foreverlovex: I agree with a lot of what has been said in this thread. Keep in mind also that many Americans tend to live beyond their means when you factor in what people say is reasonable for their lifestyles – just thought I’d point that out. Like others have mentioned, i think it is very doable depending on what you consider *your* basics in life and what you would like for *your* family. I live and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so our little bubble is highly unrealistic price-wise compared to much of the country, but I have two examples for you to compare, lol. [EDIT: This is really long, I apologize!]
1. DH’s mom was a Stay-At-Home Mom for the majority of his life, with his dad earning less than $100k the majority of that time (from my understanding). DH’s parents made the decision to pay off all of their debts and have his mom stay home with the kids when they were still in preschool (and forego about $55k salary). They owned their home and two cars, but when things broke down they barely managed to fix it. They went camping for ‘vacations,’ which the boys loved (my Mother-In-Law not so much, haha). They always ate at home. His parents paid for extracurriculars like soccer, track and band. They saved like CRAZY and lived far more modestly than most of the families I know. From my understanding, the first few years were extremely difficult and frustrating, but they truly got used to living a highly modest lifestyle. However, DH’s dad’s income continued to grow as his career excelled (well over $200k) and while they continued their mostly modest lifestyle elsewhere, they were able to buy a boat when the boys were in high school and provide expensive hobbies like wakeboarding and snowboarding.. They were able to “match” their son’s contributions toward their college education (could’ve paid in full, but they are firm believers in working for things) and they have the most sound retirement savings I know of (I say that as someone who has audited pensions as an accountant). Wow, I rambled a lot about them yet still left out quite a few things, but my point is that while they lived modestly and struggled for a long time, they were able to succeed in providing the things that mattered most to them for *their* family, lived within their means and quickly became comfortable with *their* lifestyle choices.
2. This is a slighty different scenario, but the budget and childcare are comparable-ish to a Stay-At-Home Mom. I grew up in a single parent household and my mother made it work. She was a part-time secretary (earned less than $50k) and a homeowner (a small condo in a good suburb). She saved a healthy retirement and still provided me with the things I needed (food, healthcare, school supplies & a few new pairs of clothes at the beginning of each school year, etc.). She struggled to pay for my private soccer club fees and all of the tournament costs, but she made it work. My grandma was a piano instructor, so I was able to get free lessons from her. We took cruises to Mexico twice and visited some of the nearby states for vacations. She drove the same car for nearly 20 years until I purchased it from her for $500 as my first vehicle. She did the best she could and I had a wonderful childhood with everything I truly needed. Did I want more than what I had at the time? A lot of the time. Did I have the oldest, sh*ttiest car at my school? Yup, but I had a car! Did I wish I didn’t *have* to work part-time in high school to pay for things that were easily provided for my friends? Yup. All of those snotty, ungrateful things and more. That being said, it turned me into a highly responsible, understanding and motivated young woman and I am truly grateful for both the things she sacreficed for me to have what I had and the experiences and character my upbringing provided me with.
I have seen both sides of things and struggle with what would be best for our family.
Because DH’s parents preferred only to match his college contributions, he had to work full time during college, his grades suffered slightly, and he now has a *lot* of student loans to pay off (well over $30k). Financially-speaking, I didn’t have any other option than to go to a community college and work full time to pay my bills/save for the rest of my college career. I wasn’t able to get the classes I needed due to impaction and it took me much longer to transfer to get where I needed to be to finally graduat (forgoing a significant amount of income over those years), but I was able to earn my degree. While we each had frustrations with our college experiences, our biggest issue is our student loan amounts we now owe. Our student loans are actually more than some of the mortgages mentioned in this particular thread (over $700/month and more than $85,000 by the time we’re finished paying them off). Because of this, some of our own savings and budget goals have to be put on the back burner and we have decided that we would not wish this financial burden upon our kids: we want to pay for their education in full so long as they are responsible/dedicated to their studies by that age.
Unfortunately, my mother lost her job when I was a freshman in high school (well before the recession, surprisingly), hasn’t been able to find a long-term job since and her *healthy* retirement savings is now gone. She now largely relies on DH and I for support. We knew that we would be financially responsible for her at some point our lives (like in 10-15 years, maybe), but we did not expect it to occur in our third year of marriage. We do not own a house and will not be able to purchase one in this area for a long time, so we do not have the space for her to live with us (also keep in mind that 2-bedroom apartments in our area are well over $2200/month, so that is not a financially viable option either momentarily). While my mother’s situation is extreme, we know for a fact that we never want our children to have the burden of taking care of us one day and have already adjusted our budget and savings goals accordingly. We already lived modestly and saved significantly, but we have cut back even more and continue to max out savings where possible.
Because we both grew up with extracurriculars, we would love for our children to play sports, instruments, etc. – all of which are expensive. Because DH has a medical condition that requires expensive treatment, we want to have enough saved to ensure a safety net should we ever lose insurance or experience other medical bills. My “because” list goes on and on, so I’ll stop.
For DH and I, there is no way I could be a Stay-At-Home Mom in the SF Bay Area unless he earned *at least* $200k. [Keep in mind that California income tax and cost of living is pretty outrageous, so that amount isn’t nearly what it might seem to some people.] Other people have been SAHM’s for far less, but that amount *for us* would provide the basics and a little extra, but still not enough of the things that we deem to be necessities (paying for our kids full tuition, living in a school district that will provide an excellent public education, etc.). DH can support the two of us (he did this while I finished my degree), my mom, and our very expensive dog (medical condition) on his six figure salary, but we already live very modestly and would not have the potential to provide the things we deem necessary for our family for that amount. That being said, we are actively discussing moving out of state so that we can improve our quality of life and still support my mom (DH’s salary is fairly comparable in other states).