Earning less but happier – why living within your means isn’t such a bad thing

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You’ve taken a pay cut either due to circumstances beyond your control or to pursue the career of your dreams. But are you happier? We speak to real people who are earning less but happier for it, about why living within your means isn’t such a bad thing…

Carla Watkins Photographer

I have taken a pay cut twice in my career. Eight years ago I left London to work for my local university. I took a pay cut of £7k to do it, but I had more time to spend on my businesses, reading, meeting friends – stuff that actually makes me happy and doesn’t cost a fortune. More recently, in 2018 I took another cut to become a full time photographer. I’m definitely earning less, but I’ve been so much happier that my random spending has dropped massively. I’m no longer trying to make myself feel better by buying clothes, craft materials, makeup etc. I have intentions of building my income way beyond what I was earning in my last day job, but am currently a much happier human despite a much reduced income.

Sue Bordley, Author

I used to earn four times what I make now, but I was miserable to the point of having a breakdown. I eventually got out of teaching and pursued my dream of becoming an author. Three novels (which have all gone Amazon Top 40, two of them Top 10), several published poems, appearances at bookshops (including Waterstones) and local and national BBC radio interviews and a book for children in the pipeline later, I’m doing alright.

Independent authors don’t make much money, but my mental health is far richer than it ever was. I was only spending my money on handbags and Jimmy Choos in a vain effort to alleviate my depression anyway, so I’m far better off these days.

Emily Shaw, Agency Founder

I have taken a significant pay cut three times and while it’s been nerve-wracking each time, I have no regrets.

I have always loved the rush of helping new ideas get off the ground and evolve into businesses. Despite having a great digital manager role for a leading global beauty brand, this entrepreneurial itch needed to be scratched. I decided to leave my job in 2014 and go freelance. However, about two year’s into freelancing one of my clients asked me to join their in-house team and offered an enticing pay packet. Flattered, I took the job as I was already emotionally invested in the business but the commute was long and I quickly ended up doing what I had been doing before, just on a bigger scale. I remember thinking, this isn’t why I decided to work for myself and that I wanted more control over how I spend my time. So I left and for the second time I would be starting from scratch with little financial security.

My last pay cut was when I decided to expand the business, Tribe Digital and invest in staff in late 2019. Leading a new team and growing a business during the pandemic has been a huge test of mettle but despite the challenges, taking the step to hire employees has been a great experience and something I’m incredibly proud of.

Time is the one thing you can’t make more of so I’m glad I’ve taken a few financial risks. I’m far happier knowing I’ve given it my best shot to create something special and the feeling of walking into our office with the dog and greeting the team each morning is a buzz that’s hard to beat, no matter the salary.

Michael Onge, Finance

I’ve been through redundancy twice. These experiences really tested my mindset, priorities and helped me to assess what was necessary in life. It taught me to value friends and family who were there to support me, unlike others who cut me off when they realised I could no longer keep up with their lifestyle.

I learnt to reassess my career and focus on what I really wanted to do. I accepted a package where I was earning much less than eight years earlier in my career, but I was happy to accept. Having a lower salary just means reassessing your lifestyle and prioritising what’s important. You also become far more compassionate towards others less able than yourself as a result. I always feel things are meant to happen in life to teach us lessons.

Hettie Holmes, Editor

I have taken a pay cut twice in my career to pursue my passion for the wellness sector. Whilst the first time didn’t exactly make me happier, the experience taught be a lot and sent me on a career trajectory that got me to where I am today. The second time was to set up my own business and five years in, I’ve never been happier. If I had stayed in the last job I was in, I’m sure I would be on a big salary by now, but I wouldn’t be fulfilling my dream of doing what I love whilst raising a family by the sea.

My living costs in the country are so much lower. Instead of seeking out stimulation through shopping and going out, I go for beautiful walks with my dog instead. While I don’t have the money to spend on clothes and holidays, I am fortunate to get some perks with my job – and I have the best excuse for living in my activewear.

Living within your means isn’t such a bad thing. When you earn less but love what you do, you start to realise what’s really important.

Main image: Shuttershock

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Can living within your means limit your opportunities?

Not necessarily. It may require you to be more creative and resourceful in finding ways to achieve your goals, but it can also lead to more fulfilling and sustainable opportunities.

Is it possible to live within your means and still enjoy life?

Absolutely. Living within your means doesn’t mean sacrificing all enjoyment. It means prioritizing what’s important and finding ways to enjoy life without overspending.

How can living within your means benefit your future?

Living within your means can help you save money for emergencies, retirement, and other long-term goals. It also helps you avoid debt and financial stress in the future.

Is it ever too late to start living within your means?

No, it’s never too late to start. It may require some adjustments and sacrifices, but it’s never too late to take control of your finances and start living a happier, more fulfilling life.


Hettie is the editor and co-founder of DOSE. A keen runner, she’s also partial to a blast of high-intensity and hot yoga. A country girl at heart, she divides her time between London and the lush rolling hills of North Devon. When she’s not jetting off on her next adventure, Hettie can be found in a candle-lit alcove with a laptop, a spaniel and a full bodied Malbec.

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