We’re featuring a new series here on 4 Hats and Frugal – Prosperity Stories. These are stories from fellow readers that have implemented frugal systems, a frugal lifestyle, and are now living a full life.
Today, Jessica shares her family’s story. A story of diligence, and bit of heartbreak, and a prosperous life she would have never thought she would have attained. Take it away, Jessica!
When we married, my husband and I had about $15,000 in savings between us and a house with no equity due to the economic crash. We had a wedding (-$5,000), bought a car (-$8,000), he got an MBA (-$25,000). During his college career, I worked 2-3 jobs, while he worked full time and did school full time. We budgeted about $30,000 for regular house expenses, with bring home of about $48,000-$52000, we scraped past our final school payment after 1 ½ years. Tax return bolstered our savings, and our first child was born 4 months later. I stayed home with our new little one, we lost our health insurance, and our take home dropped to closer to $30,000, with a budget of $28,000. We stayed the course, saved slowly, allowing our tax returns to grow our savings above the $2000-3000 we actually had extra. Leaving us with about $12,000 savings after a full year (of one income) and 2 tax refunds.
A year after graduation with $12,000 in savings (and only house debt), my husband found a job that would change careers (using that MBA) but wouldn’t have a pay raise guaranteed (only a possible bonus) and healthcare coverage again. We found out about baby #2, and my husband adjusted to longer hours from 40-45 hours (with overtime pay) to 55-60 hours (salary) weekly and new responsibilities. He wanted to quit a couple times, but he stayed the course, gave it the first year, and after a year, his pay was raised and we got our first bonus. With these great positives, came an opportunity to invest in the company. We prayed, studied and discovered that entrepreneurs were rarely afraid of a loss they could make back in 5 years so we took all our savings and “minivan” fund and invested.
We pushed off the minivan purchase until nearly the next year, took a 3 month note, and paid it off with bonus #2. In the second year, we saw a bonus and dividends from our investment. We reinvested everything that was open to buy, and began a house “down payment” fund.
Middle of year 3, we had baby #3, and have been feeling a little more squished in our 1200 sq ft. I understand it is about perspective, but as I looked at for-sale homes in our area, it was so hard not to jump into a bigger home, and a bigger budget, after all we could afford it and everyone thought we should! We held off until bonus #3 (to make our down payment as big as possible) and were given an opportunity to double our previous investment in this company. It was no question to me. We simply had to do it. I loosened my grip on the dream of a bigger “better” home, and we invested everything we could again. We have savings left over (back to about $13,000) and we are so blessed and excited about our future. I just wanted to take a minute to encourage those that are “just” getting by or those who are seeing budget improvements and want to expand their budget.
Every step of the way, it has been tempting to expand our budget. We are still budgeting around $30,000 a year and because of that, we were able to invest in an opportunity that has effectively expanded our base income by an extra 25% a year.
Here’s a breakdown of the figures (after tax):
Savings : $12,000 Budget : $30,000/year
Year 1: $34,000 base + $8400 bonus + 5000 tax return – $28000 investment
Year 2: $37,000 base + $15000 bonus + $6800 dividend + 3500 tax return – $4200 investment -$18,000 minivan
Year 3: $39,500 base + $23000 bonus + $10000 dividends +$3,500 tax return – $42,900 invested
After 6 years of marriage, we now have home equity ($35,000, thank you market turnaround!), savings ($13,000), investments ($86,000) and a single income that has expanded over double where we started ($72,000 a year) with an outlook of triple this year.
Education was our first investment in the future. It opened doors for us that I doubt would have opened as easily without that piece of paper!
Also, I do understand, not everyone has had opportunities to invest where they work or an income that could rise this quickly over 3 years, but if we had expanded our budget or made major purchases as soon as we could afford them, we would not have been able to make the investments as they came! We were not even aware that it was possible to invest until the offer came the first time.
And now, as a board decides whether my husband should be promoted, we see our investment opportunities growing and the sense in keeping our smaller home and smaller budget a bit longer, probably another 3-5 years. Whether he gets the promotion or not, we want to be prepared for the future possibilities!
I hope this encourages you to be vigilant about your budget and living below your means, because all it takes is the right opportunity, and you could move to the next level of financial security! I am not looking for recognition or accolades, i just hope our story of a “middle income” home can inspire others to stay the course! Your budget will be a great weapon for carving out the future you want!