When it comes to leaving work behind, most people have an overriding focus on making more money.
However, there’s so much more to the concept of leaving work behind than that. While it is about creating the financial freedom that enables you to do what you want, making more money doesn’t have to be the key factor in that equation.
In this post I want to cover a topic that is far less glamorous than making money, but can get you closer to leaving work behind far more quickly than you might have previously imagined.
What Does “Leaving Work Behind” Mean?
In my experience, most people liken the concept of leaving work behind to making loads of money without spending a great deal of time working. Another definition is to make as much money as you earned in your job while having the freedom and flexibility of working for yourself.
While they are both valid descriptions of leaving work behind, they’re certainly not the only valid descriptions.
Consider this one for example: leaving work behind is earning far less than you do now, reducing your material expenditure dramatically, but being free of your job.
While it may instinctively feel “wrong” to earn less, often it can be totally worth it for the freedom that it affords you. Furthermore, you may find that once you have the extra freedom afforded by quitting your job, you can work on increasing your income over time.
My point is this: if you want to quit your job and build a better life for yourself, don’t limit yourself to one-dimensional thinking. Don’t focus on making more money alone. Broaden your horizons and consider all of the potential things you can do in the context of reaching your goal of leaving work behind.
A Penny Saved…
Making money can be really difficult — especially when you’re just getting started. But saving money is easy by comparison and can be done at any time. Most people are so focused on making money when saving money, in the short term, can have just as great an impact (often greater).
Let’s face it: the overwhelming majority of us spend inordinate amounts of money on unnecessary material goods (I know I do). Even the most frugal of us can still make big savings in their expenditure, regardless of how tight they think they have trimmed their budget.
The curious phenomenon is that despite the above, most people will tell you that there’s not much room for manoeuvre in their budgets. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Here are some of my favorite examples of how “essential” expenditure can be cut down to size:
- Cable TV: you don’t need it. Join your local library.
- Clothes: swallow your pride and head down to your local charity store.
- Groceries: you can survive on as little as a dollar per day.
- Eating out: just don’t do it.
- Your car: sell it. Get a cheaper one (or no car at all).
- Your house: downsize.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box either. For example, if you didn’t have a job would you still need a car?
If you feel like you simply cannot live without your creature comforts then perhaps a little perspective would help adjust your outlook. What would you rather do: work 9-to-5 then go home to watch TV, or work just two or three hours per day, as you please, then read a book in your spare time?
In reality, if you are prepared to downsize your life, you’ll find that you can live off dramatically less. If you can do so, you may be able to afford to quit your job right now.
Add Muscle and Lose Fat
To use a diet and exercise analogy (something I’m very much focused on at the moment), putting on muscle is making money and losing fat is saving money.
If you just put on muscle the end result might be quite impressive (and you’ll certainly be stronger), but you will look bulky and bloated because you’ve still got a layer of fat over that muscle. Alternatively, if you just lose fat and you already have some muscle tone, you’ll look a whole lot better without putting any muscle on.
But ideally, you should go for the best of both worlds: lose fat and gain muscle. That’ll afford you the most impressive results.
Although losing fat is by far the less glamorous side of the equation, it can often have the greatest effect and is the easiest part of the puzzle to complete.
Is It Worth It?
A lot of people simply aren’t prepared to give up their creature comforts to leave work behind. And that’s fine, as long as they are willing to admit to themselves that they don’t want to leave work behind badly enough to make the necessary sacrifices. Denial doesn’t help anyone.
However, a whole other bunch of people simply haven’t thought about the equation hard enough. While instinctively you can feel like you’re going backwards if you cut down on your outgoings to quit your job, in reality the opposite is occurring. Once you stop looking at money as the be all and end all of your life, your whole perspective can shift dramatically.
Consider this: if I had the opportunity to earn less money but be even happier, I’d take the opportunity without a second’s thought. Wouldn’t you? That’s the equation you can be dealing with here: spend less, quit your job, be happier.
And of course, once you have the level of freedom that is afforded by quitting your job, there is no reason why you can’t work towards earning more money anyway.
That is exactly what I did: the first month after I quit my job I earned a grand total of $937 when my typical outgoings were more like $3,000. However, I cut down my expenditure and worked on earning more, with the backing of a financial safety net to keep me from financial harm’s way. It all came good for me, but even if I hadn’t been able to earn as much as I did, there was still scope for me reducing my outgoings massively.
Take the Challenge
In some ways, going hardcore frugal is a fun concept to me. It’s something I did at college (like most people) and to a lesser extent afterwards; it was fun in a way to see how little I could spend and still survive.
But there’s a far more compelling reason to cut your expenditure than the simple challenge of it. Think of it this way: if you can trim enough off your outgoings today, you might able to quit your job tomorrow.
How exciting is that as a prospect? While you may feel that there are 101 things holding you back from taking the leap, you can make the decision a whole lot easier just by spending less.
Remember: leaving work behind isn’t about earning piles of cash, it’s about being happy and in control of your life. And you don’t need cash to be happy.