Dear Dave: When it comes to taking control of your money and living on a budget, what's the biggest thing a family can live without?
Dear Will: There are always the shiny things people can do without. Sometimes people sell a fancy car or boat and get rid of a $600-a-month payment right off the bat.
But on a regular, day-to-day basis, I think maybe the biggest and best thing you can amputate from your life is eating out.
I love a good restaurant, and I've got nothing against the industry. The problem, though, is that people are struggling to pay their bills or set aside something for retirement because they're eating out all the time. Most folks simply don't realize how much money they throw away by heading to the drive-through for lunch or going out to dinner "once in a while."
I want people to enjoy life, and a great part of that can be going out and having a meal with your family and friends. Just don't do it when you're broke.
Dear Dave: We're expecting our second child next spring, and even though we have an extra bedroom, our place is pretty small for a growing family. We also have $40,000 in student loan debt hanging over our heads, but we can save up almost $50,000 by the time the baby's here.
Should we use this money to buy a bigger home or pay off debt?
Dear Chris: If it were me, I'd make sure to knock out the student loan before buying a house. Trust me, if you buy a home with a ton of debt hanging over your heads, Murphy will move into your spare bedroom and make your lives miserable. If it can happen, it will happen. And that's especially true when it comes to buying a house when you don't have much cash on hand.
You're telling me you can save nearly $50,000 by next year. That means you guys are making pretty good money. So there's no reason you can't turn around and do the same thing next year, right?
I mean, this is only a one- or two-year program we're talking about. In another year's time, you could save up for a huge down payment with some extra savings on the side. If you waited and saved for two years, there's a possibility you could pay cash for a bigger place outright. Imagine how cool it would be to have your own home with no mortgage payments!
Just clean up the extra bedroom and fix it up as a nice nursery. Some new carpet or hardwood is always nice. Throw in a fresh coat of paint, and you're in business. Then, a year or two after the new baby arrives, you'll be ready to move from a financial and a family perspective. A baby can live just fine in a small bedroom. There's nothing in the world wrong with that!
Dave Ramsey is America's trusted voice on money and business. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the Web at daveramsey.com.
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