Back in 2011, our family of four was living off of my husband’s income alone, earned as a second-year teacher at a small private Catholic high school in Indianapolis.
It did not pay well. Like, less than $29,000/year, before taxes.
I stayed home and didn’t work as we had very young twins (one-year-old) and any job I would get would be an entry-level position as I had just officially graduated from Brigham Young University Spring 2011, with a BA in Visual Arts. The earnings from these jobs would barely cover the costs of daycare for two babies (trust me, I looked).
Plus, we only had one vehicle and could not afford another, so I’d have to rely on public transportation — which would add to my “work hours” and make my earnings even less — or work opposite shift of my husband, which didn’t seem like a great idea either.
With the decision to stay at home with the kids, we had to figure out ways to save money, cut costs, and pay for everyday things.
Despite having to use a credit card all too often (and had monthly payments for those), we put together a list of things we had to do to live within our limit earnings.
How to Live Off a Teacher’s Salary
Paying Tithing FIRST
The most important thing we do with any money we earn is pay a 10% tithe to our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Even when it seems we won’t have money to pay our credit card or electric bills, we still pay our tithing FIRST.
When we do, the Lord blesses us to somehow pay all of our bills on time. It’s seriously amazing.
As it says in Malachi 3:10:
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Getting a Great Bank
When we moved to Indianapolis the first thing we did was find a new bank, though mostly because our old bank did not have any branches in Indianapolis!
We shopped around and decided to use a local credit union.
We earn a 2% interest on both our checking and savings accounts!
They also often run contests and promotions and have been great to work with.
We automatically deposit $60/month into our savings account. It may not be much, and we may have had to dip into it from time to time, but having something in savings helps us on those “rainy days.”
Using Government Programs
Because we decided having a mother in the home is of far more worth than a slightly higher income, we qualified for various government programs.
We did not plan to be on government assistance forever (and you can see how we ended up escaping poverty here), but we hope that in honestly sharing what programs we used that perhaps we can help others find assistance if they need it.
- Medicaid for our twins – paid all their medical bills at no cost to us.
- Healthy Indiana Plan(HIP) gave me medical insurance with a $65 monthly payment.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps – Provided us with about $220 for food each month.
- WIC (Women Infants and Children) Provided food for the girls, saving us about $50-75 a month.
- Car Seat Assistance Program – We received free infant car seats through our local fire department
- Lifeline Assistance for Affordable Communications – We received $7 off per month on our phone bill and later a free cell phone with very limited minutes and messaging.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – They sent money to the gas and/or electric companies to help cover winter heating costs and summer cooling costs.
- Income-Based Repayment Plans for our student loans – Meant we didn’t have to pay anything toward our loans.
- Use Tax Refunds Wisely – We put it all towards debt.
Eliminating Unnecessary Expenses
We cut back on our expenses as much as possible when we were poor and living on less than $30,000/year. This meant we did the following:
- We got rid of our cell phones and only use a pay-as-go phone for emergencies/trips.
- We did not have any type of TV service.
- We only got 2 DVDs from Netflix at a time, with no streaming.
- We rarely went out to eat (in fact we once went two months without eating out at all).
- When we do go out to eat, we order water and sometimes split a meal (and used these tips to save money on eating out).
- We rarely bought junk food i.e. chips, candy, cookies, desserts (in fact we once went months without eating any sweets).
- We don’t buy bottled water – we just keep water bottles in the fridge and fill them with tap water.
- We do not buy soda or other drinks except on special occasions.
- We don’t buy many “extras.”
Saving Around the House
There are several things we did in our home to conserve on those everyday, home expenses. We employed many of the following:
- We combined our (unlimited) home phone and high-speed internet services together and pay only $60/month (and later got an Ooma so we got a free — only ~$5 for taxes/fees a month — home phone).
- We got our monthly rent reduced $20 a month since we were not happy with the linoleum in our apartment when we first moved in! Never hurts to ask for lower rent!
- We mentioned things we need to family, friends, home and visiting teachers. It’s amazing the gifts and generosity of people! We received so much from others’ goodwill, like furniture, a dryer, beds, toys, clothes, and more.
- We kept the blinds shut and the lights turned off during the day.
- We used AmazonFamily and saved a bunch of money on diapers, wipes, diaper pail refills, and more. We bought the cheapest name brand diapers – Luvs size 3– for around 14 cents a diaper, and Pampers sensitive wipes for about 3 cents a wipe.
- We also took advantage of Kroger’s fuel rewards program and saved money on gas (which in 2011 was very expensive).
- We scoured the weekly Kroger ad to see what is on sale and then buy those items.
- We loaded coupons onto our Kroger card and cut coupons, but only for things we actually bought (you can see how much couponing saved our family here).
- We made weekly meal plans so we used up fresh produce and meats before they went bad (which saves money). It also helped us use things on our shelves, be more creative, and try new recipes/recycle old ones.
- When times were really tight, we used the Bishop’s Storehouse.
We know there are many ways you can still improve on saving, cutting costs, and living frugally. For a while I got really into survey companies that paid cash, entering giveaways, and getting free samples in the mail.
At the time, we couldn’t afford many toys, clothes, gadgets, and so on, but we were happy knowing that we have a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs.
We had the things we needed, weren’t behind on our debts, and were healthy.
Sure, life was so hard like this, living paycheck to paycheck, one financial distaster away from having real problems (which came via major car accident later in 2011) but the Lord provides when we do our best to support ourselves and our families.
We are very grateful for a government that has so many programs designed to help those who are less fortunate. We are grateful for our church and its many wonderful programs and people. They both take care of the poor and needy.So, what have you done to live in today’s economy?