Living on Less Than $28,000 A Year: How our family of six survives (and even thrives) on an income that is less than half the national median income, and what the government calls “below the poverty line” (less than $29,990 annually) for our family size.
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Every parent knows that there are two things that just don’t mix: baby diapers and swimming pools.
What is the one area of the budget that can expand like a diaper in a swimming pool?
Don’t get me wrong, eating is one of my top priorities and I am absolutely not telling you to stop eating. What I will tell you is that we look at food differently in our home: there is necessity food and entertainment food.
Necessity Food– What our bodies need to function properly each day:
*Some form of protein
*A little grain
*A little fat
For the sake of discussion I will boil it down to these simple elements. The amount we need is determined by our activity level and metabolism. (This is not a discussion about nutrition, so please don’t flood me with comments about the latest research on what we need to eat. :))
Entertainment Food-Food we like to eat, but we don’t need:
*The 10:00 a.m. coffee break doughnut
*The 10:00 p.m. t.v. watching munchies
*The midafternoon “Mom, I’m bored. What’s in the fridge?” search
*Popcorn at the theater
*Friday night pizza delivery
*Saturday night dinner out
If our family has any confusion on the difference between necessity food and entertainment food, we either eat a lot of potatoes for the next week or something doesn’t get paid. Friday night pizza delivery sounds wonderful after a busy week, but not so wonderful on Monday morning when the power bill is due.
In our house, we buy necessity food first because we have decided that we don’t want to trade something temporary (food) for something eternal (my ability to stay home and raise our children). For our family, spending too much on entertainment food means I have to get a job.
Having said that, you should know that we do not sit around at home eating beans and rice (although we do occasionally eat beans and rice). I plan my meals around the sale items each week and we enjoy delicious food like Steak Fajitas, BBQ Pork, Garlic Shrimp Radiatore, and Ranch Chicken Casserole.
My husband and I have a weekly date night, we just don’t eat dinner out very often (read our cheap date ideas here). If ice cream is on sale we may have dessert that week, but it comes out of entertainment money (leftover after we put aside bill money), not the grocery budget. If we receive birthday money and we have a Living Social discount, we may go out to eat as a family. Eating out and having dessert are not the norm, however.
Remember my little blurb about being non-judgmental in part one of this series? Still applies.
If eating out is an important part of your life, please continue to do so. Just make sure that you can actually afford it and make the choice consciously. Realize that by “eating” that money you can’t spend it on something else.
If you have lots of money but wonder where it all goes, take a look at how much money you spent on eating out last month.
If you don’t make very much money, or you would like to do more with the money you have, stay tuned for a new post in this series when I will reveal several practical ways we save on the food budget.
Feel free to leave a comment, but please remember to play nicely. 🙂
next post: A Look At Our Paycheck This Week
Click here to read other posts in this series.