That Curious Love of Green

How to Live on One Modest Income or Less

How to Live on One Modest Income or Less

Do you dream of quitting your job or of working part-time? Do you wonder if you could cope mentally, financially? Or maybe you are unemployed, job hunting and feeling the strain. Work is so tied up with our feelings of worth and security but is that right?

I think we know that for most people it isn’t right, or true. Most people are under-paid, under-valued, have little or no opportunity for advancement, to use their abilities or initiative, and they know their job isn’t secure. What they get is the ‘status‘ of ‘working’ the hope of security and enough to ‘manage’.

Generations before have lived and worked like this too, but on a promise.

The promise was the future, that for the children it could, it would be better, if we all worked harder. But that is no longer true and everyone knows it. Our children will not have the opportunities we had, they are facing a harder future than we, our parents or grandparents did and what’s more it’s not our fault.

They tried to sell us that chestnut but everyone knows the truth now, the internet has made that possible and if the super elites, the 1%, the corporations and billionaire bankers have their way with agreements like TTIP it will only get worse.

George Carlin said it’s called the ‘American Dream’ because you have to be asleep to believe it. Social mobility barely exists in the world and you can read an interesting article on that very subject HERE.

rumi

If you love your job, I know one person who does, though he lives in fear of losing it, if it pays well, has great perks, is a way for you to get out of the house, a break from the kids and domestic grind then that’s great, your’re lucky, this post is not for you. I used to be you in fact.

Now I haven’t worked outside the home since 2011 when funding for my job came to an end. I was pregnant with my third child and it seemed like a good time for ‘a break’ : )

It wasn’t long before I was dreaming of dressing up for work, lattes, lunchtimes…leaving the house. Two of the worst winters, not driving, reduced income and small children, it was tough.

I’d had a decent income running the Traditional Arts Company I’d built from scratch plus my own PR consultancy work on the side. With the recession, the pr work quickly dried up, followed by all work. Factors like rural location, not being able to drive, babies and recession all played a part. But would I change it now? Would I hell! These days I dream of more writing time!

We’re a one (modest) income family with three kids, one in college, a mortgage, one car until recently (no spring chickens, ahem, the cars that is, and all I want to say is if this is your dream it can be done or if you find yourself here you can survive, and thrive.

I can also honestly say that I hope I will never work in the traditional sense again. You know I’m not counting book tours right. But I would rather live in a ditch than work nine to five again, ever. I also hope I never need to rely on social welfare again because while I absolutely believe in a welfare state and having a floor below which no citizen would be allowed fall it is still a tough and dehumanising thing.

I know everyone’s situation is different, we all have different debts and responsibilities and I have a partner to share all of that with but I believe too that we have a tendency to think we can’t afford to stay at home even if we can. We are reared, programmed to think that way and as stay at home mothers to feel less valued if we do.

Here’s the thing, if my job hadn’t ended in 2011 I wouldn’t have started the blog or the biggie, written a novel. I know that for a fact. Makes you think doesn’t it? Once we got over the initial adjustment, found our groove and I started doing those things I had always wanted to do, life improved, for all of us. Quizzing my husband for this post he agreed. He likes things the way they are now.

poverty

We are ‘richer’ in so many ways, not financially obviously but so what. That is small fry for the trade off.

I feel happier and more fulfilled than I ever have. My husband is happier and the two youngest children have always had me at home. There’s never any rushing or dragging them out of bed at dawn. I’m not as tired or stressed as when I was working. We grow some food, plan meals, cook and eat very well on our budget because you need time to do those things.

I’m very grateful that this is how things played out, I never thought I’d be happy at home but I am because it freed me creatively. It’s late in the day perhaps but I feel I’m doing the things I was meant to do. I won’t have any regrets.

I should add that as a former single parent who did drag her first child out of bed every morning and brought her to creche every morning from she was six months old, that at 19 (19 at time of writing, 21 now!) she has no visible scars!

So believe me I know you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I’m just grateful, that word again, that I fell off the wheel, escaped the matrix, and I’d say if you have the chance, embrace it, be grateful for it, use it to find ‘your thing’ or else take it. Leave, quit, downsize and forget ‘supposed to’ or any value that is imposed or bred in you.

Failing all this, if you really can’t quit your job or downsize then at least detach. Redefine that work as just work, a means to an end not the sum of you. Know your own worth, stay free in your heart and you can instil that idea in your children too. That when it comes to work and school they are not defined by rote learning or exam success or later by the work they find they may have to do. After all no experience is wasted.

‘I freed a thousand slaves, I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.’Harriet Tubman, African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and during the American Civil War, a Union spy

I’ll admit I had a weak moment in this philosophy with my daughter. She was good at school, unusually perhaps she is both creative and academic, even doing honours maths (that’s so way beyond me) and when it came time to make choices for college I had this moment when I thought she should do something like maths, go for something like finance, maybe actuary!!! Sorry about that Shaylyn.

I thought, I just want her to have an easy life. I forgot there was no such thing.

Thankfully I came round and back to telling her she should just explore and develop her interests, find her passions and focus on those.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross,1926 –2004, Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross,1926 –2004, Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in near-death studies.

 

1. Consider the hard truth that work costs money. Travel, clothes, lunches, coffee and the big one, childcare. And the biggest cost of them all, time.

2. Consider the happy truth that not working saves money. You will have more time to plan groceries and cook meals for example. Another way we save money is in heating. Because I’m at home we can keep the wood stoves burning, saving on oil in winter. We have no childcare costs either. Our youngest goes to an Irish language playschool two mornings a week but I don’t have to send her. Have you thought of ways you could save money?

3. Take comfort in studies that show the best activities to ensure a good outcome in the life of every child are eating and talking together as a family and being read to.

4. Simple Pleasures. Consider also that many of the things we tend to do when we don’t have lots of money often take more effort but are healthier and ultimately give more pleasure. Growing and cooking food from scratch, chopping wood for the fire, spending time in nature, walking, even budgeting. It’s that whole value of experiences over material goods thing. It’s science.

4. You Rebel You. Food writer Michael Pollan said that cooking your own food is a revolutionary act. Take pride and rebellious delight in every ‘product’ you don’t buy, in anything that you grow or make or recycle. In this way you are taking control for your life in a world where convenience is king.

5. Be prepared to live with less. This is the adjustment but if you like the idea of not participating in our system, harbour dreams of being self-sufficient you’ll find it easier.

6. It’s all made up anyway. Remember our current system is a creation, 19th century I believe. Time was child labour and no holidays were part of that system too. Things can change and do. A friend of mine was telling me there are theories that a twenty hour working week would be better for society and I know trials of this have been successful. It feels like time for changes in the way we work don’t you think?

6. Find something for you. Use this time to find or re-discover and nurture your passions. For example, all I need to make me happy now are the means to write, read and paint. Also good of course are my fire and a quiet house when I get the chance. A trip or two to my beloved Dublin each year. A glass of wine, a hot bath, a long country walk, food on the table, a good conversation. What else is there?

8. If you’re out of work despite best efforts, wishes, experience etc I know it’s hard but try to enjoy this time as a gift and use it. You may never get the chance again so hang in there, close your ears and heart to the mob. You know the ones I mean. On the other side if you’re thinking of getting out…go for it! Go quick and never look back.

'Woman with a Bird Cage' (1892) by József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927). Hungarian National Gallery
‘Woman with a Bird Cage’ (1892) by József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927). Hungarian National Gallery

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to share in comments. Have a great day out there



17 thoughts on “How to Live on One Modest Income or Less”

  • I absolutely agree with you that the current working week is just a thing we have right now, and not necessarily forever. I hadn’t heard of the 20 week trial but think it sounds brilliant. Whose daft idea was it that we work five full days anyway! Great post.

  • Love these inspiring words Jane, you have made your very own Eden, you, your husband, and your children must be so much happier learning from you, what is important and what is not.:)

  • I feel like I could have written this myself! Money is something that affects people in many different ways and so of course is poverty, which is why it is so difficult to talk about this topic. I feel like I need to recognize my privilege. Both my partner and myself come from economically stable backgrounds and have had the benefits of higher education.
    We now choose to live much in the way you are describing, from one income in a 2 parent, 2 child household.
    There does exist a cycle of poverty from which it is almost impossible to come out the other side. For most of us though, it IS possible to earn less, and spend less.
    What a beautiful blog!

    • You hit the nail on the head about it being a difficult subject to talk about and for exactly the reasons you’ve given. I almost didn’t write it, glad now I did. Thank you for commenting and sharing your own experience : )

  • What a wonderful way of looking at things. The working week of 40 hours is just a construct of society. We have had big changes here, I decided to job share and am enjoying it. My husband has had a forced lifestyle change. But your article has helped me look at it a different way.

  • Jane, I cut back to 4 days a week for my sanity. I like to work. But I was being consumed with not enough time on the weekends to do what needed to be done, much less what wanted to be done. So I cut back to 4 longer days so I can be off 3 days in a row. It made a world of difference. I had to make sacrifices to do so, but in the end it served its purpose. Sometimes I wish I did not have to work, then I realize that I want to work. It’s that eternal tug of war, but on my quest for self-care, I did what it took to take that next step. Thanks for your writings. I truly enjoy them. I also look forward to your novel. Blessings…

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