My name is Emily and I’m 27. My husband, Kirk, is 29 and we have a newborn son. We live in Springfield, Illinois.
I’m transitioning from full-time to part-time as an accountant and teaching a few violin students. My husband is a guitar teacher and musician. He also recently began a desk job during the day to make some extra money to save. I think he’s going to continue his new desk job as long as he can, but it does make us pretty busy with his guitar teaching in the evenings. We also gig and call ourselves The Dandelion Pickers; we play five to ten gigs and weddings each year for a little extra cash.
Our 2017 income was just under $40,000, but it is super-variable because we only work when we want to. For example, we’ll work like crazy for a year, and then follow that with a year where we only focus on our music.
Kirk and I have always been financially responsible. With the exception of student loans and our mortgage, we’ve never carried any debt. I worked like crazy and paid off my student loans within a year of graduating from college.
When I was 15, I overdrew my checking account and my dad made me call the president of our small-town bank and apologize. I think that taught me how serious money was and to pay attention.
Thankfully, Kirk has never wanted debt either and he chose to live very cheaply so that he could teach guitar full-time. He’s also ethically opposed to credit cards — and he has since convinced me too. As such, we refuse to use any plastic or do any travel hacking.
Kirk’s frugality was definitely something that was attractive to me when I met him. I remember seeing his somewhat-rusty 1992 Chevy S-10 pick-up truck at the time and thinking he must be super poor, but he was open with me right away. He said he had a good amount in savings, and told me how he loved his truck because he paid cash for it. After I heard that, Kirk’s truck got a lot more attractive to me!
We currently own two cars. One was given to me by my parents when I graduated from college. It’s a 2010 Toyota Corolla that we feel very blessed to have. The other car my husband found for $1000. It’s a 1997 Toyota Camry with 180,000 miles on it.
All of our bills and “Sinking funds” that we put in You Need a Budget (YNAB) add up to approximately $2600 per month. That includes our Healthcare Sharing Plan and our doctor’s “Direct-Pay” membership for our family.
Our food bill is low because we usually eat a vegetarian- or vegan-based diet.
We currently owe about $50,000 on our 15-year mortgage. We want to save up enough to eventually pay off our mortgage early. I know Len doesn’t recommend this, but we’re obsessed with being completely debt-free. Our property taxes are $1700 per year. I had to look that up; I didn’t realize they were that high!
We have life and health insurance. We each have a $250,000 life insurance policy. We also currently have a high-deductible health plan and health savings account (HSA) through my job. We will be switching to a healthcare-sharing ministry combined with a direct-pay doctor soon. We feel really lucky that we found a doctor in town that is direct-pay; a membership for our whole family is $165 per month and basically includes unlimited doctor visits.
For entertainment, we enjoy going out to listen to local and non-local music. We go on hikes or bike rides in nearby towns, and we love to watch old TV shows on Netflix too. We also go to church and lead music at church one or two times per month.
We save a little for retirement; on average less than $5000 annually. We have about $15,000 in our retirement account so far.
We were aggressively paying off our mortgage until last year, when we found out we were expecting — at that point we decided to pile up cash instead.We have $15,000 in our “emergency fund.” That would cover six months of expenses for us, including our healthcare.
Closing Thoughts and Tips
As I mentioned earlier, we use YNAB. It’s such a great money management tool for us.
In addition, we’ve chosen to stay in Springfield, Illinois, due to the low cost of living here and the resulting financial freedom it provides us.
I think the biggest thing I can stress for being frugal is: stay out of an emergency-mindset as much as possible. We lived without air conditioning last July and August — while I was pregnant, by the way! — because we didn’t want to completely deplete our cash savings to buy a new HVAC system, and we wanted to get as many quotes as possible. Being okay with being uncomfortable for a while can save you a lot and keep you from making poor financial decisions.
If you’re a household CEO who is successfully making ends meet on roughly $40,000 per year or less, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at Len@LenPenzo.com and be sure to put “$40,000” in the subject line. If I publish your story, you’ll get a $25 gift card or 1 troy-ounce of pure silver!
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Emily