We Moved Our Cheese

Three months ago, I was bringing home what you could call a “competitive” salary. I had paid time off, an amazing and free healthcare plan, I worked remotely, and I even had a matched 401K, along with my husband’s salary and above-average benefits. Somehow, though, it seemed that we were just getting by. After our mortgage, student loans, credit card bills, home improvement projects, pet care, car payments, car insurance, and day-to-day expenses, we were able to pay everything without worrying but weren’t saving much beyond our 401K contributions.

Fast-forward to today. I’m making about half of what I was making before without any benefits, while my husband is making the same amount as he was three months ago. You would think that our credit card bills would be increasing while our bank accounts would be draining, right? Not at all.

It took a few weeks to work out the kinks in our new budget. We were willing to make some lifestyle changes, but we weren’t willing to stop eating out or scratch our weekly Home Goods outings. First, we cut our cable bill. We usually watch Netflix anyway, so this was an easy change. We stopped going out to dinner quite so often, which was as good for our diets as it is for our wallets. Finally, we cut the excess shopping, excess booze, excess food, excess stuff.

After a few months acclimating to my new income and lifestyle, we have come to the realization that we’re doing just fine. Sure, we shouldn’t be splurging on a new car, but we aren’t spending our days worrying about bills. We’ve been asking ourselves, “What were we doing with all of the money we had three months ago?” It’s not like we were going on lavish vacations every month and eating out more than once or twice a week, yet we had no idea how those inexpensive yet non-essential extras could add up.

Have you ever read Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson? (Thank you to one of my favorite teachers in the world, Christine Noyes, for introducing that book to my 8th grade class—the very class in which I met my future husband!) I realized that what we had done is moved our own cheese. We moved our cheese and had to find a new source. In doing so, we had to reassess, adjust, and stick to our new plan, all while making sure that we could continue to have a supply of “cheese.”

The best part is that it’s inspired us to get creative with our income, spending our days brainstorming and daydreaming of new ways to use our skills to make money. One of our favorite ways thus far is fixing up furniture and selling it on Craigslist. We’ve learned how to improve, finish, and sell furniture, a skill I never thought I’d have.

My goal in writing this post isn’t to inspire anyone to quit his or her job and look for freelance work—my current lifestyle certainly isn’t for everyone. My goal is to encourage you to keep looking for newer, better ways to build income and to remind you that “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Rock the boat a little bit!