My story, more or less

My story is like alot of other folks, maybe even yours.  But since you have tuned in to Living Letters, I get to share mine with you. 

In 1984, I finished graduate school and started a great job with an even greater company.  They were kind and generous enough to give me great opportunities repeatedly. (Side note - if you ever read this, David Salyers and Steve Robinson, I thank you!!)  I was climbing the corporate ladder and the perks were rolling in.  In 1986, I married the man I absolutely could not live without.  He was - and is - my best friend, my hero, my rock.  Together, we were the classic DINKS.  For those of you born after 1980, that is "Double income, no kids".  Although we didn't live extravagantly (just because we are rather simple folks), we were very far from frugal and budget-conscious.  We just didn't think we needed to be. Sigh.

I pause to shudder at the income we wasted, the savings we forfeited, the investments (temporal AND eternal) we neglected.

Continue the story.

Two years later, our lives improved significantly.  We had our first child.  While I was expecting, I checked out daycare, got the nursery ready, and believed the myths about what all you need when you have a baby.  We spent big bucks. 

I stayed home for four months and decided I didn't want the daycare option after all.  But we were not prepared to live on one income so we hired a nanny and I trotted back to work.  And the financial opportunities continued to increase.  And we continued to spend. One expenditure I do NOT regret was that nanny.  I loved having Katie with her in her own environment.  It made it easier for me and it was worth whatever we paid her.  (And Dianne Stowers, if you ever read this, you were my lifesaver and I can never thank you enough!)

After a few months of juggling Mommy-hood and executive demands, I decided our lives would be saner if I could just do one or the other.  I didn't want to give Katie back so I knew the job needed to go.  Paul agreed. 

We didn't pull the plug immediately.  We made a plan.  We can up with an amount that we thought we needed for a cushion and decided that whenever we could manage to stash that away, I would quit.  I suddenly became very frugal and budget-conscious.

21 months after Katie arrived, I got the ultimate promotion.  I left the corporate world to be a SAH Mom.  And I have never ever ever ever regretted it.  Next to Jesus and marrying Paul, it is the single best decision of my life. 

What makes my story perhaps a little bit unique is the percentage income we gave up so I could be at home.  At that time, I was contributing 2/3 of our income.  So when I quit, we then lived on 33% of what we had formerly.  The figures are correct.  I was being paid twice what Paul was being paid at the time.  So we cut our income by 66%. Not TO 66%,  BY 66%,  All at once.

That is a significant drop. It caused me to begin a lifestyle of frugality and resourcefulness that is ongoing.  And my husband became my even greater hero. He shouldered the responsibility of providing for us, adding a part-time job for several years to his already demanding executive role, just to keep me at home.  From time to time, I have done some consulting on the side to bring in a little cash but the vast majority of our finances are Paul's responsibility. 

We made alot of mistakes in those early years. As we learned, we made adjustments.  Frankly, I am not sure we were even conscious that we were converting to a lifestyle of frugality -- we were just continuously on the lookout for ways to reduce costs.   I wish we could have a do-over with what we know now.  But somehow we made it.  And remained committed to one another.  And managed to have some fun in the process!

Even now, we don't consider ourselves to be living on Easy Street. (Hmmmm, actually we are.  Everything is relative and compared to the way 90% of the world lives, uh, yeah, we got it made).  But in the minds of most Americans, we will never recover what we gave up.  If I had stayed in my job, we would be in the top 1% of the income bracket with our dual incomes..  Many people would concur with what Paul's boss said at the time of my departure from the corporate world - she knew what Paul made and had an idea of what I was raking in - "Paul, you should stay home and she should work!  Time will tell if this is the right decision!"  In some respects, we will never recover what we forfeited.  I get that.  But, in our opinion, if I had not come home, we could never have gained what we did.

Please know that in NO WAY do I think this is the move everyone should make.  I was a working Mom and I understand where some of you are.  Some of you may want to make the leap that Paul and I did but can't.  I understand completely.  Some of you may NOT want to make that leap.  I understand, too.  (Trust me, there are plenty of days I think it would be easier to pull on pantyhose and head to the office!!)  But, for us, time has indeed favored our decision.  We have never ever EVER regretted it.

And our determination to live a more frugal lifestyle has been an adventure that I wouldn't have missed for the world!