At the start of 2017 I had a pretty good life-balance. I was running my own 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 every day, popping to our smallholding to check the animals and eat lunch overlooking the spectacular views of the Calderdale countryside.
It was already a world away from just a few short years earlier, when I was constantly stressed and suffering sleepless nights about the lack of money. We could barely afford the bills let alone a haircut!
I was now able to collect my son from school every day and spend a couple of hours together chatting about his day, letting him play in the garden and preparing a meal for when Andrew (who was working 40 hours a week) arrived home from work.
The evenings were usually child-orientated hobbies such as swimming lessons, horse riding (a privilege we could now afford) and visiting relatives. Weekends were a blur of day trips and small holding jobs. Weekend 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 putting 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?
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 money. Create memories, have fun, live.
Time is more value than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.
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 that he did want to move to Cornwall after all. You don’t waste opportunities like that!
Now he was happy to move our blocks appeared. We couldn’t afford it, surely? What about school? Jack had just found out his school place for September and it was already May! Would he get a place in Cornwall? Did we really want to go back to being stressed about money? Cornwall is not known for it’s abundance of well paying jobs and cheap living.
Initially we thought we’d need 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 a holiday fund each month. Could we downsize? There are only three of us so did we really need a three bedroom house, with a garage, loft conversion with a home office and gym and decent sized 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. There was a bit of equity in the house so the mortgage repayments would at least be a bit lower. All unnecessary bills like TV subscriptions were crossed off. Spending money could be less if we didn’t eat out as much.
It then didn’t feel like such a stretch but we still couldn’t live on fresh air. Once we’d crossed out all unnecessary expenses and theoretically tightened our belts we realised we only needed to aim for 50% of our current income.
Armed with this new information we took some bold steps. Andrew was able to negotiate an arrangement and continue working for the same company remotely but for only 20 hours per week.
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. But 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. The alternative was I’d have to find a job. I was willing to do any work if it meant we could live in our dream location and I was sure I could find something if I wasn’t picky.
Luckily, I found new clients easily and I was able to fill about 15 hours a week with work.
That meant that we’d reached the 50% we needed to survive.
Therefore, we could start to find more work and start reaching towards our previous income couldn’t we.
BUT WHY WOULD WE?
We start the day with a short walk around the harbour enjoying, and sometimes enduring, what nature has to throw at us. Then it’s work until lunchtime. In the free time we have, 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, so 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 house, in a village with access to the coast path just a two minute walk away. 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 paved and built a big shed in that houses surf boards, paddle boards, kayaks and Andrew bought gym equipment.
We don’t need a bigger house because apart from when we’re working, or sleeping, we’re never in it. That’s not to say we’ll never move but we’re not willing to work more to enable it!
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, because 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 really 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). We never thought about going back or giving up. It just goes to show that you can achieve anything you want or need to!
Article first published on Forge and Thrive