Relative Poverty

It’s been almost 2 years since I gave up paid work. Two years since I drew a monthly salary, albeit a modest one. I knew at the time I had enough tucked away in savings to fund a two year sabbatical if I was careful with my finances and fundamentally changed some of my financial bad habits. Now I’ve come to the end of that period, I’m rather strangely in the position where I actually have enough left to cover a further 2 years, should that be necessary.  However, there do have to be further cutbacks.


It’s rather strange, this month, to find myself actively looking for paid work. It’s showing me how much my priorities have shifted since I decided to put family and mental wellbeing first. Firstly, I am fortunate not to have to work full time – I can only thank my naturally workaholic Husband Underfoot for giving my that grace and support.

Secondly, what I do matters. It always did, but there was an element of feeling trapped in a well paid cage with sharp bars by the time I left my last role. After the first year of dithering around trying to pull my head together, I spent the second year in a more constructive if not productive manner. Year 1 was so coated in emotion that I was doomed to fail to achieve any of the stupidly lofty goals I’d set myself, year 2 was the realism year. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my volunteer role as a researcher at Newcastle’s Lit and Phil on the impact of World War 1 on my hometown.  I’m now taking that forward as a volunteer copywriter on an ebook they are pulling together.

This was an unforeseen change of direction. I’ve always thought of myself as a fiction writer, when the truth is, I am a writer. Full stop.  I have to thank other people for helping me see this, the excellent editor in chief Simon at Den of Geek being foremost amongst them. Since November he has published 3 of my articles – modest to some perhaps, but I’d never considered myself an article writer and these fledgling footsteps have helped to boost my confidence in my own voice. The comments and support on those articles (pretty personal, in the main) has been invaluable.

Apologies, I’m veering off topic as I have a tendency to do. Let’s just say I’m not really making much in income. What I’m gaining in experience is priceless. I have copy  filing deadlines on the WW1 project. I have to summarise large pieces of research down to 250 easily digested words for broad audiences. What I’m gaining is professional feedback and a potential loop back into education that I hadn’t anticipated.

So I’m cash poor. I’m pretty life rich – in a personal sense. I struggle sometimes with the things outside of my control (most notably the health issues of those closest to me) – but I can’t do anything about that and I was building a prison of anxiety around myself by constant worry.  However, today I can step out of my front door and walk down to the sea. I can walk into my small town and visit my excellent library. I can get on public transport and visit the Lit & Phil, or one of the excellent free museums in Newcastle.

I can just stop, and appreciate everything that I have.


I don’t have a new car, an endless bank balance, a show home, frequent holidays, or an endless supply of new clothes. I don’t need them (though a comfortable yet stylish pair of boots has become a wardrobe essential!). One thing I do miss is a paid up travel card but I just can’t justify the cost.

I do have a wonderful family, brilliant friends, a small but supportive network of creative people. I’m reasonably healthy. My legs work just fine and propel me to where I want to be most days. I bank my small change once a month and treat myself to coffee and cake, rather than assuming I’m entitled to it daily like I used to.

I have total creative freedom in my fiction writing. It’s early going, but this year something has taken flight. I have to thank my writing retreat tutors for telling me to stop overthinking and people pleasing, and to just follow the joy. My joy.

My financial poverty is relative. I can’t afford financial luxuries that I once took for granted – the latte twice a day, insanely expensive branded alternative clothes and boots that I wear perhaps 4 times a year, insatiable book buying (thank you local libraries, for being so good), my strange infatuation with beautiful stationery. All those moleskine notebooks I bought are finally being used for the purpose they were created. I can’t buy expensive presents for those in my life anymore – the flip side being I put much more thought into what I do spend my much smaller coin on.

I am so bloody lucky. I may find a job tomorrow, next week, next month. It may not happen for a year, but I can cope with that. Because my life is rich in it’s own way. It isn’t without worry or anxiety, and at some stage those anxieties are going to come home to roost. To be human is to lose those we love the most – and it’s coming. But right now, right here in year 3, I have this glorious open window of relative poverty – and I’ve never felt so free.

Postscript: I realised after reading this there are 2 things I can’t scrimp on – haircuts and hosiery! Both are essential to my wellbeing 🙂


17 thoughts on “Relative Poverty

  1. Cash poor but life rich sounds much better than cash rich and life poor. This entire post is beautiful. I would be interested in reading a book about your life 🙂

  2. I did something similar and have never regretted it. I love having time to write. I never earned enough to toss money around, but did enjoy buying clothes. Now I’m happy in my regular writing outfit: tracky bottoms and fleece tops. I can imagine that volunteering for the Lit and Phil is wonderful!

    • Yup, my regulation M&S black cotton jeans and a variety of geeky tee shirts do me just fine 🙂

      The Lit & Phil is brilliant, the project I’m helping on is time specific so I’ll only be helping out until June but it has been so interesting.

  3. To be honest, I think, that in some way, living a mentally and emotionally rich life and gaining experience and constructive feedback in a field you enjoy working in is a lot more important, than making tons of money with something you don’t love doing.

    • It’s taken me a while to realise it, as there are certain people in my life (who should know better) who can only value you your worth as determined by your income.

      I do get paid per article by Den of Geek, which I appreciate, as they have a policy of insisting that all contributors receive payment, however small – unlike the creative blood draining Huffington Post. DoG tell me off for saying I’d work for them for free – but I would! They make me happy!

  4. It sounds exactly like retirement! LOL

    I can totally forego haircuts and now I have time to knit my own hosiery (which isn’t cheaper initially but they do last a lot longer), but I do really miss having the extra funds a paying job provides for antique and thrift shopping, and buying books because there are no decent libraries out here. Small things really, and more than made up for by the free time I now have to work on the things I want to. Although when the spouse and I went for our walk yesterday, I was moaning about the fact I’ll probably run out of time before I run out of projects to work on. 😉

    • Hah! My mother actually calls me retired and when I sit in one of my favourite libraries listening to the older folk discussing their latin classes and their, er, rashes, I do feel somewhat older than I am!

      I am blessed with libraries. In the neighbouring counties to mine the library services have been decimated by local government cuts. Our council pledged to protect ours as much as possible which is a blessing. Even if the construction of the building is so shoddy it whistles in high winds!

      My hair is my one vanity – but as I get it cut only 5 times a year and have had the same hairdresser for 10 years I figure she’s worth the expense. But tights….I love tights. Nice thick warm tights. Some women buy lipstick as their pick me up, I buy 40 deniers!

  5. I’m like you BTA. I can do without many things that others see as being so important. My husband and I love recycling. We needed a new bar for our shower head. I fished a new one out a skip. The only thing wrong with the shiny new chrome bar with all its parts was one of the bracket which fixed it to the wall. My husband went online and got in contact with a company who made one and supply a screw to hold it in place. It cost us £6 a saving of £24 if we had bought a new bar one from the shop. We have also saved something which would have been wasted. Going back to your posting. After five years of being at home following my dream I’m slowly making progress. It all takes time. My vanity is also my hair everything else is bought from Car boots and charity shop I’m saving the planet and helping other who aren’t as lucky as I am. 🙂

    • We are allowed one vanity! I’m pretty lucky to have awesome charity shops virtually on my doorstep – just got a smashing fitted cardy and a Monsoon skirt for under £5 – both immaculate.

      I do sometimes have a habit of drunk bidding on Ebay….! I’ve just ended up with a semi-new coat as a result!! That must stop!!! I’d just raised enough money from selling for concert tickets for our anniversary in November and that bit a huge chunk into it 😦

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