I earn much less, but I’m much happier!

Money and happiness aren't the same thing

Lately, I’ve been feeling more and more aware of the constant pressure we’re under to spend money and it’s been bothering me. Some of it is subtle but a lot of it is blatantly shoved in our faces and it’s unnecessary and it makes me feel sick to my stomach.

A large part of why I spent so long working an office job that didn’t fulfil me is because I felt I had to. I was blindly working towards attaining things I thought I needed and, to get all those things, I needed money. It’s a vicious cycle, you see.

Want that big house? You need money. Want a nice car, boat, fancy clothes and expensive jewellery? You gon’ need dat money to get it. We’re constantly bombarded with advertising that is designed to make us want things. Why? Maybe it’s supposed to make us feel like we’ve achieved something great, like we’re on the right life path because we got the latest coffee machine or, whatever.

That was me. I was making a lot of money to pay for all the things I didn’t need and I was so focused on it that I was quite happy to do it until I was ready to retire.

When I left my job I was terrified I wouldn’t have enough money to survive. I worried I’d lose everything. I thought I might have to sell my car, that I wouldn’t be able to pay rent or buy food. What actually happened is that I learned money doesn’t mean what I thought it did and I don’t need it anywhere near as much as my fears had led me to believe.

The incredible New South Wales beach you have to visit...

Chinamans Beach, Jervis Bay

I earn much less money now than I did at my office job. I am also much happier now than I was in my job. The easiest conclusion to draw is that money definitely does not equal happiness. Well, not for me anyway, which also means it doesn’t equal happiness for every other person on the planet too.

Don’t get me wrong, it was an adjusting period. I was so used to a big, disposable income that it took me a while to get used to doing my grocery shopping and actually looking at what things really cost and deciding whether I need it, not just throwing this, that and the other straight in the trolley.

I have a very different idea of value when it comes to money now. I never felt any kind of connection to my old job or how, where or why I received an income. I just went to work each day and a chunk of money showed up in my bank account each fortnight. Brilliant!!

Now, I know where each and every single cent I earn comes from. I understand the true value of every dollar I make because I worked my butt off for it, which means I also appreciate how much work it would take me to earn something. There’s no guarantee of income from month-to-month as a freelancer, you gotta work for it and that gives you a new level of appreciation for your money.

When I go shopping now I see price tags in terms of my time. If I see a dress that costs $200 I remember the time I spent working hard on a written piece and I cannot physically bring myself to part with the money because my time is a lot more valuable than a $200 dress. I’d rather spend the $200 on Little Grey Box!

Money and happiness aren't the same thing
Here’s the thing, when I was unfulfilled in my old job I needed a goal, something that I was working toward, a reason to go to work each day. It sure as shit wasn’t my job, it was all the things I could get by earning the money from my job. It was a house, a new car, expensive clothes and fancy meals. Those things gave me purpose. The more I earnt, the more I wanted to spend and the more things I added to my life. All I was doing was avoiding the fact I felt like shit by busying up my life and going along exactly how I was supposed to.

Now my purpose is the happiness and sense of fulfilment I get from my dream job, I’ve realised how much I don’t need all those things. Nothing I can buy makes me feel anywhere near as good as I do when someone comments on Little Grey Box saying they’re going to use my travel tips.

I wake up each and every single day knowing I’m doing the right thing with my life, money or no money, and I’ll keep doing this whether I get paid or not. I can’t quite describe how it makes me feel, but if I weren’t working on Little Grey Box each day I know I’d be really sad. It’s directly connected with me and it’s my way of being myself and being happy.

I get a feeling of sickness in my stomach when I watch the TV and see all the ads. They’re always for things that people are told they need, like new furniture, new cars or other material things. I wish there were more ads encouraging people to find happiness and fulfilment in their lives because that will make you happier than any new car ever could.

Phoebe Lee Travel Blogger Rainbow Beach

I am by no means rich. Like I said, I earn less now than I did at my old job. If I stayed in my old job I would have been able to keep advancing in my career, earning a lot of money with amazing superannuation and great job security. It would have been really easy and I would have been really, really sad for a very long time, surrounded by all the things I don’t need. I feel like at some stage that girl would have woken up, maybe at 45, and realised she made a very big mistake.

Now, I live a very simple life and I have never been happier. All the money I earn goes back into Little Grey Box and pays for all the life basics like food, essential bills etc. The rest of my money goes straight into travel and seeing the world. Which is the simple answer when people ask me how I afford to travel so much?

It’s so easy to go on auto-pilot and convince yourself you need your job because you have to pay for all the things you need. We build these complicated lives full of things that revolve around our income, like store credits, car loans, home loans or direct debit memberships. All those things add to our fear of losing or changing our income, to the point where it’s crippling.

I was terrified. I thought my life would crumble without a regular income and I was also embarrassed that people may judge me for having a very small income. Now, I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about me or my income because my happiness doesn’t come from money or the relief of someone walking into my gorgeous home and seeing all my matching furniture, it comes from my fulfilment.

Your happiness is more important than you realise. It is significantly more important than money. Don’t be afraid to prioritise your life over your income, if you want to.

Have you seen our latest 12 months in 60 seconds video?


Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.

17 Comments on I earn much less, but I’m much happier!

  1. matthewmitchell557 // February 17, 2018 at 11:05 am // Reply

    I have been thinking a lot lately of my own journey in finding happiness, and riding a bike back home from school I realized that I need to stop giving a shit about what people might expect from me. My happiness comes first before anyone else’s, and if I do a job that makes me happy but is not professional pay, so what!

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  2. Jenny Jones // June 13, 2017 at 6:57 am // Reply

    I’m at this point in my life about to hand my notice in 2 weeks time in a job that is stressful and making me miserable so I can volunteer imfor a while and gain experience in the field I would actually like to work in, it’s scary the drop in income, can afford to basics but not much else while doing it, great read and inspiration thank you

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  3. citizennow // March 18, 2017 at 4:39 am // Reply

    What an incredible post ….and the timing was perfect. Thank you 🙂 At this stage in my life I actually find myself in a slightly opposite set of circumstances. I’m currently already in a job I enjoy very much (wage is comfortable, great job security), but I’ve been feeling the pressure to pursue other “more ambitious” career goals…ones that make more money (in the field of my university degree) and have more “social prestige”. If I did, however,i know it would eat away at my soul. Resisting has been hard, and I truly appreciate you sharing your experiences. It helps to know I’m not alone in making meaningful happiness and fulfillment a priority.

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  4. Thank you, your article on earning less and living more was perfect for where I’m at. In my case I have to reduce my hours for health reasons and Ive been quite scared about reducing y income. Im also casual employee now so may income is not guaranteed. But I know I am on the right path, and your article helped reinforce that for me.

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  5. Wow, this really spoke to me. Like, for real. 2015 was a VERY unhappy year for me, but there wasn’t anything of significance that I can say made me unhappy, I guess. I just came to realize that I was putting too much emphasis on my STUFF and not on my LIFE, therefore making me extremely unhappy. I’ve made a commitment to get rid of a ton of STUFF this year (I guess you could dare say “minimalism”) and I’m already feeling better. My next stop? Quit my 8-5! Thanks for writing this post- it helped me more than you know.

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    • I know exactly how you feel, Neeli. I really, really do. Learning to live with less was liberating for me, it gave me power and happiness back. I hope it does the same for you and you can get your groove back too 🙂 thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment, I appreciate it very much. Have a beautiful day, sending you all my love and support x

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  6. Your words resonate so much with the changes happening in my life as well :)) Fantastic to hear that you are following your dreams 😄

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  7. Loved this! I love your blog, such an inspiration 🙂

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  8. Good for you. Continue to follow your heart, life is too short. A very happy new year to you.

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  9. I am working from 8 to 5 and I spend my annual leave to travel and see other world. For some reason, I can’t resign for my current job so I try to enjoy it 🙂

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  10. Wandering Soul // January 6, 2016 at 4:13 pm // Reply

    Thank you writing this. I am earning nothing now and yet I have never been happier. All expenses are down to zero. I am not touching my saving at all. Fortunately I am living with my parents so basic facilities are provided for, but luxuries are out the window. No new shoes, cosmetics, handbags etc. Nothing that I can’t postpone till tomorrow. 😛 and tomorrow, I’ll tell myself the same thing 🙂

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  11. letmebefree // January 6, 2016 at 2:35 pm // Reply

    It is great that you have found your happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The Swedish Kiwi // January 6, 2016 at 12:22 pm // Reply

    I completely agree with you. I’m currently stuck in that office job that I really should get away from. It does nothing but stress me out, and I need to find something that fulfils me rather than waste my time in a place where I’m not happy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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