What does it take to quit your day job and pursue a passion? Often, it begins with a single, seemingly insignificant step.
Photo credit Krysztof Lik
For blogger and author Janice MacLeod, right, near-paralyzing job burnout and quashed artistic intentions led her to go home after work one day and clean out her underwear drawer.
The satisfying results of that small task inspired her to organize the other areas of her life -- including finances -- and led to a momentous decision to move to a foreign city and build her own business.
Save $100 a day
MacLeod's book, "Paris Letters: One Woman's Journey from the Fast Lane to a Slow Stroll in Paris," chronicles her journey from being an advertising agency copywriter to the creator of "painted letters" that she sends monthly to clients around the world. The letters are vignettes of Paris life, with words written on an original watercolor that she paints, copies and sends to subscribers.
MacLeod was 34 and living in California when she realized she could no longer continue with the career she thought she loved. On a lark, she decided to either save or not spend $100 a day and eventually fund a year-long sabbatical.
She not only accomplished that feat: She discovered a new career, married a man she met in Paris and has happily called the city of light home ever since.
Oatmeal instead of steak
To save funds for her larger goal, MacLeod ate a lot of oatmeal and declined a lot of dinner invitations.
"I was surprised how much money I saved by eating oatmeal each morning and saying no to group dinners," she says. "The oatmeal kept me satiated so I wouldn't be drawn to make pricey purchase decisions at the coffee shop. All those treats really add up."
It was a little more difficult to decline the dinners with friends. "I had to learn that saying no to invitations wouldn't mean my friends wouldn't like me anymore," she says. "I still have those friends. And I still eat oatmeal."
Start your passion as a side career
MacLeod advises others who want to turn a passion into a career to begin by making it a side gig. "Do just a little work on it each week," she says. "In the short term it can distract you from whatever you might not like about your day job, plus it's good to test new things while you still have a steady paycheck."
In the longer term, she adds, if you decide you like it and it can support you financially, you'll be less afraid to quit your day job.
She also advises people to begin a journal, or what she calls a "workbook" for those who are put off by the thought of a journal. "Writing in your workbook can help you strategize, dream or even just work through whatever you may not like in your day job," she adds.
MacLeod says she used her own workbook to write ideas on how to save, pare down possessions and travel. "Four years after I began writing in my workbook, I'm still at it, though now there are more sketches than words," she adds. "And the dreams are newer."
Five easy ways to save or not spend
We asked MacLeod for some of her best tips on saving or not spending $100 a day. Here are the five she says were the most successful for her:
- Avoided the mall. "If you don't see it, you won't be compelled to buy it," she says.
- Invited friends to go for walks before they invited her out for dinner. "Walks are free. Dinner is not."
- Sold paintings created out of the art supplies she already had in her house. By doing this, she not only put her art supplies to good use, she turned the results into cash.
- Used up her spare change. "I don't understand why people collect spare change in big jars," she says, adding that it's wasted energy. "The bigger the change jar, the bigger the change collection."
- Cleaned out her underwear drawer. "Seeing a small collection of undies brought peace. A mangled heap did not," she says. "It convinced me to keep my wardrobe small."
MacLeod's advice is not new, but it does involve getting in touch with the financial trigger points that lead you astray so you can avoid them and remain focused on the bigger target.
She adds that financial freedom from living below your means is a gift that keeps on giving. "The peace of knowing you have a buffer in the bank feels a lot better than the dread of a big credit card balance."
What are your best money-saving tips? If groceries are costing you a fortune, here are seven ways to save.
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