ShareThis Page
More Lifestyles

Preparing for a downsized lifestyle

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, 1:33 a.m.

Dear Carolyn:

Over a decade, my salary has tripled (I’m quite well-paid now), my work hours and responsibilities have increased, and — because I’m so frequently tired or short on time — my “outsourcing” has increased, too. Think: frequent takeout, a dog-walker, cabs instead of bus, and a whole lot of shelling out money in exchange for convenience or time.

Now my husband and I want to look toward a future where we’re working less, which will also mean living on less. He wants us to prepare for that future by living on less NOW. I get why that’s smart, but I’m having trouble in practice. I’m quite sure I’d have the energy to cook and coupon-clip if I got home from work at 4-5, but I just don’t when I get home at 9. Do you have any suggestions for how to pre-downsize before we actually downsize?

— Downsizing a Life

When does he get home? If he’s cooking, coupon-clipping and dog-walking, then the savings will confer to you as a couple just as if you were doing them.

And if he works late, too, then presumably he won’t have any trouble seeing why these pre-emptive “savings” might drain more from you and your earning power than they’re worth.

These expenses buy you rest, and rest is not a luxury. You are well compensated to produce good work, and you will not work as well if you’re up late stirring a pot of resentment (freeze it to dine on all week!). The big salary now is far more valuable to your downsized-later than small or even moderate savings.

Your husband’s idea isn’t an unreasonable one; it’s a financial-advisory staple for couples to structure their lives to be affordable on one of their salaries alone, to hedge against a future illness, injury, job loss, breakup, or miscellaneous salary-erasing emergency.

But not everyone can do that, and some who technically can perhaps shouldn’t — again, not if it involves sacrifices that cost more than they’re worth, even to quality of life. And it’s hard to see how savings on the margins are going to pay off when they add to the workload of someone already working too much.

So here’s what I suggest: First, and everywhere, look for passive savings — meaning, you leave your lifestyle unchanged and simply pay less for it. Refinancing a mortgage is the classic example. Also check your credit cards for recurring charges you’ve forgotten about and subscriptions you’d barely miss.

Your husband, as chief downsizer, can research money-tracking apps that automatically flag those recurring charges and subscriptions for him, and coupon-tracking apps that find savings automatically, no clipping or habit-changing required.

Every nickel you two save this way, divert to a savings account through payroll deduction.

Look to cut material luxuries next if needed, to keep your time- and convenience luxuries intact. Better even to pay for cheaper outsourcing than to cut the outsourcing itself. Teenage dog-walker, simpler takeout.

If you’ve been there, tried these, and if in your husband’s eyes they’re insufficient, then it’s time to draw the line. You work till 9. So, no. You’ll cook, clip, ride, walk and downsize when your earning time is up.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me