Hello! Welcome back to TEOLEO! In our last post, I shared my journey as an introverted online teacher. As you may have guessed, I highly value connections. Connections are what brings more knowledge, comfort, and belonging to our lives. This week, I want to talk to you about how I took an 80% salary cut but gained more joy and freedom than I have ever experienced. Living with a “Less is More” mentality has undoubtedly changed my life. You can do it too!
Climbing off the corporate ladder
Let me start by sharing a little backstory on how I landed where I am today. For much of my life, I wanted to be a teacher. Life had other plans for me first, and I found myself working for a large corporation, caught up in the rat race of life, and climbing my way up the corporate ladder. I did well in this environment and as such had everything I wanted, materially speaking. The problem was that my work was kicking the bloody hell out of me, and I had no time to enjoy the things I acquired. Coming to this realization in my late 30’s meant some somewhat quick and big changes were necessary. I am a dive in the deep end with no flotation device kind of gal, so I sold my house, car, and everything I owned.
With all of my possessions narrowed down to a suitcase and my partner in crime by my side, we set out to Europe to start a new way of life. I took a year off to recoup and gain my creative mojo back. It was then, I decided to dive into online teaching. Online teaching does not come with a cushy salary, top-notch benefits, or stock options. Adjustments to our lifestyle were necessary. Luckily I had some practice already, given I took a year off. Here are the keys to how we made a much lower salary work. Of course, this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. For me, for us, this is where we have found our happiness, our joy, and success.
Taking Inventory of your wants vs. needs
The first big adjustment; you must find a balance between your wants and your needs. Truth be told, in the beginning, this was hard. As an American, and I think much of the world is this way, we live in a “want” driven society. The media has groomed us to believe our wants are our needs. Living with less is not about cutting all forms of enjoyment out of your life. It is about finding ways to be content with less; without depriving yourself. We all have things that may not be a need, but it is a want we have justified fitting into our budget. For me, it is Spotify premium. It is not a need but is that one frivolous thing that I don’t want to sacrifice. The point is, you need to take an inventory of your needs, wants, and those chosen things you don’t want to sacrifice. I own very little in the form of material possessions. But, I have all that I need, some of what I want and a lot of freedom. When you make an effort to take a serious inventory of your life, your possessions, and what really brings you happiness, you will find you want less.
We live in the Netherlands where the cost of living is relatively high, yet we manage to live on a meager salary and still have all of our daily needs. It does require some work and a little bit of planning. Saving money at the grocery store, for example, is easy. Buy fresh foods, avoid all the packaged and processed crap that your body doesn’t need anyway. Now, for all of you that still need those magical salty wonders, chips. Go for it! I do shop fresh…with a side of Pringles and beer. I enjoy having a cold beer and some salty snacks. Again, it’s about balance. Pick your must-have items and spoil yourself. Growing up in America, with all the wonders of an American grocery store, I got accustomed to having a pantry and fridge full of stuff that sometimes did not get eaten. Now, my fridge is full of fresh food, all of which gets eaten. I buy a couple of days at a time. This method allows you to eat well and save money. I don’t feel like I am sacrificing anything. With the money that I save doing this consistently, on those days when I just don’t want to deal with cooking, dishes, deciding what I want, etc. I order out, a want I still satisfy from time to time.
Fun and Travel
The question becomes, how do you afford to travel, dine out, attend concerts, or whatever you do for entertainment. Doing things you enjoy is essential, we all need a little entertainment factor in our lives. I discovered when I focus my attention on my needs, rather than wants; there is always room to play. You have to save and plan for these things. Mind you, all of this is accomplished without the help of Visa or MasterCard. Credit has turned into a means of spending money we don’t have, a big no-no in any case, but more so when you are living on less. You will have to get creative, and perhaps not do these things as often. That said, when you don’t require as much income to live, you will find yourself needing a get-away less. I have reached a level of life satisfaction where I live in vacation mode. I no longer dread Monday, heck, many times I don’t even know what day it is. I still wake up early, but never to an alarm. I do it because that is when my body wants to start being productive. A side effect of removing the stress from your life and loving what you do for income. Vacations have become less about getting away and more about exploring new places. All the other special outings, be it dinner, movies, or a combination of both are just limited to monthly events. Might I also mention; having things to look forward to is exciting!
Life is good!
At the risk of sounding cliché, a good life does not require a huge paycheck. Living on less does require a little sacrifice, modesty, and learning to live outside the lines drawn by society. I had the American dream, which is nothing more than a fairy tale. For some, this lifestyle works. For me, it was like fitting a round peg into a square hole. Much of the time not realizing the source of my discontentment. Giving up my career, my salary, and benefits package for the kind of salary I had back in my early 20’s has breathed new life into me and helped me to gain a new perspective. It did not lower my quality of living, it enhanced it. I have learned how to live small and to be grateful for the simple pleasures. I have found my success. It came without a big house, a car, or a bunch of zeros in my bank account. Success fell at my feet when I decided to live small. So, you might be wondering; what does all this have to do with teaching? Nothing directly, however, changing my lifestyle allowed me to pursue my passion. I choose to do what I love, not to overwork myself, and enjoy more free time. All of this without that constant worry about making enough. I encourage you to think of how you can reduce your living, to adopt a less is more mindset and start living more freely!