The joys of having a low pay

One of the joys I experience with working in the Church is the low pay. Now, hold on a moment, you say, how can low pay ever equal to joy? Doesn’t more money mean more freedom?

Not necessarily. Having a higher salary often means having higher expenses, more bills to pay, and often a greater degree of dissatisfaction and stress in life. This is true for most people, but not all.

If you can remember the time before you started working, your expenses were probably lower back then. What happened after you started getting paid? You probably splurged your first pay on buying all the things you were not able to buy before. Most of us would probably think that this is a one-off thing, but if you look at your expenses before and after you started working, you will find that working actually increases your expenses.

Naturally then, every time we receive a raise in our pay, our expenses increase correspondingly, because we are now able to afford something we could not afford before. Be frank. How many of you actually save all the money you get from a raise, rather than spend it?

Very few, I’ll wager.

Recently, Nutella and I have been attending Marriage Preparation Course, and one of the things that we would like to have in future is a single-income family. We believe very much in having a parent at home bringing up the kids, rather than leaving them with someone else. When I told this to some people, their immediate reaction was to shake their heard and say, “That’s not possible.”

I read in The New Paper recently about a family of four in Singapore that survives on a single monthly income of $750. If they can do it, I’m sure we can too.

Another thing I learnt recently is that having a dual-income family might actually cost the family more. Now, hold on, you say, how can having a dual incomes cost the family more than a single income?

For one thing, having dual incomes means that both parents are working and at the end of the day, they will be tired and tend to opt to eat out more, or to consume convenience items. If you’ve ever compared the price of instant noodles to the price of fresh noodles, especially in terms of volume, you’d know.

Or take for example, this huge watermelon I bought from NTUC last night. This watermelon cost $2.50, and I sliced it up into 36 slices. If sold at a food court for $0.40 per slice, it would come to $14.40! That’s how much you pay for a watermelon that size at the food court, if it were all sliced and chilled for you.

Another example is rice. A 5 kg bag of rice costs about $7. Think of how much rice you could cook at home with that, compared to the food you buy outside!

Hence, home-cooked food is one great way to cut costs. Put this together with the cost of other convenience items, and you will find that having dual incomes could really be costing your family more! And this is just in terms of income, which is replaceable. What is irreplaceable is the time spent with the children. How many parents wish that they could have spent more time with their children instead of at work? How many children have grown up dysfunctional because their parents weren’t home when they grew up?

It is society and our modern culture that tells us that it is not possible to have a single income family. It is society that tells us that in order to be happy, we must have more things. But has having more things made you a happier person or a more unhappy person?

Having more things rarely makes us happier people, because there will always be someone who has more things than you do… and the society who tells you that having more things will make you happier is the same society that emphasizes what you do not have… and the same society will tell you that if you want to be really happy, you have got to get that new iPod, that new iPhone, that wide-screen TV, that home entertainment set, that SUV, that 5-room flat, etc.

How does this relate to the joy of having a low pay, you might ask? Well, one thing that having a low pay has taught me is to keep my expenses low. It’s easier to be contented with what I have, and it’s easier to give up luxuries. Some time last year, I gave up sleeping with air-conditioning to help save on electrical usage.

Another joy of having a low pay is increased creativity. Increased creativity in terms of how to cut costs as well as to generate income in other ways. For instance, I am able to spend time writing books, whereas if I were in a higher paying job, I would have greater responsibilities and have to spend more time at work, not to mention additional stress, so where got time to write books?

In my line of work, I come across many people who wish that they had more time and energy to do the things that they really want. One of the things that I’m exploring now is to find sources of passive income that will meet my expenses, so that I need not rely on my salary to do the things that I really want to do.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my work, and I want to earn enough through passive income so that I do not have to work for pay, but work simply because I love it. That’s one of my dreams. My other dream is to have both Nutella and I stay home and bring up the kids together. While this might not be as realistic, it is nonetheless a dream that is worth working towards. How we can do this is by having assets that deliver sufficient cashflow each month to pay for all our expenses.

How do we do that? Well, time for creative juices to start flowing!

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