What does it take to make a living?
When I was employed (God help me) I kept coming up with desperate schemes to quit my job and keep my family financially afloat. But no matter what ideas I considered, people would tell me “there’s no money in it” or “you can’t make a living doing that”.
I’m glad I never pursued any of those schemes. Not because those warnings were true, but because I would now be stuck devoting all my time to something I didn’t really care enough about.
But in terms of the money, I’m wondering what exactly those people had in mind when they said you can’t make a living from whatever straws I happened to be grasping at: farming snails or running a microbrewery (or maybe both; snails love beer after all).
The whole time, I was preoccupied with the thought of income-replacement; not exactly the same thing as making a living. I knew I was earning enough to live, but I had no idea how much was actually required – the minimum income needed to sustain my family.
Friend dtcwee put me onto a bit of free software that now allows me to keep track of all our income and expenses. It’s been a bit of work, but the effort is paying off. It’s only been seven weeks since I started, and it will take at least a quarter to be more confident in our progress, but at present we are still living within our means despite having lost what was, all things considered, a reasonably good salary.
In terms of our weekly expenditure, I am happy to report that at present my family is spending much less than the average in our state, without any significant compromises in our standard of living. According to my calculations, we could live for 2.5 years on the average yearly expenditure of a South Australian household, or 3.7 years on the average yearly expenditure of Australian couples with children under 5.
This knowledge is empowering. Knowing exactly how much money we need to live means we can afford to be much more picky about the kinds of work we will do to pay the bills. The bigger the bills, the more limited our choices.
Most of us have been raised to think the opposite – that having a high-paying job gives us options and choice. We rarely think that our expensive lifestyles limit our choices when it comes to employment and work-life balance.
Objectively, we are living a more frugal lifestyle. But subjectively we don’t really notice it. We derive more value from not working hateful jobs than from being able to buy lots of things we don’t really want or need.