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Cutting savings to the bone

Marketplace Contributor Mar 2, 2012

Tess Vigeland: As part of our Wealth and Poverty coverage all this week on Marketplace, we introduced you to people from across the class spectrum and around the country. Today we’re focusing on two big issues: budgeting and saving.

So allow me to introduce you to Daryl Snell — a 43-year-old waiter in Nashville who makes $21,000 a year, Courtney Kimsey — a 29-year-old mom and freelance writer in Des Moines, Iowa who lives on about $48,000 a year, and Rob Wininger — he and his wife own a small business in Los Angeles and make about $130,000 a year.

Daryl Snell: My name is Daryl Snell. I live in Nashville, Tenn., and I live alone. I don’t keep a strict budget, but always in the back of my mind is the thought that, “Ok, the mortgage is going to be this part, and it’s been cold so the electric bill’s going to be a little higher and the gas bill’s going to be a little higher, so maybe I shouldn’t spend as much.” I don’t have it written down, but it’s always in the back of my mind that I have to be aware of what I’m spending and how I’m spending. And to be as frugal as possible, I clip coupons, I buy in bulk and freeze things, I have a huge pantry. That’s how you make it. You pay as little as you have to get as much as you can and then make it last. I have absolutely no savings. I think there might be $50 in my savings account. I worry about retirement as much as I worry about my day-to-day living. It’s not going to happen — I’m going to work until the day I die.

Courtney Kimsey: My name is Courtney Kimsey. I live in Des Moines, Iowa. My husband Keith and I have two boys who are 5 and almost 2. We try to maintain a budget, but because I do freelance, and my work cannot guarantee us anything, it’s hard. It’s a struggle, and we’ve worked on it for years. The money that we do have, we can’t let any of it go. My car is literally 19 years old. We basically live paycheck to paycheck. We have minimal savings, but to lose his income — my husband’s — we’d be fearful of losing our house. When our second son was born, I left my job because of day-care issues, and we had to cash out our retirement, so we have none. I feel like a downer when I’m talking about some of this, but even though we do struggle, we feel like our situation will improve when our youngest son can go to school, I go back to work full-time. And having two salaries in our family will make an immense difference.

Rob Wininger: My name is Rob Wininger. I live in Sherman Oaks, Calif. I’m married to Sandra Wininger. We have four children together in private schools, and that’s something that’s been a huge, huge aspect of our budget. I think we’re one of those families that really keeps CostCo in business. We’re playing it day by day instead of having some sense of security behind us financially. We have maybe $8,000 to $10,000 in a savings account that would be for emergencies, but we don’t have any investment accounts for retirement. I’ve heard people call it “F-you money,” which is that sack in the bank that you know you’re OK. For me, to know I have an extra $100,000 in the bank, and I don’t have to worry as much, that is something I’m a little bit envious of.

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