Thursday, September 4, 2014

How much do you need to live comfortably?

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The other day I was browsing frugal blogs online (it's my true weakness... what can I say?) and I stumbled upon this post from Countrified Hicks. Check out her blog. She has a ton of awesome frugal ideas.

I know, this post was written two years ago but it still intrigued me. It was interesting to see that we both do quite a few things the same way: yet there is no way we could live on only $1300 a month! Twice as much is still tight.

For example, we too drive an older car. Not 15 years old but our Toyota is from 2005 with a ton of miles on it.

We don't have a well but our water bill is only about $50 a month, so it's not too bad. And our electricity bill is actually way less than theirs in summer, probably because we have a small house and no central air (just a swamp cooler).

Our grocery budget is a little less and I shop weekly and not monthly but we too can and preserve a lot of our garden produce and rarely buy premade meals.

We don't smoke or drink.

We hardly ever drink soda. For real, we buy, maybe, one bottle (or pack) every two months or so. But, honestly, it's not even about saving the money but for health benefits. After my husband spent five years working at a bariatric clinic, we have definitely learned what soda does to your body... gross.

I LOVE Mypoints! Just cashed in another $50 Walmart gift card for Christmas.

We don't make our own detergent because I wouldn't risk using it with our HE washing machine but I use soda and vinegar for most of the cleaning in the house (not bathrooms though. I do have 3 boys :) And I own more than 3 pairs of shoes for sure but lots of my clothes came from thrift stores and I think they are super-cute.

So why can't we live comfortably on just $1300 a month? Well, our mortgage alone is 3/4 of this amount. And gas is a killer because Hubby constantly commutes for work. And I do rely on modern "necessities" like a washer and dryer or dishwasher, a lot. And with our soon-to-be family of six, I know I'll appreciate them even more. Mostly, it's the cost of life overall in the urban/suburban life. Yes, some of our bills are not too high but others are just killers (I'm dreading the gas bill in winter...).

So how much money do you need to live comfortably and why? What can you easily live without and what conveniences or "necessities" you will never sacrifice?


  1. Hi Lena
    Have you read Mr Money Moustache, he advocates living near your job and various other big changes. Might not be too suitable just at the moment though, as you do have a bit going on already

    1. Oh, I love him. Even though we are definitely from a different tax bracket and social level :) My husband doesn't just go to and from work, he drives around for work. They reimburse some of the expenses but not all. Plus, I would never want to live in the area where his actual office is located... He works for nonprofit, and luckily, someone donated a land for them, so they are building a new place and moving within a year. I'm so relieved that he won't be working in that creepy part of the city soon...

  2. About the only thing we could cut in our regular monthly bills would be the cable/internet package, everything else is a must have. We couldn't pull off a 1,300.00 a month budget unless we sold our home!

  3. I also check out all the "thrifty living" blogs as well and yes, I have read that blog post from Countrifried Hicks (good blog btw). The first time I read it, I was like, okay, what can I cut out, what can I do differently, obviously we are doing something wrong. I have always considered us very frugal people, but we are definitely not living on $1300 a month. I felt so guilty, so I started slashing things and that wasn't good. My husband and I even got into a little fight because I cut things too tight. So, you can definitely overdo it. I guess you just have to find what it right for your family. We like to eat out on the weekends, so I always budget for that. I also like to budget some extra money for my husband to buy his own groceries during the week. That way I don't have to worry about his lunches and with packing the kiddos lunches each morning, that is a big deal to me. Yes, I totally agree about the laundry detergent, we buy it as well. But, I am happy to say, our house is almost paid off, we have no debt, we save a decent amount each month, and we first and foremost we give a good amount back to God each month and I feel that is what is most important.

    1. yes, I loved her blog. I'm glad I stumbled on it. It took me 5 years to get hubby on the same page financially. He was raised differently than me (I doubt he even stepped into a thrift store before we got married :) But yes, I agree that you pick your battles with your men :)

      And I love your last sentence. I know that we will always have what we need (not want!) because God knows us. Tithing is non-negotiable for us because we don't just give money to Church, we give it to Him, and He knows our efforts.

  4. Going to check out her blog. We definitely live on a small budget, but each family is different.

    1. Yes, check her out! She has a ton of frugal ideas.

  5. Well, without making any major changes (ie keeping our rental house, our vacation house, & staying put in our existing rental), we'd need, well, a lot. ;-) Our rent is $5,000/month - we live in a very expensive part of the country.

    We don't eat out much, do reasonably well (but not perfect for sure) on grocery shopping & other expenses. We could cut out: a cleaning lady, and all travel that we currently do, plus any extraneous spending.

  6. By living extremely frugally when we were younger ( first out of necessity then later by choice) we are in a fairly comfortable place now. Our living expenses have gone up because life changes and you have to change with it. We still have one in college so we have to write a big whopping check each semester. ( Scholarships at his school are "need-based" and they determined we don't "need" the money. He does a work study plan and it helps but nowhere near the tuition costs.)

    We also have a granddaughter who lives across the country. I know seeing her a few times a year is not critical, but it is critical to me, so we will budget at least 2 short trips a year to the west coast. ( If we can find dirt cheap flights we will try for 3)

    I opt to save as much as possible during my day to day expenses to accommodate those things, but every day I am learning and finding different ways to pinch pennies without altering our life style dramatically.

    One of the biggest lessons I have found in life is the cost of having "things". Every single thing has an initial price, but over time add the cost of storing, maintenance and upkeep has to be factored in also. Even something as simple as a book requires purchase money as well as space in the home and dusting. If you have unlimited space and dig housework the cost would be minimal. If the book takes the space you might need to store a necessary item it changes it's value. When you think of things in those terms it does alter your "wants" vs. needs.
    (Got a little more philosophical than I intended)

  7. We have downsized our bills a lot in the last couple of years. We cut out a lot of things from our lives that are not necessary, such as cable tv, eating out, credit cards, etc. We enjoy living more simply- we take advantage of free local community entertainment, radio, library, camping trips, playgrounds, home-cooked meals, family movie nights in our living room, playing board games with the kids, thrifting and we are also a lot more careful than we used to be when we grocery shop for our household. It has been an adjustment for us but doing all of these things has made us appreciate what we have a lot more and I feel that our home and our lives are definitely richer for having changed to a more frugal lifestyle. Living within your means is so important!

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  9. I just posted about cutting bills on my blog. It must be the season to cut everything, LOL.
    Our mortgage is just a hair under $1300. Our total money going out for every month is about $2600. We are in the Chicagoland area, our taxes and the cost of gas is a killer. Even if we paid off the house we would only save about $500 a month. Mind you, it is at the top of the list but it will be a while before we get it paid off. Our plan is to retire to somewhere super cheap and live on very little. What a nice thought.

  10. I had to go look at that blog before I posted, and she didn't mention a mortgage, so I assume they have no mortgage. That makes a huge difference in a budget, even if it's just 30% of your income. When we paid off our house a few years ago, we finally started saving money. The kids leaving home was another bonus.

    Now tell me what soda does to me? That is my #1 weakness. Gross me out, scare me, whatever it takes. lol

  11. Hi Lena, I mentioned you in my blog - I got good value for a special dinner tomorrow!
    Amy (Ireland)

  12. My in-laws are in the top 5 of the most frugal people I have ever known, but it didn't rub off on my husband! If anything, he's practically the exact opposite as far as recognizing what is a want vs. a need. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't trade him for another, but I sure did make assumptions after meeting his family about how he'd handle money. Our budget is much more than $1300/month, but that does include a mortgage payment on a 3500 sq ft home. In the last 10 months 2 of our 4 sons have moved out, a 3rd became engaged yesterday and will be moving soon, so when our 4th son graduates from high school in 2 years we will most likely downsize. However, I imagine we won't cut housing costs too much in doing that - home prices in this area have sky-rocketed in the past several years, so houses that are closer to 2400 sq ft now cost what we paid for this home.

  13. I have no mortgage, it's been paid off for awhile. Now that I am retired my pension is $2300 per month so that is what I'll HAVE TO LIVE ON!! I do have savings in case of emergency and for travel but all of my daily/monthly expenses will have to come from that $2300. I can do it!

  14. We put our former house payment into savings each month but it was laughably low compared to many comments here. However, it was a good chunk of our monthly income anyway. We're down to cutting out cable and using tracphones for cell. Can't cut out the landline if we're to keep internet, which I'd like to have for many reasons, blogging being number one. I made laundry detergent but we have very soft water and even the liquid homemade didn't dissolve well. I purchased 5 bottles of ALL detegent for something like $2.50 in January of this year. I still have two more bottles on my pantry shelf. I marked the normal measurement with nail polish so we wouldn't overuse and it's really paid off!

    Our challenge is that we have no retirement funds speak of and I mean barely enough to manage a few months with. We started out together 22 years ago with five kids and nothing and it's been push hard to get to this point. We figure, at best, we'll have half our current income to live on when my husband retires in about 4-6 years.

    Thankfully we too tithe and are trusting God to provide, but we're doing our part by being very careful now, and continually trying to be good stewards. I'm reading more and more and more frugal blogs these days looking for ways we can save hard.


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