This doctor, in his early 50s, lives with his family in a large house in the suburbs. Their household income includes his hospital salary and fees for several ongoing consultancies, as well as his wife's salary for part-time professional work.
My first job after residency, I went from making $36,000 a year to $150,000. I thought I was living like a millionaire. But we stayed in the same modest house for a long time after that, and thought it was fine. We were house rich!
Now, with our combined income so much higher than it was earlier in our careers, I have to continually remind myself to not worry about money. We don’t have any credit card debt, and our house will be paid off within the next 10 years. Our income and our monthly expenses are predictable, so we’re able to save a good amount each month. I still don’t feel completely secure, as I can’t predict if one of us will have health problems or if we will continue to have the passion for our jobs. Who knows? Maybe we’ll want to retire in our 50s.
So I find myself turning off lights and checking the thermostat, and spending time looking for a good price on flights. A difference in airfare, multiplied to include the entire family including our children, could result in hundreds or even thousands of dollars difference. Spending half an hour of time to save $500 or $1,000? That’s a pretty good hourly wage.
But there are areas where I don’t try to save. One rule I have is that when you go to the grocery store, you should never look at prices, because whatever you buy will be a fraction of the cost of eating out. And another is exercising; I try to not think of cost because staying active is so important. Healthy foods and a healthy lifestyle are things that I’m very willing to spend money on.
A very important freedom that money has given us is that I can concentrate on the stuff I enjoy, which is time with my family. We have a weekly maid who cleans the house and folds the laundry. When I travel for work, I try not to take connecting flights. Direct flights save time. And I’ll use valet parking without thinking about it. But we still do all of our own yard work. I tell myself it is because we enjoy it, but cost savings probably factors in also.
We don’t take many vacations but when we do, we’ll splurge a little to get flights that don’t require us to wake up at the break of dawn, and lodging in a good location, with beds for all. We could probably rent a convertible or some fancy car, but really it’s just a vehicle to get us from one location to another so we don’t do that.
Another thing that I try to do is move money into safety. I recently noticed my tires were wearing down, and so I had them all replaced and thought to myself, “Wow, that’s a nice thing money is able to do. I don’t have to worry about skidding out in the snow and being in a car accident and have my family be fatherless.”
I think there’s such a thing as being “lifestyle poor”—like if you buy a vacation home that you’re going to be at two weeks a year. I’d much rather, for the other 50 weeks, be able to go out to dinner and not have to worry about the bill, or go to a store and buy without worrying. It can be pretty easy to justify buying almost anything with the money we make, but avoiding sports cars or expensive wines makes it a lot easier to live the other parts of our lives without thinking about prices all the time.
We both would like to have a vacation home eventually. But once you start thinking about it, it’s like, do you pay for a house that’s right on the beach, or five blocks from the beach? Should it be big enough for grandkids, or just big enough for us? That’s one of the areas in which I’d like to splurge. I would rather put some of the extra money in the bank right now, and be able to have a nice retirement, than pay for flashy items now when I don’t need them.
Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to Columbus Monthly magazine, as well as our weekly newsletter so that you keep abreast of the most exciting and interesting events and destinations to explore, as well as the most talked-about newsmakers shaping life in Columbus.