One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when people tell me that I’m lucky that I don’t have to bring in additional income.  Luck has very little to do with it.  And when a person tells me I’m lucky it makes me think that they don’t appreciate or are unaware of the work my husband and I have put in for the past 19 years to get us to the point where we are only dependent upon one income.  But rather than rolling my eyes one more time at the people who think I’m lucky, I thought I’d share the rules my husband and have followed since we got together almost 20 years ago.  That way, you can be one of the lucky ones as well.

  • We don’t believe in credit card debt.  When we got married I had credit card debt that equaled around $350.  That amount is not too bad for some, but for us it really bothered us.  So the first pay check I received once I was out of college went to pay that debt off. And we have never had a month in which we didn’t pay off our credit card in its entirety since.  It’s a rule we have that we refuse to break.
  • We try to live off of one income.  The first few years we were married we were trying very hard to save for a down payment on a house.  In order to do this, we decided that it was best for us to live off of only one income and save the other.  Honestly there were many months we failed in this endeavor.  That happens when you are young and are figuring things out.  But for the most part we were successful, and within a year and a half with both of us working full time, we had enough for a down payment on a house.  And the house we purchased?  We decided to only buy what we could afford on one income.  This decision became especially smart when we decided to have children and that one of us wanted to stay home with the new baby.  We really didn’t even feel the loss of income when it came to our day to day life.  And we didn’t have to worry about suddenly not being able to afford things as we were used to living off of the smaller income.
  • We save our bonuses.  We never spend our bonuses.  Instead they go straight into savings or some long term investment.  We have never broken that rule.
  • With each salary increase, we only increase our daily budget a small percentage of that salary increase.  We have found that if we try to pretend that we don’t get raises, we can instead put the extra income into savings.  This savings is where our extra cash for major purchases such as cars, vacations, and a bigger house came from once we lost the second income I was making while working outside of the home.  Of course there are times when you have to increase your budget.  Kids get more expensive with age, people buy bigger, more expensive homes, etc.  But if you are really mindful about these expenses and have the rule of pretending that you haven’t gotten a raise, you tend to only increase your budget a much smaller percentage than the actual raise itself.
  • Retirement, college funds, etc. savings comes from the income we live off of.  This was an important rule when I decided to quit my job to stay home when the babies arrived.  Sure our savings amounts dropped dramatically when the second income stopped coming in, but we didn’t have to shrink our regular household budget at all to get what we consider the minimum savings (retirement, college funds, etc.).
  • We pay cash for everything.  When we were newly married this rule only applied to small items such as televisions, furniture, remodels, etc.  This rule forced us to really think about each and every purchase that we made.  If we didn’t have the cash for a new television, did we need a television?  Odds are that we didn’t.  The only exception to that rule was and is if we can get a loan for something that is either at a zero percent interest rate or a rate that is lower than the interest rate on our savings.  Because we have had this rule for so long, and because we have always saved such a large part of our income, we now apply this rule to every purchase we make with the exception of our mortgage.  Though paying that off is very much in our near future.
  • We’re not too proud to bargain shop.  Look, I like the nice quality things as much as the next person.  But I refuse to pay full retail price for anything.  Every purchase is negotiable, and I make sure that I pay the absolute least I can for everything that I buy.
  • We enjoy the simple pleasures in life.  There’s a reason that there is a simple pleasures category on this blog.  I think that by being hyper-aware of the simple pleasure and beauties in life you tend to not be so worried about having enough.  When you’re not worried about having enough, you tend not feel the need to spend money unnecessarily.  And this really is the key to how my husband and I became so lucky.


Kelly Kinkaid (1006 Posts)

Kelly Kinkaid enjoys writing about such topics as stretching a dollar, personal finance, diet and fitness, and living a life well lived. She spends all of her spare time in her many roles including but not limited to soccer, basketball, swimmer, band, and piano mom, runner and wife. You may contact her via e-mail kellyology(at)gmail(dot)com.

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7 Responses to Financially Lucky: Income and Savings Rules

  1. Deborah Ray says:

    Interesting. When people tell me that I’m lucky that I don’t *have* to work (or lucky that I can choose when I work, or lucky that I can work at home, or just whatever), I wholeheartedly agree that I’m VERY lucky.

    I’m lucky that I had parents who were good role models, who were examples of being financially responsible, and who were good examples being responsible, reliable, and productive employees. Some people’s role models weren’t nearly so great.

    I’m lucky that I only had 35K in student loans when I graduated with my undergrad degree. It could have been much, much more.

    I’m lucky that my husband is a go-getter professionally and keeps up with industry needs so that he’s hirable, promotable, and sought-after. Some spouses are not such go-getters.

    I’m lucky that my husband’s employer(s) have enabled us to afford good healthcare. We could have easily been bankrupted from medical expenses over the years.

    I’m lucky that my husband’s employer(s) gave bonuses at all for us to save or to use for vacation or just whatever we wanted. Not all companies can give bonuses these days, or choose to even if they can.

    I’m lucky my husband’s employer(s) gave raises over the years, and I’m lucky that they thought enough of my husband’s work that he was often one of the chosen few to receive a raise.

    I’m lucky that my husband survived rounds and rounds of “downsizing.” Many, many of our friends were downsized. Some are still unemployed, long after unemployment benefits ran out.

    I’m lucky that I had two healthy children–unlike a close family member, whose son’s condition has cost literally millions of dollars over the years.

    I’m lucky that my husband juggled his career, my health issues, and the kids when I was unable. Some wives “have to” whatever their health situation.

    I’m lucky that my husband is still alive to go to work and provide for our family, unlike Eric’s dad, who died at age 50 when Eric was just nine years old.

    I’m lucky that my husband values that I’m a work-at-home mom and doesn’t expect me to make a certain dollar amount or work a job outside the home. Some wives aren’t so lucky.

    I’m lucky that the one household income affords us a home where great opportunities for the kids abound. There was a time where my one income afforded me an apartment in the highest crime district in Tulsa…and the now-demolished house at 114 Duck Street in Stillwater.

    I’m lucky that we have money to put toward our kids’ college education funds and our retirement, as many people just don’t make enough to do so, no matter how financially responsible they are.

    I’m lucky that the Denver cost of living isn’t the very highest in the nation, where many in tech industries end up living.

    I’m lucky that my husband is in good health and takes the time and effort to take care of himself. It’s so easy not to….

    I’m lucky that I don’t have to commute 2+ hours each day in Denver traffic, as, obviously, thousands and thousands of people do.

    I’m lucky that I don’t work 15 hours per day, seven days per week, as I did for the first five years after college.

    I’m lucky that I *get to* taxi my kids around to all of the activities and events that inspire their hearts and minds.

    I’m lucky that I have the support of my husband, no matter what our financial situation or need.

    So when people say I’m lucky that I don’t _have_ to work, I know I am. Careful planning, saving, and spending are very important–and responsibility is key. We don’t believe in credit cards per se. We save from one salary. We pay cash for cars and more–or we don’t buy at all. But I also know that I am one very lucky lady.

  2. Kelly Kinkaid
    Twitter: Kellyology

    I think your perspective is very different than mine. I don’t see your life as anything to do with luck. You’ve earned your life.

    You chose to take the lessons from your parents that were good ones and discarded the rest.

    You chose to take care of your student loans appropriately, and you didn’t have larger ones because you worked your butt off all those years during college.

    You chose who to marry, and that’s a man who even back then everyone could see was a go getter.

    He made smart decisions about his employment throughout the years, and took jobs that provided him safety, security, and appropriate health insurance. Sure there are no guarantees, but you can limit your risk by making well thought out decisions about careers.

    I’m also pretty sure that knowing what risks are involved in losing a parent early, your husband has planned appropriately making sure that he does everything he can to remain healthy and to make sure that your family would be taken care of should something horrible should happen.

    As far as where you live, your commute, and the schools and activities your children are in…they are all choices you made probably pretty carefully, learning from mistakes of the past.

    Now as far as the health issues are concerned there are exceptions to every rule, and there are times in fact I believe that my rules don’t apply. This is one of them. And as long as the health care system in this country remains where is is, a colossal mess, it will be the one area in which people can be destroyed financially. I too have a family member with a chronic illness that has cost her and her family millions of dollars. The average American family does not have millions of dollars, and when I wrote this piece I did think about addressing that topic.

    However, I also know that I am at high risk for several chronic auto-immune disorders and breast cancer. Of course not all illnesses can be predicted, but because of my family’s history we’ve planned ahead in case the worse should happen. Also, the people who usually make the “you’re so lucky” statements are usually unhappy and looking to make any excuse possible to not have to take responsibility for the life they have provided for themselves. I thought perhaps it best to focus only upon what they could do instead to improve themselves.

    Also, I feel like I should make one final note. People would be pretty surprised concerning the income that my family lives with. And it should be said that 3 years ago my husband took a 50% pay cut due to downsizing and his refusal of a transfer to another city (a city that would have given us long commutes, higher expenses, etc.). Because we followed our rules so closely, I did not have to return to work. And I truly believe it was because of the choices we’ve made and nothing to do with luck.

  3. DebRay says:

    Nice follow-up, Kel. I think in the end, there must be careful planning and hard work, but some luck in there as well. Our choices dictate the path, but outcomes aren’t always as expected. There are many things we choose to do or not do, but it’s not always black and white, you know? From my perspective, anyway…. You know what they say about the best laid plans!

  4. Natasha says:

    The saying my husband likes is, “Luck favors the prepared,” or some such thing. I think that’s true. But sometimes bad things happen to good people, things that are outside of their control. I guess the health issue is the prime example of this. I don’t think it’s cut and dry, good-choices-equal-good-fortune, and vice versa. I don’t think that every case of someone falling on hard times can be due to some instance of irresponsibility, though many certainly are; many are made rich those instances of irresponsibility, too. Which is terrifying, when you think about it, how financial security, or lack thereof, can be an illusion. I think maybe the attitude should be, always prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and be thankful and compassionate always.

    • Deborah Ray says:

      I was just thinking about our friend who for his 50th birthday set out to climb 50 14,000′ mountain peaks in 30 days. He’d spent literally his lifetime preparing for this mentally and physically, had probably thousands of hours of mountain climbing experience, and more than 100 hours preparing for the logistics of this particular journey. (People climbing 14ers in Colorado is about as common as bicycling or skiing. His goals were indeed challenging, but the mountains are a way of life for many people here.)

      Day 3 of his journey, he had summited two peaks and was on his way down the mountain when he fell to his death. The horror of the story and the loss of this man stunned an entire community. He was the epitome of integrity…a humble man…just someone who seemed immortal in his quiet and peaceful and giving way. Yet in a single moment in time, his life ended, and the lives of his entire family and community were changed forever.

      The best laid plans….

      Natasha had an interesting turn of phrase…financial security being an illusion. We can stay away from credit cards, bank our money, invest according to what our “wise” financial planners tell us (haha), live frugally, clip coupons, and hunt bargains. Solid finances will certainly give us *options*, should the unthinkable happen. But, what is left to luck–that gray area–are variables we have no control over whatsoever. Bad bosses. Poor corporate decisions. Product failures. Market downturns. Greed. Government idiocy. Health crises. Accidents. Cost of medical care. Bad parenting. And on and on. Sometimes it really does just come down to being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

      I’m a big believer in being responsible for your own actions and making your own life happen. Having solid finances isn’t just going to happen…it’s hard work!! But there are all sorts of circumstances beyond anyone’s control that happen to people all the time that have nothing to do with lack of planning or responsibility. S*** happens, even with the best of intentions and planning, and people find themselves in situations they never dreamed they’d be in.

      Love this quote, Natasha: Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and be thankful and compassionate always.

  5. We are just coming off of nearly two years of ‘vacation’, sort of. We traveled for the last 7 months of 2009 and then moved to NW Washington State (a place both of us have always wanted to live); my husband did some software contract work part-time for a few months and I was working at the YMCA a few hours a week. We’re in Tulsa because of my family, and I think we made the right decision there. I *do* feel lucky – the car survived the road trip intact, we are both healthy, and we can easily survive on one income if necessary. However, we planned and saved for those two years for a long time…while living in Silicon Valley, one of the highest cost-of-living locations in the U.S. So I can see both sides :)

  6. Lisa says:

    Financially lucky, some consider us to be financially lucky. I work part time to pay for the “extras”. But I work full time to find the good deals and cook real food at home instead of paying $40 for a dinner out for the family. Not that we don’t ever go out to eat but, I prefer to save that $40 and feed my family for several wonderful meals, instead of one decent one, or not so decent meal out at a franchise restaurant. We rarely go on vacation these days but do take time to go out on the town and experience our own back yard. People think we live a fun and interesting life, if they only knew who little we spend on enjoying ourselves.

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