By JLP | July 8, 2008
An AFM reader left this comment on my post, You Can Build Wealth Even if You Don’t Make A Lot of Money:
I live in the midwest, in a small town with a lower-than-national-average unemployment rate and a lower-than-national-average education rate (not many degree holders here). Our town has a population of just over 4,000 mostly consisting of farmers and cattlemen. So, the job market is somewhat difficult.
I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past year, a decision made with rising gas prices in mind since my job was a commute of almost 40 miles a day each direction and the cost of daycare also being high. I have three children: 15, 13 and 4.
I worked as a graphic artist for a local newspaper for several years, and also still currently teach classes as an adjunct instructor for our local community college outreach. (I usually teach 2 classes per year at $400 per credit hour which works out to $1200 gross per semester if we get enough students to have the class.)
I am currently enrolled in college to obtain my bachelor’s and then master’s degree in an education leadership program online.
My husband has worked in construction, making enough money for us to pay our living expenses and allowing me to stay home. Currently, however, he is working at a salary of $35k yearly at a local mill (processing organic flour and other organic grains). He has no college degree, but would love to return to school to obtain a teaching degree (as an art teacher).
We are currently living in a small (1200 sq. ft.) home that we are trying to purchase at $35k. We have a 2001 F150 we are still paying for at $380 per month. Our utilities run $130 for gas, $195 for electricity, $35 water, $40 trash (quarterly).
Our phone bill is about $180 per month, give or take a few dollars. Our rent is $400 monthly.
We have some medical bills that we pay about $100 monthly on, two credit cards that we use and try to pay off each month (one with a limit of $300, the other $750 – we are using these to raise our credit score and buy things we would normally buy with cash or debit cards for ordinary expenses) and our auto and renter’s insurance costs are $87 monthly.
We try to keep our grocery bill as low as we can around $300-$400 monthly.
My husband’s take-home pay is $1150 bi-weekly.
I am not a financial aficionado, but even I can see that saving money is not an option for us right now. We try to reduce our expenses as much as possible. We rarely buy extras. We don’t eat out or go to the movies.
We will be having some big expenses coming up soon… school clothes, supplies and tuition for three kids. I don’t know how we’re going to buy them clothes for school without using credit cards, and taking several months to pay that debt.
Supposedly everyone can save money…
So, any advice or solutions? I doubt any of you money savvy people will be able to find any extra money in our budget, but I didn’t think it would hurt to ask.
This may sound radical, but here’s an idea:
I have never understood why people become so attached to an area with little economic promise. If there aren’t any opportunities in the town you live in, then move. Given the fact that you rent your house, you have the option to move on. I certainly wouldn’t be trying to buy the house.
If moving is not an option, then I’d think about the decision going back to college. What’s the plan after getting the degree? If there’s no opportunity in the town now, then how’s a degree going to change things? I’m not knocking a college degree. I just think you need to have a plan of action.
I would also consider selling the truck and buying a cheaper car. This may not be an option since truck values have fallen due to high gas prices but it might be worth a look.
$180 for a phone bill? That seems extreme to me. I guess if it includes cell service an internet, then it’s probably not too bad. Still, I think I would look for ways to reduce it.
Consider growing a garden. You have three kids that could help out and it could be a great hobby. It could also help trim your grocery budget.
Your last option is to sit back, relax, and enjoy your 4-year old. Then, once they start school, you can go back to work.
Those are my thoughts. I’m sure AFM readers will have their thoughts too.