Why we chose to live on a single income and save my whole paycheck – Business Insider

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  • Saving money was always a priority for me, but I never really made progress just saving a sliver of each paycheck.
  • When my husband and I needed to save enough to move across the country, we tried something new: putting nearly my whole income into savings.
  • We were able to save about $30,000 this way, and it worked so well we kept doing it as our family grew and our expenses changed.
  • See Business Insider's picks for the best high-yield savings accounts »

Although saving has always been a priority for me, it's never been "easy" to save when other things like travel and home decor (and of course things like rent and food and bills), have vied for my attention.

Opening a high-yield savings account and siphoning off even a small amount of money from every paycheck when I was first starting off as a low-paid Editorial Assistant at a magazine in Manhattan helped give me a taste for how good saving felt — and helped me out in a few binds — but I was never going amass the recommended three to six months worth of expenses that way.

I continued to grow my emergency savings over the years, increasing what I put in in proportion to my income. But with high expenses and low wages, it never really seemed to gain much momentum. In 2009 I moved in with my then-boyfriend, and at that point we started splitting expenses, which helped. I took the amount I was saving by splitting essentials like rent, food, and utilities, and put it directly into my savings.

For the first year after we got married, we kept things pretty much the same.

About a year into our marriage we started thinking about moving, and we thought it could be fun to take a couple months to travel between moving out of New York and settling into our new place in Colorado. The problem with this plan was that both of those things — moving halfway across the country and traveling for a few months — would require quite a bit of money and, with our current savings rate, it would take years before we were ready. We had given ourselves the goal of one year to get everything together, so obviously something would have to change.

Around that time I read an article that someone had written about their process of splitting bills with their significant other. They used one person's entire paycheck to cover essentials, and the other person put their entire income towards savings. That seemed, to me, like one of the best and fastest ways to ramp up our own savings … so we made the switch.

With my husband Chris' entire paycheck going towards our essentials and his own monthly expenses (we still kept separate credit cards for personal purchases), that freed up my money to be put towards my monthly expenses, my retirement and healthcare (by this point I was self-employed) and, more importantly, our savings.

With this method in place, we were able to reach our goals within our expected time frame, and then some. We saved up approximately $20,000 that we originally earmarked for three months of travel in South America (which became six weeks after we spent $6,000 of that savings on a life-saving emergency surgery for our cat, a decision which I will never regret!), and an additional $10,000 to $12,000 for our move, including staying at hotels for our three-day drive out, renting a Pod to move our stuff, gas, food, and approximately one months' worth of expenses for when we first got there and needed to get settled.

We didn't want to be left with $0.00 when we arrived in Colorado, either, so we budgeted to have an additional cushion of a couple thousand, with the assumption that it might take longer than a month after we arrived for things to return to normal.

Looking back on the year we started saving that way, I remember that there were definitely things we had to miss out on. Many dinners and drinks out with friends were skipped, and during our last summer in Manhattan before moving, we were pretty budget conscious, sticking mostly to free events and entertainment when we could. But I'm incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish. In fact, we've continued on with this method of saving ever since.

Although my saving responsibilities have grown to include covering two 529 accounts for our girls, paying for our life insurance policies, and putting more towards retirement, we're still able to save more with this method than I believe we otherwise would. Assuming that the majority of my income will go towards savings makes it easier for me to automatically deposit the money when it comes in straight to that account, and it means we're more easily able to travel or spend money on emergencies when needed, since we do our best to keep that account full.

Splitting your expenses this way requires a two-income household, obviously, but to the extent that it's possible, I would recommend this way of budgeting to any couple. Especially if you have lofty financial goals, it's one of the best ways, I've found, to reach them while also covering yourself in the case of an emergency.

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