median

We are the median: Four kids on $50,000 'isn't that difficult'

Dec. 9, 2011 at 7:19 AM ET

Devin Datus, 39, and his wife, Michelle, 36, are raising four kids, ages 9 to 18, in Utah on his military salary. His wife is a full-time student and stay-at-home mom. 

TODAY.com's Life Inc. blog asked the couple about their financial situation as part of a series of stories looking at what it’s like to live on the nation’s median income of about $50,000 a year. Here is their response:

What’s it like to live on around $50,000 a year?

It isn’t that difficult. You just have to spend your money wisely and not overextend yourself. The problems start if you don’t take the time to keep yourself within your means. We have all we need to survive (home, utilities, food, etc.), and the rest of what we want we buy when we can afford it. …

Obviously, we will never be able to buy million-dollar homes or high-dollar sports cars, but that is fine. I have been able to provide quite well for my family, give them a lot of what they want and also send my oldest to college.

How has the weak economy affected your finances?

Not too terribly. The worst part really has been the fuel prices. But in a lot of aspects, the weak economy has been a benefit. We (recently bought a house) with an interest rate that allowed us to purchase more house than we initially planned on.

Also, I have offset the fuel by driving a compact car and staying away from the SUV or truck route that many have taken. (And) we have been able to watch local classified ads for some of the niceties that we have wanted that people overspent on and now have to sell to just get by. It seems cold and heartless, but those of us who planned and did the right thing are now able to live better.

Do you worry about money?

Sometimes. I don’t worry about it too much, though. As long as I am able to put a roof over our heads, provide food and clothing, and keep us warm, well, anything beyond that is just good.

What do you splurge on?

Games (both tabletop and Xbox/Wii), radio-controlled cars, going out to eat, cigars and things my children want. Most of the time we all like the same games and food, so we do a lot of that as a family.

Is there anything you wish you could afford but can’t?

There is a long list: Cars that I have dreamed about since I was 12, taking family vacations outside the country and things like that. It doesn’t mean I am unhappy, but no matter how much money you make, there is always something more you will dream about and not be able to get.

Is it difficult to pay your bills every month?

Not at all.

What kind of debt do you have, and do you find it hard to pay off your loans or other debts?

Mortgages, two credit cards, and a home equity line of credit. But the overall balance is not so high that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Are you able to save money for the future?

Yes, cut out a couple trips to fast food per pay period, maybe buy something generic, and so on. It adds up and allows for savings to be slowly built.

What are you most proud of in terms of your financial situation?

Being able to buy a second house. We are upgrading from what we are in and are going to rent out the one we have lived in for the last decade.

Are there any financial mistakes you think you’ve made?

Nobody is perfect. Over the years mistakes have been made with credit cards, not saving as much as we could, and so on. But we just learn from our mistakes and don’t make them again.

Will the upcoming holidays add to your financial burdens?

No, yet again - buy within your means. Also, we do our holiday shopping throughout the year so it won’t all come at one time. 

More on this series:

Click here to see previous stories in our "We are the median" series. We’re also sharing our thoughts — and yours — on Twitter (hashtag #median), Facebook and Google Plus. We invite you to comment on our posts — but keep it civil and on topic, please!

Finally, please share your story of what it’s like to be living on about $50,000 a year by clicking here to send me e-mail. We’ll feature some of your stories in future Life Inc. posts. 

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