About five years ago I was earning a six figure salary. I spent an average of $1,000/month on new clothes. I ate out about 4x/week and didn’t think about how much I was spending. I went on fancy vacations that I couldn’t always afford. When my paycheck came every two weeks, I mumbled to myself that I was underpaid for the work that I was doing.
People always say to me that they don’t want to change careers or do the work that they truly want to do because they are not willing to give up their lifestyle. I can’t assume that they mean what I wrote above but I think that’s what they mean. When I was in a job that didn’t fulfill me, I tried to fill that hole by spending.
That’s the psychology that corporations understand. They are called the “Golden Handcuffs”. They know you are not doing what you are “meant to do” so they pay you handsomely. All to keep you there. Being motivated by money alone will never satisfy you.
Let me say that I am not against making money. I am a big fan of abundance. Particularly when it is in line with what you love to do, is there anything better than that? I also enjoy nice things in life. I love staying at nice hotels, I enjoy eating out at great restaurants, I love to shop.
Let me also say that I am well aware of the extremely tough economy and the need to pay rent/mortgage, groceries and stay afloat. Please know that when I say “lifestyle” I am not talking about “getting by”. What I am talking about is a shift in thinking about what you THINK that you need.
Let me use myself again as an example.
Since becoming an entrepreneur, I have definitely changed my lifestyle. And I have never been happier.The biggest gift that my cut in salary gave to me was: mindfulness.
Here is a sneak peek into the ways that I have become more mindful in my spending.
Eating Out: We now eat out about once a week. And when we do, it’s usually at one of my husband’s restaurants where we get a discount. Of course for special occasions, we splurge and try somewhere new. Although for Valentine’s Day, my husband cooked (and he NEVER cooks) an absolutely delicious meal. I would have taken that over any fancy restaurant.
Instead, I now cook most nights of the week. I have become aware of some amazing cooking blogs like my favorite Tastespotting . I have started meal planning so that I save at the grocery store and stick to only what we need. The benefit to all of this is that we are eating healthier. We are having family dinners together at home. My son watches me cook and loves to help. (Truth be told, the “helping” can get kind of annoying but is also cute.)
Also, since I work from home, I eat both breakfast and lunch at home so I save money automatically there. I used to spend at least $10/day on my lunches. I was never able to get it together enough to bring my lunch to work. Plus, I was so miserable that I wanted to get out and enjoy a nice meal somewhere.
Shopping: I rarely shop anymore. When I do, it is usually at Target or Forever 21 and I think I secretly love being able to find great pieces for such a low price. There is a pride in it. Also, like many of you, I used to wear 20% of my wardrobe 80% of the time. I didn’t NEED all of those clothes.
I also no longer need the wardrobe that I did when I was in the corporate world. Particularly when I worked at Gap, Inc or Williams Sonoma, Inc. there was so much pressure to look put together and stylish. It was a fun challenge sometimes but what I found was that it was just a hamster wheel that became exhausting.
Purging: Again, one of the greatest gifts has been the shift in perspective that Shira Gill (personal organizer) gave to me. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have and want, what about focusing on what you have to give? It sounds so simple but it was paramount to me. Suddenly, I got an incredible high from going through every closet and bookshelf and drawer in the house and giving things away. It was better than buying anything. Suddenly having less felt better.
Dog walking: Up until fairly recently, I was having two dog walkers per day. I still depend on one for most mornings during the week but in the afternoon my son and I take our dog to the field where he picks me flowers and chases the dog.
Presents: This has always been a sticky one for me because I think this is the biggest reason that I want to have abundance because I’d love to be able to shower people with lavish gifts. What’s better than that? But my coach and close friend Erin Brennan is an absolute genius at creative gifts and has really helped me come up with some incredibly thoughtful and low priced gifts.
Charity: The only way I used to give to charity used to be through donations. And when I worked in a corporation, I felt like I was always asked to donate to this charity or that charity and while I was happy to help, it never held any real meaning to me. Now, I try to do charity through other ways. I donate my time and my skills to help people. I am constantly giving things away clothes and things in my house. And I have chosen one charity to give to for the whole year: Kiva . If I won the lottery today, I’m not sure how much I’d change.
That’s a pretty big statement. So let me think about it. Of course there are things that I would change. Don’t get me wrong. But what I mean to say is that I know that (or hope!) that my mindfulness will always stay with me. That it isn’t about the money. It’s about being intentional with my money. And it is about feeling good about the money that I earn.
My hope is that this will help to shift your perspective around why you can or can’t leave a job you are unhappy in. And that you will take notice of each time that you have earned a salary increase, be mindful of the level of happiness that it has given you long term.
And what’s to say you couldn’t earn the same in a career that also fulfills you?
I hope you will share with me your thoughts on this post as it was a very personal one for me. I hesitated to press “publish” but I know that it is something that needs to be said.