As many of you know, my family has pretty much lived off my teacher’s salary since Tracy had our oldest daughter, Ava, almost 8 years ago. Despite living off one teacher’s salary for a number of years (Tracy just went back to work this past fall teaching my youngest daughter’s, Ella, 4 year-old pre-school class), we have no debt except our mortgage, invest each month for our retirement, have a one-year emergency fund in place and basically live “wealthy” lives on a moderate income. Many people have asked how we have been able to do this and I attribute our financial success to two things: planning and focusing on our family (not what others are doing).
During the time that Tracy was a teacher (before we had children), we had a lot more coming in than we do now. It was still not a large amount compared to others but it was much more than we currently live off of. Even though we had some disposable income, we still lived like we were making one salary and used hers to pay-off as much debt as possible and build up our emergency fund. We knew that we wanted Tracy to be able to stay at home when we had children and, to accomplish this on one teaching salary, would require us to have very little debt along with a decent amount set aside for emergencies.
Even though we got made fun of (this was ten years ago when times were good and most spent like there was no tomorrow) and I was told many times to “get off my wallet”, we had a plan in place and we knew spending money instead of saving it would prevent us from reaching our ultimate goal of having Tracy being able to stay home. I am like most and do not like being made fun of or laughed at but, having that long-term plan in place, helped me take these remarks in stride.
I have talked with many people about how to handle their money better and most of them have no clue where they want to be in 2 weeks let alone 5 years. If you have no destination in mind, it is impossible to get there. If I were going to take a road trip from Atlanta to New York, I would consult a map to help me get there. The same holds true with money. We need to have a plan (map) in place to help us arrive at our destination.
Focusing on our family
Another thing that has helped us is we worry about what is right for our family and do not care or focus (to an extent) on what other people think about us. I know this is a lot easier said than done but it has worked well for us. I know so many people look at their neighbor with the great house and fancy car and wish they could live like that. The thing is, that “dream” life could actually be a nightmare. That neighbor could be up to their eyeballs in debt with bill collectors calling every night. He/she could lose sleep worrying about paying for things he/she cannot afford.
You always have to do what is right for you and your family and focus on your situation. Some may feel it is important for them to be able to live in a large house and take fancy vacations whereas others desire a simpler lifestyle. I say both of them should go for it – do what is right for you as long as long as you’re financially responsible and are a faithful steward.
I have had many people say that it must be hard to live like we do and have financial success. I actually feel the complete opposite. While it is true that I may never drive a Porsche or live in a 5,000 square foot house, I have the freedom to pursue a job I am passionate about. At the same time, I was able to have the best teacher I have ever met stay home and raise my children. In my opinion, you can’t put a price on that!