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My husband and I are not financial wizards. Unlike some of our good friends we don't have MBAs from Ivy League business schools, could never take up professional accounting as mid-career shifts, and aren't well-versed in whatever famous financial advisers like Suze Orman or Dave Ramsay or whoever that Rich Dad/Poor Dad guy is suggest. Our parents were no help -- mine being a doctor's widow who was forced to enter the workforce for the first time at 38, and his being Chinese-Vietnamese immigrants who lost their fortunes during the Vietnam War only to find themselves taking clerical jobs at a major insurance company for 30 years.
As a consequence of being firmly humanities-based individuals without financially savvy parents, we've always struggled with figuring out the best way to handle our finances. In our 16-year relationship & 10 year marriage, we've gone from broke undergraduates to well-paid media professionals to nearly broke newlyweds (my husband went to law school while I "supported" us on a $47,000 a-year job) to a very-well-paid attorney and online content editor.
But we're no longer what I would call "very well paid." My husband left his private-firm career for a government job that's an amazing opportunity and a perfect fit for his interests and skills, but a 30%-plus pay cut from BigLaw. To make the new (awesome) opportunity work, we made several decisions about our spending habits to lessen the blow of our new take-home income:
- Cook more/eat out less. As New York City ex-pats to DC, we were used to picking up the phone for food delivery, but since the options are limited here to pizza and Chinese, we -- and by we, I mean *I* -- often bought take out during the week. I have to admit that there were many weeks we ate "bought" food up to four times a week. Now we plan out menus, do a big shop at the grocery store, and eat in every week-night, unless there's some exception, like a birthday or school fundraiser or the like.
- Have Communal Meals on Weekends: Instead of going to restaurants at least three times a weekend, we now go to friends' houses or have people over for dinner or brunch. It feels like eating out, because we're socializing, and our friends cook for us/help us cook, and it's much, much, much more affordable. Since most of our friends have kids, we just feed them separately, let the little ones run around, and have our own grown-up dinner at the table. We've also had bagels & newspapers brunch with close friends, which is a fun throwback to our New York days.
- Borrow, Borrow, Borrow: Instead of spending on new books, we've been visiting the library every week. Instead of buying new stuff for our kids, we ask friends if they have hand-me-downs. Instead of
- Checks & Balances: We now check with each other about making purchases. We used to only check in with each other about big splurges, but now we talk about even small purchases just to make sure we both agree it's something we should get. We don't do this in an oppressive way, but it did take some adjustment from automatically buying every little kitchen gadget or clothing accessory to discussing it beforehand.
- Check THE Balances: It seems obvious, but we now pay a lot more attention to our daily spending, our bank balance, how much we're shuffling to our savings accounts.
It's like on Weight Watchers, when I write down everything I eat. You only know how much you spend when you account for everything you buy! This is our financial "diet," and we're already seeing results.