Things I’ve Learned About Money by Not Having a Lot of It

When I quit my job a month before our first child was born, nearly half our income went away. We were left with $19,000 a year to live on. Yes, $19,000. Right now you might be saying that me quitting my job was possibly the stupidest thing I could possibly have done. But I think it was a smart decision.

I learned really quickly that I had to prioritize financial obligations. Sure, it would have been nice to have lived in a single family 3 bed/2 bath home with a big yard. Instead, we chose a single wide manufactured home in a park. The price was right, and the park was family friendly. Yes, we lived near a rock quarry, but when my daughter became a toddler, she LOVED looking at the trucks from our kitchen window.

Having a nice new 4 door car or SUV would have been nice. A triple-digit car payment was out of the question, though. Instead, I drove around in a 1990 Toyota Celica. Yes, it only had two doors, but we managed to fit a car seat safely in the back, and we made do with what we had. And that Celica was a blast to drive!

I also learned that it’s OK to accept help, and it’s important to give back when you can. I received a lot of hand-me-downs that first year of being a stay-at-home mom. I think I bought maybe a half a dozen outfits for my daughter, most from a consignment store. She had plenty of clothes, thanks to the generosity of our friends with older children. At times it was humbling to accept help from others, but through that experience, I became more sympathetic toward people who don’t have a lot of resources.

I was fortunate to have a large network of friends and family. Some people aren’t so fortunate. Even though my husband and I are currently going through some rough financial times, I think it’s still important for us to give as much as we can. If we don’t have extra money, we can give our children’s outgrown clothes or our time. No matter how badly off I think I am, there’s always someone who needs more than me. By helping others, I have learned to become more mindful of the blessings in my own life.

One of the most important things I have learned as a stay-at-home mom is to ignore peer pressure. Just because my friends are all driving newer cars doesn’t mean that’s the best choice for me. A few years ago, my husband and I considered buying a home. In some ways, we felt like we should because all of our friends own their homes. Still, we sensed the timing wasn’t right, and we passed. It’s a good thing we did because we’d certainly be in foreclosure by now had we moved ahead in buying a house.

Instead, we continue to rent our terribly outdated little duplex. I will admit that this place gets on my last nerve from time to time. I hate the kitchen cabinets. I hate that the washer and dryer are in the kitchen. I hate the bland “rental cream colored” walls. But we have everything we need, and we can afford to live here without busting the budget. So we count our blessings and don’t worry about the fact that everyone else seems to be ahead of us in the financial game right now. Our time will come. And if it doesn’t, so what? It’s not the end of the world.

Finally, I have learned that money isn’t the most important thing in life. Relationships are the most important thing in life. My relationship with God, my relationship with my family, my relationship with my friends, and how I treat other people…that’s important. If I live my entire life without a lot of money, I will consider my life a success if other people see the love of God through me.

So now that I’ve gone on about how little money we’ve had over the years (and don’t worry…that $19,000 annual income has increased over the years), why do I consider being a stay-at-home mom my biggest financial success? Simple. Because being a stay-at-home mom has taught me how to manage my money well, and it’s forced me to have a proper perspective on money in light of the more important things in life.

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