Sunday, November 23, 2008

Santa Barbara on a Shoestring Introduction

Most people in Santa Barbara, whether they are homeowners or are just starting out on their own are living on a tight budget to make ends meet. Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive places in the world, and keeping up appearances is very important to our community.
I was born in Texas, where houses and food are comparatively cheap. When I was very young, my musician father and scientist mother had to be very creative to feed a family of four on $20 per week. They learned quite a bit from their Depression-era parents. My mother often served foods that were tasty but stretched the meat budget tremendously. She also made most of our clothes, and shopped the sales and clearance sections of the local stores to ensure that we were properly dressed.

My grandmothers both enjoyed shopping in several grocery stores to take advantage of the loss leaders, the foods that were being sold below the store’s cost to attract customers. For my mother and grandparents, these activities were for survival, As a 10-year-old child, these money saving strategies became a game for me.

After our family’s fortunes changed and my parents became comparatively well off, we had a large home, beautiful wardrobes, and took several exotic vacations a year. We truly lived as if everything was bigger and better in Texas. Regardless, it was my responsibility to earn money while I was in high school to help my family pay for some of my college expenses. By the time I was a freshman at Texas A&M, I had to revert to the lessons that I learned from my family as a child, and found that it was just as fun as a young adult to stretch my dollars as it was as a kid. The difference was that now, the money was more valuable to me because I earned it myself.
After earning a degree, I moved to Santa Barbara to marry my college sweetheart. His family also believed that it was important for their children to become self-sufficient, so we were on our own. Being at the beginning of our careers, money was tight, but we managed to pay off my student debt and save for a home. Now, over 15 years later, we are both in careers that we love. From the outside, people would say that we are living the high life. We have designer wardrobes, late model cars, original artwork on our walls by name artists; we travel around the world and we eat at fine restaurants every week. We’ve saved enough to retire in 10 years, and we have done all of this on middle income salaries. Most people would think that we make twice the amount of money that we actually do and our only debt is our mortgage.

I wrote this blog so that whether you are a student, a family living on one income or someone who wants to retire early, you will benefit from making simple adjustments to your lifestyle that are low-income but high-style. You too can save thousands of dollars per year but still live like high rollers in Santa Barbara.

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I'd love to hear what you have to say about saving money in Santa Barbara.