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How Our Budget Changed After Our Income Doubled Overnight

Guest post from Ann of Modern Mrs Darcy

Last year, our household income nearly doubled overnight — that will happen if you pivot from ministry to tech, as my husband did.

We are both born savers and committed to living frugally. We caught up some long-deferred expenses (hello, retirement accounts) but didn’t start dropping cash on big-bucks purchases simply because we could.

However, we did make a new budget.

Now that we’re firmly settled into it, we’ve taken some time to reflect on what’s changed over the past year — and what hasn’t.

The changes:

  • We increased our giving.
  • We increased our savings. We promptly set up a twice-a-month automatic deduction from checking to savings, putting nearly all of the “extra” income towards our big financial goal.
  • We increased our grocery budget (again). This change didn’t happen in a vacuum: my four kids have gotten older (and hungrier!) But I also made the conscious decision to spend a little more for the sake of convenience (by choosing easy-to-prep meals and doing my shopping all in one place), and use the hours I’m saving to write and blog.
  • We spend a little more on childcare and household help. This was a practical move that feels like a luxury: having some help in our four-child homeschool helps me keep my sanity and frees up time for me to work. While hiring help made good financial sense, It was much easier to take the plunge once we had wiggle room in our budget.
  • Our transportation costs have gone down. My husband’s commute is much shorter, and we’re seeing the savings at the pump.

These changes are real, but my husband and I agree that the biggest change isn’t a line item on the budget: it’s our attitude.

Our budget worked before, thanks to foundational decisions we made a long time ago (small mortgage, old cars, modest lifestyle). But we didn’t have much margin for error. Now that things aren’t so tight, I’ve relaxed about the small stuff. I review receipts but I don’t scrutinize them. I don’t freak out when my husband makes a few impulse buys at Target.

To borrow Dave Ramsey’s terminology, we didn’t have an expense problem before, we had an income problem. Interestingly, now that our income is up, we’re just as committed to living frugally than we were before — perhaps even more so. We’re inspired by our rapid savings progress, and excited about what we’re able to give.

It’s definitely nice to not have an income problem at the moment, but I’m grateful for the many lessons we learned because of leaner times. Three of these stand out: to focus on the progress I’m making even when I feel stuck, that living frugally is worth it, and that even when I can’t change my circumstances, I can change my attitude.

Anne Bogel loves strong coffee, long books, and big ideas. She’s putting a timely spin on timeless women’s issues at her blog Modern Mrs Darcy. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, or with her nose in a new favorite book. 

photo source

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19 Comments

  • Jennifer says:

    Congrats! The hard work of budgeting at a low income pays off when you get a higher income. We’re nearly finished with our school and car loans, just one more paycheck to go to finish our big debt snowball and we will have nearly half of our income free to soend as we wish now, since it won’t be going into loans. But we did the hard work of budgeting with the new income/expenses and like you found lots of it will go to max out retirement again, save for big goals like a home and an international vacation, and just a little extra wiggle room in the monthly spending budget.

  • Ha ha! We did the opposite with my husband moving from a corporate tech position to working for a non-profit ministry. He’s still doing tech work, but for much, much less money. I think it’s great that you’re using the increased income to save more, give more, and make your life a bit easier! I hope your husband is loving his new job. 🙂

  • Congratulations on the potential to reach your goals even faster than before. With your frugal skills already intact, I’m sure that extra income will go far.

  • Lora says:

    Congratulations on your progress! Our income doubled and then increased by half in just a few years. I agree that the increase made us even MORE committed to saving. It’s so inspiring to debt disappear and savings increase.

  • MsKatrina says:

    Congratulations on the income increase. I love how the first thing you did was increase your giving! Ministry background in action.

  • T says:

    Sad that people in churches feel they can pay so little to their church workers. “The worker deserves his wages…” I’m happy for you guys and I hope those reading this story will make sure their church workers are getting a fair salary and able to make a living on what the church pays.

    • Julia says:

      Amen! Church members and board members of Christian organizations and schools need to take note. God loves a cheerful giver, and he warns about oppressing workers. Sadly, many people who work for Christians are underpaid, all in the name of “stewardship.” Many families in ministry qualify for government assistance as a result of being paid so poorly.

      • Jill says:

        I agree with the concept, but I don’t think it’s a purposeful choice in a lot of churches to underpay church workers. I attend a very small church (under a hundred people), where we have struggled with the budget a lot. We would be thrilled if we could give everyone that works for us a larger salary, and we do what we can (since we have a day care in our church, we were able to offer free daycare to our pastor who has a working spouse). It is something we think about/talk about constantly, and I’m sure there are churches who are in much tighter circumstances than we are.

  • amanda nicholson says:

    Im sorry, I may being a negative nancy here, I don’t know but I am having a hard time understanding how this article about hiring a nanny, a housekeeper and buying convenience foods because your income doubled is suppose to be inspiring on a money saving blog? I have been reading crystals blog for years and even have her first ebooks and this seems so off to me….

    • jessica says:

      It sounds like this woman who wrote this is a SAHM/homeschooling Mom who is also working from home. I don’t think it is any different than needing childcare. More power to people who can afford someone to clean their home for them! I’d be all over that in an instant 🙂 It would be more time spent with my kiddos and less spent cleaning. LOL – it is a different story, but there are readers (myself included) that the scenario applies to.

    • Hi Amanda,

      I know I didn’t spell it out above, but we hired a mother’s helper for 8 hours a week, plus we’ve had a housekeeper come for a total of six hours this summer. (The thought of paying a full-time nanny makes my heart race!(

      Also, my idea of convenience foods is the chicken sausages from Trader Joe’s and pre-washed and chopped salad mix. We have major food allergies and therefore have to cook most of our food from scratch, so that’s about as convenience-y as we can get 🙂

      -Anne

      • In my experience, the equation can often go the other way: you pay for childcare and housework help and *then* your income doubles! All of that is an investment in freeing up time, which you can then use to earn more. Part of being a good financial steward for a family is bringing in enough income to help your children live well. Anne’s family put that in the budget after her husband changed jobs, but I bet it’s helping her build her business, too.

      • Jennifer says:

        This was an inspiring post for me to read. I’ve been frustrated because our income has pretty much stayed stagnant since 2009 while the cost of everything is skyrocketing, but I’m working on it.
        I think when our income doubles, we would increase our savings and then get some housecleaning help. Even having someone come into do floors and windows once a month would be so luxurious!

        Congrats on the great stewardship!

    • Amy says:

      I think the reason this article will resonate with readers here is that the frugal principles she learned on half the income translated very well when it doubled. I think that’s encouraging for people who are on the half-income now to know that the hard work not only will pay off now but in the future if their income changes. Giving and saving more are awesome rewards for being good stewards when they have little. And there is nothing wrong with hiring help! It reduces stress and time and provides income for others.

  • This was very inspiring to read! We had a recent increase and kept to our same budget so the extra money could go to home repairs in an effort to sell our house in a few years for a big enough profit to pay off our mortgage and hefty student loan debts. We got the house a couple of years ago for a great price abs our neighborhood is improving too so we are confident in this plan.

    Also, I had the honor of meeting Anne earlier this year and she’s even more awesome in person 😉

    • Ah, you’re sweet. Back atcha, babe!

      My dad would highly approve of your plan; it’s the one he’s been drumming into my head since I was ten years old. If your income goes up, and your spending saves the same, your bank account will be happy. 🙂

  • We’re doing the opposite now– our income has dropped by 40% and we’re having to think more about the little things since our average spending is close to our earning now. I hate it! http://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/september-mortgage-update-and-i-hate-budgeting/

    We were (relatively) frugal before and that frugality has allowed my husband to quit his job, but it’s hard having income and earnings so close to each other when you’re used to saving an entire salary.

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