living above my means

jeannie has been stressed about our finances for a couple years, it seems. and i’ve been, to be honest, kind of ignoring it. this weekend, we sat down and went through our credit card statements for the past 5 months, as well as our check use, automatic payments, and other stuff. we put things into a spreadsheet with a fixed cost column and a soft cost column it seems my salary, which is good (and i have no room for complaint), is about $1000 per month short of covering our fixed costs (and things like clothes and eating out were put into the soft cost column). this was a bit of a shock to me (and less of a shock to jeannie, who handles our finances). we’ve known for some time that we rely on my outside income (book royalties, speaking honorariums) to cover bills and stuff, when we would love to have that income be truly extra, and for vacations and stuff like that. but i hadn’t realized the severity of the issue.

so… we decided we need to move (locally, that is). we’ve been flirting with the idea of moving for well over a year. we’d put it on the back burner 6 months ago, but have looked casually in the past month again. now, we’re going to kick it into gear; and what we’re looking for has changed in this new reality. we need to significantly lower our mortgage, as that’s the single biggest item on our fixed costs. i mean, our kids private school tuition is a big fixed cost also; but we’re really committed to that, and will need to give up house size to keep things balanced.

i like change, and the idea of moving actually has some “fun” elements for me. but finding a home i’ll be excited about, in the price range we’ll be looking, will not be all fun. there are lots of variables and desires for us: we really want to move closer to the city, but we still want a family neighborhood; we’d love to be in a community where we can walk to a coffee shop, but those kind of communities in san diego tend to be more expensive; i’m not a fixer-upper kind of guy, but new stuff is, of course, substantially more expensive. any anything west (toward san diego, toward the water) is more expensive than where we are.

so, tough reality; but could be a really good thing for our family in the long run. and, i have to face reality, right?

15 thoughts on “living above my means”

  1. Wow thanks for the honesty. You seriously have some big man parts to admit this. My wife and I have been living on one salary for the past two years after our move from Ohio to Michigan. It has been quite and adjustment moving from our house to a condo (1/3 of the space). We’ve cut out a ton of expenses and we have found a simplicity of life that has been freeing. I never thought I would say that, but it’s true. We’ve been working through some of Dave Ramsey’s material and it has really helped. He’s a bit of a Nazi, but he’s got a good plan. How’s the housing market there for selling? I’m sure it’s better than the Midwest right? . Even though you aren’t a fixer up guy I’m sure there’s someone you know who is. That route might be a really cool option. Just think, you could completely regut a place and put all kinds of sweet touches to it (don’t know what kind of time you have. My guess is from you and Jeannie’s creative abilities you could design something really sweet! Do you have an IKEA nearby? They have some really great options for maximizing space. Good luck and prayers as you embark on this journey.

  2. Marko,

    My wife and I did all of the above about one year ago. It totally sucked leaving some of my major comforts, but it is so worth it not to have the financial strain. You’re doing the right thing.

  3. We started using as a budgeting tool – it totally rocks! It makes it easy to track each dollar and to track savings for specific things (vacation, braces etc) We tried the spreadsheet thing for a while but maintenance was a pain. Mvelopes is pretty streamlined and quick. There is a reasonable fee but it has been totally worth it for us. It took so much of the stress out, becuase both hubby and i know exactly where we stand and exactly how much we have to spend in both fixes and soft costs. (and no, I do not get commissions – but we recommend it to everyone!)

  4. What is the average cost of living for a 4 member family in San Diego?

    I have been offered some youth min jobs down there before but have not taken them. Just curious to see what the comparison is compared to Tacoma, Wa.

    happy house hunting Marko!


  5. Marko and Jeannie (is it OK to use proper names in upper case letters?),

    Time to move to Michigan, near Zondervan. You could have a whopping big house and a pool and maybe even a golf course.

    And you’d get the feel of going from snow to warmth when you go to NPC or speak in Southern Cal in the winter.

  6. marko, michigan is much cheaper dude! pack up the office and relocate everyone out here. cost of living is less and you’re all closer to zondervan. you could move out here to the west coast in holland, grand haven, south haven and it’s JUST LIKE SAN DIEGO! right?

  7. Scot’s got the right idea; he’s just taking you too far east. Move back to Chicago – close to GR and Detroit.

  8. Dude…your going the wrong way! you need to consume more! The Bigger Better Deal! so i have two words for you…

    Multilevel Marketing

    think about all the youth pastors you could “sign up”

  9. Good for you. I don’t think I have had a job where I did not have to rely on outside income…I think that is going to change in the near future though.

  10. my wife and i, still relatively newlyweds and both recently (within a couple years) out of college, know first hand how much it burns to have finanial need and with a gross imbalance of debt. tack on a newborn (now a 1 year old) and it becomes painfully obvious sometimes what it means to go without and just stick with the basics. we’ve read ramsey but what he proposes is a little unrealistic for us; try instead ‘real solutions for getting out of debt’ by mike yorkey. helped us tons.

  11. Marko,
    I have a comment about a recent post you made that I think has disappeared.

    My feed reader (Cyndicate for Mac) shows that you posted about the book A Drunkard’s Walk, but I can’t find that post on your site. What happened to it?

    Even Google’s blog search finds it ( but the URL only shows “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.”

    What happened?


  12. My wife and I have been following Dave Ramsey’s plan for almost a year now and it’s totally changed our lives. Seriously. It’s definitely tough to get started because we had no idea how much we spent on things like food and gas every month, but after the first two months, it’s really not that bad. So far we’ve paid off about $15,000 in debt in 10 months on my little youth pastor salary! The seminary loans should be finished by September or November and we’ll be debt free! Woo hoo!! Then on to saving for retirement, investing and saving for a down payment on a house. Read “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey and see what you think.

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