Here’s the very first guest post appearing on my site. If you’d like to submit a guest post for consideration, please e-mail me.
About the author: Kacie and Karen are friends from college. Karen recently relocated from Indiana to North Carolina, where she works in marketing and communications at a non-profit. Karen and her fiance are getting married in May. Woo hoo!
Read on to learn about their frugal journey, and find out about some unexpected benefits they’ve discovered along the way. Karen doesn’t have a blog…but I think she’d be great at it! Don’t you?
In college, I had a lot of bad financial habits. I ate take-out instead of grocery shopping, racked up credit card debt, and blew money on things that I couldn’t even remember buying. I didn’t manage my finances at all. When my fiancé, Tony, and I graduated and began working full-time, we had a lot more income, but we continued to spend more than we were making. It didn’t matter how much money we made; without planning our expenses, we found a way to spend it all.
When Tony was accepted to graduate school 800 miles away, we saved a pretty large chunk of change in 8 months for our moving expenses and to cover expenses until I found a new job. Despite this milestone, a lot of our bad financial habits remained.
After the move, our income was cut in half just as we were merging our finances for the first time as a couple. I also struggled to find a full-time job in my field. With less money coming in, more bills, and too much debt, we realized we were beginning our lives together in financial trouble – not a good way to start a marriage, if you ask me. Our goal was to get our finances in order before our May wedding, eliminate unnecessary debt, and learn better ways to manage our money. In the process of overhauling our financial lifestyle, though, we experienced benefits beyond our bottom line.
One of the first things we did was cut restaurant meals and convenience snack foods out of our diets. Not only did the change save us a ton of money every month, but Tony lost almost 20 pounds in six months without even trying! (Imagine my irritation when he stepped on the scale and said, “Oh, wow. How did that happen?”) I’ve experienced similar benefits. A year ago I was tracking every calorie and fat gram to maintain a healthy weight. Now that we don’t eat fattening, high-priced restaurant and snack foods, it’s relatively easy to maintain our weight (and our budget). Cooking at home doesn’t just save money; studies show that home-cooked meals are lower in calories and fat, AND people tend to eat smaller portions at home.
Our favorite weekend activities were evening movies (with popcorn, of course) and Saturday shopping sprees. A Friday night cost us as much as $50 and thousands of calories. Now it’s a real treat if we go to the movies every few months (at the discounted matinee price) and I can’t imagine spending $5 for popcorn. We spend our time on active hobbies that allow us to enjoy each other’s company, like walking our dog in nearby parks and neighborhoods. Our new home has a relatively mild climate, so we’ve been enjoying warmer temperatures all winter. Instead of sitting in a dark theater silently consuming empty calories, we’re out in the sunshine spending time together and getting exercise.
Aside from the health benefits, our frugal lifestyle has also benefited our relationship. Financial woes can strain even the strongest of partnerships, and with our attitudes toward money we were headed for a lot of problems in the future. By coming up with a plan for our finances together before buying a home or having children, we’ve prevented a lot of future stress. We’re beginning our lives together by setting shared financial goals, and we feel more prepared to handle those major financial decisions because we began planning at a time in our lives when the stakes are relatively low (no kids, no major assets, less money and bills to manage).
It has also been a bonding experience. It’s no secret that sharing interests and doing things together can strengthen relationships. By making our finances a mutual interest, we eliminated the drudgery of budgeting and money matters. Discovering new ways to save money and make our financial life easier has become a fun activity that we enjoy doing together instead of a chore that we dread or, worse, argue about.
And the best part is we’re reaching our goals! Despite our lower income, we have more money in the bank than ever, we cut our credit card debt by more than half, and we’re learning new ways to save and manage our money every day. We’re even planning a honeymoon … something that I never thought we’d be able to afford. By choosing a location within driving distance (Washington, D.C.), staying in a suite with a kitchen in our room so we can make our own meals, and taking advantage of the free admission at all of the museums and monuments, we’ll pay for very little beyond the hotel room. It makes me wonder what took us so long to jump on the frugal bandwagon!