My husband and I have lived most of our married life with a fluctuating income. There were many years when we homeschooled our sons that we managed on his income alone. Now that our children are all grown, I am back working as a substitute teacher which means I have the Summers off and that means no income coming from me for 3-4 months out of the year. My husband still has a steady income so we are able to manage on that during those months. I had someone ask me recently how we are able to do this so I thought I would just do a post on it.
First of all, our mortgage payments are very low in comparison to many other people and even lower than rent payment would be. We bought a home that we could afford on one income and that has allowed us not to lose our home, even during a period of no income when my husband got hurt on the job and had to be home for awhile. The home we bought has a nice sized yard with fruit trees and we put in a garden. Every year we try something new or add another plant. This year we added a blackberry bush and today we found a pear tree on clearance that we will be planting to replace the 2 peach trees we lost. Right now in the garden we have cherries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries all bearing fruit. Our Summer apple will give us fruit later in late August. We grow oregano, mint, thyme, parsley chives and basil to add wonderful flavor to meals. Lettuce, bok choi, rhubarb, squash, potatoes, peas, cucumbers, beans, eggplant and tomatoes are also growing in the garden. I like having fresh produce right from the garden to help cut down on the grocery budget.
I enjoy searching out great deals on things that we need and try to prepare ahead of time. I have a gift closet that I set aside items that I find all year round that I know someone would enjoy on a special occasion like birthdays, graduations, baby showers, bridal showers, weddings and Christmas. I also stock my pantry and freezer this way, taking advantage of sales combined with coupons and also freezing produce from our garden. I try not to waste food and during the summer will use the leftover morning coffee to make iced coffee as a afternoon treat.
The library is one of my favorite resources for free entertainment. Jeff and I borrow books and dvds from our little library here in town. Since it is part of the county library system, we can request things online and have access to lots of resources. We can even do an inter-library loan and get books from outside of our local library system. Our library also has a free magazine section where you can take home magazines that you want to read and can drop off ones that you have already read so that other people can enjoy them.
My husband and I do go out to eat and we do go to see movies in the theater, but we budget for these things. We will usually hit up a matinee movie and we only do this a few times a year. When we do eat out, it is usually at lunch. I have been able to get gift certificates through restaurants.com for pennies on the dollar to help offset the cost of dining out. Jeff and I also celebrate our birthdays during the Summer and we are sent all kinds of gift certificates for free birthday meals and treats. Today we used a gift certificate for a free meals at one of our favorite places and even with tip it costs a little over $10. We enjoy lots of free activities too like going to the river, picnics in the park, local festivals and just spending time with our family.
I think a big part of learning to live with a fluctuating income is to be thankful and content with all that we are blessed with and not living beyond our means. We are currently paying down credit card debt and should be completely debt free within the next few years. That will be a huge weight lifted off of us. Our plan, once we are debt free, is to then live below our means and aggressively save money towards our retirement years. We will still budget for trips to see family and to finally take a nice vacation for just the 2 of us. The key word there is BUDGET. If we don't plan for it, there will not be the money there when we need it. ;)