Every year, Husband and I get a good-sized dose of spring fever. It usually starts with a hectic day at work, or some other disappointment. One says wistfully, “Let’s run away.”
“Take me with you. I’ve got a Swiss Army knife. I can yodel,” says the other. (Silly, I know — but it was the theme of a car commercial years back.) Then we remind each other that we have to be the ‘R-word:’ responsible.
Actually, we’ve been working actively for some years to tell the rat race to chase its own tail, for once. Some of our plans: retire early and live part-time in another country. (Panama and Ecuador are front-runners, currently.) And we’re making progress, thanks to these ideas:
10 ways to ditch the Rat Race… For Good
Save 10% of your income. More is even better. Granted, you may have to cut back on going out to eat or brand-new wardrobes…or even basics. But there are few people who couldn’t get by on 10% less of what they normally spend. Do you really need that second flat-screen tv, or a new microwave? (Can you sell the extras that are cluttering up your place already?) Can you get a haircut every 6 weeks, instead of 4? Why not mend some socks, instead of buying a whole new package? Even slow progress is progress, and it will grow.
This money is your ‘get out of the rat race’ card, masquerading as an emergency fund. Only use it when absolutely, positively necessary.
Turn off the tv. Or, if you’ve got cable, cancel it altogether. (Boom – you’ve just freed up some of that 10% income you could be saving.) Hulu, Netflix, Redbox and your local library can often supply access to the movies and tv series you’re craving. Many shows and sporting events also run free on the Net, thanks to sites like the History Channel and ESPN. Meanwhile, you’ve just gotten rid of the commercials that can be so tempting, and freed up extra time, as well.
Check out other countries – including their food. Many of the South American countries not only have warm weather, but are much cheaper to live in on a limited income. Some, like Panama, actually have discounts and tax specials for Americans.
Maybe you can’t go there right now. But you can find books and videos that give a better idea of what it’s like. Check out a cookbook, and try a dish or two. Or stop by a local restaurant. Tasting that place’s local cuisine, even if it’s just local to you right now, can be a real inspiration. Then think about planning and:
Take a trip. If you’re thinking about moving to a certain country — or even one of the fifty states here in the U.S. — go see for yourself. Even a week spent there will give you a better idea whether France, Puerto Rico or Wyoming are really where you want to be for the long-term. (You can always take a longer trip later on to study the language and experience the culture.)
Can’t afford to do even that right now? Go see or rent a movie. Take a long bus ride or drive. Get out of your current neighborhood…even if only for a few hours. It’s a reminder that there are other things and lives out there, besides your own. Traveling is much easier when you are young so don’t put it off too long.
Learn how to make, repair or build something. Youtube is full of videos on everything from fixing your car to building a chicken coop. (Husband repaired an electronic keyboard and a sewing machine by watching and learning this way.) On the other hand, learning directly from someone is the best way to instill a craft, especially if they’ve been rewiring, plumbing or building wood tables for decades. When you’ve got this skill down, use it to keep your home and household appliances in repair. (And that’s not just for homeowners. Landlords will often give a break on rent if you can fix the problem yourself.) Offer your skills on the local Craigslist or community board — keep it up, and you might be starting a good side business!
Some hobbies, like sewing and woodworking, can also produce beautiful presents and extra income through teaching and commissioned pieces. Learning a new skill not only benefits your own life, but builds confidence and experience.
Don’t be a jerk. “Me me me” all the time is not only limiting, but boring. There’s the school, church or organization who need volunteers, but also your neighbors down the street. What can you do help? You might even learn a new skill out of it.
Call, write or spend time with someone you care about. When you’re too busy at work or shuttling kids around, it’s easy to shove this off on the holidays. The things you do now not only steer focus away from yourself (see above), but reinforce that these people are important. (They’ll love it, too.) Notes can be scribbled while waiting at the doctor’s office or for the file to load. Phone calls are doable in short segments, too.
Celebrate the next special occasion at home. Don’t go out to eat; use some of the money for special foods, and bank the rest. (Odds are good that you’ll be eating better-quality food than what would be served at the eatery, anyways.) Not only will you save money — but the inevitable piles of paperwork and stuff-in-progress will get tidied away before they grow into messiness. Our house is always cleaner just before we have company.
Learn more about your area’s past. Not only does history get your mind off yourself and your troubles — it reminds that others have lived through worse and done just fine. The memory of their presence is really all around you, even if it only shows in an old building’s detail, a statue, or an buffalo nickel, found in the dirt. The strangest things may resurface, as well. Very few people in Leicester, England, for example, guessed that Richard III was buried beneath the blacktop of their town council’s parking lot!
Feet up. Brain Down. Fifteen Minutes. You can afford to rest and think about nothing for fifteen minutes. Repeat at least once or twice a week…daily, if it’s been a bad one.
Some of these tips may only get you away from the rat race for a short time. Others are a good step on the road to ditching it permanently. Who benefits from the rat race? Only the rats.
Related article – Don’t Quit you job, negotiate a severance pay instead