Let me start out by saying that I thoroughly recommend a career change, I thoroughly recommend taking time off from your full-time job and taking yourself off of a tired, burnt-out trajectory that is no longer serving you on an emotional and financial level and turning your life in another direction. It is a brave, difficult, and challenging but ultimately exhilarating milestone in your life. If you can afford it, if you can save the money, if you have the support network, you should absolutely do it. You should, however, try not to use your fluid spare time and infrequent paychecks to become as financially reckless as I have been.
I have always been relatively frugal working a traditional full-time job, making packed lunches, shopping seasonally, getting my shoes resoled, buying my lingerie at a factory shop and ironing and repairing my own clothes, and using a bike or my two legs as my main form of transpiration. But this past year, amidst a career change and some time off, I have tricked my brain into thinking more spare time in my week means I am in holiday mode, something I normally only have the luxury of enjoying for a few weeks every year. I made a concise list of all the money I had spent for the first six months of 2018, and it honestly wasn’t too bad. I had to buy some new clothes, my laptop died after seven years and needed to be replaced, and my socializing/entertaining budget was completely under control.
But then the second half of 2018 came along, and I got complacent — Russian Empress on a gap year complacent. England got very cold and dark, and I started spending money on convenience, namely taxis. I took taxis when I was running late to work, when I was cold, when I didn’t feel like walking down the road to get the bus or cycle. I worked out that in November, I spent almost £300 ($386) just on taxis when I could have cycled for free in a warm coat or spent £40 on a bus pass. It wasn’t an emergency by any stretch of the imagination — I simply chose convenience or deliberately pushed my luck with time when I was getting ready.
Finally, the most shameful expenditure this year has without question been holidays. Between the beginning of 2018 and now, I have gone to Paris for two weeks, Portugal for two weeks, Cornwall for four days, Norway for four days, and visited my family in America for one week. These holidays were not expensive — the trips to Norway and Portugal only cost me a return ticket with a budget airline — but going away so frequently meant that I have spent around £2,000 ($2,576) on holidays this year.
After I sufficiently beat myself up over my dirty financial habits, I sat down with a pad and pen and I tried to figure out exactly why I had spent all this money. The answer was simply that it was my response to stress or discomfort. So far in my life, I have tried to keep stress to a minimum because I find it unbearable. I cannot sit with stress for too long without trying to run away from it.
My new year’s resolution for 2019 was to sit with discomfort and forgo temporary pleasures in the name of long-term goals, nurturing skills that have long term potential and trying to tackle problems rather than running away from them. I have become too used to shortcuts and convenience and I know this isn’t the right way to grow and develop into an interesting well-rounded person.
My new tactic for combatting stress is listening to music, stand-up comedy and podcasts, I feel incredibly late to the party, but listening to podcasts has had a profoundly positive influence on my life. Whenever I am walking somewhere, waiting for a train, getting ready for work, listening to people having a conversation calms my thoughts or passes the time of a longer commute. Stand-up comedy is inexpensive and an absolute passion of mine — it’s my favorite sports team, my favorite thing to do on a night out, and is very inexpensive.
I have decided that this year I am not going on any holidays, instead I am going to give myself an entertainment allowance of £25 a month which I will use to donate to artists, musicians, and comedians whose work really adds something to my life. I know many artists who are underpaid and rely almost solely on ticket sales and Patreon subscriptions. These people provide me with so much inspiration and enrich my life in so many ways that I would rather they had my money than waste it on yet another holiday.
This year, I am going to turn my attention away from (and close my wallet off from) tourism and convenience, as neither of them are failing industries. I come from an artistic background, which is even more of a reason why I need to sponsor creative people. The passion projects, comedy shows and podcasts that artists put out for next to nothing need my support and provide me with more happiness than a warm taxi ride to work.
Phoebe Prentice-Terry is a writer, art dealer, and survivor of David Cameron’s various experiments in human misery. She likes Gin and Tonics, French skincare products, and is most proud of her collection of Wolford bodysuits.
Image via Unsplash