On the post your wins thread it was a nice post by amastewa93 about how far she's come in 6 years! I'm really impressed. So I thought a lot as well and it's amazing how fast things can change on a dime.
I'm the mom of a teenager as of last month (DK1 turned 13!!!). When I started blogging and I on this site I had no children. I had been with my DH about 6 years and we were married a couple of years. Those first few years were very, very lean. We leaned on 0% CC, student loans, car loans, etc to make everything happen. We rarely ate out or traveled. I will also say the first few years of having kids and going to one income it was super tight as well. We were still paying off the 0% CC which was used to help buy us time to pay our student loans.
But a decade has past and it's weird how comfortable we are. Rich? I guess by many standards but I don't feel it. I don't feel that different than the young 20 something struggling to make ends meet. But 20 years later I am. My body is more tired and older. The credit card now is paid in full and I don't blink at whipping it out. Instead of whipping out the calculator and figuring if I could afford something, now I pay for it and don't worry knowing we have buffer.
I would use a calculator at a grocery store to stay on track. We ate a lot of the same foods over and over. When we met our "date" nights quickly devolved into a 3 item combo from Ranch 99 shared and a movie once a week. I don't even know if DH remembers the fact we were so thrilled to not cook and eat leftovers once a week and a $5 - 3 item combo was a splurge. $5 for a meal out was indulgent and to be shared. We rarely drank because it wasn't in the budget. Soda was bought only in 2L bottles and we recycled everything for extra money. We dumpster dived everything and everything was second hand including our grill and smoker and dog.
When we got our first dog we had no money and thankfully he was young and healthy. By the time he needed care we were in a different position financially but in 2002 we were broke and living on a shoe string. We used student loans to help sort our budget after all it was subsidized and free money. We calculated DH would get a job in 6 months after graduating and we'd be able to pay it all back. It didn't happen when he first graduated, we needed 0% CC for a few years rolling from one to another. But by the time DK1 came along in 1/2010, in 6/2010 we paid off all our student loans and 0% CC. It only took us 5 years after he finished his phd but he also went back and got an MBA and sunk us more into debt during those 5 years.
Our kids know we're frugal and they can tell I still struggle with spending. I'm still careful. My mom says "we never bought anything without a red sale tag or secondhand." I grew up very, very poor. And now it's ridiculous. My kids still look at sale tags because I don't know how else to shop and goodwill/marketplace is still our friend.
But now I really can buy anything I want. I can walk into a store and not whip out the calculator. I can buy what I want to eat because I feel like it. I can go out to eat because we want to. It's a weird feeling sometimes. The life I lead now is one I definitely aspired too. My mom again always said "i want to walk into a store one day and not look at the price tag." And she totally does now. She doesn't care. Everything is affordable. Now the shirt doesn't have to be on sale or secondhand. She also grocery shops and buys what she wants to eat instead of what's on sale. She doesn't have the envelope of cash and calculator (my entire family used to do this). My uncle said he'd stand in grocery store and calculate down to the last 10 cents what they could afford for groceries for the week and what they'd put back. And now he has so much money coming in he can't spend it fast enough.
Did you ever think you'd get here? Did you ever think you'd live a life you dream about? I joke now about what I would do if I won the lotto. I'd hire a cook and a driver asap. But life is pretty good and I'm grateful that I'm another year older and here to spend it with my family.