For most of our married life, my husband and I have had a very tight budget.
When we were first married and living in an area with a high cost of living (the near suburbs of Chicago), we had $24,000 in student loan debt and $10,000 in credit card debt from getting my Master’s degree and a year of working adjunct until I could get a full-time job. My husband was not working (he was a graduate student and was volunteering in a business related to his field), and I was making a mere $34,000 gross a year.
Every single purchase was carefully analyzed.
Paying for Christmas presents required a few months’ worth of careful savings, and we made our money stretch by carefully shopping deals and discounts. We spent a lot of time at home, and our entertainment came from the library for free.
About five years into our marriage, I had almost doubled my salary, and my husband was bringing in a small income as a Ph.D. teaching assistant.
We didn’t have to be so careful with our money, so we weren’t. We bought things we didn’t need (that we later sold at a garage sale), and we went out to eat several times a week. Besides having more material things, we were no further ahead than we were at the beginning of our marriage.
And now that we have three kids and I have quit my full-time job to raise them, we’re right back to a super tight budget, just as we were when we were married.
Only this time, I welcome the super tight budget because it’s teaching me to be a better money manager.