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.
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.
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.