As I have written in the past, we have taken up the minimalist approach over the last few years. Let's see, by definition, a minimalist is "One who advocates a moderate or conservative approach, providing a bare minimum of what is necessary." This post is far from a minimal post, however.
Let me explain. I, for one, have always been a saver. Growing up, I was the one that hated to spend my money unless I really wanted the item. When Chris and I met, I was working 2 jobs while going to school and had little money to spend. When we got married, we both got successful jobs and degrees behind our names. We immediately started saving for our retirement. With that said, we both spent some money, too, on what many would find not necessary items. We took many trips together (and would take them again!) to Jamaica, Hawaii, California and Chicago for starters. We decorated our home in and out, some done with the help of a decorator!! (Woooow, how I have changed!). We invested many dollars so Chris could obtain his private pilot's license. And, for Chris' 30th birthday, he got a motorcycle. And, then there was the Audi TT that I thought Chris had to have as a reward to driving the car I had for a few years. (Okay, none of these things follows the minimalist theory. Wait, I will get to it). Then, after 4 years of marriage, on a trip to Chicago, we decided to start a family (it must have been all the wine my cousin Dave gave Chris!). Upon getting pregnant, something switched. It was a slow process. I still did a little shopping at Harolds, but it became more difficult for me to spend so much money on what I saw as no longer necessary (come on, $700 for a suit. It was not THAT cute!). A couple years ago, Chris and I started to pay down debt. We have never had credit card debt, but did have a home loan to finish our basement (which we paid off in less than a year), Chris' student loan for his Masters Degree, and the Audi loan at the time. Obviously, the Audi loan we paid off right away and traded with cash for the Camry in 2006. In 2007, we made a goal to live on one income (something we should have been doing all along). Soon we had Chris' student loan paid off. Believe me, the dinner we had to celebrate that milestone was unforgettable!
Now, one year later we are completely debt free and have lived on Chris' income alone for a year. We have saved most of my income, with a few exceptions for home improvements and the growing daycare costs. It helped that Chris' job finally saw the amazing man that he is and gave him a raise. :) Also, our spending grew more and more conservative (not cheap!). For one, we have basic cable only (and we have that just so we can view "free" television)We have had several people make fun of us for this. Chris, admittedly, hates that we do not have cable. However, we have 3 kids and do not have time to watch much tv anyway. Our favorite shows are on regular television...so we survive. Besides, look at how much money we save in one year, 5 years, a lifetime, that would otherwise be wasted sitting down watching the tube?
Also, nobody wants to go shopping with me. I think and rethink every purchase anymore. It has to be a bargain. My kids look nice, but it comes with a lot of shopping and watching the prices (and agony over purchases I make). Our new goal for 2008 is to go to the grocery store only 2 times a month. The more times we go, the more we spend. This is VERY difficult, and it will take us a few months to determine how much to buy in order to make it to the next shopping trip. We buy fresh fruits/veggies and eat them the first week and then go to canned the next. That is the only way to do it. We eat out minimally, mostly getting food and bringing it home. We do treat the kids occasionally to "eating out" just so they know what that is. Last summer, we cut our cell phone bill down to the minimal and to $30 a month. That was difficult for me considering my only interaction with coworkers is via the cell phone. However, the lack of cell minutes has been a positive thing (you would not believe the gossip that goes on in a small pharma company!).
I am always looking for ways to expand the minimalist approach and tweak the budget. This is a fun hobby of mine (and Chris has to hear about it. :) ). Now, we are pondering cancelling our home phone and just having the cell. I figure, we rarely answer the home phone anyway. It would save another $325 a year (but that's $1500 in 5 years). It all adds up. So, do not be surprised if you call our house and you hear it has been disconnected. It's not because we did not pay the bill!
So, after all is said, what is the benefit of the Austin minimalist theory? Well, you see, Alivia thinks she wants to be a Doctor (college for that can not come cheap). Addison is probably thinking the Opera (If you go to our church and are one of the many who turn your heads and stare when she screams, you would have to agree), and training for that can not come cheap. And Asher, well, with Chris' blessing he may want to be a pro soccer player and that comes with a price before they make any money at it. :) Oh, and Chris and I, we would like to retire while still on the younger side of old, in Hawaii. Oh, and we will be sure to make fun of those who have/had cable and are still working then!