Like I mentioned in my About page, I decided to quit my job earlier this year with about a year of savings in the bank. But, as you can imagine, trying to get back on my feet and make a full time living while traveling hasn’t been as easy as I’ve thought.
Although my websites make me a little bit of money, I’ve had to get creative with my finances and my lifestyle in order to accommodate this huge career change. As it stands, I can’t live the same way as I did when I was making a six-figure salary in my last job. In this post, I’ll spell out exactly what I’ve learned since quitting my job, so YOU can pivot after quitting your full-time job.
Yes, I Quit My Job to Travel the World (Sort Of)
My decision to leave the corporate world was a long time coming – I’ve always loved to travel, and I didn’t love working from dawn to dusk nearly every single day. I started saving for my year off in my first 3 months of working, and over the course of less than 3 years, I had saved enough money to get on the road.
But I didn’t just quit my job to travel. I quit to be the boss of my own life.
I knew that deep in my heart, I preferred a life flexibility and freedom, without having to respond all hours of the night to a boss who didn’t care about my well-being. Even if it pays considerably less. So, for me, the trade off of location independence and being my own boss was worth the (initial) drop in salary.
So Now That I’ve Quit My Job…What’s Next?
Now that I’m six months into my ex-corporate world adventure, I’ve learned a few things about managing my finances that have been critical to my journey so far. In short, I’ve grouped them into three categories: Saving Money, Making Money, and having a Minimalist Lifestyle.
The most important thing I’ve had to do since quitting my job is finding more creative ways to save money. By setting more rigid spending guidelines for myself, I’ve challenged myself to understand exactly what I need to live and which luxuries I can afford to do without.
Make a Budget
PSA: it’s nearly impossible to stick to a budget if you don’t have one to begin with. If you’re planning on making a big career leap, I encourage you to sit down with a pen and paper (or even better, an Excel spreadsheet) and work out how much savings you have and how much you need to earn.
Make the Excel sheet flexible so you can toy around with hypothetical situations and toggle your income as needed. And don’t forget recurring monthly expenses, like student loans phone bills, utilities, etc.
You should also make sure to have an emergency fund of at least 3 months of living expenses. More on that in a later post.
Socialize Without the Price Tag
When I sat down to evaluate my finances, I realized that socializing was my #1 unnecessary expenditure. It doesn’t even mean just going out with friends, but anything that gives me an excuse to be around people: eating out, getting drinks, etc. For a while, I was worried and anxious that not doing these things would ruin my friendships and relationships with others.
What I learned is that just because social experiences cost money doesn’t mean they were the most meaningful. Actually, I realized that I enjoy the free activities, like taking a walk, playing a board game, or chatting in a park the most. Now, I’ve started to suggest that my friends and I do more of these free activities to save money and have more personal experiences.
It’s the Little Things That Add Up
Another thing I’ve realized is that the “exceptions” I make for myself add up to HUGE costs. Let me explain. I used to say to myself, “I’ll just get myself a coffee today, I really need it.” Then I’d spend $3 on a coffee or a sweet treat. But doing that every single day means $21 a week or $90 a month!
It wasn’t even just coffee. Buying small things at the souvenir shop, spending a bit more for dessert, and purchasing drinks were a few of the usual culprits.
Recently, I’ve started using a variety of budgeting apps to help manage and keep track of my expenses, so that I’m 100% conscious of how I’m spending.
Making money was also a huge priority for me and one I’m still trying to figure out, to be completely honest. Starting a blog was a big part of it, but now growth and monetization are my central challenges. Here are some of the key takeaways from starting a blog and making money that I’ve learned so far.
Rely on Your Strongest Skills
I used to be a management consultant, so I have learned a lot of executive communications and data analysis skills that are critical for success in the entrepreneurial world. In my journey to become a full-time freelancer, I’ve used these skills quite a bit to make money here and there with various side hustles. I’ve also used my data skills to manage my workflows and priorities for my own three websites.
Additionally, I’ve developed strong skills in photography and writing, which I’ve used to pitch larger publishers and collaborate with more established blogs.
Snag the Low Hanging Fruit (But Leave It If It’s Rotten)
If opportunities to make money present themselves, then take them. For example, I’ve had a few people reach out to me to consult for them on blogging for business, analytics, and more. When these opportunities to use your skills pop up, jump on them quickly or someone else will snag them. Be an opportunist!
The biggest caveat to this, though, is doing shady business. If I could give one piece of advice on this topic, it is to not even THINK about trying to make money doing illegal or black-hat business. It will tarnish your reputation and potentially prevent you from getting better opportunities in the future.
Leverage Your Relationships
Do you have a friend working on a really cool project? Was there a recent call for pitches for a publication you love? Is your old boss starting a new venture that might need your help?
Get in touch.
I’ll say this many times in future posts, but your network is one of the the most important things you have. Use it! Even if people don’t respond the first time, the second time, etc., you’ll be solidifying relationships and you’ll be top of mind for the next opportunity that comes up.
After lugging too much heavy junk for four months through Central Asia and Europe, I realized I desperately need to downsize. No, not my house, but my STUFF. Especially in the United States, where commercialism is rampant, a lot of us fall prey to the buying mania. It took a long time to get in the mindset of getting rid of stuff I don’t need so that I can live more frugally and minimally.
Get Rid of Clutter
Like I said, I have a “stuff” problem. I always think about the “what ifs” and buy things to plan for the worst. There is a place for that kind of thinking (see budgeting above), but clothes and junk is not it. So, I’m planning on doing a holiday overhaul and inventory of all of the stuff I own, setting aside the essentials and selling or donating everything else.
Stay Sane through Mindfulness
To be more mindful of my eating and my spending, I started a rigid program of daily meditation. But before you click the X button and write me off as a freaky spiritual guru, hear me out.
I was always a little skeptical of meditation, as I thought it was some weird woo-woo stuff that people do. However, many friends who are smart and reasonable recommended it to me as a way to decompress. I figured, “why not?” and decided to try the Calm app, which has a fantastic 21-day beginner meditation program. It was just 15 minutes a day, anyway.
At first, I found that I had a really hard time sitting still and being aware of the reverberations of my mind. It scared me. But slowly, I realized that meditating each day gave me the personal skill of stepping back and watching my actions and cravings with a little bit more attention.
Since starting to meditate daily, my focus has improved and my haphazard spending has decreased. I’ve learned to be more aware of when I’m full, or when I don’t need another $10 glass of wine.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re thinking of quitting your job to pave your own path, or just want to take a career break for a set amount of time, setting up your daily habits around these guidelines can really help you save money, grow your existing income, and stay sane.