Often, you’ll see personal finance writers of all stripes talking about how there are 2 sides to the personal finance coin: reducing your expenses and increasing your income. I don’t disagree with them. Both are important things to consider. However, you’ll often see other writers talk about how you need to increase your income to get anywhere with your finances or make any “real” traction. They preach this as if it is gospel. So why aren’t I?
Well, for a number of years I tried that path. I spent several years working two jobs while in university, just to keep my head above water. I wasn’t making much progress but I was surviving. I paid all my bills each month and didn’t have to get too many student loans. However, working that much while doing so many other things was exhausting. I was so focused on achieving external goals and “having it all” that I forgot to take care of myself. I was stressed out, burnt out, and anxious to the max.
When I finished university, my plan was to get a full-time social work job and a part-time side gig, so I could keep making as much money as possible. I was worried sick about paying back my student loans and supporting myself at the same time. I thought that working all the time was the only way I could manage that. Somehow, though, that plan didn’t pan out. After two months of unemployment, I got a full-time “grown-up” job in my field. I decided to hold off on the side gig because I wanted to focus my energies on doing well in my full-time job. So I did. And in that time I discovered the joy of having free time, of having time for myself. I started working out, baking more, and dating Jordan. I also had time to go to therapy and unpack some of the emotional baggage I had been dragging around with me for years. I realized in therapy that my constant business was a way for me to avoid dealing with my emotions and with the realities of my life. I started to think that maybe I should change that.
It’s been three years since I had that realization. I think I’ve grown a lot and been much better about facing reality and taking care of myself. A big part of my growth in the last three years has been learning to focus on fully experiencing the present moment. I’ve been learning to be more content with where I’m at – emotionally, socially, physically, and financially. I’ve started to embrace a simpler lifestyle, which includes frugality, and I’ve been much much happier. By shifting my focus from money to myself, I’m in a much better place in my life and I’m a much better person.
This is why I’m not currently writing about ways to increase my income, because they all seem to involve more work. Reducing my expenses through frugality allows me to more fully prioritize the things that are important to me, since I no longer have to work as much to pay for my lifestyle. I’m finding that the things that make me the happiest aren’t the things that cost a lot of money or involve working a lot. The things that are most important in my life are my relationships – with my family, my friends, my fiancee, and myself. By not working as much, I’m choosing to prioritize my time and to prioritize things that give me meaning over things that give me money. I can do this by being frugal and intentional with my money. Since I don’t need a lot of money to maintain my current lifestyle, I don’t have to worry about working lots to make more. This frees up my time and energy for the things that ultimately make me a happier, better person. And that’s why I’m not writing or thinking right now about ways to increase my income.
What about you readers? Where are you at on the increasing income vs. reducing expenses scale and how are you managing with that?