How This Couple Saves Half Their Income

We recently announced a new blog series about how other couples…do it.

Manage money, that is! What did you think we meant?

You probably know smart and successful couples that seem to be on top of their finances. While you’d love to know their tips and tricks, asking them could be pretty awkward, depending on your relationship with them.

So we’re doing the asking for you! We’re interviewing amazing couples who have a lot to teach us all about how to manage money successfully.

Today’s featured couple is amazing. They consistently save more than 50% of their income! That’s right – over half of what they make goes into some sort of savings or investment account. That’s incredible, especially considering the scary statistic that most Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.

So, meet Ida and Zubin – savers extraordinaire.

We've always been open-book with one another on finances.

City: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Ida – Sales, Zubin – Operations
Age: Early 30s

Tell us your money success story.

Our first year out of college, we saved 50% of our income and that percentage has been rising every year. We have lofty dreams of retiring REALLY early!

That’s incredible! How do you do this?

Ida: We’ve been fortunate to have great jobs with steady increases in pay year-over-year, but that’s only part of the equation. The other, equally important, part is that we haven’t let our expenses increase at the same rate that our income has gone up. Zubin really values financial stability. He wants financial independence as soon as possible – this drives his aggressive savings goals. I’m an optimist and believe that our conservative financial habits will serve us well in the long run.

How do you keep track of your expenses, spending and saving?

A few years back, we started tracking our finances in a self-made tracker on Excel.

Ida: Both of us are frugal and conservative with spending money, but Zubin’s a bit further along on that spectrum 🙂 He was feeling concerned about expenses and I wanted to make him feel more comfortable with the idea of living a little (read: I needed him to see the absurdity of his insanely ambitious savings goals). So we got everything down on paper, effectively making a family balance sheet and income statement to help facilitate a conversation.

Being so frugal, are there certain things you like to spend money on to treat yourselves?

We love a good meal and a well-stocked refrigerator and pantry. Travel for fun and to visit family is high up on our list, though we’ve been a bit lame on the travel front lately. And we’ve recently gotten into buying local art.

Zubin: I think the bigger trick is what don’t we spend money on. For us, we find that our “threshold” for a need vs. a want looks different than many of our peers. We don’t need the latest smartphone or gadget (our old ones work just fine), we don’t need to stay in a fancy hotel (Airbnbs are cheaper and often more fun), we don’t need to drive an expensive car (we drove the same dependable one for 11 years and 160,000 miles).

Ida: Exactly! We go to the public library, we don’t use apps that aren’t free, we don’t spend a lot at bars – you get the gist. It’s honestly a lot of small, everyday decisions that add up. In general we live a more simple life and we’re happy doing it. The other major decision we make every year is to max out our 401ks, IRAs, or any other retirement vehicle available to us. So that’s money that isn’t in front of us and available – this keeps us very disciplined in our approach towards savings.

Do you have joint or separate accounts, or both?

Pre-marriage, we didn’t have a shared account but we effectively treated our money as if we did. We never really talked about it. We just started doing it from basically the beginning of our relationship. As soon as we were married we merged accounts.

Many of our readers ask if they should merge their money, but the reality is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this question. Why did you decide to merge?

We’ve always been open-book with one another on finances. We organized our accounts in this way from the start because it seemed like the right thing to do given that we were merging our lives together. We honestly didn’t even give it much thought – it was a complete given. This has been really important towards supporting our savings goals. Expenses aren’t a secret, no one has a pot of money they can tap into for a guilt-free purchase – we talk about it all. This wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works really well for us.

Do you ever NOT see eye to eye?

Ida: Actually, yes! I hate talking about money, money management, financial planning, etc. I find it boring! I know enough to realize this sounds naive, but I can’t help having this visceral reaction to the topic.

Zubin: I can’t help talking about how expensive things are, but not in a “look at how hot my car is” sort of way – things are usually TOO expensive for my taste. In my professional life I think about what things cost to make all the time and whether or not a price premium is justified, so I usually am very discriminating when it comes to price vs. value.

So what do you do when you disagree?

We work through these differences through honest conversation, humor & self-deprecation, and trying to be empathetic in terms of where one another is coming from. Sometimes we get annoyed with one another, but we always work through it because in general we think the other one is cute because of their quirks. The longer we’ve been married, the better calibrated and understanding we’ve become.

How often do you talk about money?

When we first started keeping track of our expenses, we had regular monthly check-ins on this for about six months. We’re now more aligned and haven’t done anything quite this formal in a few years.

Zubin: We’ll sometimes chat about major expenses, taxes, or how finances support major life plans – but it’s nothing too formal. A year ago we took some advice and engaged with a financial planner.

Given that you’re so ahead of the game, why did you decide to talk to a financial planner?

Ida: We wanted to do this for two reasons. One, to create realistic expectations for long-term financial planning. Remember, Zubin has unrealistic expectations around how much we need to save!

Zubin: And two, to foster a productive conversation about money with a 3rd party, because remember, Ida hates talking about money. However, this wasn’t that successful for us because we actually are pretty open and aligned and have good financial literacy and plans already. So the financial planner’s suggestions were too basic for our needs.

Ida: And lacked any of the creative tax management strategies Zubin was craving!

Next up: Read about how Lucy and Max manage their money while she runs her own business.

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