Songbae wants to know:

“Question: if you had to choose an amount you need to raise a family how much would you say combined annual income would need to be?”

Well, when Bella was born, her dad and I were living on $1000 a month. Granted, the mortgage was only $250 and we had to haul our own water (300 gallons every ten days or so – with a truck that took an hour to start…) Also, we lived several miles down a dirt road in a relatively barren section of Joshua Tree.

But, there are many upsides to raising a child in relative poverty, especially if you have parents who are willing to fly you home once a year for respite. The respite is crucial.

For starters, you realize that babies are as happy playing with cardboard boxes and lengths of fabric as any new-fangled plastic toy. If you get the money together for toys, you are more likely to buy ones that are high-quality and versatile; for instance, Bella played for hours with the wooden dollhouse dolls and silk cloths we bought her. Plus, without a T.V. (small T.V., little to no reception), Bella grew up spending most of her time playing outdoors and not even knowing to ask for Barbies and Bratz.

That said, I am past my being-married-to-an-unemployed-artist stage. Way past.

As a teacher and single mom, Bella and I lived very comfortably on $50,000-$60,000 a year. Plenty saved for retirement, and rarely felt pinched for cash – but again this was in Joshua Tree where the cost of living is lower than in the hills of Tennessee. And I did not put aside very much for college – probably because I was always too tempted to travel with any spare cash we had.

Right now I would say Chad, Bella, and I are living on under $60,000 a year – but we are dipping into savings because I am not working yet. We both have school loans, probably combined $500/month. We own both of our cars outright and carry no credit card debt (well, until last month…). We own one rental in Joshua Tree, and we have a lump sum stashed for a down payment on a small house/condo in the near future. I would say that right now, here in Laguna Niguel in South Orange county, we could live on $60,000 a year combined income.

But we would need more if we wanted to maximize our 401k deposits, travel, or save for Bella’s college. $100,000 if you want to put $15,000 away per retirement account,$5,000 for travel/vacation, and $5,000 for college savings.

So I guess I am saying that I think that you can make a life and provide for a healthy, happy family at almost any combined income; you just need to fit your lifestyle inside your income.

I also suggest checking out Tiff’s family budget, which she posts. The latest monthly family budget was posted on July 7, 2007 at her blog, “Life Changes After Birth: Closely following the ups and downs of the lives of  Clara Roan and Pippa Rue.” (Sorry, couldn’t post directly to her post, just the general website.) She is a stay-at-home mom with two kids, living on her husband’s salary in Canada.

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