I won't pretend that our current life of thrift is the result of careful planning and strategic investment or budgeting. Much of it is sheer coincidence: we don't buy a lot of stuff because we can't afford a lot of stuff. I think we learned this in graduate school, when we lived way beyond our means on credit cards and student loans. Even still, we probably lived on $30,000. That includes our $10,000 (each!) stipend, some summer teaching when we could get it, loans and credit. Back then it was a good week when we could walk to Junior's Tavern and treat ourselves to a couple pitchers of beer.
Then along came Son and our lives changed. When our government subsidized health insurance ran out, I gave husband the ultimatum: one of us has to get a job. Luckily, I am married to a man who knows how to get a job. He got the first full-time tenure track job he applied for. Try not to hate him: this same luck or skill (you decide) also applies to sports, hobbies, and drinking.
The minute he got the job, we bought a house. At the time, I was teaching part-time for two different schools, meaning my "salary" was not going to help us get a loan. We bought the house we could afford, a tiny (1300 sq. foot) house, the smallest, cheapest house in the neighborhood we wanted to live in. That was 6 years ago. We're still in that house.
What's happened in the last 6 years? I got a full-time tenure track job and our Son has gotten bigger. We got a dog. That car we bought when I was pregnant? It's almost 9 years old.
Two years ago, when our first car was paid off, Middlebrow floated the idea of buying a new car. He was so excited! He's usually the thrifty one, while I'm the one who wants to buy things. But this time, our roles were reversed. We looked at some vehicles, even drove some. But looking at the payment on the handy spreadsheet the salesman drew up for us made my heart sink. I said no, I couldn't do it. Price was one part, but I also didn't want to invest in obsolete technology. Why buy a vehicle when the future of fossil fuel seems so uncertain?
Instead, Middlebrow bought a bike. We make it work. Sometimes (a lot of the time), it's a pain. But most of the time between public transportation (free bus pass from work), our feet, our bikes, and friends, we survive with one car. It helps that we live one mile from the campus where we teach most often.
We don't have: cable, cell phones, shopping habits (aside from books...), expensive hobbies (yet?). I have more to say, but this post is already too long. I'll continue it later.
Suffice it to say, I feel fortunate in these hard times.