Here's how my wife and I budgeted to live comfortably on a below-average income
- A smaller paycheck doesn't necessarily mean living uncomfortably.
- Notice the areas in your life where you could be cutting back.
- Eating out and shopping without needing anything can be common ones.
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In today's society, the majority of families feel like both spouses need to work a job in order to be financially comfortable. My wife and I are living proof that it doesn't have to be that way and you can actually live happily bringing in less than the average salary. I've seen a lot of couples where both spouses were working and minus a few shiny possessions, you wouldn't be able to tell a difference in our quality of life.
After several years of working 12 hour days in the movie industry, work was starting to wear on my wife. It was too stressful and taking away too much free time to make the high salary worth it. She literally only had time to drive to work, put in 12 hours, drive home, eat and take a shower. Yeah, working on movie sets is cool and all but not when it's the only thing you're able to do with your life. She was also seriously injured a couple of times due to the hazardous work environment.
The breaking point was when she started being mistreated by coworkers. People thought they could talk to her however they wanted to with no consequences. After bringing up the situation with her supervisor, he told her he wasn't going to do anything about it and she should just accept the verbal abuse because she was paid well. That's the straw that broke the camel's back and she decided to put in her resignation.
When she first quit, we thought that my wife would continue to work, just in a different industry. After a few weeks of living on my income only, we realized we didn't really need any additional money so she didn't have to go back to work unless she wanted to. She's been spending her time doing what she wants and has started helping out at a relative's Christian school a couple days a week. The happiness that has come from not being chained to a job is worth much more than any money she could make and I think that's an important thing to learn. If additional money isn't going to increase your happiness, you should only get paid to do something you love doing.
When you make good financial situations, you get to choose what you will put up with at work. Although my wife's decision to stop working may have cut our combined income by two thirds, with a few small adjustments we were able to live comfortably on my income alone. Really all we had to do was cut out weekend Target trips and stop going out to eat as much.
Because we had lived below our means when both of us were working, we were able to set ourselves up to be worry free with our money situation. Our monthly budget showed that my salary would easily cover our low monthly expenses and still have enough to save some even though my take-home pay is only around $34,000 a year. We actually tithe 10% of that so we really are left with $31,600.
Here's how we're able to live on a below-average income and how you can to.
- Stay out of debt. We haven't carried any debt other than a mortgage and are reaping the financial benefits. By avoiding car payments and student loans, you can stay away from unnecessary payments.
- Optimize your life to where your expenses are low and you can save money. By being conservative with our utility use and cutting back any spending that isn't necessary, we are able to still save money with a low income.
- Save for a rainy day. Emergency funds will take away your worry. We saved up a few months of income while my wife was working and haven't had to touch it even when she quit.
- Live in a house you can afford. We bought our first house a couple of years ago and could have afforded something twice as expensive as the house we bought. Because we got a house that was less than $100,000 and got an interest rate of 3.625%, our mortgage is only $600 a month. 1100 square feet is more than enough space for the two of us plus a cat and our neighborhood is nice and calm.
- Eat out less. You can easily spend $500 a month on eating out if you don't watch it. When you do go out on rare occasions, try to eat at cheaper restaurants and choose cheaper meals on the menu.
Looking back on things, the extra money she was making enabled us to set ourselves up really nicely. We were able to save more but also wasted a lot more money. It's a good feeling to be able to cut about $5,000 of monthly income and not sweat it. We are even still able to do a lot of fun things and travel. You can make a game of trying to spend as little as possible and it is actually kind of fun when you approach it that way.
Since my goal is to become financially independent long before the "normal" retirement age, I strive to do what I can to earn extra and set myself up to earn more at my job. It's nice knowing that we already earn enough to live comfortably though. I look at my wife not working as an investment in happiness. Knowing she's happier and less stressed is worth more than an extra paycheck.
Are you and your spouse both working and still not financially comfortable? If you do a reality check you might find that you could be living on drastically less than what you're earning. Most Americans can. If you're trading 40+ hours a week and commuting long distances just so you can maintain a certain lifestyle, it's time to think about the fact that you could be happier earning less.
If you're married and both of you are working, you should be able to live on one income depending on how much the two of you make. Living on one income will allow you to max out retirement accounts and cut the time it takes to reach financial independence by many years.
My wife is often asked "so what are you doing now that you've quit?". This is further proof that people think both spouses have to work to survive. I guess we'll have to start referring people to this post when they ask.