FORGE & THRIVE

Create a better life one step at a time

WE HALVED OUR INCOME BUT DOUBLED OUR LIVES

At the start of 2017 I had a pretty good life-balance.

Life was already a world away from just a few short years earlier, when I was constantly stressed about the lack of money and we couldn’t afford to do anything or go anywhere.

I was running my web business (during school hours only) from a trendy office in the same small industrial town where my husband also worked. We met for lunch most days, popping to our smallholding to check the animals and go for a walk.

I was able to collect my son from school every day and we’d spend a couple of hours together chatting about his day before he’d go off to play in the garden whilst I prepared a meal for when Andrew (who was then working 40 hours a week) arrived home from work.

The evenings were usually filled with child-orientated hobbies such as swimming lessons, horse riding (a privilege we could now afford) and visiting relatives. Weekends were full of fun with day trips and small holding jobs but when by in a blur. Mini-breaks and holidays were frequent.

It was an idyllic mixture of chaos and fun.

For the first time in FOREVER we had enough money.

In fact, working a combined total of 70 hours a week, we were able to put money into savings each month.

This is the goal, right?

Doing a job you like, having an active life outside of work and loads of holidays?

It’s perfection. It doesn’t get any better.

BUT we wanted more.

More time to spend on hobbies. More time to relax and doing nothing at all. More time to enjoy life.

We had a taste of the life we wanted but couldn’t get a big enough slice.

The more money we saved in the bank the more the feeling grew. Yes, having a safety net in the bank is great (and something I recommend) but we just felt as though we’d rather have the time than the extra money.

Time to create memories, have fun, live.

Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.
-Jim Rohn

The feeling of wanting more out of life kept growing. Then something serendipitous happened. Our son, who had always been reluctant to move away, announced, after we returned from holiday, that he wanted to move to Cornwall.

You don’t waste opportunities like that!

The first thing we needed to do was to work out was how we’d be able to afford it.

We were bringing in good wages. Did we really want to go back to being stressed about money?? Cornwall is not known for it’s abundance of well paid jobs and cheap living.

Initially we thought we needed to replace our full wages and I’ll admit at that point we did consider staying put. After all property in Cornwall is more expensive than West Yorkshire and the lifestyle we’d grown accustom to, although not extravagant, wasn’t that cheap.

But I don’t give up that easily.

I sat down and looked at the budget to see what expenses could be crossed off straight away.

  • We wouldn’t have a smallholding in Cornwall so the rent, animal food, vet bills were crossed off.
  • Cornwall was our favourite place in the world so if we were living there we could do without holidays, right? So we crossed off the money we put into the holiday fund each month. It wasn’t a necessity. 
  • Could we downsize? There are only three of us so do we really need a three bedroom house, with a garage, loft conversion with a home office and gym and large garden? What would be the minimum we’d need for a good standard of living?? Property in Cornwall is expensive so even with a downsize a new house might not be any cheaper than the one we were selling but there was a bit of equity in the house so that would make the mortgage repayments a bit lower.
  • Unnecessary bills like TV subscriptions could go
  • We could reduce our spending money if we didn’t eat out as much

It turned out that if we stuck to a strict budget then we’d only need about 50% of our current income – providing we could find a house at the right price.

Once you are very clear about what you actually need it’s much easier to find ways to make it happen. 

Suddenly the decision to move seemed very straight forward. Knowing that we only needed to make half the amount of money meant that we had a plan B. If necessary we could do seasonal, low paid work and we’d still be ok. That wouldn’t be ideal but it was a fall back plan. With a good Plan B we started work on Plan A.

Andrew was able to come to an arrangement and continue working for the same company but for only 20 hours per week – exactly half of the 40 hours a week he was used to.

As I was moving my business 350 miles away we expected to lose some clients and we had no connections in the area we were moving to. We had a bit of money we’d saved in the bank that could cover us through a transition period until I’d found new clients. If I lost all my clients and couldn’t find new ones I’d have to look at plan B. 

Luckily, we found new clients easily and I was able to fill about 15 hours a week with work – again this was half of the amount of work I was used to doing in a week.

That meant that we’d reached the 50% we needed to survive.

So, we could start to find more work and start reaching towards our previous income, couldn’t we? 

BUT WHY WOULD WE???

We work until lunchtime each day.

In the free time before school finishes we go walking on the coast path or head to a café for a cream tea.

School’s out early here (at 2.30pm) and then it’s time for the beach, surfing, body boarding, fishing, kayaking, walking, ice-creams, strawberry picking, cliff top bars and generally having fun.

We bought a small two bedroom cottage, in a coastal village with access to the coast path just a two minute walk away.

It came on the market one morning when we were in Cornwall for the weekend desperately trying to find something we could afford, after weeks of unsuccessful searching.

It was cheaper than we could have hoped for, was live-able (but needed work) and we snapped it up at asking price within an hour of it going on the market.

It had a small, messy garden that we quickly paved and built a big shed in. It that houses surf boards, paddle boards, kayaks and Andrew’s gym equipment.

We don’t need a bigger house because apart from when we’re working we’re never in it. That’s not to say we’ll never move but we’re certainly not going to have to work more to do so!

People warned us that moving to a holiday destination isn’t like being on holiday…… I beg to differ. We’ve been here over two and a half years now and it’s still exactly like being on holiday. We made it that way by ensuring we stay focused on enjoyment and not material possessions.

We still earn about 50% of what we used to but the benefits to our lives have been greater than we could have wished for.

If you’re working your way up the property ladder, chasing promotions and upgrading your car take some time to really think if that’s what you want.
Is a bigger house going to make you happier or is it just going to make you have to work harder?
Are you more successful if you have money in the bank or a bank of memories?

Now in the interests of total honesty there was a little blip. Our house sale fell through and we ended up with 2 mortgages and 2 sets of bills to pay for 9 months!!! So during that time I did supplement my income with a second job (for 6 months). But even if I’d known that was going to happen I would still have moved. We haven’t regretted it for a second! 

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