Incredibly, a new year is upon us again. This is the time of year when people start thinking about resolutions for the New Year, and I've been receiving email from readers asking everything from "How can I save more?" to "How did you learn to be so frugal?"
I have to give my parents most of the credit for this. They truly did an excellent job raising very fiscally responsible children, and I hope that my own children will embrace many of the same lessons I've passed on to them. I watched my parents never carry a credit card balance and never have a car payment. They always had new cars but never had a car payment.
When I was in high school, I cheered along with them when they paid off their mortgage, the only debt they've ever incurred. Here are three of their financial rules I live by and have tried to instill in my own children.
When my husband and I got married, we moved into the 840-square-foot house I bought in college. When we found out our second child was on the way, we realized we were outgrowing my little "doll house."
We visited with a realty agent and applied for a new mortgage, and both he and I were stunned at the numbers being thrown around saying we "could afford." We'd gotten used to the payments on our small house and wanted something comparable, not thousands more per month. He and I decided that no matter what, our house payment budget should be based on what one of us could afford each month. I'm a worst-case scenario planner, and I wanted to make sure that if either he or I lost our jobs, we could still afford to live in the house together.
We ended up building a home that gave us close to double the space of our old house for only about $300 more per month than we were paying for our small home. Utility bills didn't increase dramatically from the old house to this one, as newer homes are more energy-efficient, too.
I do use credit cards, but I never carry a balance. If I can't afford to pay for it at the end of the month, I can't afford it - period. I primarily use a cash-back credit card too, so using credit in this way actually costs me less than paying cash. I apply my cash-back rewards to the balance each month and lower my bill in the process.
I always have owned brand-new cars. I do realize used is cheaper, but I also keep my cars for 14 or 15 years before getting a new one, so I like knowing that I am the first and only owner of the vehicle, and that my car has always been well taken care of.
After saving for my first car when I was a student, I've made a habit of paying myself monthly for the next car I'll someday own. When it's time to replace my current car, the money's already there for the next one.
Our daughter took this tip to heart and has been saving for a car since she was 8 years old. Birthdays, babysitting, you name it - everything went into her bank account. She's 18 now, and this year she had enough money for her first new car.
What did she do, though? Instead of buying new, she bought my aunt's old car. Our daughter pointed out that all of the reasons I like to buy a new car applied to buying her great-aunt's old car. She knew it was a one-owner car that had been maintained well by someone she trusted. She chose to buy that car for a third of what the same model would have cost new, and she gleefully boasted that she still had most of her savings and a car.
What are some of your favorite "for-life" savings tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.