Five years after her divorce, Ann Rouse decided to quit her 18 year-long career as a firefighter and become a writer. She says it’s a leap of faith and certainly the way her relationship to money has changed since the divorce has helped.
It’s scary because it’s hard to let go of a pay check and insurance and steady income. I have a truck I’m going to sell and I had some vacation time built up. With all of that I can hopefully survive till my book comes out and then we’ll have to see. We’ll see when the money runs out – who knows?
I did think it all out. The worse that will happen is I will have to sell my house and I’m OK with that. I’ve got a degree in biology and chemistry and worked in banking for 12 years. So if I can’t get enough with freelancing and the book doesn’t work out, I’ve got other things I can fall back on. The fire chief was quite disappointed that I quit and said if it doesn’t work out, call me, we’ll hire you back. So I do have a lot of little safety nets sitting there – quitting work wasn’t quite as rash and crazy as it might sound.
I’ve actually kind of enjoyed the budgeting and scrimping. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I would have freaked out, probably going out and using credit cards again, trying to comfort myself.
I used to have a love-hate relationship with money. I always hated it but felt it was so necessary. Looking back, I realize that I used buying stuff to try to make myself feel better. If I wasn’t buying new things then I wasn’t happy. Through my healing I’ve let go of much of that. What makes me happy now is being out in my yard or writing or spending time with my son. Now it’s a good test to see if I really don’t need to buy stuff.
I liked the book Smart Women Finish Rich [David Bach]. I liked his philosphies of putting aside money for your dreams and if anything is more than $200 then to think about it for several days. And carry cash so you’re more in tune with what you’re spending. When I want to buy something now I start to think, ‘what is it about me that really wants to buy this? Is this something we need and we’ll be OK or is it something I just think I have to have?’ I’ve found some triggers that make me want to go buy stuff – like if I’m feeling really tired or a little rejected so I try not to go shopping at all when I’m in those states.
Surprisingly, my son has been quite helpful too. I asked him what what kind of party he wanted for his birthday and if he wanted it at this young chef’s academy. He said ‘no, mom. I think we should have it at home.’ The fact that he’s able to see that we need to be saving has helped me to see I’ve been doing better with money and that I haven’t passed on some of those spending behaviors to him, so far. He’s been my best feedback.
A couple of years before my divorce, I took a severance package from my corporate job and decided I would take some time to figure out what next. That led to a master’s in journalism, this blog and a part-time job for the health benefits. My number one priority has been to create a work life that allows me to be at home in the afternoon when my children finish school – even though they’re teenagers. Those changes also mean a significantly reduced income for me and like Ann, I’m definitely buying less stuff. And most of it I don’t really miss. What I do struggle with is trying to get my 16-year-old daughter to accept that we really don’t need to stop for something to drink or eat every time we leave the house … arrgh!
Do you have tip to share on changing your relationship with money? How have you involved your children? Any ideas on how I convey my message to my daughter?