In 2005, I decided I wanted to once-and-for-all pursue my passion for writing. So I planned my escape from the corporate world, and on March 31, 2006, I leaped and haven’t looked back.
I have only myself to rely on. I had a mortgage and all the expenses that come with a home and an acre of land at the time. I owned my car and had 2 cats and a little bit of savings.
Critical to me is knowing exactly what most expenses are each month. Fixed expenses include: health insurance, rent (that includes heat), gym membership, cell phone, Internet & TV, car insurance, rental insurance. The 3 biggest variable expenses are gas, groceries, and necessities (toilet paper, laundry detergent, cat food, etc.)
- I put all variable expenses on my 1 credit card and pay that 1 credit card off every month. Interest is free money for someone else. I’d rather keep it in my pocket.
As a freelancer, I have yet to have a consistent check come in at a specific time for consecutive months, so having the money in the bank before I pay all my bills on the 1st of each month is critical.
I do have savings from the sale of my house I can pull if absolutely necessary, but I’ve only dipped into that money a couple of times over the past 7 years and put the money back as soon as possible afterward. For the most part, I ignore my savings, it’s for my future, not for today.
- How to decide what to spend money on and what not to? Easy – do I have the money for it now? If yes, do I *really* need/want it? If yes, I purchase it. If no or not really, I don’t buy it.
Extravagances: going out to eat, especially dinner – I prefer lunch specials. Organic food – I’d love it, but have to be realistic. Name brands for anything – 95% of the time – exception is computers, I like Dell (but that’s a business expense), and only in the past 6 months have I started to purchase good running gear. I have a 10-year-old car, TV, and stereo and my furniture is 10-20 years old.
- I rent books from the library instead of buying, I reuse manila file folders and binders, I print things sparingly and on recycled paper. I cycle or walk when I can instead of driving. I plan errands all in 1 day instead of ‘whenever’. I say no to things I can’t afford. I buy clothes on sale. I save all my change and trade it in for dollar bills every few months – amazing how change adds up!
It takes discipline to resist the newest things, but it’s a conscious decision for me, and one I’ve been practicing for years now. I think anyone can do it – just like anyone can do anything she sets her mind to.
If it’s truly important to you and in line with your core values, you’ll make it happen. I don’t need the shiniest and prettiest ‘things. What I absolutely do need is to have the words to keep hitting the page.
Lisa J. Jackson is a New England-region writer and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She loves working with words and helping others with their own. As Lisa Haselton she writes fiction, co-blogs about mystery-related writing topics at Pen, Ink, and Crimes, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is a chat moderator at The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.