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My husband's work slowed dramatically as inflation picked up, but years of financial planning made us ready

A side-by-side composite featuring a close-up shot of budgeting documents, coins and a calculator and headshot of the Prisca Benson and her husband
Getty Images; Our Green Life; BI
  • Prisca Benson and her husband saw their income drop as inflation started to take off.

  • Benson had for years been maxing out her retirement funds, so she was ready for the challenge.

  • This article is part of "My Financial Life," a series helping people live and spend better.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Prisca Benson, a 34-year-old writer for the blog Our Green Life. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Last year my husband's work slowed down; he basically worked the equivalent of about five or six months out of the year. Our household income is usually around $200,000 — it's dropped to about $140,000.


Our life didn't change that much in terms of what it looks like on the outside. We are definitely more intentional now, because we know we have to make the money stretch further.

Last year I went to Bali, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Italy twice. I don't have to put it on credit — I put money aside with every paycheck to fund these trips.

I'm more careful about shopping because of inflation

I'm a big Costco shopper. A while ago I noticed that Tropicana juice that used to come in a four-pack for $11 now comes in a three-pack for about the same price.

There are only two of us, but I found I was spending $200 a week at Costco. I don't actually know where all that stuff went. Now it's leaning more toward $100. I cheer every time I hit below $100.

We're trying to be more mindful — not just because of the finances, but also because throwing out food is just a little much for me. When we make choices about what to buy, first of all, I sit down and ask, what am I going to eat? Before, I would buy things and then they would just sit there for months on end, and I just never ate them.

Before I go shopping, I look at my meal plan and circle the things I don't have at home. Those are the things that go on my shopping list. I do give myself a little bit of grace. If I see a good deal on something, then I'll limit myself to one or two things off the shopping list. If I find more than that, one of them has to go back.

I have a spreadsheet to keep track of my spending. My Google Sheet helps me make a budget with percentages for short-term savings, long-term savings, and household expenses. I put in the amount of my paycheck, and it automatically tells me how much to put in each category.

I find ways to spend less than my peers, and I put that money into my retirement

Every six months I shop for car insurance to see if I can get a better deal. We pay $190 a month for two cars — I know other people who are paying $400, $500, $600 for the same situation.

I have a Google Doc with all the information I need to shop around. Because I have this one document with everything, it makes it so easy to do it the next time. I just update it every six months. If I want to have a broker do it, I send them the document; if I want to do it myself, it takes a couple of hours.

Years ago I listened to a podcast episode about maxing out your 403(b). I didn't know anybody in my life doing this. I was contributing 6% to my retirement account. I was like, what do I have to do to make it max out? And it was 20%.

I said, OK, let's do it — and then if I hate it, I can just dial it back down. It's easy to change your contributions to your paycheck. So I did it, and then I was like, oh, nothing happened. I'm OK.

I was afraid it would be too challenging, because I was used to spending a certain amount. But it was increasingly easier to spend less, because I had less to spend. I also max out on my IRA now.

I'm not so stressed even though my husband is working less

Since my husband hasn't been working, it's not like it's not stressful, but I can only imagine what it would be like if we hadn't been intentional about spending all these years.

He has worked maybe a month or two so far this year. It's been inconsistent for almost a year and a half now. But we can be strategic. We can talk about it without heightened emotions, and we have our emergency fund in place.

We're still making it through. It's a testament to intentional spending in the long term. Because this could be literally devastating — if you were living paycheck to paycheck, a loss of 25%, 30%, 40% of your income would decimate you.

Read the original article on Business Insider