59 answers

How Do They Do It?

I have asked this question of some friends before, but everything was vague, so I am hoping that since this site is a bit more anonymous, that I might get some candid answers.

My question is: How do single income families, not only afford a nice life style, but seem to always by buying/traveling, etc. I have a some friends that are sahms, and I am always hearing that the wife/family just got back from visiting this family, or that family, or a family vacation somewhere. Even just some of the stuff they do with their kids on a daily basis can be costly. They have nice houses, and nice "stuff", and nice cars, and nice clothes, etc., even their nails and hair are done. I feel like I am doing something wrong, since we can't afford that in a double income home.

When I have asked before, people have said that they scrimp and save, and don't eat out, etc., but these are the people that seem to be single income families, not those that are living high. The only thing I can think of is that maybe there are some military pensions that contribute, but that doesn't cover everyone. Are these people financing everything with credit cards, do they have family money?

My husband and I are scrimping and saving to pay off debt with the hopes that we have some breathing room, but I don't think we will ever be to the point of me staying at home, nevermind, staying at home, and being able to afford all the extras.

I know that this is a random question, but it is one that just gets me when I try to figure out how to get my son some toys for the yard, and still afford everything else, while hearing that someone who just got back from a girls week in Seattle is now taking her twins to DisneyWorld for a week. I think I just need a reality check.

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow, it looks like I really hit a nerve. Thank you all for your candid answers. I am actually 9 months into the Total Money Makeover. We have paid off one credit card and are about half way through our car. We also paid off all the OB/GYN charges in advance, and have most, if not all, saved for the hospital for baby #2 that is due in 10 days. I think we should have everything but the mortgage paid off by the end of 2011. As I dole out each paycheck, I know I am doing the right thing, but sometimes need some inspiration. As one post said, they have no debt and are able to save for what they want to do. That is actually what I was hoping to hear to give me that extra bit of encouragement that I need every so often. I see how easily some people live and get jealous and think that there has to be an easier, faster way to get to my goal. Knowing that some are going into debt to achieve it also gives me encouragement because I want to be out of that vicious cycle, no matter how hard it is.

Unfortunately, most of our debt comes from my husband before we were married. He bought and furnished a house with his ex-fiance, who didn’t put anything towards it, but demanded money when they broke up. Then he had trouble getting a job and got deeper and deeper. I had savings (that is how we bought our house and paid for our wedding and honeymoon), and hated debt. Last summer we had our furnace and A/C break, and that gave me credit card debt and put me over the edge to needing to do something about it, and finding Ramsey.

I’m not trying to keep up with the Joneses, and truly not comparing myself…okay, technically I am, but more in an intellectual, why are we so different way, as opposed to, I am unhappy and bitter with my life because I’m not like them. I am very happy with my life, I have a great marriage, a wonderful son, and another wonderful surprise on the way. Maybe it is the hormones that are making me question a bit more, or the thought of only have 66% of my salary for the next 2 months. Or just the fact that we finally got a financial advisor and I really want to work on the savings aspect instead of the debt aspect.

I really didn’t mean any disrespect to those that are doing everything right, just wanted to make sure that I was following in your footsteps. And I am trying to not assume, which is why I am asking the question. The military pension came to mind because two of the families I am thinking of have husbands that used to be in the military. One had eye issues and left and another is now paralyzed (not from the military), but, of course, can’t go back in. I have no concept of the amount of pensions, but if they are currently working, plus getting the pension, I thought that might be enough to help supplement. Looks like I was wrong.

The yard toys were just what I was thinking of at the moment I wrote this…not important in any way. And I have scoured Craigslist weekly, but am always late because I can’t get there before the weekend. There were many ideas and thoughts that you ladies gave me that I hadn’t thought of before – coupons and being able to go to the store during sales if you are a sahm, even family paying for trips and property, and able to watch kids to save daycare costs (oh that would help so much!). I also know that there are people that are making astronomical salaries (and yes, my husband and I both have degrees), and for them, I say, “Do you have any openings?” :)

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I am a stay at home, and my husband is an enlisted man in the Air Force, so he does not bring in a lot of money. We know how mush we have each month for extras, and plan accordingly. If we want to buy something nice, we do not eat out. If we want to travel, we plan several months in advance and save a little every month over time. I think it is a matter of only seeing the outside of a family, like when they say the grass is always greener on the other side, until you are standing one it. We all have the same struggles, you are soooo not alone.

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Inheritance is a possibility, at least for some people.
A big lottery win sometimes (wish it could be me sometime).
The wage earner has a big salary (lot of those CEO's making multi-million dollar bonuses a year are married).
Crime - Bernie Maddoff lived high on the hog for years before he was caught.
And credit cards is the way lots of people do it - I know quite a few personally who live this way.

1 mom found this helpful

I get it, it is hard to see everyone else get so much more sometimes. However, I do believe a lot of people live on credit cards. I have a friend who does not have money but is ALWAYS taking trips, event caters her daughter's birthday parties, she is always going and always spending. Something else I know? She has claimed bankruptcy twice, lives on credit cards and finds something lacking enough in her life that she has to make up for it by living beyond her means.

I am a single mother with no child support. My daughter has lots of awesome toys and doesn't lack for much at all. I garage sale shop for everything. Her swingset - $25.00. A super awesome climber slide that retails for 199.00 - I got for $10.00. Garage sales are a steal for great deals, great kids clothes and toys.

As far as the trips, yeah, out of my price range. I can dream though..........

good luck!

More Answers

One of the best things my mum ever taught me was "People spend their money in different ways." And one of the best things I learned as an adult is "Not to judge my insides by other people's outsides".

You've gotten some great answers... but what it all boils down to is everyone's situation is different. Some people save, some people borrow, some people get it gifted, some people inherit, some people get PAID to, some people, some people, some people.

One trick with frequent flyers... is that they almost never pay for airfare. ESPECIALLY frequent international flyers. They use their miles. So the trip that would cost anyone doing it as a "once in a lifetime trip" pays 4000, while the person using their miles pays 400. I'm still kicking myself for "losing" 135,000 miles. Do you know how many free tickets that is??? Other people get "comp" tickets (airline employees have family too, as do air traffic controllers & ground crew). Other's get a cc that lets them get 2 for 1 tickets, others save and use last minute sites and pay pennies on the dollar. Others fly "space-a" (the military is the nations LARGEST employer... not only do all active duty personel get space-A, but so do dependants and retired folks. Millions of people fly space-A every year.) Others have to travel for their work (and their work pays), while still others arrange work that lets them fly (like messengers, airline employees, etc.)

Very few people ACTUALLY know the intimate details of other people's finances. (Btw... did you know that in my city, longshoremen make more money than engineers and doctors... I've run their insurance, we're talking 100-200k a year for the very definition of blue-collar work). The person with the posh job can be paying 3 tuitions, and paying off debt from "the early years" and have no money... a person with nothing to pay but bills can be socking money into savings. A person can sell a house in a city (like mine) where a 2b/1b starter house costs half a mil... and move to a city where a McMansion costs 125k. Someone's beloved mother could have died leaving them money or leaving them with funeral debt. Some people buy new clothes, other people have had the same 3 pairs of pants and 5 shirts for the past 7 years. Some people buy cars, others lease for less, others lease for more. A LOT of kid-activities have sliding scales. Some families "pay it forward" (aka they were broke while raising their own kids, but their parents helped them out and THEY help their own kids out), some families the kids take care of the elder generations. Some people pay taxes once a year, others let the govt collect the interest and use a tax return as "bonus". Some people are paying off debt, others are debt free. (I mean, if you're paying off debt imagine how much more $ you'd have if you had no debt to pay off... no car payment... even no house payment/rent payment... that money stacks up fairly quickly). Some pay for phones and cable that equal out to hundreds every month, others use netflix and free phones and pay $30. Some people pay for gym memberships, others pay for sports, others pay for neither... but walk/bike everywhere or hike for free.

We all live our lives VERY differently, and we all have VERY VERY different priorities. We also come from different backgrounds, have different skills, and make different choices. We all "splurge" on different things, invest in different things. What is a "ridiculous expense" to one, is a necessity to another and vice versa. We all have different "ins" in certain areas, through work/ friends/ family... and we all have different capabilities.

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I think it's unfair to assume that people who enjoy a nice lifestyle and travel go in to debt to do it
We have a single income family, have zero debt, have a nice car and home and are hoping to travel when our kids diabetes gets under control.

One year my husband and I put a dollar a day away for each of us (without fail), stuck every extra bit of change that we got into a jar, and if there was money left over at the end of the week after bills, savings, groceries, etc. we would put a bit more in the jar. After a year we had a few thousand dollars and went on a trip. After our trip we had enough left over to go on ANOTHER trip but we stuck the rest in savings.

I am NOT bragging, just stating the fact that, contrary to almost every post you got, not everyone who "has" things is in debt. We don't get everything we want, even if we have the money. But we don't feel guilty about enjoying things that we really want if we have the money to do it.

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I 2nd, 3rd, and 4th the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace.

Don't feel bad about your situation because you are doing the right things for your family. He talks about "Living Like No One Else" so that later you can "Live Like No One Else".

We have dug ourselves out of a pretty big hole and I can say happily that I have no consumer debt as of yesterday....but it was a lot of hard work and budgeting that got us out of our financial mess.

Keep doing what you're doing and don't worry about how everyone else around you is having a great time...because unfortunately, they will not be having such a good time later if they are financing it with credit cards.

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OK, just this morning taking my daughter to school I heard the perfect song to sum up this conversation. "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The words that caught my ear were:
"Forget your lust, for the rich man's gold
All that you need, is in your soul.
All I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied"

Have to agree with Anne Marie, we should never assume anything.

For us, without going into our personal finances, we have/do all of the above and I've been home 10 years now. And no, neither one of us have military pensions.

When we were first married 21+ years ago, we didn't go into huge debt buying our house. Several friends bought the most they could buy but then couldn't do anything else. We bought reasonable and I went to garage sales and auctions to furnish it. Plus I took hand-me downs from both our parents. I think the only "new" piece I had was a sofa. When we moved to this house 9 years ago, same thing. We could have had a bigger/nicer house but we had an idea of what we wanted and needed and didn't exceed that.

I guess we drive "nice" cars, but we drive cars until they die so we take care of them. My SUV has 112,000 miles on it and is still going strong. I'm also driving a GMC not an upper end car.

Now I did work, by my choice, full-time as a nurse until our kids were 5 and 9 which allowed us to save a little more early on. I hit garage sales and consignment stores all the time when the kids were little. I found a Little Tykes train with cars and track, barely used at a garage sale once. I would rotate clothes through a local consignment store. I would take clothes in for sale and use the store credit to buy more.
I don't cut coupons much, just because they are usually for things I don't buy. But I look at them every week, just in case. And use them. *I have a credit card, a Target Visa that I use for everything. For every $1000 I spend I get a coupon for 10% off my entire purchase. And now with their new 5% off everything if you use it the savings add up. So I will wait until I get one of my 10% off coupons and stock up then on the toilet paper, paper towels, soap etc.

And I really, really don't mean this the way it may sound but my husband and I worked our butts off for our college degrees. Granted I don't work clinically anymore, but I do some wellness consulting. My husband literally worked his way up the corporate ladder and now makes a good salary at a job he enjoys. I don't think we are any better than anyone else without degrees, but as we are trying to point out to our almost 20 year old son, statistically those with college degrees make an average of 65% more.
We also have ALWAYS had a savings. If your company has direct deposit, they should be able to split it between 2 accounts. Trust me, if it's not there you don't miss it.

You also don't know how they are getting to go on the trips. I know the first time we went to Disney World, it was because of my in-laws. It was their gift to their grandchildren. I just went on a girls trip last fall. I traded in some of my husband's airline miles so my airfare was just $50. And with 13 women splitting the cost, my week was minimal.

I know it probably doesn't help answer your question. But like I said in the beginning, you can't always assume how people are living.

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That's simple, They are in debt up to their eyeballs. They move their debt around to afford what they want but gain no real ground on their debt. They pay the minimum and will probably never pay it off. I have often wondered the same thing. My husband and I have never taken a vacation since our son was born (and the only one we did take was to Hawaii when we were dating, and that was with the money he earned while in Iraq). However we are in our mid twenties, and almost debt free. we owe 6,000 on our car and plan on never financing one again, we will save and use cash. We have no credit card debt, and we live on a strict budget. Even with all of this I am still able to afford nails and hair appointments that my husband budgets for but if we are short on funds that month those are the first to go. We do not have cable. We live in a tiny house in a nice neighborhood and are saving for a fence. We bought a house we knew we could afford, not one that stretched us. If needed we could survive on my income only, which is meager. We are not well off...in fact we make under 35,000 a year combined. Like you, our dream is that one day he will get a good job (he does have a business degree but has been looking to use it for over a year now) so that I can stay at home and we can have another baby. You are doing the right thing. This new American way of living is dishonest and wrong. Did you know that 2 Generations ago it was DISGRACAFUL to have debt? Even on your Home? Now it is a way of life. We are raised to think that debt is healthy, that it “helps your credit score.” I don't know if you are familiar with Dave Ramsey, but I recommend you listen to him. I have taken his Financial Peace University classes and they are amazing. He lines out how to get out of debt, save for your future, and even explain Mutual funds, Bonds, 401Ks, retirement and how to negotiate deals. He give you a "debt Snowball" that will tell you the day you will pay off your debt, and what steps to take to do it. You are not alone. Many people in America wonder what you do and some look back after years of living the "high life" without the high life income and wonder how they will dig themselves out. The best thing you can do is never get yourself in that hole to begin with. Check out the website http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/home/ but mostly I want you to know you are not alone in feeling this way. I am also the friend that watches someone drop 200 bucks on a credit card to get new clothes and wishes there was a way I could get those things too. But I remind myself over and over that I am working for my family, and that is sure is nice not to worry about credit card bills and collection calls. We do not even own a credit card. Not even "for emergencies." And while there are things I really wish I could have now, I have the eye on the prize of my future, and my child's future. Believe me, you find you do not miss it as much as you would think.

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It's so hard, isn't it, to look around and see other people who have what you wish you had? It sure is for me. Unhappily for you, it also lets you in for a Grandma lecture. Right now.

Always know that everyone - no matter how unruffled and successful he or she appears - is carrying burdens and fighting battles, just as you are. I'm not downplaying your frustration. I've been through it, and it can be EXCRUCIATING to listen to others talk (even innocently) and know you're not sharing in those things and think you may never share in them. But everyone is selective about what he or she shares with others! You're not hearing about the worries, the bickering, the sleepless nights, the dysfunction that the same people may have.

This may sound corny, but sit down and write down a list of absolutely everything you have now to be thankful for! Write down the son you love so dearly. If your husband is faithful and hardworking, write that down. If you get through the month with the bills paid (or even practically paid), write that down. Write yourself down; you evidently have a good mind in a healthy body. HUNT for things to be thankful for! If you see something out your back window that makes you smile, add it to the list. I don't know if I'm allowed to write from a religious standpoint here, but if I could I could add a lot to this idea.

Post the list on your fridge or your bathroom mirror and add to it. There's a serious reason for this. It's part of a vaccination against a disease whose name is a four-letter word: envy. Sorry, I know I'm preachin', but envy has killed more happiness than anything else in the world - growing bitter over what others have that you don't, and eventually hating what you have yourself.

The only way you can see things realistically is to know what you have going for you. I think it's harder to be joyful for someone else's happiness than to weep for someone else's sorrow, but to be able to do that and still be happy with your own life is crucial to living well, whether you're struggling financially or not.

For what it's worth, my children (who are grown) were raised with second-hand toys (yard sales, thrift stores) and second-hand clothes. They went to Disney only once growing up - and only because their grandparents happened to be living in Florida at the time and treated. (We couldn't go on a vacation except to visit relatives.) They missed out on a lot of "things" - and struggled with envy - and have lived to tell about it and (mostly) appreciate their lives now.

End of lecture! Sorry to be so long-winded; as I'm about to post this I notice that you have FORTY-ONE other answers to read. Whew!

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It's simply a matter of priorities.
We chose to have me stay home. It was a priority for us. We scrimped. We saved. We drive our cars into the ground. Both of our cars are at the 150k mile mark. They are Honda. They will go another 150k miles if we treat them right - and we do. We went without. We have carpet in our house from 1986. It is disgusting, but I don't have the cash to pay for the hardwood flooring I really want, so we will wait. We've paid for every improvement to this house with cash - or zero percent financing and then the lump sum payment at the end... If the money is in the account, we purchase if it's not, we don't. For Example: We did windows this past year. We are getting a $1500 energy credit from the government for that. (our tax dollars at work) We did the zero percent. We will pay the bill in July even though it's due in August, just to be sure that we don't have any issues with finance charges. I could pay it right now, but the money in my account is collecting interest for me. :-) I do all the painting, cleaning, and decorating. I never purchase anything unless it's on sale. When we did the crown molding, we had some larger pieces left over - I returned them to the store and got the $ back. :-)
Perception... it's also a matter of perception.
My son has a car - it was purchased for $1 from his grandparents. It was NOT given to him. He drives his sister to school, so I pay his gas. It looks like a brand new car, but it's a 1990 Toyota. The kids all thought he just "got" a "new" car. It has crank windows and push button door locks. It has a radio and air conditioning. That's it.
I purchase all of our clothing on sale -- if it's not on the sale rack, it doesn't get purchased. My kids are well dressed and in style. It takes a little longer to find the bargains, but... it works for us.
We don't usually go on vacation unless we are going to visit family. We travel light and cheap. We book months in advance. We have never ever flown anything but coach. (everyone arrives at the same time... you know?)
As for toys for your yard - Yard sales, Craig's list, Rummage sales, and garbage picking -- make the rounds on garbage day -- if people put it out with the trash, you can take it. I've put out gobs of stuff and taken lots of goodies (my son's dresser came out of the trash and we refinished it). It's freecycling at it's best!
I also shop the sales (after Christmas, but in January) and get stuff for 90% off for the following year. I also hit the department stores clearance aisles or online clearance bins for big bargains. I have plastic bins in my closet where I store my treasures. If the kids need a present, I grab something from there. It looks like I've spent well more than I do. :-)
So - live your life.
Enjoy your kids.

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Hi, it could be that the earner makes more money than you assume, they have less debt, etc. My husband and I both work but our mortgage is only 5% of our monthly income. Both of our vehicles are less than 5 years old and paid for. I put 15% of my paycheck in 401K, have IRAs, etc and my husband funds his retirement also. I like to make people believe we have less money than we really do. All I'm saying by my example is you shouldn't assume they are making the same amount of money as your family.

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I can say I used to be one of those people and we did it on credit, even with a double income. Now, with 3 kids, me staying at home, and my husband working, we are really paying for it! My hubby makes 100K a year and we live paycheck to paycheck trying to pay down over 80K of debt not including our mortage or cars. You don't need the reality check, the people like who we used to be do! You are the lucky one to realize it before going into debt to keep up with the Jones's.

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I am a stay at home, and my husband is an enlisted man in the Air Force, so he does not bring in a lot of money. We know how mush we have each month for extras, and plan accordingly. If we want to buy something nice, we do not eat out. If we want to travel, we plan several months in advance and save a little every month over time. I think it is a matter of only seeing the outside of a family, like when they say the grass is always greener on the other side, until you are standing one it. We all have the same struggles, you are soooo not alone.

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some people can afford it, some people go into debt. That sad part about all of this is...the only thing that will matter in the end is how well you loved your kids. Did you spend quality time with them when you could, did you enjoy them while they are small, precious beings of this earth...believe me, when you are 85 years old and sitting in your rocking chair...you won't remember much about the trips, activities, having your nails and hair done, as you will remember love. (and also believe that big plastic toys in the yard can be fun, but within a very short time they become big plastic ugly things cluttering up your yard and soon the landfill)

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A lot of it depends on income. Even if just one parent is working, he/she could easily make more than a lot of two income families. You also mentioned that you are trying to get out of dept. A lot of families never have had debt or have it under control, and that makes a big difference in lifestyle. I found one of the best ways to save is to buy second hand. Especially toys and clothes for babies/children. Hit up your local garage sales and check on craigslist for what you need. Good luck!

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I think most of us have the perception that others have much more than "we" do. A LOT of people live beyond their means and accumulate debt at a rapid pace as a result of unnecessary spending. They may also have purchased their home a long time ago meaning the mortgage is less overwhelming or they rent vs own. And, sometimes the staying at home means that you are able to 'scrimp' in other areas. You can shop on double coupon day, hunt for the best deals, avoid emergency purchases at a more expensive store because you 'don't have time to stop somewhere else', shop craigslist etc. Also, if it's family trips maybe the family members they are visiting are footing part of the bill? Or maybe they budget "vacation funds" every month to spend throughout the year.

Try not to compare your financial situation with someone else's. I swear this only leads to insanity! Without seeing their monthly budget it's impossible to know why your finances differ from theirs. Just keep plugging away at paying off debt (this is will lead to the ultimate in financial freedom) and continue being penny wise - your day in the sun will come!

T. :)

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You're not alone. I ask this a lot too. My husband and I have come up with two answers. One, some people are comfortable carrying more debt in order to vacation and get their nails done etc. (We, on the other hand, are not.) Two, some people have money from family or unknown sources that they don't want to talk about. Those are the only possible answers. I completely understand how you feel--I have the exact same feelings with my friends and neighbors. When it gets overwhelming, I find we either need A) a reality check (ie, return to the above reasons) or B) a good look at our own finances because a reasonable splurge on our part is in order. Hope this helps--you're not alone. In fact, I think you're doing things right! :)

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Most likely they use credit cards!!

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I believe that the question isn't "what are other's doing"; the question is "what am I believing." What are your beliefs around money, debt, sahm vs. working mom, having vs. not having, etc. For example: do you believe that: you have to work hard to have money, or other people will think badly about you as a parent if you don't do certain things for your kids, or your children need to have so much more so they will be happy, or that you really deep down don't feel worthy, or that other people are better than you because their lives appear to look a certain way, etc.

What "shoulds" (or judgments) do you cling to, such as: "I should be able to do what others are doing", "I should be able to provide more for my children", "I should be more like other people", "I shouldn't be working", "I shouldn't have debt", etc.

When we focus on other people and when we don't examine our own beliefs and judgments we just stay stuck in our patterns and feel really angry or depressed. When we can examine our deeply buried belief systems and release ourselves from the "shoulds" in our lives we can begin to change the way we feel and the way we do things in our lives.

As I have been more gentle with myself, learned to take care of myself, released the "you should be like this...." and explored what I truly believe about money and my own worth, I have finally been able to reduce my spending and focus on paying down my debt without feeling deprived and depressed. I still have a desire to be debt free and have a better "life-style", however, it is now just a desire and not a judgment against myself that I use to beat myself up or to feel really bad because I'm not there yet.

I now embrace "what is" and take the baby steps I need to take in the moment to shift the things I can. I use what I have as opposed to focusing on what I don't have. I question all of my belief systems and allow myself to be willing to believe that something else might be true.

Best wishes!

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Inheritance is a possibility, at least for some people.
A big lottery win sometimes (wish it could be me sometime).
The wage earner has a big salary (lot of those CEO's making multi-million dollar bonuses a year are married).
Crime - Bernie Maddoff lived high on the hog for years before he was caught.
And credit cards is the way lots of people do it - I know quite a few personally who live this way.

1 mom found this helpful

They have debt! Have you ever seen the commercial with the guy riding his riding lawn mower around his huge yard in front of his huge house with his 2 beautiful cars in the driveway and he says "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs. I can barely pay my finance charges! Someone please help me!". He says this with a smile on his face as he's trying to impress the neighbors. It's such a great commercial....I'm including the link here so that you can get the idea. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn5EP9StlVA

I know it sucks to feel like you're running in a hamster wheel and you'll never get anywhere, but you're doing yourselves and your family a favor by paying off your debt now. It really will payoff in the long run. I am a SAHM, and we live in a nice community, but we drive 2 used, paid off cars (while my neighbor down the street just bought a Mercedes) and we don't have any credit card debt because we refuse to conform to what others feel the need to do with their money. My neighbors are constantly having parties in their homes to sell the boutique children's clothing (you know, those little parties where you look at the clothes and you can get your kid a monogrammed outfit for about $80 and they will wear it twice before they outgrow it). I refuse to buy anything at these parties. I tell my friends that up front. They always still invite me and want me to come for the company, but they know I will not pay that kind of money for kids clothes that they will hardly ever wear. We are huge fans of Dave Ramsey and if you haven't read his Total Money Makeover book, I highly recommend it. Better yet, if you can find a church that is putting on his Financial Peace University, you and your hubby should do that. It will totally get you motivated and give you the tools you need to payoff your debt and feel like you're the smart ones! It may look like these folks are living the high life, but in reality, they are most likely swimming in debt and will never dig themselves out until they are willing to change their lifestyle.

Just by being conscientious about our money, my husband and I have paid off all of our credit card debt, both of our cars (just bought a used minivan with CASH in December) and just paid off our second mortgage so we now own 20% of our home. I am also battling cancer, so we've had some medical bills and daycare costs to deal with (I am not able to care for my 2 year old since I had major surgery and am now having chemo), but we have our emergency fund in place just for this reason and it has taken all of the stress out of the situation from a financial perspective. I can't say enough about making a budget that works for YOUR FAMILY and sticking to it. Don't worry about what others have/don't have because they are likely in more of a pickle than you would think just by looking in from the outside. I wish you the best of luck. Keep plugging away and you CAN be debt free!

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It depends on the family. I know some people that are living off of credit cards and just keep adding up their debt. But I also know other people that one spouse has a good income and they are a bit more conservative on where they spend their money. I SAH my DH works and he has a great job that allows up to buy 'extra' things. But we have no debt except for our mortgage. We bought a house that we knew we could afford on one salary. We both did not have any debt from college (scholarships), we both always and still do pay off our credit cards every month, we don't eat out, he almost always takes his lunch, we don't have to pay for daycare (which could be a lot), we limit our expenses to what we absolutely need and we save like crazy for vacations and rainy days. And since I don't work outsdie of the home we only have to take into account DH schedule when it comes to traveling. And we are also always looking for the best deal on something and never pay full price. It's hard to determine how everyone seems to afford crazy vacations and extravagent stuff but like other posters said don't assume that everyone is the same.

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Don't assume that your friends are footing the bill for everything. When the kids and I went to Florida for a week my parents paid for everything. I've got a friend who travels all the time because she's a companion to an older woman who will not travel alone. The older woman pays her way. I have another friend who flies out to see family all the time using her families miles from credit cards.

I have 4 children and was a sahm for 8 yrs. I was able to afford nice things because I watched how every penny was spent. Diapers were cloth not disposable (back before cloth diapers were cool). Hung the clothing outside to dry so no cost to run a dryer. All clothing was bought at the consignment shop or goodwill for all family members. The only things bought new were shoes and underwear.

No eatting out of premade grocery store food. All meals were made from scratch. No soda just water or milk. No chips just pretzels. No brand new nintendo, nothing more than just basic cable, coupons, buying everything second hand or on sale only.

If you are looking for outdoor toys then hit up a few tag sales. People are always trying to clear out stuff that their children have outgrown. I never paid more than $20 for a bike for my kids. Tonka trucks, sand box, all bought for just a couple bucks. Now adays it's easy to throw an ad on craigslist or freecycle looking for things.

I'd say just sit down and make a list of everything you spend your money on in a given month. You'll be shocked by the amount of non important stuff you'll see. Once you figure out where you can make cuts you'll find out just how much extra money you really have.

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Every January, when we get our W-2's, my husband & I look at each other and say "We should be living better than this!" LOL

Some families just seem like have a truckload of money delivered each month. It might be credit cards and minimum payments every month. Not for me.

Seriously, why worry about what anyone else is doing? I know that we are debt free, have a paid-for home and I am able to work PT now. I have what I need and I need what I want.

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Sometimes I wonder the same thing. But one thing I've observed over the years is people choose to spend and save money in very different ways and people have different priorities. Some people prefer to live in large 4,000 sqft homes with huge mortgages that they'll be paying off for 40 years, others choose modest homes. Some people believe in saving for retirement and will put the max into their 401ks, others have no savings. Some people have to have the designer clothes, others buy their clothes at Walmart.

Some families can be making $100,000 on one income, while others are only making $60,000 on two. Daycare is a huge expense, some 2 income families are lucky enough to have family watch their kids for no cost, while others pay top $.

And yes, some of these people you see spending have huge credit card debt, and so do some of the ones who are you see scrimping and saving.

The truth is you never really know anyone's true financial background. Her are 2 examples... Some close friends of ours live in a $600,000 house, no way could they aford that type of mortgage. The truth is her family gave them the land and they built a house doing a huge amount of the work themselves. We're taking a 14 day vacation to Brazil, yes expensive, but a lot less expensive then Disney World for 10 days - (we're staying with family, 1/2 the meals will be with family, we can eat 3 meals out in Brazil for the cost of one at Disney, and attractions are inexpensive).

So I think the answer to your question, or your reality check is that you have to do the best you can on the income you have. Decide what's most important to you, new car, big house, college education for the kids, saving for retirement, travel, and save for those things. Scrimp on the others.

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we have no debt. we have two homes, one is our retirement home which is paid for, and our current home which we pay a mortgage on. we have some savings, and a descent 401k. we do not plan on offering kids free rides through college. we are sending them now to private school, where the emphasis is on academics. if my kids develop big dreams i hope they get scholarships. we will pay for whatever is needed but the bulk of it needs to be gained by them. my husband and i paid our own way through college and incurred no college loans. i worked throughout college years, sleeping a few hrs a night. if i could do it with no one waving a credit card at me, my kids will do it, who have been offered a whole lot more than i could have dreamt about.
we go on vacations. 1 main trip and smaller trips. i use coupons and buy things on sale for my kids. they're considered great dressed, but i have never paid full price for anything. i cook everything from scratch. we eat out 1 lunch per weekend, so 4 a months because i insist on it. it is my free ride. we have been married 7 years now, and only one year did we go on vacation without being able to pay it off right away, and we swore we would never do that again.
right now i need a new car, and so does my husband. we also need to finish our basement. we did the math, we would have to dip into our savings to do all those, so we decided our goal for this year is NOT to dip into our savings. so no new cars or basement for anyone.
when times were good, times were great. when times are bad, we try to get by, and cut corners.

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I seem to think that we are one of those families that is 'doing it'. I don't work and we have 1 son. We take several small trips a year and a big trip approx every 2 years. My son and I take about 3 small trips a year - just the two of us to see family. My hubby takes several small trips fishing / camping and loves to play golf every extra minute he finds. I do get my pedicures. My son is active in a different sport every time the seasons change. We take GREAT care of things so they will last and don't have to be replaced often.
We have a mortgage payment and 3 vehicles but they are all paid off. Hubby takes his lunch to work but we do eat out about once a week. On occassion we go extravagant on dinners for birthdays and our anniversary.

We charge EVERYTHING (including some utilities) each month on 1 credit card that offers awesome points. We always PAY IT OFF COMPLETELY every month no mater what...we don’t believe in paying interest. We just use them to get the ‘points’ and redeem throughout the year on birthday presents, kitchen supplies, golf supplies, etc. and at the end of each year for Christmas presents. Last year we had enough points to supply almost our entire Christmas for our family and relatives. We always save from every paycheck, we have direct deposit and have some put in savings directly so we "never really see it and never really miss it” ~ we pay ourselves first. We always put our tax returns in our savings. We have an emergency fund as Suze Orman suggests and also an appliance/repair emergency fund. I’m not much of an ‘unnecessary shopper’ for clothing and ‘things’, I buy what I need when I need it. I do use coupons on occassion.

After some number crunching a few years ago we actually found out we have "more money" by me not working: less wear/tear on car, less maintenance due to less driving, cheaper insurance due to me driving less miles, less gas, save on work clothes, shoes, makeup, hair, etc., childcare, pay less taxes because income is not as big.

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It really depends on each family and what the income earner does and makes. You had mentioned military pensions-I'm not sure why...or who your friends are-but I'll give you things from my perspective. My husband is in the military and I am a stay-at-home mom. After 10 years of marriage, and our most recent move, we just bought our first house and two new cars (we had to-we moved from overseas). We found that buying the cars we wanted-it was only a matter of a couple of thousand dollars between buying new and used, so we went with the new and the benefits of a better warranty and life of the cars. We have been stateside for about 3 1/2 months now and I can't tell you the number of comments I've gotten, such as, "gee, I need to change my profession so I can buy a new house and cars too." Well, once again-it's been 10 years of building credit and doing what we could. I also used to travel all of the time to see family-but I always did it as cheaply as I could. I used to drive-EVERYWHERE-with babies and dog in tow-by myself most of the time. I saved by driving and not flying and all of the expenses that go along with that. Driving was ALWAYS cheaper-even if I needed to stay in a hotel somewhere along the way. I pack my own snacks for the most part. And once you are with family-usually meals are home-cooked and you have some place free to stay-another money saver. Plus, since I didn’t work I didn’t have to worry about time off and when my kids were young I didn’t have to worry about school schedules. Even doing things like going to Disneyland can be done with money saving tricks in mind.

Every time my husband was deployed, he would get things like hazardous duty pay-because hey-he IS getting shot at-and instead of working a few hours of overtime like most husbands-mine (like many) is gone for months at a time. I always set aside as much of this money as I can so that when he gets home he can get something nice or we can all do something nice together as a family. If people are jealous of that-then they can make the same sacrifices.

Something interesting is that when you have one wage earner, you get used to living on that single wage and making decisions based on that. It's much harder for people that have to cut back an entire salary, because think about how much that would be each month...and like it or not-you DO live at the level of your income, even if you are just considering your mortgage payment. What are your extras? Where do you shop for clothes for your kids? For yourself and your husband? How many outfits and shoes do you all have? Where do you buy your groceries? How much do you really eat out-lunch, dinners AND drive through coffees. What kind of food do you put in your kid's lunches-prepackaged-or homemade? Do you always buy your kids toys and books every time you go out? You said that you are trying to pay off debt-think about what kind of debt it is and how you got it.

I mostly shop at Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart and cook at home-so when we DO go out to eat-it can be nice. And I buy things on sale as much as possible.

Maybe your friends that get their hair done in a salon are the ones that DON'T eat out a lot. Or maybe the ones that do-do their hair at home. Or maybe they do have family money. Or maybe they're racking up a crazy amount of debt that will catch up with them at some point. Or maybe they are balancing their debt and their income so they can do what they want. In any case, what you really need to focus on is what you want to do, and what you are willing to give up for it-because trust me-almost everyone is giving up something-even if you don’t see it. Finances are private, so not everyone is going to fully understand how others live the way they do.

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I know we fall into the comparing ourselves to others trap, but you really can't. You don't know how much these other families make income wise or what knd of credit they have or maybe had saved quite a bit before their children came on the scene. Maybe their trip to DW was a gift? Maybe they have lots of free flights saved up? Maybe they got a great income tax return....You just never know, so it's best to try not to compare or you'll make yourself crazy :(

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I don't go visit a whole bunch of places like Seattle or Disney world. I am a single income family, as I am a single parent and I do not receive child support. It's just the two of us so that helps LOT. I own my own house and am always working on a project here or there--but I do a lot of do it yourself/family helps. Typically saving $150-$300 a project depending on the project. We garden for our veggies. Have two awesome dogs but we are always on the go.
The things you don't see--I don't have caller id or long distance on my home phone. It's the lowest plan I could buy. My cell phone is the same way, and every 6 months I call each company and make sure I have the best deal for my household. I don't have a DVR, if I want to record a tv show I reuse last weeks tape on my vhs. All our funiture is hand me down, along with most of the clothes and half the toys. I have a used car that is totally paid off and I bought a house way under my financial ability so that I have the ability to buy things I love. I typically don't pamper myself.
I budget to do the things I enjoy with my child. If that meant dropping dish network or dial up internet I'd do it in a heartbeat.

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It looks to most people that I am a SAHM, but in reality, I do a lot of mystery shopping. Most amusement parks have people who do shops. Generally, my expenses are paid with a little extra fee, so we have had a lot of good times for little money. Any time I am going to a fine restaurant, it is likely a shop. Likewise for nicer stores, etc. Otherwise, we get our clothes and toys at Goodwill.

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I will tell you firsthand, from growing up around new money and then working with it, there are very few individuals who "live large" and go debt free. I also have family with an embarrassment of riches - seriously, they hand me down items with price tags still on them - that is in the process of filing for bankruptcy. There is something to be said for spending a fortune to make it look like one has money.

Personally, I wanted to be a SAHM from the get-go. Unfortunately, DH and I were too scared to live on one income because we wouldn't be able to "get ahead" (such as we were with daycare costs). Then my daughter was diagnosed with autism at age three. There was no way I could handle full-time work and managing her therapy, health insurance, spec ed classes, and unregulated sleep. (In fact, right before she was diagnosed, I lost a contract five weeks before the end of the project. Suffice it to say I was kind of distracted:^) ) The good thing is that, trial by fire, we found out we COULD survive on one income. Bear in mind we do not at all live large - we still rent, we only eat out on special occasions, one trip a year back East to see our families before everyone dies off, et cetera - BUT we have much more peace of mind around our child's development. Plus we are doing it without dipping into our retirement, and only using savings for emergencies like medical bills or car repair. Do I get jealous of my dual-income friends with typically developing children who buy fancy Apple Mac toys or whatever groceries they want without regard to the price? You bet! I also don't have the frustration that comes with a lot of the trappings. Seriously, raising a special needs child, the last thing I need to deal with is getting my roof replaced or coordinating a trip out of town.

Anyway, I hope you find some peace around your situation. Good luck!

I've asked this before, and everyone tells me that the people who are "living high," as you said, are in debt. Remember that commercial, "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs. Someone please help!" People I've asked have also blamed the current economy on these people, who are living super-extended and buying all sorts of fun things, then defaulting on their mortgage.

I'm not entirely satisfied with that answer, but I guess I have to be. I just don't understand why, when my husband is a professional engineer with two degrees, I still have to shop at thrift stores and we can't seem to afford to put our son in T-ball or gymnastics class. I added up the cost of our family room furniture recently, and it came to $48, except for the pack'n play, which itself cost $50 (and that was a bargain!) We own nothing of value. All our furniture is from yard sales and Craigslist. Our newest car is 6 years old (but at least we own them outright). For a long time, we didn't even have kitchen chairs. Then I found a set of four for $25 at a thrift store. Never mind that one of the seats has come unscrewed and I can't fix it--I live with it..

All I want is for my 6 year old to have ONE after school activity. I know a single mom who has 5 kids who are in 3-4 after school activities each! They have expensive furniture and a nice car and I wonder how in the freakin' world I can possibly feel so poor.

Oh, and we have our mortgage and student loans for debt. The student loans' interest rate is so laughably low (like 3%) that we pay other things first. Oh, and we owe $41 on our van. We had to borrow the $ until we sold the car we were replacing, and then my husband lost his job, so we held onto the money from the car sale and have paid something like $6 in interest. We have no debt, and still we aren't even close to affording Disneyland!

Some might use credit cards and some of their husbands just make more. I know a lot of people use their tax return money for trips and such. Some people save it up. Others have their parents paying for trips. I am a sahm but we dont go on trips. Most of our extras come from our tax returns. Other wise we wouldnt have anything. Most families now need two incomes to make it. Heck we need two incomes but I have 3 kids with special needs and just cant work. So we struggle and once a year we buy goodies with our tax return.

I hate to say it, but I don't have an answer for you. However, I have been wondering the same exact thing myself. I don't get it. Single income families with four or five kids seem to have more ability for "things" and vacations that those of us with double incomes and two kids.

Hopefully, someone can answer your question and helps us all out, but until then, I am right there with you.... How do they do it?

It could be they have debt, or they have family help, they were smart planners, inheritance, won the lotto? You will never know your neighbors or friends financial situation. People are generally vague about their financials. And I think a big part of it is how many kids you have & what you feel is important for them like more family move night at home or going out with them. For myself I started working at a mortgage co at 18 (20 yrs ago). Wow did I see a lot of loan applications & I vowed not to do what most people were doing which was over extending themselves. I watched my friends spend every penny they made while I scrimped. I never was envious of them. I ended up being a single mother at 20, not getting any child support & I have no family so I had no help with money or childcare but I still managed to work my butt off & built my 1st home at 21. And I still never had cc debt. While I was a single mom I learned to buy clothes & shoes that were very neutral so I could just interchange tops & bottoms & jewelry to make it look like I had new outfits. Now I am a SAHM, I don't shop for myself very much & I buy anything for my kids on sale. I have also learned that garage sales are great & I dont buy my kids very many toys anymore, they have soooo many & I find that they are happy with coloring, play-doh, playing outside, etc. Also I found out last year that Target has a huge sale twice a year & most things are 75-90% off so now thats when I buy tons of things for xmas, bdays, gifts, etc. 3 yrs ago my DH got into a car accident & his 1 yr old car got totaled so instead of going out & buying a new vehicle he decided to buy a 1981 volkswagen rabbit. He drives 70 minutes one way to work & it had no A/C & the car is very tiny & he is 6'2, so he looked a bit ridiculous in it. But I gave him a lot of credit because we didnt have a car payment, & we had no cc debt, & my DH makes over 6 figures so we could afford a nicer car. Some people choose to enjoy life now & some (like us) choose to enjoy life later. I agree that the Dave Ramsey class has been a wonderful experience, for my DH & I, that will make you choose to live life differently after taking the class, we have our last class on thursday & I can't wait to take it again in the very near future. Hope all the responses you got helps you

I think most people spend more than they save and in fact, most people are not "saving". I think most people charge almost everything. That being said, both my husband and I own our own businesses and I own a business online, we make over 6 figures and live very conservatively. We are saving to buy a house, raise our credit scores and pay off debt. We got married in Oct and did not even take a honeymoon. We definately are not hurting but because we are both commission only, we have had to really cut back on everything and juggle things around. I think the same thing when I hear of all the trips everyone seems to take so often. There was a question on here a while ago about keeping up with the Jones'. I think it's interesting that a lot of us want to compare ourselves to others. I'm just happy with my life and leave it at that! Good luck to you, you are doing the right thing! :o)

I have always assumed that these families only working parent is an MD or CEO of a big company. I'm certain these mothers aren't staying home and going on vacations while their husband works at a local warehouse or machine shop. It could be money from parents. I know a few people who've been given their parents money long before they're deceased. Who the heck knows! My husband has a fantastic job in Information Technologies, and I still have to work part time if we want extras like eating out and special items for the kids. I seriously don't know how people do it, unless they are living a lie and it is all credit cards.

We live within our means. Fortunately, we don't have expensive tastes when it comes to homes, cars, dining out, and bling. We didn't buy a home larger than we could afford with a conventional loan when others were financing more than their house was worth. We have a sensible minivan. When dining out, generally only on weekends, we rarely pay more than $40 for the both of us. I don't wear jewelry, our furniture is over 10 years old, and I use my electronics til they die. I take my lil one to free or almost free events. Shopping at Macys for clothes is high-end for me. We pay off our credit card bill every month and use it more for convenience and to earn bonus points than for actual "credit." On the flip side, we splurge on the things we enjoy, like traveling. We feel it's the memories we make while seeing the world that are most rewarding. As a result, we never feel like we are scrimping or missing out.

First of all the Grass is not always greener on the other side. That being said, I know how you feel. My husband and I worked our fool selves to death getting out of debt. With only our utilities and house payment we are finally there. My husband has been the breadwinner the entire time. I have been a stay at home mom. It has not always been easy, but it is worth it. My husband's pay got cut 3 times this year alone due to the economy. It would be silly for me to go to work, because what I would make would pay for daycare.

My cousins would talk about going here and going there, blah blah blah and I would get so upset and frustrated because sometimes I couldn't even buy the allotted groceries we needed. Then one day I found out that one of them had 11 credit cards with 8 of them maxed out. I realized that yes I could live the high life too, but then I would be in severe debt as well.

We supplement our income by coming up with odd jobs to do. I teach music lessons out of my home. My husband mows yards during the summer and in the fall blows out sprinklers and in the winter puts up Christmas lights up on other peoples houses. He also fixes computers for people in his spare time as well. That extra money gets us the groceries, pays for any extra bills we weren't expecting, and to be able to go on vacations. We also use our tax money to do major fixes on our house or take major vacations. Like last year we installed hardwood flooring all the way through our upstairs. This year we built a shed, paid off all of our extra bills, and remodeled our master bathroom.

Another thing we do is have a garden every year. We plant enough to put away for the winter months so I am also canning and freezing fruit and vegetables during the summer months as well.

I also keep a spreadsheet of our expenses. What we spend our money on in the month and where we spent it. Also what can we cut from that budget. Eating out was easy to cut because we just recently found out that my husband is highly allergic to wheat and well, they put wheat in everything.

Pick something special you want to do. Say you want to take your kids to Disneyland. Go to their website, see how much it would cost you to go, remember off season is always cheapest if you can manage it. Then decide which would be more cost effective, driving or flying and how much that would cost you. Then look at lodging is it more cost effective to get a motel and eat out every meal, or to rent a beach house and buy groceries for the week. Once you have all that then figure out when your projected travel date will be. Divide the amount of cost by the number of months in your goal and that will tell you how much to put away each month. If you do not have that amount then you will have to extend your goal, or whenever you have extra money then put it in. You will feel really good knowing everything you are spending your money on is paid for free and clear.

Keep your chin up, you are doing good!

any time we start comparing ourselves there will always be someone with better or more, and there will always be those with less, who have no home, can't find a job are struggling to clothe their kids even in second hand clothing. we've moved so far into a world of wants being perceived as needs--I read a financial book several years ago that I really appreciated, I can't remember the title or who wrote it but the concept was simple, before you upgrade, downgrade. if you are wanting a new car borrow someones beater for a week and then get back into your car and see if you don't have a new found respect for what you already have. before buying a bigger house, sleep on the floor of a college students dorm room for a week--you get the idea.
much of how money matters go is priorities. we don't go out to eat much because I love to cook. we don't go to the movies because I get migraines, I have a really good friend who does my hair and refuses to let me pay her very much, basically the cost of product. we take a vacation every year. sometimes its camping, about every 2 or 3 years we do a large trip, we were able to go to So. Korea a couple of years ago and are planning for Hawaii either next year or the year after. its bumped back because my mom has cancer and we aren't going to lock in a trip when we don't know how long she has. I guess my point is that we all have our own story. yes, some may be doing it with credit cards but does it really matter? I grew up in a large family, my mom stayed home, there were 13 kids and my dad a school teacher. luxury items were frozen pizzas or a hamburger (not combo meals) now and then maybe a couple of times a year if that. I didn't grow up seeing what we didn't have though. my parents didn't focus on money as a priority. by the standards I live at today, we were poor. when I start to feel stretched I try to imagine how my mom made it work with less money and 12 kids more than I have...she wasn't perfect but that was truly an area where she did well. and she didn't coupon. she didn't have time. but we all learned how to bake from scratch. I have a friend living in India right now helping to build schools and libraries for children who haven't had a chance to read a book, and I'm debating should we cancel cable to save some money? while my DVD supply is large enough I couldn't watch every movie we have in a year in the time I generally spend watching TV. we are so blessed and yet often forget to count the blessings that we have. especially in the economic times of today if one of you has a job, if you have a vehicle that runs, if you have food on the table, a place to live, clothes to wear--that is really a blessing to be appreciated. I have to take time out to remind myself of this, its SO easy to get caught up in the technology of today, I can't imagine living without my cell phone or not having internet access and yet those are wants, not real needs for survival...it feels like a need to me because I have used them for so long--we all pick and choose our priorities stay home, work, use credit cards don't it all comes down to how you value your life and what is important to each of us individually.

Two answers:

1. They have a high-paying job.

2. Quite likely: they have huge debts. A lot of people seem to be quite comfortable living with enormous amounts of debt these days.

I am on the same boat with you. I have a few friends that seem to be able to go to Disneyland every year and we can barely pay our bills. I am curious to hear the responses you have received. Hang in there...you are not alone.

They go into debt. I stay home with my 3 kids and it is hard to budget all of the fun extra stuff. My girls are happy and have hobbies but not costly ones. I know 2 families that are excactly like what you are saying and both of them are very far in debt. I asked one of them why they do all of this if they can't afford it and she told me she wanted the best for her kids and would spend what ever it takes to make that happen. But while everything looks great on the outside it will catch up one day and they won't have anything.

I think a lot of them are living in debt and living on credit. My husband makes a good income but we rarely buy extras except going out to eat once in a while. I still shop at 2nd hand shops and look for bargains since I think it is a better mindset to only spend money that we actually have.

My guess is that only a handful of those families actually have all the money it looks like they have and the rest are living on credit.

Just keep a smile on and keep working on getting your debt down and someday you may be able to afford the extras. In the meantime don't be afraid to be willing to take hand me down yard toys. If you have a friend that is replacing or buying new ask if you can have or buy their stuff. I have a several items in my yard given to me by a neighbor and in return when my kids outgrow or don't play with something I ask the nieghbors if they want it before donating it. Look on your newspapers website for classified deals in Utah we have ksl.com that sometimes has great bargains for sale or check ebay, etc.

I think we don't always realize what is going on next door or at the house down the street (watching the news shows that), but I think the grass does tend to look greener especially when we are looking from the outside in. And people tend to put a smile on to greet the world. I think there is more debt out there than we realize, of which I'd personally like to get out of. It robs you of your peace. Some things, like a house and education, there just aren't many ways around. I also feel that if you truly feel it is right/worthy goal, you can accomplish what matters to you whether that be living on one income to stay home or getting out of debt. I think you have to follow what you feel is right and that if it is a worthy goal, it can be accomplished. It might take a while and in the case of women who need to work, but wish to be at home, it may take longer than they'd wish, but I believe if people make work what they feel is right. And they choose their attitude about their choice, so if they neighbors look like they are living the high life, that is because they have chosen to put the smiling face to the world, or because they have made their choice in how to scrimp or whatever they do to be able to live that way and they are happy with their decision. I just read the "so what happened" though and WOW, good for you! I think you will feel so free as you work through those debts! My hat's off to you! It will be a blessing in so many aspects, I think. I want to do that so bad! Good luck and way to go!

There is always the possibility of them being debt free except the house. They could be putting the expenses on credit cards and then paying them off at the end of the month. It just depends on their budget. They could also include vacation money into their monthly budget that they set aside until they get the vacation fund fully funded. My husband and I are planning a trip in October for our anniversary and we are setting back a certain amount back to pay for the trip. We are a single income family, and this is the only way we can do it. We just finished Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and our saving and spending habits have changed dramatically.

I get it, it is hard to see everyone else get so much more sometimes. However, I do believe a lot of people live on credit cards. I have a friend who does not have money but is ALWAYS taking trips, event caters her daughter's birthday parties, she is always going and always spending. Something else I know? She has claimed bankruptcy twice, lives on credit cards and finds something lacking enough in her life that she has to make up for it by living beyond her means.

I am a single mother with no child support. My daughter has lots of awesome toys and doesn't lack for much at all. I garage sale shop for everything. Her swingset - $25.00. A super awesome climber slide that retails for 199.00 - I got for $10.00. Garage sales are a steal for great deals, great kids clothes and toys.

As far as the trips, yeah, out of my price range. I can dream though..........

good luck!

Well, that's the thing... you said your family has debt, but maybe the ones you are talking to do not have debt. I was able to stay at home for a while... all while on one income (yes my husband is military, but he does not get a pension, plus those pensions are not great to live off of, so not sure why you would think that would cover it). We ran into debt because of our last home in Las Vegas - we had to sell due to orders during the burst in the housing market. We are literally still paying it off. I had to go back to work, there was no choice in that decision.

I suggest surfing the web to scrimp in other places of your budget. Try stretcher.com - that is one of my favorite sites. Have you listed out all of your expenses and put it in a spreadsheet? Have you gone through your monthly bank statement and said "Yeah, we can cut this out next month"? I do those even on two incomes.

I notice we were spending a ridiculous amount in food - all going out to eat! We could support another family with the money we were spending on food alone. Once I pinpointed that, we now have money in savings and starting to pay off that crazy debt.

I just spent $87 at Target for the kids on new shorts, underwear, socks. I am needing to go look at thrift stores for more shorts for the kids.

Hope this helps. If you need a spreadsheet via Excel, let me know and I'll give you the one that I have. Or you can go to office.microsoft.com for other layouts and templates that people have put together for budgets.

Consider a smaller cell phone plan, a smaller cable plan, no house phone or use VOIP, less fast food, more crock pot meals (saves money by using cheaper cuts of meat and less electricity). Plan meals week by week instead of improvising.

Hope this helps :)

Honestly it comes down to how much your salary is, plain and simple. Which is the one thing people aren't willing to disclose. My husband makes $80,000 and I stopped working when my second was born 5 months ago. Money is still tight since he hasn't made that much for very long, but it wasn't financially worth it to put two kids in daycare and work myself. When we bought our house 3 1/2 years ago my hubby made $60k and I made $35k so we make less now altogether. I don't get to go on fancy vacations but I do have a nice house, we own both our cars, and our credit card debt isn't very high (yet). We had a generous aunt payoff one of our cars when we bought our house. Most of our furniture is hand-me-downs from family. I have friends who go to disneyworld with their kids every year, and this year even went on a cruise. He works in insurance and she runs a daycare out of their house. I think their big break was buying their house from his parents for dirt cheap. Some people have generous family members help them out in some way, some people just make a lot of money, or some combination of those two. Of course it always helps to be frugal and live within your means, just depends how wide your "means" are.

Well, I have to say that it kind of bugs me that people assume that if you are a SAHM and you get to vacation and live in a nice house that you are in some kind of debt. Not true in our case. I won't say how much my husband makes, but I am a SAHM and we are not in debt at all. We travel a few times a year and have a nice home. Does my husband do well salary wise? Yes, he does. I don't take it for granted, we save money like crazy. We don't eat out much and our kids are dressed "well enough." You never know when the money will be gone, so save, save, save!!!

I think that the reality is that many people DON'T live within their means and have a lifestyle (or appearance of a lifestyle) that is much more affluent than their actual income can support and have amazing crazy credit card balances. Remember the commercial with the dazed suburban dad singing about how he is up to his eyeballs in credit card debt? (though the nice yard is green and there's a pool in the back one) I think that is more real for more people than you can imagine.
Keep your eye on your budget and saving and living within your means. That is a much more valuable lesson you can give your son than ANY amount of toys. Maybe he'll learn the value of a dollar and a strong/healthy work ethic, not be lazy and entitled EXPECTING to have toys, just because the Jones'es do. ;o)

I understand your frustration. I have felt the same way so many times. But then I remember the incredible gift of spending time with my children. We are kind of a single income family. My husband works full time and I am representative with Signature Homestyles. We have home organizing and decor items that have made my life so much easier and added to my income for those little extras that give me that "high life" feeling once in a while. This might help you. Have you ever considered working from home? You can find the perfect balance of working and being with your family because you set your own schedule. You can check out my website at www.signaturehomestyles.biz/J..

I wish you the best. You are working hard and being smart. Make your future what you want it to be and enjoy today!

I think a lot of people are spending rather than saving.
My husband and I both put ourselves through college. We both worked and paid as we went, never accumulating debt. We married later and had kids later. Then I stayed home. We never bought things we couldn't afford.
I started a home-based business and then became a personal trainer. I work just a few hours per week.
We never felt any reason to "keep up with the Joneses."
For help paying off debt, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.

I agree... we both work and can't figure it out. I'm also wondering if people are not putting anything into savings, have families who pay for a lot, use credit cards like they're going out of style, have lower house payments than we do, etc. I have lots of sahm friends who regulary do the things you talked about and I feel bad if I go to Starbucks on a Friday before work.

when I worked we payed over 25, 000 in federal taxes adn 16,000 in childcare expenses...

I quit my job to stay home.. we had zeor childcare expenses and our federal tax bill was 6,000.

So the tax structure is really biased toward one income families.. double income folks pay lots of taxes..

we probably save more money now that I dont work as we dont pay for my gasoline, lunch out etc...

It's simple really. How much is that single income. If you and your husband make $30-35K each being a teacher and a retail manager and Jane Doe's husband makes $150K being a civil engineer, they are still making $90K a year more than you. And how much do they owe? They may have $50-60K or more in debt to credit cards and will very soon find themselves up the creek without a paddle. Many people living that way are putting Starbucks on their credit cards every day. Or their may be family money. I have a friend who's grandparents were very well off and left money for the grandchildren's education. So all expenses from day 1 in daycare are paid for. That's over $2500 a month for them right now.

I am a stay at home mom and my husband makes a little over 60K. But..... our cell phones, car payment and gas are covered by our business, and lots of the kids stuff is paid for or provided by their Grandma (God bless that women). That is a lot of money a month. We never put things on credit. If we don't have the cash, then we cant afford it. With the exception of one thing. We bought a time share in Orlando for just over $8K so we knew we'd have a place every year to take the kids if we couldn't afford something better. It also allows us to exchange our week for other resorts so we could go anywhere around the world they have a place available and get our room for $150 for the week for a 4BR unit. We have friends come along who cant afford a good vacation either and it makes the kids happy to have friend along, too. Bottom line, everyone's situation is different. But most people who are middle income and living high on the hog are in for a let down sooner or later. They have bought into the notion that you can buy a life you can't afford as long as you pay for it over time. I hope for those people that the ground is soft where they land because......ouch!! are they in for a hurtin' later on.

Last thing, if you are struggling with debt, try the Debt to Wealth program. My husband and I did the first part only, eliminating the debt, and paid off $30K in 3 years. We havent incurred any more (except for the timeshare) and it has really changed our lives simply living by the principal that if we can't pay for it now, we cant afford to own it and therefore live without. We're all struggling today. Try not to look at too much advertising, it makes it worse. We are force fed a lifestyle through advertising that sets most of us up for failure. Keep the chin up, your life is probably richer in other ways.

I often wonder the same thing. I think a lot of people get a lot of help from family. My brother and sister in law, for example, got a huge piece of land from her parents when they got married as a wedding present, so they only had to pay for the house. Things would be a lot less tight if we only had half our mortgage payment! I think that some dual-income families have family that watch the kids, instead of daycare, and that would also save a huge chunk of change for us. And I think that some people just make more money. My husband was, until he was recently laid off, a vice president of a bank. You'd think that would make a ton of cash, but not so, actually. So I think we just don't have a good idea what other people's salaries are.

I too get jealous working my butt off when it seems like some people have it so much easier. I just keep reminding myself that things will at some point get much easier (even if it's 25 years from now when we don't have a mortgage payment!) Take care.

I am a SAHM and we scrimp and save for everything we have. I don't know if we fit in as those with a nice life style as we have a small house (900 sq ft) and two used cars. We do a lot for/with our kids and I'm sure people wonder how we do it. We have a savings account that we pay an amount to every month just like a bill. When we pay off a credit card or other payment we add that ammount to the payment into the savings account. All our credit card debt was amassed before we were married and had kids. We made a plan and paid off all of them except one and it will be paid off at the end of the year. Once we were married we decided we would not purchase anything on credit, we had to learn a lot of patience and budgeting, but it is now paying off, we pay cash for everything and are starting to see fruits of our labor. Who knows how others afford expensive trips they may save they may charge them and they may have wealthy parents who send them on them, but you can't worry about that just do what works for you. I will mention my kids look like we have a lot of money with the clothes they wear, but the only new clothes they have are gifts from birthdays and Christmas, everything else comes from the thrift store. The same is true for me and my husband it is a treat if we get something new from Wal-Mart. The same is true for toys I found a higher end consigment shop and if my son sees something he wants on tv we wait a few months and eventually it pops up in the shop. Also at these shops the toys are out so he can play with it and see if it is actually as cool as it looked on tv. To keep down on clutter he has to give up a toy when he gets a new one and we take it to the consignment shop for store credit or take it to a charity for other kids who don't have as much. I do the same with his clothes and it does help keep the cost of growing out of clothes on a monthly basis down. I also network with other moms and we hand clothes down and get hand-me-downs through other support moms. A change of mind set helps too, I used to think oh this is only 1$ or it's only 0.50 more for the name brand, but it all adds up, every penny so I am now a bargin shopper on EVERYTHING!

We have a budget and stick by it if we can. We get 100 a week to buy what we need. We have a separate amount for food and diapers and a few other things but most of the house hold stuff comes out of this extra money. Then my husband gets paid every 2 weeks and for 2 months in the year he gets 3 checks as opposed to the usual 2. So those two checks go to travel money. We choose to drive older cars to save on car payments and buy clothes and toys on sale out of season. I also like consignment stores for some things.

I hate to say this but it might just be that those people you are talking about might get paid more every year. It can be very hard finding a good job and then moving up the ladder to get to a higher pay scale but it helps with the whole money thing. One thing to think about is if you are younger these things will come as time passes and you do climb the ladder. Also you might want to think about more education. Like a masters degree or college if you have not gone yet. These things will help you get a higher paying job. But you have to remember that even with these things you have to wait for the opportunity to move up!! My husband has moved us 2 times in the last two years in order to move up the ladder.

Most of all you just have to look at what you have and try to figure out where the money is going. Then make sure it is going to the right places.

You are not crazy it always seems like other people have more then you, at least that is how I feel. But try to remember how much more you have then some and try to be grateful for that!!!

Sorry this is so long but I hope it helps. Good luck

I think, if people are being honest, that everyone wonders. I think it runs the gamut from being debt free, to planning things out and budgeting it in, to people living for today (irresponsibly) and not giving a thought to the disaster that could befall them.

We are a single income family with 5 kids from 18 to 3 yrs old and we scrimp for everything. If we want to do something special with the kids that's more than bowling or pizza night, we plan months and months in advance. This year, for example, we are making a one year schedule of things we want to do with the kids - one family outing a month. In order to do that we have to plan and save for all of it and we really do have to have almost a year's notice for a couple of them.

I have more than one friend who is in financial crisis because they, say, bought a chrysler 300 and didn't think about how it would effect their monthly budget and now the car sits in the driveway because they can't afford the payment and still buy the gas for it. You have to wonder, do they have college funds, emergency savings, retirement, or enough life insurance to cover the debt should their husbands die and all the creditors come calling? A $500,000 life insurance policy sounds like alot until you think about what will be doled out to pay off all of the debt that is primarily in his name because he is the bread winner.

Just know, it's better to pay now than pay later. Work on decreasing debt, buy yard toys from the thrift store or craigs list and save for the big stuff, like a vacation next year, even if it's just a weekend in a cabin in a state park, or camping.

It is frustrating, though.

THey are living beyond their means - you should not worry about others and how they afford their lifestyles - instead focus on you and your family.

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