Throughout our marriage, we have taken a lot of unconventional steps, leaving others to wonder why or more importantly how. I’ll never forget the time someone was asking us about Paul teaching art classes and their genuine response was, “Oh I didn’t know you could make a living doing that!” That was the first time we got an insight into how others might see us. However, it didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now what other people think of our path. This journey called life looks different for everybody.
We figured out pretty early in our marriage that we enjoyed working together. I know, it’s a rare thing. But our personalities are similar yet different enough to be a good balance. It was also our desire to pursue careers that brought us joy and used our talents. As we added children to the mix, flexibility became priority number one. It was important for us to have time to be the parents we wanted to be.
For us, it ended up not looking like a 9-5 and meant going into business for ourselves. It was scary (and still is), but it is something we did over time. We slowly stuck our toes in the water, and it took us almost 7 years to go all in. Money (or the lack there of) can sure be a deterrent.
At this point in our lives, money is tighter than it has ever been. Last year, we made the decision to open our first storefront, and it drastically changed our overhead. This means figuring out how to do a lot with a little, without the help of credit cards or creating debt.
The most important part is unfortunately the B word. BUDGET! There it is. I said it. I know sometimes you feel like it’s better not knowing, but just trust me: you need to know where every penny of your money is going.
Some of our good friends introduced us to budgeting about 6 years ago, and we have never looked back. I don’t care which money guru you follow, but the most important thing is to assign every cent of your income a purpose before you even get paid.
Keeping our bills to a minimum is also key. We have very few subscriptions, including no cable. Netflix has been our go to for years. I’m not going to lie; we miss sports the most, but hey that’s what friends are for. Of course, we have internet; it’s kind of required to run a business these days. We do call our provider about once every couple of years to see if we can negotiate a lower rate, and most of the time it works!
If you take time to look at your money, you will probably be shocked to see how much is spent on FOOD. As a society, most of our social situations are centered around a meal that usually involves going to a restaurant. I love eating out, but it is something we rarely do. As a family of 5, it’s just too expensive. On the occasions that we do eat out, we take advantage of the many kid’s eat free nights around our great city. Also, we always order water; I mean, it’s what we drink at home anyway.
Did I mention Aldi yet? And no, I am not affiliated with Aldi in any way, but it’s a lifesaver for us. Eating healthy is important for our family and, with my health issues, most of my food is ridiculously expensive. However, by shopping at Aldi we can afford to purchase pretty much all organic produce. Of course, they probably won’t have everything on your list, but I would say we can do about 85% of our shopping at Aldi with Costco and Kroger filling in the gaps.
Another way we save is we DIY. Thankfully, Paul is very handy and does most of our home improvements. If he doesn’t know how to do something, he researches until he does. I’m pretty sure he holds a degree from YouTube University. We also tag team the yard and cleaning. I’m not judging anybody who pays to have theirs done, because you better believe when I can afford it I’ll be joining them.
As far as entertainment goes, we are very blessed that some of our family members have gifted us memberships to various places in Memphis. Experiences make great gifts for kids. We also make sure to take advantage of the drive-in. It is a much cheaper option for a family of five, and we always bring our own pizza, popcorn, and candy. We make Friday nights special with pizza (usually from Aldi) and a Redbox movie.
One of my favorite quotes is, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.” And we do just that. We hustle. We will both take side jobs to earn extra money. We also take inventory of our house regularly and sell the things we don’t use anymore. Of course, our dream is to solely make all our money from our store one day, but it takes time with a side of patience.