A long time ago in a far away post, I mentioned that I'd post about frugal living sometime "soon." "Soon" got away from me, but I've had a number of request for that post, so here it is at last!
When John and I decided we wanted to adopt, we were faced with the problem of the cost. As you well know, that "problem" turned out to be a blessing in disguise because all our needs have been met by our generous community. However, when we were just starting out, we had no idea how God would provide for us, so we prayed for wisdom about our finances and took a late summer afternoon to sit down at a coffee shop and explore all our options for financing this adoption.
We came up with a list of 4 major "funding areas"- 1) our income 2) adoption grants 3) fundraising/donations and 4) the adoption tax credit.
As it has turned out, we've only had to use number 1 and 3 to meet our goal. I've done most posting about our fundraising so here's my advice for #1. My goal in this post isn't to give the most sage financial advice, but just to share our story in order to encourage others who trying to figure out how to save for an adoption as well.
In order to put as much of our income toward our adoption as possible, we decided that we would live on John's income only for however long it took to reach our goal and put my income toward adoption expenses. We live in a lower cost of living area so while we weren't living in the lap of luxury, living on John's income alone was do-able. Actually, when we were both in seminary we lived on John's income alone and that was income from a part time serving job. So even though we cut back these past few months, things weren't as tight as they were then! From these two frugal living seasons, here's what I think made the biggest difference for us:
1) Only having one car. This requires juggling our schedules and walking or biking when necessary, but we have been able to make it work well so far. Our car isn't fancy, but it gets good gas mileage which makes a huge difference when you drive as much as we do, since our families live out of town. If you're trying to cut back, see if you can make this work. Growing up my parents also shared a car and if my mom needed it during the day she would drive my dad to work and pick him up again. This is an especially viable option if one spouse works at home, like I do.
2) No TV and no cell phones. Neither of us used a cell phone during seminary because a land line was much cheaper. Now we both have cell phones- John's through work and mine via our budget- and no land line. Really, you only need one or the other. Cancel whichever one you use less. We still don't have a TV which means no cable bill. We watch current TV shows on (free) hulu or netflix and just live without the shows that aren't available. When netflix changed their billing schedule we dropped the mail package and just kept streaming. I'll admit I was tempted to keep the mail DVD option, but I told myself I would just try to go without it and see. I haven't missed it one bit. If it eases the sting for you a bit- just cancel your subscriptions for a couple months and see how it goes. You can always re-sign up, right?
3) Home-cooking. It's cheaper and healthier. Yes, it takes time to cook and I know it can be tiring to break out the pots and pans at the end of the day, but you can do it! Get your fingers typing over to pinterest for quick meals, freezer meals, crock pot meals, or whatever you need. Vegetarian meals are especially affordable and good for you and the environment. We do our groceries together on Monday nights and split the cooking. Plus whoever cooks doesn't have to clean up! Save restaurant meals for date nights and special occasions; you'll probably appreciate them more too.
4) Affordable vacations. After a lot of thought, we decided to skip the cruise and European vacation. Yea right. ;-) That was never an option for us. Our honeymoon was 3 nights in Niagara Falls and summer vacation is camping in a trailer with my family. You know what? We love it. I hope someday we can take a trip overseas (no including adoption travel), but I know it isn't something we need or even deserve- at least as not as much as our son needs and deserves a family. Perspective.
We also do a lot of little things like using homemade cleaning supplies and microfiber cloths instead of paper towels. In seminary we lived without a dryer and just hung all our clothes to dry, which cut back on our utility bill. We watch our grocery budget by meal planning in advance and avoiding impulse buys. I've started gardening which hasn't really saved us too much yet, but I hope in a few years when my garden is more fruitful and I've learned how to can it will save money on our grocery budget! We're also planning to cloth diaper for health and environmental reasons, which will help us save on disposable diaper costs.
And of course, when it comes to bigger purchases like furniture always look to see if you can get it used or wait for a sale. If you are saving for a shorter season of life like we were, see if you can put off some bigger purchases. Our couch is made of bonded leather and about 3 years after we bought it, the top layer of leather started peeling off (thank you IKEA). I tried to fix it to no avail. It's about 5 years old right now and one of my daycare kids asks me if our cat "ate it" (obviously she has a dog at home!). No, he didn't, but it sure looks like he did! Anyway, we just keep sitting on the peeling leather seat and remember that our little guy is more important than a couch. It'll get replaced someday- just not today.
Some things we tried didn't work for us. I clipped coupons for about 4 months in seminary and ended up buying a lot of junk that we really didn't need. If you eat a lot of fresh produce, coupons aren't usually going to help you out very much. They also take a lot of time to clip and sort which wasn't worth it to me. We also went through a season of not going out to eat, ever. Now that we're both working I find we need a weekly date night to connect and keep our marriage healthy and strong. So even if we can only get a meal to split or just go out for coffee, it is worth the money to us because the relational payoff is so big. You'll figure out what works and what doesn't work for your family too. Don't beat yourself up if you don't follow every money saving tip out there!
A lot of this advice and much, much more is in a great book called "Adopt without Debt" by Julie Gumm.
If you are trying to figure out how to finance your adoption, I highly recommend her book! Here's the amazon link.
I hope some of this is helpful to other hopeful adoptive parents out there- or even just families hoping to cut back on their budget! Thanks for reading. :-)