Extreme Savers: Meet the Parkers
Michelle and Rob know what it's like to be broke -- in fact, that is what is making them rich.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The Parkers know all about scraping by, even though they make plenty of money.
Michelle, 33, and Rob, 34, were high school sweethearts, they got married in college and managed on only $8,000 in income for the first year of their marriage. Fourteen years later the couple makes a combined $128,000 but their love, and thrifty lifestyle, has stayed with them.
Michelle is an electrical engineer and Rob is a mechanical engineer for the Department of Defense in Florida. The two joke that they can put their dinner guests to sleep in 30 minutes or less when they get on the topic of work, but how they've managed to turn $40,000 in school loans into $86,000 in savings is no laughing matter.
"Because of our past, we've got a lot of catching up to do in the savings department," Rob said. They live completely off of Rob's salary and Michelle's entire income goes into savings, which is about $3,000 a month.
They invest only enough in the Thrift Savings Program for federal employees to receive the full employer matching benefit, the rest of Michelle's salary funds two Roth IRAs and any income left over gets invested in the stock market.
All raises, including cost of living adjustments, also go straight into savings.
Last year they bought a small three-bedroom home near their office in Panama City and soon, a bicycle trail will be completed from the house to work and they will bike instead of carpool. Not only will they save on transportation costs, Rob says, but "the health benefits will be 'savings' for the future."
The couple is always on the look out for new ways to save. Eight months ago, the couple took a good hard look at were they were spending money and realized that most of it went towards groceries. So they started growing fruit and vegetables in their garden and limited dining out to three meals a week (including lunches), which means they cook at home almost exclusively. Rob estimates that they average about $1.50 a meal that way.
For everything else it's all about eBay. Rob is 6'5" and 180 lbs so he heads straight to the online auction to find shirts sized medium tall and frequently scores them for around 99 cents.
They also take full advantage of their cashback credit cards, "just the 1.5 percent cashback generates about $400 a year, $400 we wouldn't have if we just paid our bills outright," Rob said.
We have a general concept that "if it's worth doing, it ought to help us with saving/making money," Rob said.
With that being said, they do set some cash aside for pure entertainment. They recently returned from a trip to the Virgin Islands where the stayed in a rental off the beaten path for $1000 a week. The Parkers are planning their next vacation to Niagara Falls.
And then there's the boat they scored off of a Navy auction for $1,500, a 16 ft Carolina skiff. They fixed it up and stow it in the garage to save on storage fees and estimate that it costs less than $10 a day to operate.
Michelle and Rob have come along way in a little over a decade and would like to retire in just a decade from now, which will allow them to spend more time riding bikes, on the boat or with the kids they hope to have in the near future.
"Gone are the days of getting a cash advance on one credit card to make the payments on another," Rob said, "but forever standing are the lessons and pursuit of value in anything we do."
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