Starting in 2017, I started to pay more attention to my finances after becoming a new mom and quickly realizing I would be the one in the family answering all the financial questions. I had been half heartedly investing in the available 401ks from my various employers, saving HSA money, and buying our first house in 2015 (super smart decision). I was at least financial savy enough (aka cheap, free love, hippie cyclist) to not splurge on a huge wedding but put the money into a house. We were married in said house's back yard and did all the prep work ourselves with the help of our friends and family but that is all detailed in another post. If their is one thing that helps confirm you are committed to your marriage, organizing a wedding in your back yard for 70 people and doing all the prep work yourself is likely a sure sign you are in it for the long haul.
However, after becoming addicted to some financial blogs I came to realize I was very poorly prepared for our financial future together as a family. After all what else do you do when you are waiting for labs to return at 2am but occupy yourself with how to avoid the situation in the future. I also sensed that after reading the blogs, I felt a sense of community but a lacking presence: the breadwinning mom finance nerd. I had always been frugal by way of being a poor bike racer but had never channeled my inner frugal ways for good.
In 5 years, I went from close to 100k in debt to paying off my student loans; building a post tax investment portfolio; and maximizing pretax savings through 401ks, sep IRAs, solo 401ks, HSA accounts, and 529s. I did all of this by tracking my budget, reading up on long term investment strategies, doing my own taxes and investing, and staying frugal. The most important part of this equation thus far for us has been reducing our living expenses because it seems that every reduction in budget leads to not only invested income but also less needed income steps closer to financial freedom.
So many will ask at this point, how have we particularly been able to reduce our budget? We have tried to focus on the things in life that are the most important to us and not outsource our hobbies. Our urban garden supplies our produce, reduces trash, and mandates stay at home meals. We use seasonal ways to get ourselves from A to B including biking, running, skiing and snow shoeing. We currently homeschool, only use the amount of childcare that our fsa can provide, visit our library sometimes twice a week now that it is open, and even cut everyone's hair. We spend as little as possible for our gear, toys, or gifts with craigslist, ebay, thrift, curbside free items, or garage sales while trying to focus on minimal items that we really use on a regular basis. Vacations are simple boon docking or mooch docking with our craigslist truck camper in one of the amazing national or state parks where our Toyota Tacoma can take us. My constant number crunching allows us to reduce our taxes legally and pick long term investment strategies. My husband builds and designs our home and garden for better living. These are our ways to reduce our income leaks and make our lifestyle sustainable in more than one way. Your way will likely look very different. In further posts I will add in some frugal numbers and budget revisions but this is the outline of our current frugal strategy.