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Dallas Mom: How We Live on 40K a Year Without Coupons

Brittney Vinson and Sarah Lybrand

I'm really not all that different from other moms. I take care of my home, my husband, my young son, as well as all the shopping and the family budget, too. What might make our family a little different from others is that we manage to live very comfortably without going into debt, and do so with only my husband's income of approximately $40,000 per year. Here's how we do it:


We've learned that budgeting is easier than it seems. We make automatic deductions for our basic expenses, such as mortgage, utilities, car payment, and insurance — we even set a small amount aside for charity — and what's left over gets split into two savings accounts: our emergency fund, and an account for our son (college, Christmas presents). My husband and I use a basic budgeting template from Excel and have adjusted it to our own needs — in fact, we adjust it every month depending on priorities. By acting responsibly before disaster strikes, we feel safeguarded against the unexpected.

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We Don't Deny Ourselves

We also leave room for fun stuff by delegating a small amount for discretionary spending each month — this can go for household items, clothes, vacations, etc. It's stuff we don't need, but want. If there's something we have our eye on, we simply save up for it. It might take us a little longer to get it, but we try not to deny ourselves of life's simple pleasures. By managing our "wants" like this, we avoid impulse purchases and overspending.

Eating Well, For Less

When we first got married, I couldn't cook at all, but now I cook all the time! Cooking allows us to meet our food budget each month, a total of only about $20 per person, per week. We can't afford to buy everything organic, but since I make my own organic baby food, I jump on those deals when I see them! I also shop wholesale at Costco for bulk items (flour, sugar, cheese), and then get my basics (milk, eggs, bread) at whichever local store has the best deals that week. Surprisingly, I don't use coupons. Instead, I'm diligent about planning out our meals each week so we don't waste a morsel. Another way we save (and have fun!) is to invite friends over — if I cook an entree and they bring the sides, we've just cut our dinner costs in half!

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DIY Designer Deals

Back when we had two incomes, I enjoyed decorating my home and wearing designer labels. Now, neither would be possible if I didn't think outside the box. My interior-designer mother has taught me how to choose high-quality fabrics to sew my own curtains, pillows and to re-upholster cushions. I even attempted a quilted headboard for the bed (for about $100 — a savings of nearly $300). We also saved about $1,000 on a 10x12 area rug for our bedroom by purchasing a large remnant at a rug store and having it bound. When I shop, I seek out consignment shops where gently worn couture costs about 60% less. I still have to watch my pennies, but I believe that a few high quality pieces are a better investment. Finally, I do all my own hemming and mending for my family. It saves me about $5 to $10 per sewing job. A small task like this add up!

Working it Out

As a trainer, fitness is important to me. Yet, we got rid of our gym memberships, which saved us $50 a month. We found that we were only going about twice a week anyway — now, I'll take my son out in his jogging stroller or complete workout tapes at home. Guess what? I don't miss it at all!

The Rewards

By budgeting and spending wisely, I've been able to stay home with my young son and provide the loving, personal attention we believe he needs. Secondly, we continue to invest in our futures. My husband is planning to start law school next fall and, thanks to our diligent savings practices, we know our family can handle this financial challenge. Thankfully, Matt and I were raised by financially savvy parents that taught us the value of money and how to practice financial self-control. We plan to pass these same lessons on to our son — and to continue to inspire others to do the same!

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