Barely scraping by on a quarter-mil a year

Last Updated on November 14, 2010 by Dave Farquhar

This WSJ article (with profuse apologies for linking to something owned by Rupert Murdoch) offers some advice for those who are struggling to make it on $250K or $350K per year.

It’s good advice for people making 1/10 of that too.The gist of it is that people need to lower their expectations. I’ll make this real personal and include myself in this group.

About a year ago, I ran into a former coworker in the parking lot. He asked how things were going. They happened to be going bad that day. Real bad. “Got any job openings?” I asked.

“Actually, we do,” he said.

A day or two later, I sent him my resume. Another week or so later, I was interviewing for a job. Another week or so after that, they offered me a job, with the biggest raise of my life, though I’m still well below that $250K threshold.

Still, I’m making more than I’ve ever made, and I’m having more trouble paying my bills than I’ve had in a very long time.

Don’t feel sorry for me.

I got lazy and I got sloppy in my budgeting. It’s not my employer’s fault for not giving me a bigger raise, and it’s not the government’s fault for taxing me too much. It’s my fault for not bothering to stop for a minute and figure out what I can and can’t afford before plunking down the cash or reaching for the plastic.

Of course there are other things you can do that this article doesn’t suggest, such as buying high-efficiency light bulbs that use less energy and last longer. This saves money on the electric bill every month, and reduces those trips to Target resulting in fewer temptations to buy $100 worth of other stuff you didn’t really need. But the mentality matters more than the specifics. Develop the mentality, and specifics will follow.

And it matters whether you work in food service making $18,000 a year or you’re a professional athlete making millions per year. After all, how many athletes have we heard about going broke after their career ends in spite of earning tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars?

Personally, I’ve been eating a lot more Campbell’s Chunky Soup and using a lot more coupons lately.

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