|View from my home office. Spring is in the air!|
|One of my many satellite offices around town.|
|My conference room.|
MONEYOh that vile subject.
People often ask me the million dollar question:
How did I save up enough to quit my job?
An excellent question I'm happy to answer.
To start, I'm not exactly mathy. I'm one of those unfortunate souls who have a wall with math. If you ask me a math question, I’ll answer you with a blank stare. But I really wanted to figure out how much money I would need to quit my job, so I had to use basic math, which meant I'd start with $100 because even I can multiply by 100.
Scribbling simple math equations is nothing new. People across the nation are calculating what money is coming in and what is going out. They are looking at the numbers and wondering how to make more, save more, buy more, and pay off more. Or how to have more money left at the end of the month rather than more month left at the end of the money.
I figured if I spent an average of $100 a day (including rent, gas, movies, everything) and multiplied it by 365 days of the year, I'd have to save $36,500 to quit working for a year:
$100 x 365 = $36,500
And that is a shit ton of cash to save.
But the number wasn't so scary because it was completely arbitrary. I didn’t know at the time how much I actually spent in a day. Nor did I know how much money I’d spend in the future. But it was somewhere to start. And the math was easy enough to keep my pencil on the paper, fooling with numbers. So I continued.
I took my answer of $36,500 and divided it by a year to see how much I'd have to save per month. Then I divided it further:
$36,500 ÷ 12 months = $3041 to save each month
$3041 ÷ 2 pay periods each month = $1520 per paycheck to save
$1520 ÷ 14 days (approximately) = $108 to save each day
And when I got to the final number of $108, I realized that my preposterous, outrageous, ridiculously large, seemingly unreachable number of $36,500 was not so impossible. Why? Because anyone who has spent any time with religions of India, in a yoga class or watching the TV show Lost knows that the 108 is an auspicious, magical number.
The Buddhist mala or rosary has 108 beads, Hindu deities have 108 names, the sum of the numbers on Lost equals 108 and these numbers must be entered into the computer every 108 minutes. Plus, there are 108 stitches in an American League baseball and 108 cards in an UNO deck. And UNO just so happens to be my most favorite card game ever, but no one over the age of 10 seems to ever want to play it with me. People just look at me sideways, sigh and ask if we can get dinner instead. I will always be up for UNO. I will also take no prisoners, which could explain why they suggest dinner. Be warned.
So you could say I’m a fan of 108, but not as much of a fan as I am of the number 27, which is the date of my birthday, and when multiplied by 4 is, you guessed it: 108.
On the day when I was sitting at my desk with a pencil in my hand and the number 108 staring me in the face, I knew I could do this. I had the support of the deities of the East, my favorite TV show of all time, Major League baseball and UNO. There is no way I couldn’t make this happen.
Even though I wasn’t sure how to actually make it happen, but I’d figure that out later.
For now, I just knew I had to save $108 a day.
Every day afterward, I woke up thinking of that number. They say a dollar saved is a dollar earned. So how could I save $108 a day? Or better yet, how could I make an extra $108 a day?
And then I got busy:
- Saying no to group dinners that included Chad who always drank 7 glasses of wine to my 1 glass and then suggested we split the bill. No Chad. I don't want to buy your drinks, thanks.
- Suggesting free activities with friends such as hikes and UNO games. No one took me up on UNO but hiking worked.
- Rolling my pennies (Canada is eliminating the penny, so there is now an entire nation of penny rollers) and taking them to the bank. A jar of coins is halted energy.
- Using up what I had (art supplies galore) rather than buying more.
- Giving my paintings as gifts. They were appreciated (and wouldn't fit in my suitcase anyway).
- Saying no to things I didn't want to do. This is big. For a long time I felt that the act of being invited meant I had to say yes. I didn't have to say yes to activities that drained my spirit and pocketbook.
- Selling stuff on Ebay, Craigslist, and yard sales that were good for someone but not for me.
- Not taking the extra scoop of Mac & Cheese at the Whole Foods salad bar.
- Paying off my credit card to avoid nostril-flaring interest charges.
- Forever avoiding Forever21. In the end, I tossed or donated sooo many flimsy dresses.
Full disclosure: I didn't keep track of whether I saved $108 a day. Sometimes I'd save $20 and other times, like the day I sold my car, I made much more than $108. But I always had that number swishing around in the back of my mind, helping me make decisions on what to buy, what to not buy, and how I could make money for my freedom dream.
And that big number of $36,500? It stayed arbitrary. I just kept plugging away at the number $108, which seemed more manageable and doable.
In the end, I saved well beyond $36,500 and I never once felt like I deprived myself along the way. I felt only like I stopped the financial leaks (like dinner with Chad) and found creative ways to use up what I already had (art supplies, a desire to paint, and gifts that I loved to give). I still went to movies because I loved going to movies. I still ordered my coffee just the way I liked it even though I knew I could save more if I had coffee at home. I still bought clothes, but less of them and at a higher quality. Even if I paid more. I still donated to causes I loved. I put a lot of paintings up for charity auctions.
These days, the habit has stuck with me. I still have $108 swirling in my head and I try to make it or save it each day. It helps that I live in a small space in Paris. I simply don't have the room to acquire too much stuff. I also opened my Letter of the Month business on Etsy, which allows me to do something I love to do (paint) and get paid for it. Plus, I don't have the pressures of group dinner dynamics at play. The Chads of the world can go f**k themselves.
And it helps that I was single. There was no spouse or child to consider. No collaboration. I finally got glad about that instead of just wondering why I hadn't found love yet. It would come in time. But back then, it was just me, thinking of the magic number 108 and my freedom dreams.
What little or big things can you do to make your freedom dreams come true?