Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Grassroots Jobs--Who Can Afford Them?

By now you have probably figured out that I am pretty passionate about doing work the I'm...well...passionate about.  For me that is writing and designing.  On a more general scale, though, I'm passionate for work opportunities that are micro (ex. home-based), creative and community-centered.  Call them "grassroots" occupations.

As I wrote on Monday, though, choosing a grassroots job often involves some financial sacrifice at the beginning--or at least it has in my case.  Fortunately for me, I was in a situation where we could make that sacrifice--but I realize that not everyone shares that reality.  So I thought I would address the question I know 
people ask--how can I afford it?

Well, partly I am fortunate because my husband works hard and has been a very good money manager from a very young age.  But it would be a mistake to say it was just my good graces in marriage.  Because beyond that, we made some important decisions as a couple very early on in our marriage that paved the way for me to leave the 9-5 years later.  Here is what we did:

1.  We never used my income for bills or necessities.  In other words, we based our budget on what we could afford with one income, and didn't make commitments beyond that.  Of course we spent money from the other income, but only for extras, like clothing or vacations or to fund my glossy (aka magazine) addiction.

2.  We made our credit decisions based on one income.  So when it was time to buy a new house, we chose only to look at homes that we could afford on one income (even though we had two).  Could we have afforded a bigger, better house?  Definitely.  But we wanted one income as "back up" in case something happened and one of us had to leave work (or, in my case, wanted to).

3.  We saved.  Because we were only using one income to pay bills and buy food and gas, we could use my income to help build up our savings.

4.  We paid off debt aggressively using the "domino strategy" (I don't know if it's really called that--I just made it up).  In other words, I picked one loan and started paying extra every month.  When I paid that one off, I took that whole payment and rolled it into another loan.  And so on and so on.  As you can imagine, by the time I got to the last loan, that "rolled over" payment was pretty big!

5.  We lived simply.  We repurposed and made things when we could.  At least half of my wardrobe is second-hand, and most of the decorations in our home I have made.  A large portion of our furniture formerly resided in our parents' homes.  We exercise outside instead of at the gym, we cook our meals instead of going out, and we watch reruns instead of going to the movies.

I share these with you because I don't want people to think that having a "grassroots job" means that you have to have a wealthy life.  In fact, if you look into the lives of women who are creative entrepreneurs, you'll find that many of them followed some combination of financial planning and simple living to pave the way for their work/lifestyle.  They paid off debt, they worked part-time until their business grew, they cut back on their expenses, they built up savings, or some combination thereof.  In other words, they worked hard for a long time (in my case, it took over five years to pay off debt and save up enough to quit work).  And they are proving that even those living on modest incomes can "afford it" with some elbow grease, planning and patience.

Do you have a grassroots job?  Share your strategies about how you afford it with me by emailing me at or posting your comments here.

More Deviancy 101posts:

Also, don't go far!  I just finished a very interesting book related to this topic called "The Two Income Trap."  Read my review of it later this afternoon!

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