Thursday, 27 October 2011

Needs and Wants - What Does it Mean to 'Earn a Living'?

How Much is 'a Living'?

The Raven
By Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door —
Only this and nothing more."

The question of earning a living sprang to mind while discussing the differences between town and country life, mainly in the context of earnings and self-employed income. Being a follower of frugal living, I seldom dwell on the prospect of counting my millions, or any other such trivialities for that matter, it is simply a case of survival in a manner found to be acceptable to the society in which we live.

The latter may seem irrelevant but, on closer investigation, it is indeed very relevant.

The United Kingdom is made up of four countries, each consisting of four completely different social dynamics. Seldom are these differences highlighted when we listen to the idle chit chat and false promises of politicians based in London; what they say can become fairly meaningless to some of us. Some of these people have never been into the countryside, other than for their own political gain or pleasure, protected from what's around them by cash, blinkers and spin. So, without further ado, let us take a closer look at what we all call 'earning a living'.

Edgar Allan Poe, in my opinion a fairly dubious character, is said to have been the first 'well-known' American writer to try to earn a living through only writing. This resulted in many financial difficulties, most of which I can fully understand. But cast aside any notion that I should ever compare my own scribblings to those of such famous names. (I have never relied on alcohol, nor have I ever married my 13 year-old cousin, so the comparisons are null and void from the start.) Still, I do wonder how much he needed to earn and what sort of life he was able to afford to lead on his meagre earnings?

Living a frugal lifestyle is perfectly normal for me - I know how much I need each month, therefore I need to live within those means to avoid debt, malnutrition and destitution. It's perfectly simple to me, one of the most obvious 'things' to grasp. But we are all different. The villages, towns, cities, counties and countries are all different.

"One man's loss is another man's gain. One man's pleasure is another man's pain."

In order to earn a living, I need to afford a roof over my head. After years of saving, that roof is bought and paid for, so there's no need to worry about rent or a mortgage. But there's always the council tax. It's compulsory!
Let's call it £1,000.00

We need heat and light. I live in a fairly chilly part of the UK (Scotland), albeit probably the warmest part of Scotland (deep southwest), but it still rains and it still freezes or gets frosty for at least six months of the year.
Let's call it £1,000.00

Without food, water and clothing, we would perish. All these things cost money, even if we are tending the garden, microholding or smallholding to grow our own 'edibles'. Preparation and storage costs money. All the extras cost money.
Let's call it £1,000.00

Living in a rural location with no shops, post office, bank, entertainment/recreational facilities or public transport, we need to take all of that into account and keep a car on the road.
Let's call it £1,000.00

We do have TV (£145 for a licence), telephone (£120 line rental) and unlimited Broadband (£240) but all of these cost money.
Let's call it £500.00

We have a fairly large garden that's home to several hens, ducks, quail and the rabbit. These all cost money to feed and house.
Let's call it £500.00

As you can see, the cost of living soon mounts up before we even factor in the more luxurious items. It is our understanding of the differences between our needs and our wants that determines how happy we are with what we earn. Bowing under peer pressure isn't really anything to worry about when there are no nearby Jones families with which to 'keep up' and the local school has less than 30 pupils.

We ruralites can often be stuck for choice. As far as grocery shopping is concerned, our biggest choice in the local corner store is take it or leave it, or we could travel to the nearest town to see what the supermarket has to offer. But now we have the Internet, in many cases we have Broadband, albeit slow, and we have delivery companies trekking miles off the main roads to reach us. We have access to the world of commerce, department stores, online banking, shares trading, cashback, savings and investments and all of these things can be fun! Why would someone like me opt to travel 200 miles each week for the sake of attending a dead-end job that paid minimum wage of £6.08 per hour when I need only £100 each week to 'live' my current, happy-go-lucky lifestyle?

A trip into the 'big town' is a full day's event for us, whereas those who care not for reviewing their spending habits (then moan that they are skint) fail to see the domino effect caused by continually fuelling up the car to make a 150-mile round trip for the sake of saving a few pounds on a pair of shoes. Travel costs, including car running costs, amount to around £25. Postage & packaging costs online are around £5. It's a no-brainer!

Downsizing isn't always the easy option. Selling up your 3-bed town or city dwelling for a packet to pack up and relocate to a cheap, cash purchased fixy-up cottage in the country may not be what you are expecting. Self sufficiency is an urban myth, 'The Good Life' was nothing more than a hit comedy on BBC and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall still has a job to earn him the kind of income he needs to live his fairly affluent, possibly extravagant, lifestyle.

No, frugal living is certainly not for everyone. It's either a way of life you have grown accustomed to through a weak financial situation or it is a learning curve forced upon you by circumstances beyond your control. It may be a lifestyle choice you choose in pursuit of your 'dream', but that's where money helps initially. It may cost you more money than you'll save trying to launch yourself into this because of some quaint, fairytale notion that country living without the security of guaranteed income looks fun and stress-free.

Some of the people who have, in the past, been part of the Frugaldom forums have become classic examples of how not to do it and it is a simple fact that they just didn't understand the concept of earning a living while isolated from old friends and family, then living within their means after their security blanket incomes had gone.

Then again, given the choice, I'd buy as close to my dream 'forever' home and do whatever was needed to keep it, safe in the knowledge that I'd worked for it and, therefor, deserved it. The bottom line will forever be the bottom line. £100 per week could be seven days of gardening, scraping out chicken poop, attending LETS meetings, sharing bulk bargains with friends and typing frantically in the hope of being paid by someone who will publish your words, but if it all goes to pot, it's still only 16 hours per week for one person earning minimum UK wage.

There's truth in my madness and it's only mad if you can't see the bigger picture.

Happy living with everything you need does not cost a fortune. It's those rogue 'wants' that mess up that system. :)

Comments appreciated.

NYK Media



    Happy living with everything you need does not cost a fortune...Amen to that.

    Sft x

  2. Glad you enjoyed it!

    I know for a fact you must have similar views because your challenge for mortgage free & debt free living is motoring along at a fine old speed. You and Mr SFT should be really proud of yourselves. :)

  3. What a great post. My only gripe living frugally and rural is when an on line company wants to add extra charges £10-£30 to the postage for living in the Highlands or Islands but they still use Royal Mail parcel post. I think you can guess I go else where.

  4. Does Royal Mail Parcel Post charge extra for the islands, Aurora? I know it costs a fortune to ship things to and from the smaller Orkney islands - I'd to ship a 16.2hh horse up to Shapinsay, that was fun! (Not by Royal Mail Parcel Post, of course. LOL)

  5. Another brilliant post.

    This is the way we are planning the future, work out what we need, work out what we need to earn, build in a buffer and away we go.

    Gosh it sounds so simple....but you know it isn't!!

    Sue xx

  6. Sue, it really is that simple.

    The most difficult part is getting into the position that allows you to start - being completely debt, rent and mortgage free. Everything after that is down to sheer grit and the determination to earn your own living in whatever (legal) way you can.

    The less you need to spend, the less you need to earn in cold cash, so local exchange trading schemes are great - swap an hour of your time for a couple of loaves of bread, some jam and a cake or swap your hen eggs for their surplus apples or whatever.

    My biggest tip is learn to love soup! :)


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