Since I haven't had time to read this week, I'm going to cheat a bit and talk about a book I read years ago, Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, as well as to riff off Laura and Mel's recent posts about money.
Robin and Dominguez's argument is that by the time you add in all the real costs of working -- taxes, commuting costs, business wardrobes, the meals we buy out because we don't have time to cook, the toys we buy ourselves as rewards for getting through frustrating times -- your true wages are quite low. They advocate for cutting expenses and saving until you can live off the interest from your savings -- which they call Financial Independence.
I have issues with many of their specific recommendations, but the basic point that money is a medium for exchanging "life energy" for goods and services, and that you should know where that life energy is going, has stuck with me for years. Interestingly, the first time I did their exercise of tracking every cent you spend, I decided I wasn't spending ENOUGH money on books. (This was before the advent of the online library catalog, and the ability to put holds on books from home. I'd say that 90% of my reading is from the library these days.)
I haven't tracked every cent in a while, but the recent exercise of tracking our groceries made me confident that there's not a whole lot of slack in our budget. Travel is really my one expensive hobby, and we haven't been doing much of that lately.
I make more money than I ever thought I would. But I also didn't expect to be the sole wage earner in my family. A major factor that made it possible is that we were extremely lucky in our timing in buying a house; we couldn't afford our house on one income if we were first-time homeowners today. If my primary goal was not to have to work, we could move somewhere outside of a major urban center and live off our equity for a while.
I've been job hunting, and most of the jobs that appeal to me pay significantly less than I currently make. I've done a rough budget and figured out how low I think I can go without having an ongoing negative cash flow, but that doesn't help with the emotional issues. If I get a job that I love, I don't think I'll regret the money, but I'm afraid that if a job turns out not to be what I hoped, I'll think "well, I could have been unhappy at work but making 30% more."