roomed with friends.
- We buy most things used. We shop at thrift stores, yard sales, offerup, craigslist, etc.
- We don’t buy things we don’t need.
- We shared a car. Then, someone gave us another car. We would have never bought a second car, but how can you turn down a free car? We plan to sell the second car in a few weeks.
- We stick to our budget. If the food money runs out, then we are grubbing on hotdog tacos for the week.
- We pray. A lot. It’s amazing how God provides extra money and blessings in unexpected ways.
In addition, be sure to have enough room in your budget to splurge. I’m a huge fan of having fun, so we created a budget to do just that. Just be sure that you stick to the amount of money you set to splurge with.
I had people tell me that I needed a cellphone or Drew and I needed to live in a larger apartment. I had people frown upon the idea of us rooming with friends. They thought because we were a married couple, we needed to have more space. I’ve had people raise their eyebrows at the mention of thrift stores and craigslist shopping.
It’s fascinating to encounter people who want to tell you how to live your life. I’ve learned to smile and nod, and then do my own thing. The things I feel called to do will be foreign to those who have never had that calling. Some people may be supportive and others may be critical. The key is to not care and do what you need to do to pay off your debt. I’ve learned that you need to have a strong focus of what you want, but you also need to be graceful with people.