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You Can Control Your Financial Future

The following is a guest post from Crystal Stemberger over at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. She has been blogging for more than 5 years about covering your expenses, your future, and budgeting in the fun stuff along the way no matter what.

My Financial Life Story

Hi! Since many of you may not have heard of me yet, here’s my quick adult life story:

  • Met my husband my first year of college in 2001
  • Graduated in 2005 while taking my last 12 hours and working 65+ hours a week at part-time stuff
  • Got married a week after graduating in 2005
  • Thanks to family, we both had zero college debt
  • Worked a cubicle job from 2005-2011
  • My husband was a teacher from 2006-2011
  • Bought our first home in 2007 and paid it off completely in 2013
  • Started my own blog in 2010
  • Jumped into self-employment online full time in July 2011
  • My husband joined me at home in January 2012
  • Bought our second home in late 2012
  • We rent out our first home and two bedrooms of our current one to friends
  • The online business has slowed down over the last 1-2 years
  • I started a professional pet sitting business in February 2014 to supplement
  • My husband joined me in pet sitting in early 2015
  • Pet sitting now brings in more than the online stuff
  • Our total income from online, pet sitting, and rental income averages $7000+ a month

Yep, our lowest income in my adult life was a combined $20,000 a year after taxes in 2005. Our best year has been around $120,000 after taxes. Our years currently are around $65,000-$75,000 after taxes. Overall, we have lived on very little, a ton, and the in between.

You know what? More money equaled faster debt payoff for our first mortgage, but that’s the only huge difference.

My Life’s Money Lessons

When you make very little, you live on very little and save what you can. Tweet this! We lived in a tiny apartment, spent as little as possible on the necessities, and saved 25% of our take home pay so we could afford a 20% down payment on our first home.

When we made a lot, our standard of living increased, but we also used the majority of the extra to put 20% down on our new home and pay off the old one. No matter what we make, we budget in fun.

Fun is Important

Fun can be had on any budget. Cheap fun is board gaming with friends, reading or listening to a library book, feeding bread to ducks, taking walks through the woods, picnics, renting a Redbox DVD for the night, cooking meals for your loved ones, or hanging out with your friends on the porch steps with a $5 bottle of wine from Aldi’s. Even when we made more than ever, we loved cheap fun.

We also splurge. I love cruises since you pay one price plus set tips and you’re good to go. Eating, traveling, entertainment…all for $300-$500 per person in the off seasons. So we cruise 1-2 times a year when we can save that extra up. We also attend two board gaming conventions that usually run us a total of $1000-$1200 a year thanks to hotel costs. We put aside money for those all year long.

Without budgeting in any fun, we would become less motivated and dedicated to work and staying on budget. No reason to make money or save if we aren’t ever going to enjoy anything again. Right?

You Are in More Control Than You Think

All in all, I’ve spent the last 10 years learning that I do indeed control my financial life through the decisions I make. When I want to make more money, I have found part-time work in bookstores, babysitting, and pet sitting.

When I wanted to change career paths, I started my online business on the side, put in a year of 100+ hour work weeks balancing two jobs, and switched over when it was obvious I was done working for companies. Am currently working two jobs again every day.

When we needed to spend less and to bring in more because business slowed down, we made the conscious decision to rent out rooms to friends, cut luxury expenses, and continued to save 20% or more every month for our future and savings goals.

Difficult but Necessary Decisions

Making money can be difficult. Changing your lifestyle, especially downgrading, can be difficult. Sharing your personal space with others by choice can be difficult. But the decisions you make are all based on alternatives too.

If we don’t work two jobs, we have to downgrade our home. Which is more important to us? Right now, staying where we are wins. If we don’t share our living space, we have to give up travel. What to do? We prefer our vacations and conventions and have learned to appreciate and enjoy living with friends.

Your personal priorities need to be balanced with your finances. When you do that, you’ll find that financial control is way easier to attain than you ever imagined. Then you can sleep better than ever too. I’m living proof that anything is achievable and you do make your own luck.

How do you control your financial situation?

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.


Saturday 9th of January 2016

crystal, I Enjoyed reading your post on how you have fun (cruises, conventions) by making some extra money for fun purposes because they are a priority for you and also the list of low cost or no cost fun options.

There's no point in not having fun because we want to save it all. good idea to go out there and get an extra job or a side hustle to pay for those fun activities.


Friday 1st of January 2016

Thanks for having me over for the day!

Amanda L Grossman

Monday 4th of January 2016

Thank you!