I have been an avid reader of TFD for some months now, so when I realized I had a story to tell, I wanted to tell it here. In the midst of these articles, I have found advice, wisdom, and inspiration. I have also learned that every story is individual — and that, so long as we own our individual circumstances, there are many different stories worth writing. My husband and I have made some very big decisions lately, and as someone who turned to TFD whilst we were making them, I hope that my story may give some food for thought to other readers (or at the very least provide a Sunday-afternoon scrolling opportunity!).
Our circumstances are, of course, extremely specific to us. I’ll try to boil them down as much as my verbose, English-teacher style will allow: My husband and I have been married for nearly a year. He has a well-paid job which he enjoys and at which he is hugely successful. He also has a wonderful gift for compartmentalizing, which means that (most of the time), he is able to leave his work at the door and lead a full, balanced life. I, on the other hand, possess no such elusive skill, and we decided that I would leave my well-paid, mainly enjoyable but increasingly challenging job at Christmas and pursue self-employed roles alongside my family commitments. Our main goal? Less money, more life. By “more life,” we meant some very tangible changes: more quality time with each other, more days out at weekends, more dinners with friends in our home, a cleaner and more organized household, more time spent with my adored family who need my help.
In short, we sought a lower income in exchange for a better quality of life.
Of course, not everyone has the option we had. We are careful to note that we both had well-paid jobs that allowed us to save, and that we can live comfortably on my husband’s salary. By “live comfortably,” I don’t mean that we are overly wealthy — simply that my salary paid for luxuries that, in the face of a big decision, we decided we were willing to give up for our greater good. Faced with such a monumental decision, I offer you a snapshot of our process:
We weighed up what we needed most right now
In light of a family illness, our priorities suddenly became crystal clear — what we needed most was not surplus money or foreign holidays or a bigger house, but limited extraneous stress, better energy levels, and more time to help each other and our family. Your priorities may take a little more unpicking if disaster hasn’t struck to provide immediate perspective (and I sincerely hope that it hasn’t). Either way, it doesn’t take most people long to decide, in that moment, what is paramount. We were lucky that our priorities didn’t need to be financial — our house is big enough for the two of us, and there are no children to factor in. So we made our decision accordingly.
We did our maths
We would never have made the decision for me to leave my job without checking and double-checking that our finances looked the way we thought they did. Step one was to stay in our beloved (if small) terraced house instead of moving to a bigger property, which would require two consistent incomes to pay the mortgage.
Step two was to assess our day-to-day spending. Even with our relatively careful approach to money, we noticed that we were merrily spending frivolously at times, just because we could (dinners out were a real weakness of ours). We made ourselves spend two months as if we didn’t have my salary. This served two purposes: firstly, it gave us a clear indication of what needed to be reduced, refined and cut out of our budget to make our decision viable, and secondly, it helped us get to the next point a lot more quickly! Living without my salary for the last few months that we had it gave us added savings, and also meant that this first month without my usual income has not been a horrible shock.
We made sure our emergency fund was stable
It’s amazing how much it is possible to save when a wider goal is at stake. I took a piece of advice I learned from one of the TFD videos and renamed our bank accounts — priority one was to get the “Emergency Fund” account to a level with which we were comfortable. Anything we saved after that went into “House and Holiday” so that we would continue to do up our first home together and continue to look forward to (much more modest!) trips away. That emergency fund is always there and we hope it will never be needed, but it is enough that, should my husband need to stop working for any reason, our bills and mortgage could be met whilst I looked for a salaried job.
We knew what we’d do if things went wrong
See above. I’m highly trained in a profession that will always be needed (barring a post-apocalyptic existence, I can’t imagine a world with no English teachers) and I am confident that I could find a job when needed, whether supply, part-time or full-time. I worked extremely hard to be good at my job for six years – I will be in a good position to work as a teacher again if I need to. Back-up plan sorted.
We asked advice
We told the select people we trusted most (family, friends and colleagues) of our intentions and asked for their advice. We particularly sought out people who had done one or both of our two key intentions: self-employment and/or one half of the couple spending more time at home. We asked personal questions, promising and maintaining confidentiality. We talked together about what we had heard and weighed up the possible pros and cons. We listened to parts of their advice that we may not have wanted to hear but that were crucial to our decision-making process.
We made the decision
Having done all of the above, we decided that we wanted to go ahead with the change, and subsequently formed our mantra: Less money, more life. That mantra may seem daft or trite or the bastion of the privileged, but it got us through some challenging days. It reminds us daily why we’re not planning a foreign holiday any time soon and why our kitchen is so small that we trip over each other on occasion. It keeps us focused on our greater goals.
We kept (and keep) reassessing our choices
Finally, we continually reassess our choices. As I mentioned previously, I have an employment background that means I could earn well again if I needed to. As it happens, I am starting to build my self-employed status successfully, but we knew we could manage without me earning a bean. If that ever changes, we will reassess and start our process over again to make a new decision.
But for now, we are living more with less money. We are happier, healthier and more financially aware than we were before I left my salaried job. The future is in our hands — and we can’t wait to see what the next part of it holds.
Melanie had previously spent 6 years as an English teacher and middle-leader in a secondary school. Now she is working as a private tutor, a guest blogger and freelance contractor for an education consultancy and loving the opportunity to spend more time with her husband and other family members. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, theatre and cinema trips, cultural days out and supporting her husband’s many running races!
Image via Unsplash