Bottom line, we live within our means. I teach at a regional 4-year public institution. When a student casually mentions that she has $100,000 in student loans, I immediately look at her purse, shoes, sunglasses, and various other brand name "cool" things. My husband and I were taught to save and keep budgets from a very young age. Being risk averse, we decided to buy life, short-term and long-term disability, in addition to health care. We have maintained a simple Excel spreadsheet to track and monitor our spending since age 20. We make a conscious effort to ensure that our actual expenses are in line with our "ideal budget" column. When we bought a home last year, we decided not to let our future incomes dictate the amount of mortgage. We took the opposite approach and thought, "will we be able to afford payments if one of us loses our job?" We also decided to save enough and always have liquid, 6 months worth of living expenses in case both of us lost our jobs. We eat our rarely but when we do, we pick the best restaurants and make it an experience. Over the years, we have learned to prioritize our needs and wants. We spend the extra money to purchase organic and natural products. We also invested in an organic lawn and chose non-VOC paint for our new home. Travel and experiencing new culturesis another priority. Because we are conscious in saving every month and still get to engage in what we value, we don't really feel like we make any financial compromises. If we all learn to live within our means, we can all still live meaningful, productive, entertaining lives without having to make sacrifices.
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