Reflections on a Decade of Pretending to Be Poor

How much change a decade brings! It’s almost exactly 10 years to the day since we bought our house. We started trying to start a family around the same time. We also finished paying off student loans about 7-8 years ago and have met a couple other financial goals since then.

Buying a house and having three kids hardly sounds like a frugal decade, right? It was the decade when we slowly graduated from our “live like a college student” mantra. No more living in our friends’ basement.
No more broken lamps in our bedroom. No more dates at Taco Bell. Okay, a lot less dates at Taco Bell. Neil’s car is worth more than $1000, and we even own a flat screen TV.

But while our expenses have waaaay increased since the newlywed apartment days, we’ve been able to pay off debt and get that retirement nest egg rolling, mostly on one income. I scarcely knew what a 401k was 10 years ago. Now we’re setting ourselves up to exit the traditional workforce by our mid-40s.

I imagine the next decade is going to be one of the most expensive of our lives, so I’m glad we spent the last ten years living simply a.k.a “pretending to be ‘poor'”. What’s great is that, while our spending has increased, it hasn’t kept pace with our income. So now that we’ve entered a more expensive period of our lives we have the wiggle room to keep giving and saving like we want to. We really didn’t do anything too crazy except not spend all our money on cars. But you be the judge:

Slightly crazy stuff: Neil fixing head gasket on 1990 Dodge Shadow, buying a $200 car, DIYing all home repairs and remodeling.

Crazy only in our culture stuff: not buying a bigger house (yet), buying used cars in cash, not upgrading cell phones every year, camping for some vacations, doing own car maintenance and yard work, packing lunch.

Fairly normal stuff: shopping at ALDI and the thrift store, eating most meals at home, using hand-me-downs, not going to Disney (yet).

Just five years ago I couldn’t bear the thought of opening a can of beans because dry ones are so much cheaper. Today I pay Walmart $98 a year to deliver unlimited cans of beans to my door step. Times have changed. What will the next decade bring?

Whatever it brings, I know our thrifty 2010s helped us lay the foundation for our future goals. It may take another decade to reach our next big goal. The point is, you can do a lot in 10 years! Whether you feel like you’ll never get out of debt, or buy a house, or save for retirement, the 2020s are the time to start.

Have you done anything “crazy” to save money? How have your life and finances changed in the last decade?

3 Responses to “Reflections on a Decade of Pretending to Be Poor”

  1. Notproud says :

    Not exactly proud of all of these, and some barely saved any money at all….but the head space/mental position was reinforced by each action. I still do some of these today.
    * Timed Showers
    * Kept hot water tank at low temp
    * Kept thermostat at 60 in winter, 55 at night
    * No AC
    * Play the windows/Blinds open closed game throughout the summer
    * All lights off unless in room
    * No cable or internet
    * No trash pick up
    * Wash clothes only when they absolutely needed it ( underwear and socks excluded)
    * Buy used everything and curb score as much as possible
    * No eating out/learn to cook
    * Ate a lot of expired food
    * Eat seasonally or what was on sale
    * If a pot of water was boiled in cooler weather, save the water to add heat to the room
    * Learn to grocery shop where the cost can be cut. Aldi, Marcs, Online, discount isle.
    * Did not purchase trash bags, paper towels, napkins, dryer sheets, surface specific cleaning supplies until getting married – White vinegar to clean everything other than dish/laundry/body soap
    * Buy things in bulk – once had 36 bars of soap on hand
    * Hang clothes to dry
    * Skipped meals to avoid spending money eating out – like if I was out with a crowd or forgot to pack a lunch for work

    • Kalie says :

      Great list! Reminds me of a few items I forgot to list. Lots of trash picking. But you’ve definitely done some I haven’t!

  2. David says :

    “Just five years ago I couldn’t bear the thought of opening a can of beans because dry ones are so much cheaper. Today I pay Walmart $98 a year to deliver unlimited cans of beans to my door step.”

    This made me chuckle a little bit. 20 years ago I wouldn’t consider dried beans because I was working so many hours I didn’t have time to cook them. Now that I have some financial freedom I only buy dried beans because home cooked taste so much better than canned.

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