Want a Raise? Downsize.

You’re living in this seemingly endless recession-depression. You know that too many are living paycheck to paycheck, including myself. I am lucky enough to have a non-consumer way of living that fits perfectly in with downsizing. My wife and I have been trying to find decent jobs for a couple years now, only to have been taken advantage of by the best prospects. I have a few other options I could take but that I do not want to do because they don’t fall in line with my principles or what I want to do in life. Also, jobs take up too much valuable family time.

I weigh jobs completely. Unfortunately, I have remained in the $10/hr region forever, despite the amount of abilities I have to offer. This is mainly because employers in this era justify paying people less than a living wage because “that’s what the rest of people get paid around here.” I believe in doing more work and better work than for which you are paid. However, i do not believe in working a menial job and giving management or owner-rate work for that measly pay. Some employers just don’t deserve for you to eek out one extra-constructive word. It just isn’t about the money, though the money is important. None of us wants to do a job extremely well compared to peers and not be recognized for it, not be remunerated equivalently, and have their credit given to the peers who are undeserving.

Add on top of that a heaping handful of verbal abuse and psychological whiplash at being told how disposable and replaceable you are because “thousands” are clamoring for your job, and the employment is totally at-will. Yeah, that’s going to stimulate your workforce to maintain increased output. This is how the majority of you live. You go to work, get harassed for 9 hours a day doing something you hate, because you are trapped by the economy and cannot do better. Yet, there is an answer out there you may have thought of but couldn’t bring yourself to do. Maybe you haven’t considered it. Until now.

The overwhelming majority of you deal with bosses that harangue you and threaten to fire you over a minute’s tardiness to work or from bathroom break, but how many of them ever bitch and moan about you being 15 minutes early every day? How about when you stay late at the office to fix things or help play catch up? If it’s gone unrecognized, it’s wasted effort. If you could get fired for 1 minute, why should you give even an extra 30 seconds of your own time? Well stop. It is getting you nowhere. Let some other John Smith take your place and your generic name badge. Let them feel the heat, they need to learn their lessons too. If you want a pay raise, you need to downsize and do your own thing.

The first raise you could give yourself is to start letting go of everything you don’t need. Remember this little figure: If you plan your bills around a 40 hour work week, plan it instead for 36 hours. That way, if you work a little extra or get those hours, it’s “extra” while you plan with the rest. Add those extra hours worked over 36 into a change jar. It will fill quickly. Pay heed that a one dollar an hour raise is the same as $40 a week, BEFORE taxes. Yep, $33.20. That’s not much! if you get a $2.00 raise, you make $66.40! You really make beans at this low of a wage, and that valuable time that you are only given a finite amount of in this life is worth far, far more than that. So the best, tax-free raise you can give yourself is a one or two dollar raise by cutting out $40 to $80 of unnecessary spending.

The first cut I made was cell phones. I now have a house phone for $20 a month. My cell phone plan was costing me $240 a month, which is a car payment. The second cut: all my favorite Starbucks and local coffee shops had to go. At $5 a pop,coffee quickly adds up. We cut out fast food altogether. If we are going to pay $25 for food, it’s going to be where we can sit down and share that meal. I haven’t been to the movies since The Hobbit came out, because I couldn’t see the awesome 3D on a Redbox movie. After our last gastronomic disaster at Taco Bell, we decided to design our own taco meat around 10% grass fed organic-raised beef and *gasp* tofu! Since then, we have been mostly meatless. Keep in mind I have no desire to become a vegetarian or vegan. Meat is simply too expensive to eat, and the health risks associated with eating too much of it are too well documented to ignore. Our weekly meat is limited to no more than 6oz of beef, 2 lb of fish, half a package of bacon, and maybe something else in there.

It seems terribly convenient, but packaged meals are less convenient when you realize they may as well be sawgrass as far as nutrients are concerned, and really feed 1/3 less than the amount they claim.  Keeping away from packaged meals means we pretty much have to stick to the outside edges of the Grocery store, which keeps us from having to waste too much time there. How about this: one package of “hashed brown potatoes” is roughly equivalent to 2.5 russet potatoes? One package: $3.99. One, 3 pound bag of russet potatoes: $2.99 which contains 14-16 potatoes. With the 3# bag of potatoes you can make 5 and a half retail packages worth of hashed browns, freeze them yourself, and have almost $22 of hashed browns for $3. Convenience isn’t convenient at all. Buy a grater and start saving some money. ($19 savings is a $1.00/hr raise for 19 hours!)

I specifically mention these potatoes because it has been one of the reasons I have been able to make an easier switch to lower cost living. Typically, we were eating nothing for breakfast, maybe some lunch, and engorging on dinner. We wouldn’t sleep well, we were tired and groggy upon waking. Our digestive system was haywire. Then I started having big breakfast! 2-4 potatoes shredded for the family. If we were extra hungry, in goes an egg or two! By the time lunch rolls around, I am only mildly hungry, and a snack will do nicely. Then when I get home, dinner only needs to be rather small to be filling. After hitting the bed, we sleep better and wake up most of the time feeling much better.

What does this have to do with downsizing? Well, when your primary daily food is breakfast, it is really easy to eat healthy and filling. Not only that, but if you haven’t noticed, breakfast foods are the cheapest. So eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper, I have utilized an age-old adage that has saved me more than $200 a month. (gave myself a $1.25/hr raise)

Turn off all your lights, all the time. Unplug everything that doesn’t need to be plugged in: Toasters, Coffee Pots, Alarm Clocks in stupid places, Bathroom lights, etc. Take bulbs out of light sockets so that when you do turn the lights on you aren’t using the full amount.

If you are using gas appliances such as a water heater, turn the temperature down to whatever you might be able to still enjoy.

The biggest downsize you can make is to move into a smaller living space. We think we need a lot of space but we really do not. We instead need to live more efficiently. Visit IKEA and study European and Asian ways of living for inspiration. A lot of the living conditions in these countries are due to massive populations early on when houses were built prior to the industrial revolution. Houses were utilitarian, and we need to make our way back towards a more utilitarian way of life. A bigger house costs more to heat and cool, not t mention clean and repair. If you rent, try to get to a point where you can buy your own home. When you do, move into a house that is the smallest you can stand and make additions as needed. You will find you have much more money to spend on everything else including enjoying that home.

If you have a really small house and live efficiently, you just might be able to live like a King, while working at Burger King! Imagine how much better your life will be when you’re living by the same means, but with a much better job? Imagine spending 80% of your income on whatever you want because you don’t have a collection of bills to pay. Maybe you’ll get to travel like you always wanted. 😉


Ack! I have to go to work! Cutting it short today!


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