5 Things I Switched Out To Afford Working Only Three Days A Week
Lauren Sherritt switched to part-time to focus on her long-term career goal of becoming a playwright. In doing so she had to learn what to swap out and where to make sacrifices in her life so that she could afford this financial shake up.
I learned early on in my playwriting career that while there are some pretty great paying opportunities for playwrights in Australia, it was going to take some time to get my craft up to a standard that I could compete for them.
This year, I made the decision to drop back to working three days per week to give me more time to focus on improving my writing. Working in arts administration, I already wasn’t earning a huge pay packet, and cutting back two days took a real chunk out of my wage. I knew I’d have to make some sacrifices to accommodate for my new lifestyle, and I’ve spent the past eight months identifying items I could “switch out” to make life affordable on my reduced budget.
#1 Supermarket switch
The supermarket is a veritable switch out smorgasbord, with brands ranging from luxury to budget. Where in the past I might’ve been tempted by fancily-packaged teas, artisanal breads and pricey chocolate, now I’m all about off-brand everything. From the oats I use for breakfast porridge to staples like bread, flour and butter, I pay very close attention to the price per hundred gram labels to make sure I’m getting the best deal. As much as possible, I purchase raw ingredients rather than pre-made foods, which is healthier as well as cheaper.
Each Saturday morning, I head to the local markets to buy fruit and veggies. The produce might not look as perfect as that sold at supermarkets, but it is much cheaper. I can buy enough at the markets to satisfy myself and my partner for more than a week for just $15, which allows me to keep to more expensive standards like always buying free-range eggs.
I follow my market shop with a trip to the supermarket to tick off the rest of my grocery list. Shopping only once a week means that I spend less time looking at shelves and sales and don’t get tempted to buy all the shiny packaged items that are unnecessary and expensive. The more I remove myself from it, the easier it is to see how I could be sucked in by clever marketing at the shops.
#2 Books – from buying to borrowing
As a writer, I’m a big book fan. While the old adage is true about books and covers, I’m a sucker for buying beautiful books that will sit nicely on my shelves. And as they’re a tax write-off for me, I can easily convince myself to drop dollars on books. This year, however, I’ve become much more familiar with the collection at my local library.
Learning that I could borrow e-books from the library to read on my phone has been my saviour this year, allowing me instant access to new books when I’m looking for a quick fix and might otherwise be tempted to shop online.
I’ve also found that publishers are keen on hosting book giveaways through newsletters and social media, in an effort to get the word out about new titles. So far this year I’ve won four fantastic new books through Instagram and newsletters. I’ve also scored swag like movie tickets and spots at event openings by keeping my finger on the pulse, putting my name down on waitlists and entering competitions.
#3 At-home exercise studio
With all the sitting and typing I do, it’s important to stretch my body out and keep fit. I’m an avid yogi, and for the past five years visited the studio at least four times per week. Yoga can be an expensive habit however, with tempting clothes racks and mats with advanced anti-slip technology calling my name in the reception room before I even pay my fees!
This year I’ve taken my practice home and combined my own made-up flows with YouTube videos for a well-rounded practice. My favourite online yogis to learn from are Adrienne Mishler, Erica Vetra and Caitlin Turner.
#4 Loaning event wear
Flying in the face of my frugal goals, I’ve been invited to three weddings this year, as well as fancy birthday parties and industry events. I love getting dressed up and have a weakness for pretty dresses, but I simply could not budget for new once-off event wear this year. Instead, I’m recycling some older dresses to re-wear at weddings, and dressed them up differently with shoes and jewellery.
I’ve had some lovely friends lend me their clothes to wear as well. Borrowing clothes and attending clothes swaps has allowed me the thrill of wearing something new and feeling fabulous without costing me a penny.
#5 Dinner in vs meeting out
It can be tricky to keep up with friends when you’re on a tight budget. This year, I’ve found that it’s much cheaper to invite a small group round for a dinner party or afternoon tea than it is to head out. The ingredients to make a simple cake and pot of tea are far cheaper than a meal out, and for dinner I like to cook up a big one-pot dish that will serve me leftovers for lunch the next day.
When guests offer to bring something I always accept, asking them to share a dessert or drinks. There’s no room for being a humble hero in my budget!
As an extra benefit, I’ve found that entertaining at home is more relaxing for me than going out. There are no strict reservation times or fights for tables, I don’t have to worry about transport or traffic, I can always hear the conversation and don’t have to shout over a crowd, and I can make sure the music and food are to my tastes. Of course, if a friend invites me over to their house in return, I will never say no.
You can totally do this
It hasn’t always been easy to live off a three-day wage. I’ve had to battle with my self-control, deal with the disappointment of missing out on events I couldn’t pay to attend, and learn to live without creature comforts like four-ply toilet paper and velvety tissues. But the sacrifice has been worth it.
By making writing a priority, I’ve proven to myself how serious I am about continuing to advance my career. With the extra time, I’ve been able to finish new drafts and apply for opportunities. Slowly, I’m building the kind of portfolio that I need to be successful in my industry.
When I look back on these leaner times, I know I’ll be proud that I made it work and prioritised my long term goals over my short term wants. With the right perspective, cutting back doesn’t seem like such a huge sacrifice after all.
Lauren Sherritt is a playwright and freelance writer based in Brisbane. Lauren’s work has been featured online at Junkee, The Financial Diet, Birdee, LifeMusicMedia, lip magazine and Australian Stage.