Author Topic: Low-earning Moustachian Living?  (Read 9910 times)

superone!

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 112
Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« on: May 13, 2014, 03:31:51 PM »

Hi MMMers!

I love this forum and I'm really trying to spend less and save more--but I don't make a lot of money.
It seems like a lot of people here are earning a decent amount of money to begin with. (I suppose that everyone's notion of what is "decent" is different...I'm thinking that means around $50,000/year for an area with a reasonably high cost of living.)

I'm terribly envious of all of you who can max out your IRAs and still are able to save for an emergency fund on top of that!
I'm 31, and have virtually zero savings (largely because of my intellectually fulfilling but financially disastrous decision to get a Ph.D. in a non STEM field, which I finished a little over a year ago).

I earned $34,000 last year. I live in Southern California, where this amount of money doesn't go very far. Between housing costs, student loans, and other fixed costs, I get maxed out pretty quickly. Don't get me wrong-- I'm perfectly *comfortable* (I feel rich in comparison to my $18,000/year student salary!).

I have been managing to mustache away a little money in the past few months by cutting my costs, but honestly it feels like I can never save enough. I was soooo proud of myself for building up my savings to $1500 a few weeks ago...but then the radiator cracked on my 1977 Mercedes, and *poof* months of hard-earned savings gone! (Yes, of course I am grateful that at least I had the savings to use and didn't have to go into debt over my car, but still, it was disheartening--I had been planning to start investing soon!)

I'm already deep into mustachian living--I bike to work (and pretty much everywhere--car is reserved for going camping out of town), cook and eat almost all my meals at home, generally have my shopping urges under control...but it never seems like enough. I can't manage to save more than 10% of my take-home pay. (Plus I have 12% going into my retirement account)

I know that my ultimate goal has to be to find a better paying job. (I'm seriously overqualified and underemployed at my current position...but that's another story). In the meantime, how do you guys deal with really trying to save when you don't make that much money?

Are there any other low-earning MMMers out there? How do you make it work? Stay motivated? It's hard to make the "sacrifices" feel really worth it when it feels like as hard as you're trying, you can't get that 'stache to grow!

« Last Edit: May 13, 2014, 04:29:50 PM by superasya »

eil

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 246
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2014, 04:29:17 PM »
There are folks who can write novels of commentary about case studies like yours. I can't. :) So this will be a random collection of notes and thoughts. Stick around awhile, not all of us here are six-figure income earners. :)

MMM has said repeatedly in his writings that controlling expenses is much easier and more powerful path to early retirement as opposed to increasing income. So by all means try to make more money, but put most of your day-to-day effort into frugality.

10% of take-home plus 12% retirement means you're stashing 22% of your cash. Depending on your goals, this is not awesomely great but you're still way ahead of the normals so don't be discouraged.

Consider moving somewhere with a lower cost of living. When you upgrade your job, move close enough to work to bike there. These are the two most powerful strategies to low-cost living.

Consider ditching that 1977 Mercedes. Just because it's old and (I'm presuming) not worth much doesn't mean it's a mustachian vehicle. If you are not your own mechanic, the maintenance costs on it are only going to go up from here. Get a five-year-old used Japanese car for somewhere between $5k and $10k. It will be much more reliable and will certainly yield better gas mileage. Or even better, don't get a replacement car. You said you only use it for camping out of town? How often do you go camping? Add up all of the annual costs of owning your Mercedes (gas, registration, insurance, maintenance) and compare to just renting a car a few times a year. If you go camping with friends, perhaps they will split the rental fee with you or even just let you car pool with them?

You didn't mention debt (student loans for that PhD?), but if you have any, get rid of it well in advance of worrying about your savings.

Welcome!

superone!

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 112
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2014, 04:43:33 PM »

Thanks for the reply and encouragement!

I'm eventually looking to replace my 1977 car, though I do really like it and it is remarkably reliable despite its recent troubles. It's one of the old Mercedes diesels that will go 500,000+ miles when you take care of them. I'm not my own mechanic by any means but I can take care of the little stuff (brake pads/oil change...just not a full radiator replacement). It has less than 110,000 miles on it and I get 30ish MPG, so not too bad for a 36 year old car. I go camping (or extensive hiking out of biking range) at least two/three weekends a month, so having a car seems like a worthwhile expense. Tags and insurance cost about $600/year total.

Living somewhere with a lower cost of living would be really great, but I'm in a relatively cheap area for Southern California. I just moved into a slightly higher COL neighborhood because of crime and safety (especially riding my bike at night). I had lived in a really cheap area for the past 4 years, but the shootings and gang violence in my neighborhood were really bringing me down. I think my new apartment is by far my biggest luxury.

I do have some student debt - about $23,000 - not great, but not terrible for someone who did 4 years of undergrad and then 8 (!) years of grad school. I'm working to pay down the larger (and higher interest) of the loans, but again, I still need to save *at least* for an emergency fund, no? I'm still so new at this, I don't know what is reasonable! :)


superone!

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 112
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2014, 05:27:45 PM »
...I guess I'm also saying that, while I know that many MMMers are not 6 figure earners, there is a *huge* difference between the moderate earners and a someone on the lower end of the earning (and still trying to save) spectrum, like me.

It's the difference between earning $34,000/year and saving ~ $6,000/year and (given the same fixed costs) earning $50,000/year and being able to save ~$20,000/year... (I'm talking AGI here, not net pay)

See what I mean? How do you stay motivated to retire early when you can only figure out how to save a measly $6000/year (combined retirement and savings account)! And then much of that gets wiped out by a family emergency, or unplanned root canal, or other thingamajig...
I know it's penny by penny, but you can only cut so many pennies and still live a reasonably comfortable (mustachian) lifestyle when you only earn $34,000...
« Last Edit: May 13, 2014, 05:30:06 PM by superasya »

Argyle

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 909
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2014, 05:37:55 PM »
Once you've got your spending down, which you obviously have, I think raising income is going to be the next step.  I'd say in your case that consists of aiming for a well-paying job while also developing the most ROI-efficient side gigs along the way, to give you a little extra to stash while waiting for the well-paying job.

But even though you're only putting $6000 per year away, remember that you're starting early.  You're way ahead of the people who will be putting $20,000 a year away, but who won't get started until they're 15 years older than you.  And that's probably most people.  In this community you're comparing yourself to some of the most mustachian people in the country.  On the scale of everyone, mustachian and non, you are already a total badass.  Plus you have already worked out how to live in a high COL state on very little money -- so you'll be able to hit FIRE with that much more comfort.  You rock.

Noodle

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1209
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2014, 07:17:00 PM »
Believe me, I get it. I didn't get to a "comfortable" salary (still very modest compared to many earners here, but twice what I made starting out) until I was in my mid-thirties. And honestly, I didn't really start racking up savings until then. What MMM-style living gets you at low income levels is security--being able to pay the car repair bill, buy a ticket home for the funeral, cope with a dental emergency, keeping up the student loan payments so you don't wreck your credit, have some FU money when the job tanks. This is not small potatoes--millions of people live without this basic level of financial comfort.

 If you want to add early retirement to your goals, your choices are either to look for a better paying job/side gigs (at which time all these great MMM skills will pay off in avoiding lifestyle inflation--trust me, way easier to never have had fancy things than to give them up) or to radically cut expenses...things like housesitting rather than having your own place, Internet at the library, dumpster diving, etc. Some people love that lifestyle for the freedom it gets them, for others it wouldn't be worth it.

And yes, even saving a little now is great, given the wonders of compound interest...just remember if frugality isn't moving you toward your goals as fast as other higher earners you are still better off than if you never followed it at all!

CarDude

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 611
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Beep Beep!
    • The CCD
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2014, 07:22:45 PM »
Once you've got your spending down, which you obviously have, I think raising income is going to be the next step.  I'd say in your case that consists of aiming for a well-paying job while also developing the most ROI-efficient side gigs along the way, to give you a little extra to stash while waiting for the well-paying job.

But even though you're only putting $6000 per year away, remember that you're starting early.  You're way ahead of the people who will be putting $20,000 a year away, but who won't get started until they're 15 years older than you.  And that's probably most people.  In this community you're comparing yourself to some of the most mustachian people in the country.  On the scale of everyone, mustachian and non, you are already a total badass.  Plus you have already worked out how to live in a high COL state on very little money -- so you'll be able to hit FIRE with that much more comfort.  You rock.

Listen to this person.

CarDude

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 611
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Beep Beep!
    • The CCD
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2014, 07:23:47 PM »
Believe me, I get it. I didn't get to a "comfortable" salary (still very modest compared to many earners here, but twice what I made starting out) until I was in my mid-thirties. And honestly, I didn't really start racking up savings until then. What MMM-style living gets you at low income levels is security--being able to pay the car repair bill, buy a ticket home for the funeral, cope with a dental emergency, keeping up the student loan payments so you don't wreck your credit, have some FU money when the job tanks. This is not small potatoes--millions of people live without this basic level of financial comfort.

 If you want to add early retirement to your goals, your choices are either to look for a better paying job/side gigs (at which time all these great MMM skills will pay off in avoiding lifestyle inflation--trust me, way easier to never have had fancy things than to give them up) or to radically cut expenses...things like housesitting rather than having your own place, Internet at the library, dumpster diving, etc. Some people love that lifestyle for the freedom it gets them, for others it wouldn't be worth it.

And yes, even saving a little now is great, given the wonders of compound interest...just remember if frugality isn't moving you toward your goals as fast as other higher earners you are still better off than if you never followed it at all!

And to this one. Both of these posts provide excellent advice. Basically, you're already doing well, so keep your good habits and start looking for more money.

Ian

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 363
  • Location: South Korea
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2014, 07:34:05 PM »
For me, the best way to save was to make a major life shift to get a job where I could spend very little. Converting from won, I make about 24k/year, but I can save 80% or more of that (it was also a substantial increase in salary for me, but I realize that won't be true for most here).

wtjbatman

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1313
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Missouri
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2014, 07:41:35 PM »
Are there any other low-earning MMMers out there? How do you make it work? Stay motivated? It's hard to make the "sacrifices" feel really worth it when it feels like as hard as you're trying, you can't get that 'stache to grow!

First off, I think you should post a case study. Really go in depth on your income and spending. That helps everyone be able to see where you can try to cut back. Get into those nitty gritty details.

I'm a low earning MMMer (I make $15 an hour). I work full time, support myself, have no other money coming in, and nothing I own or have or use is subsidized. My budget is currently around $800 a month, but will be rising to around $1050 when my student loans come out of grace and due to a recent elective surgery (LASIK). Like you, I'm 30, and just finished college and an now ready to enter my career. Once I find a job in my field I will be making more than I am now, but that's at least half a year away, and I will never make what many many people on these forums make (large salaries aren't common for the type of public service job I'll be doing). However there are definitely some things working in my favor. I live in a small midwestern city with a low COL. Literally everything is cheap here. Although "public transportation" is something mythical, so driving a car 60 miles a day to and from work is a necessity.

I stay motivated because I don't directly compare my numbers to those of other people. Doing that can be disheartening, I understand that. How can I compare with someone who says their combined household income is $150,000 a year, and they save $75,000 of that? Well, I look at it from the other perspective. They may save $75,000, but they are also spending $75,000. How big of a stash do they need if they want to keep spending that much in retirement? Over $1.5 million! Compare that to my (soon to be increased) spending of about $13,000 a year. Give me 1/6th of what they need and I can cover my current bills. And if they're saving $75,000 a year, that means I only need to save $12,500. Which I actually save more than, since I manage just under a 50% savings rate.

The key is perspective, and to not directly compare yourself to other people. I am able to stay motivated because I know what I both want (in regards to current and future happiness) and need, both now and in retirement. And those goals, MY goals, are very achievable for me. I can't save a $2 million stash like some lawyer posting on Bogleheads, but then again, I don't need to.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2014, 07:43:51 PM by wtjbatman »

pachnik

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1832
  • Age: 55
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2014, 07:52:42 PM »
High five to WTJBatman! 

Well said!


WhoopWhoop

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 80
  • Location: western USA
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2014, 07:57:35 PM »
First off, I think you should post a case study. Really go in depth on your income and spending. That helps everyone be able to see where you can try to cut back.

Agreed.

I was surprised to find out you consider $34k in Southern CA low earning (especially you were earning $18k not that long ago). We have a lot in common (same location, same annual salary, at home cooking) except my savings rate is 75%.

If you lived on $18k not that long ago, and now you're making nearly double, shouldn't you be able to manage a 50% savings rate? Or 25% if half your money goes to student loans?

Btw, Southern CA is tough when in comes to transportation without a car, and we don't have that many ride sharing programs. But, if you're on Facebook, RelayRides is an option. You can rent a car for $20 per day (or less). If your car costs you $600/yr + $1500 in repairs here and there, RelayRides might be a better option.

neophyte

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 562
  • Location: A wretched hive of scum and villainy
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2014, 07:59:49 PM »
Hear you loud and clear!  I took home a little more than $21,000 last year (after a couple hundred to retirement account, STEM field, guess I picked the wrong one) I live in a big Eastern city with a pretty high COL. I ended up living in a pretty high crime area and walk everywhere and sometimes I get to feeling sorry for myself.

Last night I had a (maybe? probably?) seizure at work and ended up with an ambulance ride to the ER.  I don't know how my health insurance handles the ambulance, but it wouldn't surprise me if this plus the follow-up gets me up to my out of pocket maximum for the year pretty quickly.

I guess for me the benefit of living frugally for right now is that I'll be able to live off of my savings for a while and throw basically all my salary into my HSA so that I can pay most of this off tax free by the time the bills start coming in.  If I hadn't been living below my means, I would be going into debt over this. If I had been in a lot of debt, this could have been really bad news.




superone!

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 112
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2014, 08:43:05 PM »

You guys are all awesome. Thank you for all your encouragement and kind words!

I will consider doing a case study. I probably haven't *really* done a lot of the math here and I bet there are more ways that I could be saving. It is really encouraging that there are others here who are in the same boat!

I don't really consider $34,000 a "low" salary - just lower than I hoped to make given the investment I made in school, etc. Generally jobs "in my field" have a starting salary of around $60,000, but with the job market as it is now, I haven't landed one of those jobs. To make my $34,000 I've been working two part time jobs for a total of 60-70 hours a week, so maybe it is just a hard work vs. visible reward issue. I feel like if I were making that at 40 hours and had more "free time" for the kinds of stuff I love I would maybe be more accepting of the situation and less frustrated. I'm definitely actively looking nationwide for a job that is more in line with my career goals. WhoopWhoop - hats off to you for saving 75%! That's inspirational!

When I was earning $18,000 as a student, I was also racking up the $23,000 in student debt over 8 years that went to supplement my COL. I received tuition remission/work study so I didn't need to pay fees. So I guess I never really learned to live on that salary, but to live frugally in general and be aware that anything I spent over the 18 grand was loan money. Face-punch accepted, I know. To be honest, over the past year I was just thrilled to be able to actually pay *all* of my bills, on time, without borrowing money. So I really get that this lifestyle does buy you security.

All in all, you are all really badass.

Kaminoge

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 348
  • Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2014, 03:34:36 AM »
MMM has said repeatedly in his writings that controlling expenses is much easier and more powerful path to early retirement as opposed to increasing income. So by all means try to make more money, but put most of your day-to-day effort into frugality.

While I agree that putting more effort into frugality (sounds like you really don't need a car from what you've said) is the way to go until you can find a better paying job I do find the above opinion of MMM has it's limits. You can't save money you don't have and many people who are living on low incomes will have a lot less fat in their budget to cut. Not that it isn't important for them to do it (more important in fact) but I do sometimes find things on this site a little bit silly.

catccc

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1684
  • Location: SE PA
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2014, 07:58:20 AM »
So, I earn 85K a year... a lot more than you, but I support a family of 4.  Sure, there are some shared expenses, but you can have those, too, maybe get some roommates?  I agree with a lot of others here, a case study could help a lot... there are a lot of sharp people in the forums that can offer great advice!

nikki

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 645
  • Age: 33
  • Location: South Korea
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2014, 08:32:21 AM »
Hello, fellow non-STEMer. Masters in English (American literature) reporting for duty.

I earned ~$22,000/year as an adjunct instructor when I lived in America, and it was depressing. In 2010, I spent 104% of my income (pre-adjuncting as a graduate teaching assistant at $10,000/year without tuition assistance--thanks, student loans!). In 2011, I spent 77% of my income for a whopping savings of $5,239.98.

Sure, I absolutely could have spent less than I did had I been equipped with my current knowledge and confidence in the kitchen. (I wasted a lot of money on take-out and frozen meals.) But even with my low income, I made decent headway on paying back student loans immediately after getting my MA and saved enough to get the hell out of there. I wasn't happy. But the unhappiness wasn't exactly because I wasn't earning much--it was because I wasn't earning much AND I was working my ass off.

So I moved to Korea. In 2012, the year I moved to Korea, I spent almost 95% of my income. Ouch! A big part of that was my very unmustachian use of a pet re-locator service to get my cat here (worth it, but would still do it differently if I could have another go) and paying off my student loans. 

Now I make ~$26,000/year base (plus more for summer camps, winter camps, and private lessons I might pick up). No rent. No car or car-related expenses. Cheap health insurance and medical care. My income went up and my expenses went way down. I'm also not working my ass off, with a mere 17 hours of work a week (this semester, anyway--hopefully I'll get more classes next semester for even more money!). In 2013, I spent less than 25% of my income--approximately $8,000.

I guess I'm just sharing all of this information to remind you that you have choices. You aren't stuck with your current level of income or cost of living. I'm not saying you should move to Korea (although it's GREAT here!), but, you know, maybe something/where else.

WhoopWhoop

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 80
  • Location: western USA
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2014, 09:03:24 AM »
Generally jobs "in my field" have a starting salary of around $60,000, but with the job market as it is now, I haven't landed one of those jobs. To make my $34,000 I've been working two part time jobs for a total of 60-70 hours a week, so maybe it is just a hard work vs. visible reward issue.

I've been through the wringer with the job market as well. But, in retrospect, there are two important things that would have been key to getting the jobs that pay well (or pay reasonably):

  • Get really really REALLY good at job interviewing. Find a few lists of common interview questions and practice/write down all your best responses. Then, practice it out loud. Then, practice it out loud in front of a camera. Then, practice it out loud with a friend as your interviewer in front of a camera. You are being judged on the job interview, so you may as well get crazy good at it.
  • Figure out ways to get introduced to people at companies you want to work for (friend of friends, LinkedIn, etc.). Make sure there's always a personal connection. Otherwise, you're just one of the millions of resumes the employer receives.

I don't have a high paying salary or anything, but as soon as I started doing those two things, doors started opening a lot more.

superone!

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 112
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2014, 10:28:27 AM »
These are all really helpful suggestions.

When I have some time, I will sit down and do a case study....but I have a big anti-mustachian secret I haven't mentioned yet, which is probably contributing to my financial stress...

...My partner!

I live with my partner of 3+ years, though we are not married and, at her insistence, we keep our finances *very* strictly separated. This is why I didn't mention her before. I'm planning for my own financial future at this point, independent of hers

(FYI: I want to get married, she's afraid of commitment and hadn't ever considered that she'd be able to get married until the law was changed in our state to allow same-sex marriage. Blah blah, relationship stuff. Love is hard.)

She's pretty anti-mustachian. She isn't crazy enough to have a car loan or anything, but she definitely "splurges" on things I wouldn't consider and, you know, drives the 6 miles to work every day in her Honda Element. (I'm making no headway on this issue). She makes a lot more money than me (at least double) and it's her prerogative to spend her money as she wishes. She thinks I'm a bit kooky that I ride my bike to work and hand wash most my clothes in the bathtub and shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. She puts up with it, and chalks it up to me being an eco-conscious hippie, but she's not generally a fan of my frugal tendencies. This can lead so some strife in our relationship.

I know that this is a problem for lots of MMMers out there--but most of you who are in relationships seem to be married (or otherwise 100% sure that this relationship is forever) so you can plan as a single financial unit. I have some shared expenses, but we are definitely *not* a single financial unit.

So long story short: I do have some shared expenses. We split the rent and utilities down the middle and trade off buying groceries. But in general this makes some of my COL higher than it could be. (She's not going to put up with having more roommates, for example. Or getting rid of the internet.) Not sure how to take this into consideration when preparing my case study.

socaso

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 564
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2014, 11:40:16 AM »
One thing that helps me stay motivated are setting small goals. Some recently fulfilled financial goals include cutting the cable cord, getting an extra day of work a week (I was only working 4 days) and I'm on the verge of getting a raise, just waiting for it to be approved. I set my goals in my Google calendar when appropriate. For instance, our crazy expensive cell contract is up in October so I set a reminder on my phone to alert me so I can drop the damn thing and get a better deal.

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3065
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2014, 05:22:12 PM »
There are lots of threads on here about how to work with anti-mustachian partners so that's a good place to look.

 
« Last Edit: May 04, 2018, 04:39:48 PM by mozar »

Elaine

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 467
  • Age: 32
  • Location: NYC
    • Small Things Good
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2014, 05:40:02 PM »
Hi! I am currently earning a nice wage (60k pre tax, but bear in mind that's in NYC), however, when I started serious saving I was making about $10/hr working retail (also in NYC). I have found the key to staying encouraged is to always compare your savings to your past, and not to other people. In other words, don't read those threads about the couple who can save $150k a year without even noticing it, read the threads about other similar earners. Or if reading other's stories doesn't do it for you, start tracking your own finances and revisit them. I have about 50K in savings/investments. Of course, there are people with engineering degrees who are my age and have 300k in savings, and if I dwell on that for long enough it will make me feel down. However, if I look at my bank account balances from three years ago, when I had about $200 to my name, and compare them to now, I feel pretty darn accomplished.


 

gobius

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 167
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2014, 09:06:32 PM »
You could check out earlyretirementextreme.com.  He lived on something like $600/mo and I believe he lived around San Francisco.  He made more money than you but was able to retire after 5 years of work; it wasn't like he made 6 figures either though.  I think his max salary was $60-70K.  Granted, his significant other was on board, which included living in an RV at one point (though I believe he lived in an apartment for awhile), while it sounds like yours isn't.  Still, though, if you could hypothetically live on $10K/year, you could bank a significant portion of your income.  You sound a bit more stuck though, with a SO who makes more money and isn't frugal.  You already are doing a lot of frugal things but as others said it'd help to see a case study.

CarDude

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 611
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Beep Beep!
    • The CCD
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2014, 09:38:27 PM »
These are all really helpful suggestions.

When I have some time, I will sit down and do a case study....but I have a big anti-mustachian secret I haven't mentioned yet, which is probably contributing to my financial stress...

...My partner!

I live with my partner of 3+ years, though we are not married and, at her insistence, we keep our finances *very* strictly separated. This is why I didn't mention her before. I'm planning for my own financial future at this point, independent of hers

(FYI: I want to get married, she's afraid of commitment and hadn't ever considered that she'd be able to get married until the law was changed in our state to allow same-sex marriage. Blah blah, relationship stuff. Love is hard.)

She's pretty anti-mustachian. She isn't crazy enough to have a car loan or anything, but she definitely "splurges" on things I wouldn't consider and, you know, drives the 6 miles to work every day in her Honda Element. (I'm making no headway on this issue). She makes a lot more money than me (at least double) and it's her prerogative to spend her money as she wishes. She thinks I'm a bit kooky that I ride my bike to work and hand wash most my clothes in the bathtub and shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. She puts up with it, and chalks it up to me being an eco-conscious hippie, but she's not generally a fan of my frugal tendencies. This can lead so some strife in our relationship.

I know that this is a problem for lots of MMMers out there--but most of you who are in relationships seem to be married (or otherwise 100% sure that this relationship is forever) so you can plan as a single financial unit. I have some shared expenses, but we are definitely *not* a single financial unit.

So long story short: I do have some shared expenses. We split the rent and utilities down the middle and trade off buying groceries. But in general this makes some of my COL higher than it could be. (She's not going to put up with having more roommates, for example. Or getting rid of the internet.) Not sure how to take this into consideration when preparing my case study.

I'm not a love expert by any means, but the degree to which you and your partner are financially separated yet sharing expenses seems grossly unfair. If she's making 2x as much as you (at least), then she should be paying 2x as much as you (at least) in rent, utilities, and groceries. From your description, it sounds like she makes a lot more than you, but wants to be able to spend the difference without accountability, while keeping you around for company and splitting her monthly boarding expenses in half. If I were in your shoes, I'd need that to change if I wanted a future with her.

Also, the fact that you didn't mention your partner at all in your OP suggests (as you hinted when you eventually did mention her) that you feel completely alone in terms of staying financially afloat, and that...doesn't work long term. If she's scared of commitment this badly, she might be more interested in a roommate than in a relationship, and if you're looking for more than that, you deserve it. Because right now, you're still losing out on the roommate end, as your post makes it sound like you'd be living more frugally (e.g., without Internet) if you had a like-minded roommate.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2014, 09:42:08 PM by CarSafetyGuy »

superone!

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 112
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #24 on: May 15, 2014, 10:25:42 AM »


I'm not a love expert by any means, but the degree to which you and your partner are financially separated yet sharing expenses seems grossly unfair. If she's making 2x as much as you (at least), then she should be paying 2x as much as you (at least) in rent, utilities, and groceries. From your description, it sounds like she makes a lot more than you, but wants to be able to spend the difference without accountability, while keeping you around for company and splitting her monthly boarding expenses in half. If I were in your shoes, I'd need that to change if I wanted a future with her.

Also, the fact that you didn't mention your partner at all in your OP suggests (as you hinted when you eventually did mention her) that you feel completely alone in terms of staying financially afloat, and that...doesn't work long term. If she's scared of commitment this badly, she might be more interested in a roommate than in a relationship, and if you're looking for more than that, you deserve it. Because right now, you're still losing out on the roommate end, as your post makes it sound like you'd be living more frugally (e.g., without Internet) if you had a like-minded roommate.

Ugh. I'm depressed by this.

In truth though, I don't our completely separate finance situation staying the same in the long term. If we were to have a greater commitment (e.g. marriage) I think we would have to allocate expenses proportionally to income, but we aren't there yet. I do feel alone in staying financially afloat, but that is because my partner and I are not at the stage where we are financially interdependent.

I *might* be slightly better off financially with a roommate rather than my partner, but my quality of life would go down dramatically. If we broke up, I would get a roommate of course, and probably get rid of a few minor bills (my half of internet is $15/month),  but I've always *hated* having roommates, whereas I find living with my partner great. So overall, even though she is richer than I am and we split expenses in half, I'm still better off.

I'm a little worried my previous post made her seem like a heartless spendthrift. I don't think our values are totally out of line--It's just that what I consider frugal is very different from what she considers frugal (though that benchmark is moving a little). I think most people (outside of the MMM community) would probably see her as pretty frugal as well -- but she's not quite as committed to intense frugality (and ethical/eco-conscious living) that I am trying to undertake. (And pretty much everyone thinks I'm a little kooky, so that doesn't bother me in the least). And she is saving, albeit not as much as she could be-- not for FIRE, but to go back to school in the next few years without going into debt, which is a totally worthy goal to me, and I don't mind helping her achieve it by trying to keep our overall fixed costs down.

We did go out to a fancy dinner last night as "special treat" and to get into some air conditioning and out of our 110 degree apartment (literally--it was 110 degrees inside our apartment! This weather is insane). We biked to the restaurant, split one appetizer and entree, split the check... I consider it $12 well spent.


G-dog

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14288
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #25 on: May 15, 2014, 12:32:59 PM »
Hang in there, lots of good perspectives already posted here, but I'd like to remind you that you've already overcome some of the big hurdles:
- you are thinking and planning long-term vs. short-term;
- you have a concept of the differences between wants and needs; and
- you are already doing some saving/investing

As others have cautioned, with a SO with different goals, you may be facing a tough future unless you can both get closer to being on the same page.  This is the sad voice of experience here - we kept our finances separate due to anti vs pro MMM attitudes - now I realize we needed to have worked through this YEARS ago. It doesn't get easier later..

Good luck!

anisotropy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 681
Re: Low-earning Moustachian Living?
« Reply #26 on: May 15, 2014, 04:09:56 PM »

I don't really consider $34,000 a "low" salary - just lower than I hoped to make given the investment I made in school, etc. Generally jobs "in my field" have a starting salary of around $60,000, but with the job market as it is now, I haven't landed one of those jobs.

Hang in there man, I know how it feels. Back when the recession first hit, I had to work 12 hours a day in Africa for ~12 dollars an hour because I couldn't find a job in my field in North America (typically they would pay 5x more). Granted my 12/hr days didn't last long, I was able to negotiate a much better number after 3 months. The whole experience taught me a lot and kinda made me frugal.

Don't stop looking for a better job though.