How you can save more earning less
MIGUEL and his wife Fayme once brought in a combined figure of $250,000 each year.
Climbing the corporate ladder, chasing bonuses and working around the clock, their work lives well and truly took over their lifestyle.
Living pay packet to pay packet, paying a mortgage, dishing out hundreds on sneaker collections and online shopping, the two were unable to stay ahead of the game with their monthly spend.
That was until they threw away their six-figure incomes.
Now, the 34-year-old couple bring in a combined total of $81,000 annually - a figure more than $170,000 less than what they were earning two years ago.
Moving to Melbourne, changing their spending habits at the checkout and throwing away their huge corporate salaries, Miguel and Fayme say while they may be on a much smaller income, they are able to afford more now than they could previously.
"I was on about $150,000 a year, and Fayme was making around $106,000, so we were earning very good money," he said. "But we would spend it all, and we still don't know where it was going.
"We would eat out a lot … sometimes every night. We used to have gym memberships that we would never use. Online shopping was a big weakness. We had a two-bedroom apartment in Sydney, I had a sneaker collection and we even got to a point where a whole wardrobe each wasn't enough for our clothing, so we filled a storage container in our basement and at Kennards Hire.
"We were totally living beyond our means. Earning more and spending more. If a gadget looked good, I'd buy it. We had laptops each, I had three phones at one stage and I don't know why. Spending money just became the norm."
For Miguel, the rat race of maintaining his weekly salary by being on call 24/7 wasn't worth the income, and so - along with Fayme - the pair decided to shift focus. They sold their Sydney apartment and move to Melbourne, took a hefty pay cut, and ensured their workplace was either within walking distance of their new home or easily accessible through public transport.
"One of the best quotes I have ever read is, 'Being weird is OK, because being normal will send you broke,'" Miguel said.
"It's so true, because following the norm of spending will send you broke. You have to break outside the box, which is what we have now done. As soon as a dollar comes in, we put it to work."
Miguel and Fayme now live what they call a "minimalist" lifestyle. From their diet, which is now plant-based, to their wardrobe and home furnishings - the pair live by a strict budget and "no excess" mindframe.
"We used to be very reactive with our spending; if we wanted food we would buy it," Miguel said.
"We would eat out every night, a cheap dinner for around $40 or maybe even $150 if we wanted. Now, that's what we almost spend for a full week of groceries.
"Most people's biggest expense is housing, transport and food," he said.
"Advertising is always in our face and we are always drawn in to it. We try and live by delayed gratification now, so if we want something really bad I will give myself at least a 48-hour rule before I buy. Do I actually need something or do I just want it?"
Between them, Miguel and Fayme will spend around $1000 each month on groceries, which provides them with all their meals and personal items, $160 on entertainment, and $64 on homemade coffee. Yearly, they fork out around $1000 on clothing and $250 total for their mobile phone plans.
They now have excess money which, according to Miguel, they split, with $800 a month going towards their investment in shares and $800 a month towards yearly holidays.
"We have been on six trips alone this year," he said. "Two weeks in the Philippines, we've been to Uluru and Fiji with Fayme's family. We have also been to Tasmania and Western Australia this year as well.
"We could never do this stuff two years ago, which is amazing because we were earning so much more.
"We put money from other areas in to holidays and investment because that's two things we really want. (After selling) our Sydney property, I fell in love with shares. Pretty much what we want to do is keep investing, then live off the dividends.
"Lifestyle inflation is very real; as you earn more you spend even more. Since moving to Melbourne, we have no consumer debts, have a six-figure share portfolio and manage to take more holidays this year than we ever did when we were working ridiculous hours.
"I manage all the numbers in our partnership but ensure my wife is aware of the decisions and amounts we choose to live by.
"We have a share portfolio that we top up every two to three months. We plan to use these funds when we hit "F.I.R.E. - Financial Independence Retire Early". (Our goal is) to retire early by 45."
Can you relate to Miguel and Fayme? Perhaps you're a smart saver who tackles everyday expenses a little differently? I'd love to hear from you. Email email@example.com and share your story.