How We Saved For Our Dream Land

My friends and family learned yesterday that we finally bought our dream retirement spot, land in the mountains... yesterday.  In my mind it was a dream that was 20, 30, 40 years in the future but it came to us right before our 12 year anniversary.

Some may know we are huge savers, close to the point of insanity and on the line of severe discomfort.  I thought it helpful to so many readers right now in financial distress, or perhaps in great comfort but with dreams too far away, to share some of our money savings tips (that were 90% my husband's but I am learning to embrace more every day).

And special thanks to our Realtor, Gina Dion, who was amazing!

It's not whether you are earning huge amounts or not, but that you take little steps every day to spend less than needed.  What's hardest about the below steps is that we don't HAVE to do it, but if we do, the savings are HUGE!  And really, we aren't missing out on anything...

We are a single income family of four.
  • I write all our receipts in a pocket calendar I keep on our desk so I know in a glance what we've spent for the week/month/year.  This is especially important with so many "auto pay" bills nowadays with email statements you hardly need to keep tabs on.  
  • We have the cash for anything before we buy.  Cars, furniture, anything.  Never carry a credit balance or owe interest on your credit. 
  • Our cell phone bill is $10-20 a YEAR.  We use a prepaid plan (.15/minute) and only make very quick calls.  We have a Costco membership we may not need now that we're done with diapers and formula, and a SW Air visa so all our trip flights are on reward tickets. 
  • Our grocery bill is $100 a week, under $400/month.  I meal plan and shop at 2-5 stores to get every deal on fresh foods.  We recently bought a freezer that runs $24 a year on our electric bill to store fruit from our trees and meat/veggies when on great sale. The kids and I eat out about once a week with friends, and our family eats out once a month on an evening or weekend.
  • We put in a sink water filter for drinking water.  My husband turned down the valves in the girls' bathroom sinks because they crank it on high while brushing their teeth.  (This even helps me prepare for the water pressure we'll probably have in the mountains!)  We use hard water bottles to fill and take everywhere rather than buying bottled. 
  • We wash and vacuum our own cars; steam our own tile and carpets.  We bought a Steam Vacuum Cleaner and tile cleaner, they are built incredibly easy to use and cheap to purchase.
  • We have the base cable, phone, and satellite; all our books and movies come from the library.  We take the girls to the $1 theater a few times a year for great kid movies.  We never buy books; we put a hold at the library and pick it up when it's in. 
  • Electricity:  We replaced all our windows with double-pained, insulated all our walls and outlets, put in energy-saving light bulbs, and installed solar panels (cash ahead) on our roof, and installed a whole-house fan that runs much cheaper than the refrigerated air in the hot summer (at night it runs and pulls in cool, outside air, then we seal the house during the day). 
  • Our kids are 2 and 5, and our budget for them is $1000 a year.  This covered one year at Little Gym (spring/fall), Zoo/BioPark/Aquarium pass, 40 city swim lessons, a Groupon for 1 month at Bounce N Boogie, Spring Music at Gymboree for both, and some friend's music classes.  I hit every museum free day, library event, Home Depot project, free reading and story programs (like Dions, Balloon Museum, and Borders), and farm tour.  Check out my posts on home preschool. 
  • Clothing: Our girls get sneakers/boots for the winter/fall, and sneakers/sandals for the summer, my youngest has mostly hand-me-downs but I shop at Kohls for my oldest and combine coupons and $10-back days.  We aren't church-goers, so I usually borrow dresses and dress shoes for one-time formal events. I love shopping, and it's been grueling for me refrain so I avoid clothing stores for me and only shop with a list.
  • We do home mani/pedis.  Polish is $2-5/bottle and we love the decal stickers at Walgreens.  I cut our kids hair in between my twice a year visits (girl's hair is easy like that).
  • We don't have a gym membership (gasp!).  We invested in a home gym about 5 years ago and slowly built up our home equipment, DVD collection, and live close to trails and parks.

Our total expenses, including our house payment, per year:
Around $30,000
Everything else is for our dreams becoming reality, and I wish the same for you.


  1. Those are great ideas and have taken a lot of fore thought. I really am impressed that you could both agree on this plan and that your dreams are so beautiful to the both of you. I'm glad that you're part of my daughter Evelyn's life. Thanks for the blog.


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