My partner and I make an average amount of money. He works for a non-profit with troubled youth, and I work for a county (government, sort of) entity in an administrative position. I never thought we’d be rich doing these jobs, but we get to help a lot of people and ‘make a difference’–which means, to most people, sacrifice wealth for the good of others.
However, one of the things I learned (from Dave Ramsey, one of my heroes, as you’ll learn from my writings here) is that the best wealth building tool we have is our incomes. Dave Ramsey basically says to do what you love, do it well, and you’ll make money from it. You may not make the most money of your friends, but that’s not the point. The point is to be the best steward of your money that you can possibly be, and live well below your income. This is tough in our society, always wanting the new toy or the new outfit that will supposedly make us happier and better human beings. But we also know that’s not really true. My husband’s grandmother was a child of the depression, and my husband grew up knowing to save aluminum foil upon penalty of death. It is possible to make do with less than we’re told we should have.
In order to do this, you may have to become a bit obsessive. I use Mint.com for this purpose. It lets me see every account we have (bank accounts, IRAs, credit cards, student loans, etc.) on one screen. It’s so simple, it’s stupid. And it should be! Once I could see how much we were spending in certain categories, it made it easier to try something else. Who wants to spend 1/3 of their income on eating out? Not me! This month, I’m attempting the “cash only” envelope system for eating out, amusement, and clothes. When the money’s gone, it might hurt to say no to hanging out at the bar with friends, or maybe I’ll be able to leave $10 for the last weekend in May for that very reason.