5 Foundations of Personal Finance, #2: Earn With Contentment

Photo by fjordaan
“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” (Prov 30:8)

In college I didn’t have much money. My monthly rent was $175 and my food and gas were about $100. (Does that make me sound old? It was only 12 years ago.) One morning I was sitting on my back steps, and I looked around and realized that I could be completely content if I never owned more. That moment shaped my perspective from that day on.

I learned something important: if you can learn to be content with less, you’ll always have enough.

I realized I would be ok…

When my income was meager.

When my income was reduced to half after a new job change.

When my income was more than enough.

Sometimes there is more that you can control about your spending than your income, but there are still practical things you can do to help protect and grow your income.

If you’re looking for a new job or asking for a raise:

I read a helpful, practical book called Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute by Jack Chapman. It helps you to talk about salary with your employer. Most salary conversations only take a minute, and how you handle that minute can make a big difference in your overall pay.

If you’re looking for ways to earn money from home:

Simple Mom brainstorms ideas for work-from-home opportunities.

Mom Advice shares practical advice for balancing home responsibilities and work when you work from home.

If you’re currently employed, be prepared for “just in case”:

It’s good to know how long you could live off of your savings if you suddenly lost your source of income.

Keep a résumé current, and keep a list of your business associates, phone numbers, and email addresses at home.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. 3 months tops unless we raided the 401K. We are on our 3rd home and we overspent on improvements to all 3. If we’d been more sensible we’d have lots more savings. Live and learn! Tomorrow is another day!

    Juliet´s last blog post..Irredeemable

  2. R, I’m just loving this series. I just scaled back to part-time at work to have more time for the stuff I actually want to do, which is incredible–but it means less play money, for sure. Thanks for your insights :)

    kitchendoor´s last blog post..Icy Blue Heart: Winter 2009, Part One

  3. One month. EEK! I’d better start saving. Thank you for this post. I also love this series, even though I’m quite useless at saving or budgeting.

    Rachella´s last blog post..

  4. Funny you should mention it! I just figured this out yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. Although an unfortunate scenario to think about, it actually gave me more peace of mind to know where we really stood.

  5. Great advice. Thank you so much for summing it up in a non-terrifying, easy-to-digest post!

    Meredith from Merchant Ships´s last blog post..Sick House, Sweet Links

  6. Right now, we have enough for about 3 months worth. However, we’re aggressively working on building that number to 6 months worth. It just gives us more peace of mind.

    Kirwin´s last blog post..What’s your Love Language?

  7. I just purged our tax files this past month and found our tax returns from when we first got married. Oh my! I can’t believe we made it on that little! Makes me wonder why it takes so much now…

    We could survive a little while if the employment situation changed. Being self-employed, our thoughts right now are on how to adapt to a changing economic environment.

    Marci´s last blog post..Romans challenge

  8. A little over five months, but that would mean no extra spending money at all, and just paying the bills, groceries, gas, etc. We’re working toward 6 months, but it seems like this last month is going to take forever . . . kind of like losing the last five or ten pounds of baby weight!

    Life from the Roof´s last blog post..Favorite Frugal Recipes: Tabouli

    • Jenni, don’t remind me. I’ve been snacking on icecream bars lately with this pregnancy. :)

  9. excellent!

    Allison @ Worthington Wire´s last blog post..How to Grow Herbs Indoors : Easy? Maybe not. Rewarding? Oh yeah.

  10. Hey Rachel,
    I just wanted to echo your point on salary negotiation “Most salary conversations only take a minute, and how you handle that minute can make a big difference in your overall pay.” Negotiating is very nerve wracking for some (me included).

    At my last position I was given a job offer and I counter offered with a fairly substantial increase in the annual pay. I was shaking in my boots but I was also of the mindset “the worst they can say is no.” Happily for me they met me just above the middle and it made a HUGE difference to my pay. That one uncomfortable moment was certainly well worth it!

    Oh and to answer your question we have 3 months saved up :)

    Sherri (Serene Journey)´s last blog post..Go Ahead Make Your Day: 50 Ways To Make Today Shine

  11. I love this post. Great ideas and a wonderful perspective.

    Cherry Tree Lane´s last blog post..The Oprah show scares me.

  12. I’ve been asking myself the same questions lately (which prompted me to write the post displayed below, titled “On Growing Up”), and the problem that I’ve encountered is that I can live simply, but just can’t give up NYC (where I paid 8 times in rent what you did just 10 years ago)! Now it’s learning what me & the hubby can do without in order to live (both literally & figuratively) in the city that we love.

    Michelle | When I Grow Up Coach´s last blog post..On Growing Up

  13. I’m also terrible at salary negotiations. My latest one was just a few months ago after a promotion, but I didn’t get a nickle over what was offered because I just couldn’t bring myself to push at it. :/

    Like Michelle my husband and I pay a lot in rent to live in the city we love (San Francisco in our case). Our rent is more than most people’s mortgages. Home ownership here is completely outside of our reach, with most single family homes in our neighborhood starting around $700,000.

    The good news is that we live pretty simply and haven’t used our savings for a house down payment, so we could live off our savings for 13 months with no change in lifestyle. “Emergency Fund (Months)” is actually a column in our budget spreadsheet.