What It’s Like to Raise A Family On 55K Outside Austin, Texas

"Things are a bit tight, that’s to be sure. But they always have been that way for my wife and I when we were growing up, so it’s not as though that’s a shock to us."

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It’s a question that’s often on the minds of anyone who’s ever looked at the high cost of raising kids today: how do parents make it work? Well, we wondered too. Which is why we’re asking parents around the country for a peek into their financial lives: what they earn, spend, save, and invest as well as what financial headaches they face, what tricks they’ve learned along the way, and what, if anything, they have figured out. Will the answers we receive get the a-okay from financial advisors? Not always. Are they honest looks into parents trying to provide for their kids? Absolutely. Here, Jared, a 35-year-old married father of two-and-a-half-year-old who lives outside of Austin, TX discusses how he and his wife handle their spending, bill-paying, and manage to put a little bit away. 

Things are a bit tight, that’s to be sure. But they always have been that way for my wife and I when we were growing up, so it’s not as though that’s a shock to us. It just means a bit more now that we have a little girl. We want her to be provided for, you know? But that’s always the case. And we’re saving.

I’m the manager of a restaurant out here. I make about 50 grand a year. I also do some regular sound work at a few local venues. That nets me another five grand. My wife is a stay-at-home mom. So that puts our annual income at $55K

We currently rent. Our apartment, which is a two bedroom costs us $1350 a month, which is a pretty decent deal around these parts. Utilities, including phone and, like, Amazon Prime membership, cost us another $230 per month.

Let see: Groceries, diapers, cleaning supplies, and drug store stuff amounts to another $600 total. We spend about $50 on gas because we don’t drive all that much. I walk to work and all our normal stores are pretty close. We do a lot of Prime-ing, too. We try to save our gas for weekend road trips and the occasional night of babysitting/dinner/bar.

As you can probably tell, I’m reading this off a budget. We budget everything. Currently, we use this app called Honeydue, which has a terrible name but is a pretty clean interface. It helps us track every single expenditure and keep an exact eye on our bank accounts. It’s so necessary. We also use Quicken, which is also really helpful.

When my wife and I were first dating? Jesus, I didn’t know what I was doing with money. There’s this joke by Mike Birbiglia where he says he took this date to a dinner he couldn’t afford so he could show her how much he could put on his credit card. That’s how I felt. My wife was an equally bad with day-to-day expenses, except she was a much better saver.

Now? We save, save, save. Our daughter is two-and-a-half. That means, she’ll soon be attending pre-school and so on and so forth. We were lucky enough that we did a very small, very casual wedding. Our families still gave us gifts, and since we didn’t have very many wedding bills to pay, we were able to set up a nice savings account for us. We knew we wanted children, so that went right into the kid fund. Then that split off into our nest egg and her college fund. Both are growing nicely.

We’ve been very lucky in terms of having no major life catastrophes to watch out for thusfar. Hospital bills were normal. We’re all healthy — knock on wood — and have good insurance. I needed a few stitches last year because I’m a dummy who doesn’t know how to walk near tables, but other than that? Smooth sailing. But we’re ready for them if they come along. Or as ready as we can be.

Unnecessary expense? We try to do a night out about once a month. Babysitting is about $15 an hour so anywhere from $45 to $60. Dinner is about $50. Some beers and live music afterwards? Another $20 or so – we’re lightweights now haha. Taxi home? $15 or so. It depends though. Some might see a night out as unnecessary, but we find it to be very necessary. Keeps us from going loco. I’d say it’s on par with going to the doctor or dentist. Same sort of self-care.

My also wife does some Fit Moms stuff out here. That’s helped her find a community of mothers that she can work out and engage with. Occasionally there’s a coffee date here or a lunch date there.

For us, it’s all about planning for the future. We’ll likely use our nest egg to invest in a house in the next few years. After my daughter goes to pre-school my wife will start working again – she was a nurse practitioner. So that will allow us to be a bit more aggressive with our saving.

It’s all a progression, you know?

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