I started my adulthood the ‘right’ way. I travelled a bit, and worked until I could afford to put myself through university. I completed my degree in 4yrs, whilst working full time throughout. (I don’t recommend that.)
I purchased a house. I moved for better work and the house became a rental. I moved for work again and purchased another house. By age 30 I had an executive position, 2 houses, a decent car and a little in savings.
And I was miserable.
I tried various online tests and quizzes to find out what I should be doing, and eventually stumbled across Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map. She proposes that it is significantly more important to discover how you want to feel, rather than what you want to do or achieve. For various, fairly obvious reasons, not least of all because it is freeing: there are many ways to create the feelings you want to experience, many paths to get you to where you want to be.
What I discovered in this process is that the things I love to do most actually don’t require an executive salary. The only thing I need in my life that costs real money is air travel, and that gets cheaper every year as more airlines expand their routes and flight paths lose their monopolies.
The things I most love to do include
Yoga (mostly free – I use instructors on YouTube)
Reading books in the sunshine (mostly free – see local libraries or accept recommendations from friends)
Trawling second hand clothing stores (at $1-5 per item you have to really go all day to blow the bank, and most don’t take credit cards so you have to stick to your financial limits)
Socialising (inexpensive if you aren’t eating out. Potlucks are the best and allow everyone to split the cost or take turns with it)
Drinking coffee and sunbathing (homemade coffee – next to nothing)
Going to the beach (take water and snacks from home, shop around for a cost effective but reliable sunscreen. My absolute fave is Le Tan Coconut Lotion. Very reliable and only NZD$25 for a full season’s supply)
Writing (the cost of a drinkable bottle of wine 😉
Where I am going with this, is that we need to assess what our individual, and realistic cost of living is, rather than just accepting the consumerist message of ‘life is expensive, you need more new stuff, you must work work work and you can’t afford to miss a day’.
I have been saving for several years and re-jigging my life to allow me to take the next 4months off work. I don’t consider this to be anything unusual, spectacular or difficult, and yet the reactions I got from people ranged from jealousy (ironically from people who could more afford to do this than me..) to shock, from cynicism to derision. To my mind, the 40hour work week is not sustainable, unless what you are doing at work is genuinely your passion and it is helping you to meet some / any of your 6 human needs (google Tony Robbins 6 Human Needs for list and explanation) consistently.
If any of this resonates with you, I strongly urge you to get out some paper and a pen (or an excel spreadsheet) and get real about your cost of living. Which of your outgoings are really necessary? Which can be modified with a little shopping around? (E.g. Insurance may be necessary but there is a LOT of competition in the market.)
How would your life be better if you were spending less time in the office? Could you exercise more? Could you walk your dogs on the beach more? Could you spend more time with loved ones? Could you learn the language / write the book / take the course that you’ve always wanted to?
We earn the money to do what we want to do… But not everything we love doing needs that much money. We, however, do need that much life. We do need those days, those hours. We do need that sunshine and exercise. Our wellbeing depends on our down-time, our home-cooked meals, our time with our loved ones. Our sleep.
I would love to hear how you go with this – please comment below.
And if you’re interested in trying any of Danielle’s stuff for yourself, we’d be honoured if you’d use this referral link: