How Our Lives Have Changed With A 128% Increase In Income

It was 7:20 PM on a Wednesday. Mr. FAF just got home from work.

He came home a bit later than usual since he had gone to get some Beijing roasted duck for the family.

He said it was mainly for me because I had been having stomach cramps the day before.

I thought he shouldn’t have paid $14 for the take-out since I was perfectly fine with eating home-made food.

However, this time I didn’t get upset at Mr. FAF for buying something we didn’t need as I normally would.

Instead, I felt happy because we no longer have to worry so much about whether we will have enough cash flowing in next month.

Just nine months ago, Mr. FAF and I were stressed out about whether he could finish his PhD and find a job in the DC area.

Now our combined annual income has increased by 128% thanks to Mr. FAF’s new job as a Software Engineer.

Before: Total income = My full-time job salary + Mr. FAF’s graduate student stipend

Now: Total income = My full-time job salary + Mr. FAF’s full-time job salary

We should be over the moon every day and find different ways to celebrate this big positive change to our lives. Or should we?

The job offer

Mr. FAF and I were in a long-distance marriage for almost four years. During this time, I had Baby FAF in the last semester of my grad school. We made a cost-benefit of all the options that we had.

Eventually, we took our parents advice to focus on our careers and have my in-laws take care of our son in China for a year.

Prior to starting a relationship with Mr. FAF, I knew the long distance would be the biggest challenge for us. But I didn’t think so far as to be away from my baby for so long.

It was mainly because Mr. FAF and I were building our careers in two different cities which are more than 10 hours away from each other. During the past 4 years, not a day went by without me wishing that Mr. FAF could get a job soon so that our family could be reunited.

When Mr. FAF landed an interview with a big tech company in the DC area, we just couldn’t hide our excitement and anxiety. Mr. FAF had taken a series of online courses and tackled multiple technical problems to prepare for the big day.

He had also gotten a couple of interviews (and later job offers) in California. But given the fact that I had already established a stable job in DC, I was really hoping that Mr. FAF could work in DC instead of the West Coast.

In the two weeks leading to the company’s final decision, we just couldn’t sleep well at night. Every morning when I woke up, I kept hoping that there would be a magical email popping up in Mr. FAF’s inbox telling him about the good news.

That day finally came. We got the offer letter in the afternoon. The company was also willing to negotiate the salary package with Mr. FAF. We were ecstatic.

It was the day we had been waiting for for the past four years. Our son could now finally come back to us. I wouldn’t be so stressed out about being the sole breadwinner in the family.

Mr. FAF wouldn’t have to worry about being unemployed after all those years of schooling or not being able to land a job at a company that he liked. Everything just worked out perfectly. To me, it was just magical.

The excitement

After Mr. FAF got the job offer, we talked about what we would do with his first paycheck every single day for more than a month.

Talking about the potential of a big salary jump made us happy and hopeful about a better future. Below are the things we wanted to do after Mr. FAF got paid for the first time:

— Celebrate by eating beef steak at TGI Friday’s

— Go on a road trip to New York

— Go to the beach and eat lots of seafood

— Buy everyone in the family something new (i.e. clothes)

— Host hotpot parties at our house and invite our good friends

— Put a big payment towards our mortgage principal

When Mr. FAF’s first paycheck came in with the sign-on bonus, we were over the moon. My blog sis Lily at The Fugal Gene even suggested we put it in a picture frame to commemorate this big day.

But it was a direct deposit, and I was too cheap to buy a picture frame. The money just safely landed in our joint bank account without any paper trail seen at our house.

What we did with Mr. FAF’s first paycheck

The income increase is definitely a big change to our financial situation. It has also brought with it many changes to our family. Below is what we did with Mr. FAF’s first paycheck:

1. Buy new work clothes for Mr. FAF

Having been a graduate student for the past six years and being a simple man, Mr. FAF desperately needed some new shirts to look professional in his new office.

He said his colleagues wore jeans and T-shirts. But we both thought it was important for him to look presentable as a new employee at least in the beginning.

We went to the outlets and bought 5 shirts for him. I saw some really nice clothes and suggested Mr. FAF buy them. However, Mr. FAF insisted that his budget was $25 for a shirt.

We scoured all the stores at the outlets and found some really good items for less than $25 each. Mr. FAF continues alternating his two pairs of old jeans to match with the new shirts.

Total spent: $100

2. Hosting a potluck at our house

Over the past few years, we have made some really good friends in DC. While we have taken them to lunch and dinner a couple of times, we really wanted to wait until Mr. FAF had a job to invite them to our house. It was a way to celebrate the good news with our friends.

We successfully hosted a hotpot party at our house. Mr. FAF went a bit overboard with the purchases. He just wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t run out of food when everyone was having fun.

We still had a lot of raw ingredients left after the hotpot which we later used as groceries. We had a blast from 11:30 AM to 4 P:M that day.

We’re hosting another hotpot party at our house again on Thanksgiving. We just love our friends’ company.

Total spent: $150

Hotpot food: pork, beef, lamb, fish cake, cabbage, napa cabage, bok choy, enoki mushrooms, noodles, seaweed, tofu skin, taro, and potatoes. Side dishes: grilled pork, chicken gizzards, and pork belly. 

Hotpot drinks: Chinese alcohol, alove vera juice, plum wine, and Coke

3. Buy more good food

We didn’t go to TGI Friday’s to have beef steak or to the beach to eat seafood. We both think it’s a bit expensive to eat out at those places.

But I’ve noticed that Mr. FAF has bought lamb ribs and crabs from Costco for the family to eat at home. It’s something he never did before getting paid as a full-time employee.

We don’t buy expensive seafood often. But it’s nice to try some food food at home, especially after we have stayed on a strict budget for so long. And it’s much cheaper than eating those at fancy restaurants.

We always thought that we should switch to olive oil since it’s healthier. However, this is the conversation that took place at Costco:

Mr. FAF: Let’s buy olive oil. We make more money now. We can afford it.

Me: Yes, it’s much healthier than corn oil.

After seeing that 2 liters of Extra Virgin Olive Oil costs $37, we pondered about how 9.5 liters of Mazola 100% Pure Corn Oil costs only $18.

Mr. FAF: I think corn oil is also very healthy. Let’s just buy corn oil.

Me: Agreed!

4. Put more payment towards the mortgage

The biggest winner of Mr. FAF’s first paycheck was our mortgage. We put almost 90% of Mr. FAF’s first paycheck towards our mortgage principal and felt really good about it.

We began to max out our 401(k) and realized that we will become millionaires in 25 years thanks to our retirement investment.

Changes to our lives

We fortunately haven’t experience a lot of lifestyle extension. Besides a boost in income, below are the changes we’ve seen Mr. FAF’s new job has made to our lives:

1. Mr. FAF has become more confident. 

One thing I’ve noticed about Mr. FAF is that he has become more confident and happy how that he is officially the breadwinner of the family.

After he saw the first paycheck in his account at work, he sent me a screen shot of it. Mr. FAF came home that day smiling and looking like a different man. He thanked me for staying by his side all those years and said that his paycheck was 100% mine.

Mr. FAF has been waiting for the day when he can be the main provider for the family ever since we got married. He thinks the main responsibility of the husband is to support their family financially.

2. I changed my view on being the breadwinner. 

I have been the breadwinner of the family for the past two years while Mr. FAF was in school. In a way, I like the fact that I can provide for the family and would love to make more money than Mr. FAF one day.

However, after seeing how happy Mr. FAF is as the breadwinner, I realized that there’s something more important than being able to make more than my spouse: seeing him happy fulfilling his role in the marriage.

I will still try to improve my income. But it will be for my own career rather than competing with Mr. FAF to see who can have more power in decision making.

3. I am not as worried about our finances as before. 

Mr. FAF and I have an emergency fund. Prior to his new job, I was constantly worried about our finances. What if Mr. FAF can’t get a job? What if we need to replace the roof? What if I get fired and Mr. FAF can’t finish his PhD degree?

Those ‘what-if’ questions really tired me out. It also caused a tremendous amount of tension between us. On the one hand, I wanted to be supportive and let Mr. FAF relax (i.e. playing video games). On the other hand, I wanted him to be as worried and motivated as I was to put more effort into finishing his dissertation and finding a job.

After Mr. FAF got his first paycheck, I seem to have a huge burden lifted off of my shoulder. I can now breathe a sigh of relief that even if I lose my job, we will still have Mr. FAF’s income to support ourselves and our baby.

What hasn’t changed

After the euphoria over Mr. FAF’s new job and first paycheck died down, we’ve gone back to our normal lives.

We still eat at home most of the time, use the same car, live in the same house, wear almost the same clothes, still buy used clothes for Baby FAF, have the same friends, and pack our lunch to work every day.

We no longer yearn for the things we couldn’t afford before such as going on a cruise or eating beef steak every weekend although we can now afford it. Sometimes expectations and hope might just be more enjoyable than the actual outcomes.

What still sticks with us is our goals for the future: achieving the millionaire status and making an impact in our lives. Even if we can’t achieve such goals, we will still be happy with what we have. What really matters to us is what effort and progress we’ve made on our way to realize our aspirations.

We might buy roasted duck more often (i.e. once a month instead of once every 3 months like before). Roasted duck is just delicious and not easy to make at home. That’s maybe one of the few things that make me feel like we are better off than we used to be.

But other than that, life goes on as usual. And we’re still the same people that we were before our income increased by 128%: simple and frugal.



31 thoughts on “How Our Lives Have Changed With A 128% Increase In Income”

  • I think you nailed the transition, Ms. FAF! You celebrated, saved/invested/increased your mortgage payment, then you kept moved on with “normal life”… avoiding big lifestyle inflations! And I’m glad to hear that the transition of the role of breadwinner went smoothly and the increased income has brought further financial peace to your family.

    • Thank you, Mrs. Adventure Rich! I’m relieved now that I don’t have to stress about money as much anymore. Our mortgage lender might not be happy with that big payment, but we are! 😀

  • Nothing wrong with going back to where you were before. Just do more of what makes you happy. That’s how I handled Jared’s transition to Google….well…we brought a house….so actually that’s not a great example and you did far better than me adjusting hahaha. I got so crazy because his new job was 40% higher than his original salary. I’m definitely older, wiser and hopefully smarter now than before. The game is simple: do more of what makes you happy.

    • “The game is simple: do more of what makes you happy.” Yes! I totally agree with you.

      I did get a bit crazy thinking about his first paycheck haha. But we had to wait for a month to actually get it in the bank, so I calmed down a bit hehe. I was actually thinking about buying another house too lol But I really want to pay off the mortgage on our primary residence, so we decided to wait 😀

  • Holly cow!! I can attest to this. Yes this is an amazing change:

    Before: Total income = My full-time job salary + Mr. FAF’s graduate student stipend
    Now: Total income = My full-time job salary + Mr. FAF’s full-time job salary

    One minute you’re sitting around wondering when/if ever your thesis will be signed, then next you have a real job. Then six months later you start to wonder why you ever worried. Life and your brain are weird things.

    Nice job a well done transition 🙂 And last but certainly not least. Great article 🙂

    • I know! I worried so much before Mr. FAF started working that now I don’t even know why I was always so stressed out about money. I’m glad hubby has a job, but I’m still cautiously optimistic about the future 😀

    • Thank you, Helen! I think we calmed down a bit from the time Mr. FAF got the offer to when he got the 1st paycheck. If we got the money right away, we might have gone a bit crazy with the purchases out of excitement. Sometimes it does pay to wait 😀

  • Food is always a big plus 🙂 And a great decision on switching oils; we’ve done the same.
    Congrats to Mr. FAF on the new job! But it’s true that after a while, things don’t change a whole lot, we are who we are. Of course, there is great comfort knowing you can still support your lifestyle if a one income situation were to occur.

  • I don’t know how you managed a long term relationship with the family being all over the map, that must have been so difficult!

    Glad to hear you’re all more confident and less stressed out these days! Having extra money and knowing you have enough to cover the bills is a huge weight to lift off your shoulders and it can have a real impact on your mindset and well-being.

    • Thank you, Mike! I don’t know how we did it either. We were indeed all over the map hehe. Money doesn’t always make us happy, but it indeed can give us peace of mind 🙂

  • We recently experienced the same situation with Ms. DebtFree graduating after 5 years of nursing school. The biggest thing I have noticed since she has started working full time and bringing in a respectable salary is #2 on your list. Her psychology has changed immensely now that she is able to financially contribute to our situation. She was so hard on herself during school and sometimes acted as if she was a burden ( I never felt this way). She is now happy and proud with her situation and even jokes about me quitting my job now that she can take care of me (I wouldn’t).

    She is also significantly more interested in personal finance and paying off debt and we are actually spending less and being more mindful about where our money goes. It is truly an amazing transformation to watch. The biggest thing that has changed for me is just realizing how powerful a dual income can be, I feel as if financial independence is inevitable at this point.

    Thank you Mrs. FAF for sharing your story, it is always a pleasure to read. Take care!

    • Congrats on Ms. DebtFree’s graduation and new job! I think I understand where she’s coming from since Mr. FAF definitely went through some similar feelings. A dual income is powerful. I know that every family’s situation is different, but as a young family, we certainly need the income boost. ^.^

  • Congratulations! It has been a long road, but you guys are in the sweet spot now. Enjoy it!
    Also, great job on keeping your cost of living relatively stable. Don’t ramp up your spending too much. 🙂
    Have a great holiday!

    • Thank you for the kind words as always, Joe! We were so tempted to ramp up our spending hehe. But I’m glad we had a couple of months before getting the 1st paycheck to calm down with our spending ideas 😀

    • Thank you, Amy! I also think olive oil is much healthier than corn oil. But my MIL prefers corn oil for Chinese cooking, so we will stick with it for now. Change is possible in the future ! 😀

  • Congratulations! What a great accomplishment. I don’t think you guys will be a culprit of lifestyle inflation with the increased salary 🙂 I think corn oil is better to use for Asian cooking than olive oil anyway because it has a higher cook point for stir frying (I remember reading that somewhere don’t quote me lol!).

    • Ahh you are right! My MIL told me the same thing. She said that corn oil is better for Chinese cooking than olive oil. I didn’t know the reason, but now I do. Thanks for pointing that out! ^.^

  • Lol, I loved that conversation about corn oil 🙂 I also agree that sometimes the expectations you have when you reach a certain point are sometimes more exciting than when you actually achieve them. I think there are most important takeaways from this: first, even though you have more money, you don’t go crazy and spend it all because that’s how people can easily get into debt even though they have more money than they used to. Second, your point about having a happier, confident spouse that makes your marriage better. Loved this post!

  • Congrats! That is fantastic, and good for you for celebrating a bit. I hope you guys make the most out of the new income with your savings goals and also allow yourself a bit more in terms of spending money to enjoy life along the way. Great job!

  • I can relate to this so much! My partner just found a full-time job after defending his PhD last fall and it has been one. tough. year. We are not in a position where we are financially dependent on each other yet, but I was definitely still bearing more of the financial burden over the last year while he looked for work. It also put a pause on us moving forward with plans for the future. I was happy to do it, but it does a take a toll, create tension in the relationship, etc. He should be having his first pay day in the next few weeks and we are SO excited.

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