T is for Thrift

The majority of writers don’t make much money from writing. The second biggest piece of advice given to fledgling writers is: Don’t quit your day job. It’s good advice, but not advice I’ve particularly taken. I haven’t had a regular job in over a decade. Eric worked eight years in the semiconductor industry and then quit in 2007 and went back to school. Neither of us is currently employed. How do we do this? A combination of planning and living cheap.

The Eric-and-Katherine plan has always been that I would write and, after five years of working, Eric would go back to school. Since there was a boom in Eric’s industry, five years became eight. We socked away money from the beginning and Eric does a decent job of investing. The hope was that I would be pulling in money from writing by now, but my industry is a gamble. You can’t count on any sort of timetable.

We rent an apartment in the not-so-great-but-still-okay part of Tempe. Our rent is much cheaper than a house payment would be. An apartment also allows us to be more flexible with our future plans and cuts down on improvement and upkeep costs. Our neighborhood is located right off the light rail line and is serviced by free shuttles to campus/downtown. I live a block from a community center with a decent workout area. It costs me $25 a year to use their facilities.

We have one vehicle: a sturdy 1992 Nissan pickup. I don’t drive, so this works out fairly well. Our vacations involve flying back to Nebraska once a year to visit family and maybe renting a car and driving to the coast for a weekend.

We don’t have kids. Or pets. I know for many people this isn’t an option, and that’s okay, but it sure is easier to get along when you only have to worry about the health and well-being of yourself.

We don’t have cell-phones. Partly by choice, partly because the expense wouldn’t justify the use. Monthly, I pay $22 for a landline and $50 for internet access. I don’t have cable, but subscribe to Netflix streaming for $8/mo. Our main entertainment otherwise is EverQuest 2 (or the like), a whopping $30/month for both of us. This is less than my monthly electric bill. I don’t have the latest gadgets. Eric builds a new computer every two or three years. My main computer is still hooked up to a CRT.

I should cook more. We eat out/get take away from fairly cheap places, but if you look at food as something to be enjoyed, aka entertainment, it’s easier to justify $15 for dinner for the both of us. I do like going out for a tasty meal with friends, but I can’t do it all the time. I don’t buy many clothes. I’ve curbed my book-buying over the years. I don’t wear makeup and can’t bring myself to pay much for things like shampoos, hair cuts, manicures and pedicures.

I buy decent toilet paper and Heize Ketchup, but I wait for sales and use coupons. Our families send money and gift certificates on holidays. We have no debt. In general, I’m a healthy, happy person that just happens to turn her nickle over twice before she spends it.

And sometimes, yes, I wish I had a summer house in San Diego, a closet full of cute shoes, and a sloppy dog named Bill. I wish that I could have dinner out every night and not worry about the cost. But it’s all trade-offs.  I could have those things, but I wouldn’t have this: I’m a full-time writer.

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