Sometimes it’s not so much about the money but about what we do with the time that is not spent earning the money. A CNBC article notes that, “The “basic goods” conducive to a happy life include health, education, leisure, friendship and harmony with nature, according to the book (“How Much is Enough”), which was written by Skidelsky, an emeritus professor of political economy at the University of Warwick, and his son, philosopher Edward Skidelsky.”
For many years, I was a strong believer that climbing the corporate ladder and getting that corner office that came with the fancy job title and big salary was the way to go. Then I had my first child.
It was after I became a parent that I began to realize that it wasn’t “all about the Benjamins”, but rather it was the experiences in life that counted…at least for me. It was then that I began to focus not so much on money — although money of course is still an integral part of our lives and lifestyle — but about how to use that money efficiently and effectively to create experiences for our family.
An income reduction isn’t the end of the world
Since 2006, our family has taken about a 40 percent drop in income. My decision to leave a stable income to become a work-at-home dad cut our income dramatically. You might think that this completely changed our lifestyle and had us suffering unduly, but it didn’t.
First off, having lived below our means for a number of years, we were already well versed in how to cut costs when and where necessary, and the income we ended up losing was largely excess. To reduce costs further though, we began doing certain things. Not only did we downsize from a single-family home to a small condo that we could afford outright, cutting our housing-related costs (mortgage, utilities, property taxes, repairs and upkeep) from around $2,300 a month to about $800, but we also started doing things like shopping resale at area resale shops and garage sales to keep our annual clothing budget for a family of four close to $300. We also found discount area grocers like Aldi and Walmart to help us keep our monthly food and entertainment costs to around $300.
Therefore, our lifestyle really changed very little even with this substantial drop in income.
Childcare is priceless…or not
Staying home with kids awesome, and it is certainly something that bonds us closer together as a family (at least most of the time), but it also helps us financially. Being able to raise our children how we see fit is definitely an appealing aspect of the role and spending time watching our children growing is highly rewarding.
However, according to babycenter.com, “Costs for daycare for preschool-age children are generally lower, averaging $8,800 a year ($733 a month). Depending on where you live, you’ll pay anywhere from $4,460 to $13,185 a year ($371 to $1,100 a month).” And in our area of Chicagoland, costs can easily reach $12,000 a year for preschool-age children.
Therefore, not only does the act of raising our children provide wonderful experiences, it also cuts our annual costs dramatically.
Vacation experiences…not expenses
According to ABC News, “If you’re the type who wonders how much your next-door neighbors (let’s call them the Jones family) are paying for their fabulous summer vacation, it’s very likely somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,180. Per person.”
Many vacations are centered around high-expense destinations like Disney or similar theme park, water park, metropolitan area (Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, etc.), or well-known “tourist trap” type location.
Rather than spending a lot of money on the particular destination, our family instead focuses on the experiences we in which we can partake once we arrive. Our kids are completely happy with a pool or the beach rather than a full-on water park. And while just about any kid will certainly want to hit the Disney Theme parks, we also enjoy time canoeing and camping, creating our own adventures as a family rather than having them corporately created for us. And in turn, we manage to keep our vacation costs low, which creates longer vacation periods for us.
In these ways, we manage to spend more time together as a family, allowing us to build memories and experiences that will last a lifetime rather than working to pay for things that mean little to us in the grand scheme of things.
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The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.