Living Well on $14,000 a Year

I ran across this story while during my daily internet surfing / marathon breastfeeding session. The gist of it is that this couple lives on the husband’s $14k GI benefits. At first I wanted to be totally 100% impressed – and don’t get me wrong, I AM impressed – but then I did some quick math and realized that they have some fortuitous circumstances and this is actually very doable.

Like us, they have no credit card debt. Unlike us, they don’t have any student loan debt. As I understand the situation, the husband is currently in school; I doubt they are taking out loans, but that is not addressed in the article. They also do not have a mortgage; they saved up a nice down payment and then changed course and purchased a foreclosure with only the down payment cash. It seems as though the foreclosure did not need much work – an awesome find. She’s a stay-at-home mom, so there’s no need to pay for daycare. Another thing the article doesn’t address is whether or not they are Christians who feel compelled to tithe. If you believe in tithing (or even as a preacher I know would say “going beyond tithing”), that can add up quickly – especially if you tithe out of your pretax income.

I assumed they did not tithe and I did a few quick calculations. I figured that they were living on essentially one of our paychecks if you added to the 14k our tithing, student loan payments, and a mortgage. Our other check goes to daycare and then the rest, with their budget, would be left over.

I give them huge kudos for the foreclosure score. We actually looked at foreclosures here, but our market is different. We live in an area where even the “great” houses are 100 years old and need work. The foreclosures we saw were steps away from being condemned – really scary places that conjured up images from The Money Pit with Tom Hanks. Hilarious movie, but not what I’d want for my life!! Anyway, all the foreclosures here cost way more than what this couple paid and had multiple bidders. We ended up buying a 1920’s house that requires us to commute 30 minutes to work, but at least we can almost always ride together and it was not at the upper end of our budget and didn’t require repairs prior to moving in.

The student loans are what they are for us. We can’t make then vanish overnight anymore than we can ignore our financial responsibility to the Lord’s works. So, no, we can’t make it on 14k because 14k wouldn’t even cover our loans!!

As for the rest of the disparity – why we require a second income – we live in a very cold part of the country, so we are paying high heating bills for about six months of the year, along with gas for a snow blower and ice melt out the wazoo. We have to run our vehicles for 15 minutes before you dare put a child in the car and drive off and gas mileage is worse in conditions like -30F (no typo) anyway. And do you know that you need more food when it’s that cold? I’m here to attest that you do!!! It’s like we become bottomless pits when temperatures drop below zero. We clearly have some challenges in our budget that someone in a more temperate area does not, and I haven’t even addressed the things that pop up for many people in this climate – car repairs after sliding off an icy road, new car batteries after you leave your vehicle out in subzero temps, ice dam removal, frozen pipe issues, etc.

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This is neither a short stop sign nor the end of winter!

Perhaps the icing on the cake is that I am vegan and I’m attempting to raise my daughter at least semi-vegan. One quart of her milk is $4.59 at our local store. There was a time when she went through 6 of those a week!!! Even though the food in our cart isn’t that expensive, with the milk, it’s hard to keep our grocery bill down, but I’ve always believed it’s the smarter choice in the long run (to each his own). We also take vitamins to supplement our diet and usually the cheaper the vitamin, the less it has in it. My prenatals are running about $50 a month.

I’m not completely dismissing this 14k a year budget, though, because after running numbers and taking everything into account, it would seem as though we shouldn’t need two whole paychecks. It would seem as though we should have two options – pay down debt or have me stay home part-time. Somewhere in there is possibly an option for staying home less AND paying some down on debt. Yet, when I’ve been budgeting, I haven’t seen this. I still have a few weeks to complete our newest budget and now I’m curious if I can rise to the challenge! This couple read a book called America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money, so I’m reading that now to see if there are some easily implemented ideas (keeping in mind that I have a newborn and time is short as a working mom) that we can start using now.

What’s your number one money saving secret? Do you go grocery shopping once a week or once a month?

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