First Person: It’s Not What You Make, but What You Keep

Yahoo Contributor Network

When it tax time rolls around, it's pretty important how much a person makes. I've learned it's better to save as much as I can each year rather than waiting until I'm in a financial bind and then trying to double or triple my income in one year.

As far as doubling my income, I've done it on several occasions when I desperately needed money. The downside is that I also had hefty tax bills. I wish I could have saved my money gradually by living below my means and understanding that it's not what you make, but what you keep.

Waiting for a crisis

Some people aren't motivated to earn more or save more unless there is a financial crisis that requires money. I know I procrastinated when it came to saving money for college, an emergency fund and a down payment for a house. Finally, I decided to save 10 percent of all money I earned whether I needed the money now or in the future. Now I get to keep my peace of mind.

Dealing with a pay cut

When I received a pay cut due to the recession, I could have found other ways to make more money on the side or worked overtime. Instead, I decided it didn't really matter that I earned less as long as I continued to save a portion of what I earned. The reality is I can adjust my spending habits and tastes. I still get to keep many of my favorite hobbies, but I find less expensive ways to enjoy myself.

Living a balanced life

I think the reason I opt to work less and be more frugal is because I want a balanced life. I'm not the least bit lazy, but I recognize the importance of having family time as well as time for exercise, recreation and leisure. By taking care of my mental and physical health I will spend less money on hospital bills and pharmaceuticals for stress. In that regard, it's not what I make, but what I keep in terms of my sanity and health.

Keeping my self-respect

Because the job market is so challenging, I know a lot of friends who have given up some of their ideal in order to earn more money. Whether it's working as a campaign manager for a politician they know is corrupt or working in an industry that promotes gambling or feeds other addictions, a lot of people make moral compromises. I may not make as much money, but I get to keep my self-respect in my job as an editor.

For me, a high salary is not what counts as much as how much money I have leftover to save every month. I'd rather make $30,000 a year with $200 leftover each month rather than a salary of $100,000 with massive credit card debt. Many people seem to be able to go to school and earn grand salaries, but few people know how to stay out of debt and keep a portion of what they make.

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