Reader Case Study: Buddhist in England Desires a Simple, Secure Financial Future

Lotus lives in the beautiful rural South of England with her partner, Rowan, and their 12-year-old son. She currently works as a communications manager for a nonprofit that supports vulnerable women and she’s had a varied and exciting path through life. With a PhD in music, a yoga teacher training certification and as a practicing Buddhist, Lotus enjoys a life filled with meaning, community, music, connection and love. What she lacks is financial security. She is deeply insightful about her relationship to money and notes that,

There’s something in here about the balance between freedom and [financial] security…. Recognising that we can’t ever be completely secure in this changing, unpredictable life, but also that having some security in place will give rise to a greater sense of freedom.

This is very well said. Lotus has requested our help in crafting an intentional, minimalist lifestyle that aligns with her Buddhist beliefs but also gets her out of debt and onto a more stable financial path. Let’s travel to the UK today as we work with Lotus towards her goals!

What’s a Reader Case Study?

Case Studies address financial and life dilemmas that readers of Frugalwoods send in requesting advice. Then, we (that’d be me and YOU, dear reader) read through their situation and provide advice, encouragement, insight and feedback in the comment section.

For an example, check out the last case study. Case Studies are updated by participants (at the end of the post) several months after the Case is featured. Visit this page for links to all updated Case Studies.

The Goal Of Reader Case Studies

Reader Case Studies intend to highlight a diverse range of financial situations, ages, ethnicities, locations, goals, careers, incomes, family compositions and more!

The Case Study series began in 2016 and, to date, there’ve been 67 Case Studies. I’ve featured folks with annual incomes ranging from $17k to $200k+ and net worths ranging from -$300k to $2.9M+.

I’ve featured single, married, partnered, divorced, child-filled and child-free households. I’ve featured gay, straight and trans people. I’ve featured men, women and non-binary folks. I’ve had cat people and dog people. I’ve featured folks from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, Spain, Finland and France.

I’ve featured people with PhDs and people with high school diplomas. I’ve featured people in their early 20’s and people in their late 60’s. I’ve featured folks who live on farms and folks who live in New York City.

The goal is diversity and only YOU can help me achieve that by emailing me your story! If you haven’t seen your circumstances reflected in a Case Study, I encourage you to apply to be a Case Study participant by emailing mrs@frugalwoods.com.

Reader Case Study Guidelines

I probably don’t need to say the following because you folks are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not condemn.

There’s no room for rudeness here–the goal is to create a supportive environment where we all acknowledge that we’re human, we’re flawed, but we choose to be here together, workshopping our money and our lives with positive, proactive suggestions and ideas.

A disclaimer that I am not a trained financial professional and I encourage people not to make serious financial decisions based solely on what one person on the internet advises. 

I encourage everyone to do their own research to determine the best course of action for their finances. I am not a financial advisor and I am not your financial advisor.

With that I’ll let Lotus, today’s Case Study subject, take it from here!

Lotus’s Story

A Buddhist shrine on one of Lotus’s retreats

Hi Frugalwoods! My name is Lotus, I am 45 and I live in rural South England with my partner Rowan (age 53), and our 12-year-old son. Rowan and I have been together for 15 years and we’ve been quite happy living in the countryside for that time. We like nature, walking, quiet, watching films, and being at home. We have rented long term in the same area and have just recently moved–only 3 miles down the road!–after living in the same rented house for a decade.

Whilst we like this area, we’re not totally sold on this new house we’re renting and have been thinking about what the future holds. Our son is very happy at school, he’s just one year into high school and wants to stay at this school, so we feel we need to stay in the area.

Lotus’s Buddhist Practice

I am aware that I’m a little less than 5 years from age 50, and so this a real ‘taking stock’ time for me. I’m excited about how my life has been going and the changes I’ve made in my lifestyle to be more responsible and live a ‘good life.’ Over the past 5 years I’ve explored minimalism as a way of life and as a family, we’ve reduced our possessions by about 75% and have looked at what’s most important to us.

Materialism is NOT important to us and we don’t miss anything we’ve decluttered! We are looking more towards simplicity than ever before and taking a lot of joy in the small things. For me, the most crucial thing in my life is my Buddhist practice, which has flourished over the past 7 years. It is now the foundation of everything I do. Historically I was a striver – super ambitious, always got something new going on and very busy. My practice has shown me how to be more present, to value what’s happening now, and that striving isn’t always good for my heart or mind. Buddhism allows me to focus on developing qualities of compassion, generosity, love and awareness. Thus, time for meditation, reflection, walking and my yoga practice is absolutely vital to what I see as ‘the good life.’

Lotus’s Career

I got my PhD in music about 6 years ago but left academia pretty soon after because I found it very ego-based, stressful and it didn’t leave me with enough time for my family. Then I worked for a Buddhist charity (nonprofit for you US folks!) for around 5 years for not very much money. Having a sense that my work makes a meaningful difference in the world has always been crucial to me. It was a job I absolutely loved, with a community of loving and beautiful people, but there was just no money in it! It was like earning less than minimum wage but for the love of it. 12 months ago, I switched jobs to work for another charity, doing important work supporting vulnerable women, but happily for quite a bit more money. However, it’s still charity sector wages, which are comparatively low. It’s a communications role, so I do things such as writing newsletters, social media, website development and communications with donors and fundraisers. I definitely don’t want to be doing it forever.

I now also work only 3.5 days a week for that increased salary, which allows me to spend time leading Buddhist meditation classes voluntarily and helping in any way I can at my local Buddhist Centre to build community and friendships. This takes a lot of my spare time – I’d say I am in classes/events around 9-10 hours a week – but I love it and it’s important to me. Unfortunately there is no money at the Buddhist Centre to pay for me to work there, or I’d love to do that! I also took a yoga teacher training, which I completed in May. It was great to do because I love yoga! I did it more for my own practice and I’m not sure I’m confident enough to teach, I can be quite scared of putting myself out there. But it’s another string to my bow. I practice yoga most days.

A Career Change?

Lotus and her partner both practice yoga

I am considering a career change. I have always flitted about jobs-wise and have never found what I really want to do. This has also limited my potential earnings. Coming up on age 46 I kind of feel like this is last chance to make a big change for the final 20 years of my working life. I considered retraining as a physiotherapist, but that would mean doing another degree, which would be expensive and I’d get into debt. So instead I’m thinking of taking some smaller, less expensive courses over the next couple of years in bodywork therapies – so probably anatomy to start with, then maybe something like myofascial release or Bowen therapy – to slowly build up ‘another path’ for earning income.

But this is an idea very much in its infancy and I need time to explore what would be good for me in the bigger picture of my (not so great) finances. I am definitely open to other ideas – I am a strong writer and this could be one option for me, for example. I also enjoy giving talks to help motivate and support people’s development.

What feels most pressing right now? What brings you to submit a Case Study?

Rowan and I run our finances separately, which seems to work pretty well for us and is unlikely to change. We split the bills 50/50 and he tends to pay for more food and fun stuff when he has spare income (he’s self-employed and earns a little more than I do). Hopefully it’s ok to ask that you not suggest we combine finances – I think the only way we’d do that is if we bought a house, which we’d do equally together, again splitting it 50/50. Everything else will stay separate, and we’re happy that way.

I’m writing now because I feel I don’t have a clear plan, and with 50 in sight, I ought to get one! I have been carrying debt for awhile–from historical overspending and materialism–and in 2018 I consolidated it, cut up all my credit cards (I can’t sensibly manage them, I am too impulsive!), and have doggedly been paying my debt off at the minimum monthly amounts. Loan #1’s term ends in December 2022 and the plan has always been to then roll that amount into paying off Loan #2 by November 2023. So, I am starting to see a little bit of light at the end of the debt tunnel, but it’s very slow and I can be a bit impatient with it. As you can see, debt repayment is the largest percentage of my outgoings. It is a weight I’m very keen to lose and with it, I can only do the paycheck-to-paycheck thing.

Lotus’s Low Income

I’m aware that my low income puts me in the position of making only slow progress toward any financial plan. Thinking forward to retirement is quite scary when change is so slow – I have nothing planned for the future and I don’t have any savings or assets. I’ll get a state pension when I’m 67 if it still exists (at present that’s about £780 a month in the UK) and I have a tiny amount of employer pension, but that’ll not be much at all. I am not averse to living a simple life – I feel I am happy to have a low amount of expenses, and I’m definitely not aiming for luxury. But I also am not good at managing my money, particularly larger expenses that are spread throughout the year such as Christmas or clothes/shoe purchases.

Lotus’s partner and son on a local walk

You’ll see from my figures that I spend more each month than I earn.

I usually muddle through – I recently borrowed some money from my sister to cover some of that – but I can’t rely on that as a financial strategy. I need to grow up financially! I read the Reader Case studies and often think that the people have such assets and have made such progress and I wonder whether I should be a little more concerned about my future. I definitely think I have the conditioning to be flippant around money and think ‘oh it will all work out.’ I was very lucky to find employment during the pandemic and I’m aware it could have gone very differently as it has done for so many people.

There’s something in here about the balance between freedom and security. I lean more to the former and have had my head in the sand about the latter. I’d like to find a middle way (as the Buddha encouraged!) between the two. Recognising that we can’t ever be completely secure in this changing, unpredictable life, but also that having some security in place will give rise to a greater sense of freedom.

The work question is a tricky one. On one hand, I feel like I want to be semi-retired and meditate and walk in nature and just be, but in reality I think that might be a bit boring after a while. Perhaps I’ve just got stuck in work and haven’t found anything that really motivates me and there’s some stuck energy that could be unleashed. I’d like to feel a bit more vital in my life. My work is ok but it doesn’t set me on fire! And as someone in their mid-40s, maybe I should use my energy for good whilst I have it! The idea of doing physiotherapy inspires me but it feels like too big a risk both financially and in terms of changing careers. So this new plan of a slower path into complimentary bodywork therapies may work instead. Or perhaps exploring something a bit more like a ‘portfolio career’ with a bit of writing, a bit of speaking, a bit of yoga teaching etc.

What’s the best part of your current lifestyle/routine?

My work is pretty self-contained and boundaried. I can turn off after 5pm, I don’t work on weekends and I have 1.5 days off during the week. This leaves me with quite a lot of flexibility and I get to choose how to spend my time. I spend a lot of my spare time in Buddhist classes and with Buddhist friends exploring different practices. I do about 9-10 hours a week of timetabled activities. I also love to read, to meditate, to do yoga, to walk in nature. I’m in a good location for all those things and have excellent resources to tap into with my Buddhist community, online resources, yoga classes and a great local library. Being with my partner and my son makes me happy – we are a close and loving family. I also love to chill with films and watch youtube videos about simple living, sustainability, decluttering etc. I have much to occupy my time and nothing I do is particularly expensive (except for my yoga membership, which is probably my main monthly ‘splurge’ aside from music lessons for my son).

What’s the worst part of your current lifestyle/routine?

I don’t want to be a Communications Officer forever! Though I find the context of my work meaningful and I love the people I work with, I have dreams of doing something else – multiple other things! Perhaps working in a hospice as a chaplain, or running meditation classes, maybe writing a book on simple living and spirituality, or just doing something in my local community with actual people rather than being in front of a computer all the time.

I love walking in nature and am exploring going barefoot more

I have considered there are many things I know about – I’m a long-term vegan, I’ve been journeying to minimalism for quite some time, I’m an experienced meditator – that I could share with people, and maybe I should try doing YouTube or online courses, or something like that? However, marketing myself doesn’t appeal (but maybe that’s because I do marketing for my day job). I feel like I haven’t found my ‘thing’ yet, which is a bit depressing at the age of 45!

I am really clear about my values, and I know I love to talk about the things that really matter to me: love, life and death, spirituality, connection, the natural world. I also know that people turn to me for advice, in my Buddhist community I am often asked for input and I have friends that look up to me, which is very humbling. I want to exemplify having a positive life, a simple life, a joyful life. But I also want to exemplify mindful management of my finances, though that feels so far away! The idea of bodywork therapies popped into my head only recently and I am wondering if this could be my ‘thing’…

Currently I don’t like the rigidity of a paid, regular job – I enjoy spontaneity, and sometimes get offered chances to teach on retreats or be a part of longer events that I have to turn down because I don’t have enough time off work. I want to be able to be flexible and change up what I’m doing. I have dreams of doing some long-distance walks and taking time off. I’ve done a couple of marathon walks but I’d love to do something like 100+ miles in one go. Sometimes I think I’d like to be more adventurous. I have a fantasy that I’ll take a six-month sabbatical when I turn 50, and just mooch about the place! I think perhaps self-employed would suit me better, but that terrifies me financially as I’m not a natural money manager. I find budgeting hard and sticking to a budget even harder!

I live far away from my wider family – my mum, my dad and stepmum and my sister all live up in the North. I don’t see them as much as I want to, and that makes me sad. It’s expensive to travel up on public transport and I don’t have the funds to do that as regularly as I’d like. We’ve toyed with the idea of moving up to the North, but I don’t know if the culture change would suit my partner and son.

Lotus’s Frugality

In terms of frugality, I think I’ve been quite good at cutting back where I can and doing things like selling as much of our stuff as possible. But there is very little to cut back now and we have so few ‘things’ that I feel I’m at the end of what I can do with frugality. I do have some areas where I splurge. My weak spots are paying for self-development courses and gifting. My yoga training was £1,950 in total, which I paid in installments. I could have just saved that and paid off some of my debt so I do feel silly about that. I get so hooked in with a new exciting idea, and when I’m just doggedly doing nothing fun for ages and paying off debt periodically I do things like that.

So I know I need to be more disciplined and not get hooked into expensive new courses or programmes unless they will definitely contribute to greater income/work satisfaction down the line. Then there’s gifting… I don’t spend a huge amount per person (usually £10 allows me to get something lovely) but I have lots of friends and family and I love to give little thoughtful gifts to celebrate them. Recently what I’ve been doing is saving gifts people have given me that are not totally my thing or I don’t need and regifting them, so that’s helped a little. But I still consistently overspend at Christmas and on birthdays, especially for my son who I do spend too much on. I have nothing saved up for these events so already I’m worried about how I’ll deal with this coming Christmas.

The other area I spend A LOT on are music lessons for my son. He’s talented musically and we want to develop that (my partner and I are both musical too) and his school teacher has advised that he will need formal lessons outside of school to really go places. I’d like to get better at saving up the money needed for music lessons – for example, we pay for his violin lessons every 9 weeks and I never feel ‘ready’ to pay the chunk of money. This part of my financial life really bothers me. I want to be more in control. I do track where my money is going – after I’ve spent it – but don’t always control the spending upfront. It’s often not huge spending, but I don’t have a lot of leeway with such a small income.

Where Lotus Wants to be in Ten Years:

1) Finances:

  • I would love to have no debt. I hate that so much of my money goes to debt servicing, and I can’t even remember what I got for this debt… what did I even spend it on?!
  • I want to be better able to save up incrementally for bills that come less frequently than monthly. I find myself always feeling on the backfoot with these things.
  • I would like some level of savings – I have no real idea of how much, but to have something for emergencies and for the future would give me a sense of security that is desperately missing.
  • Ultimately, I want a plan for retirement, some sense of a roadmap of what I want and how I want to get there. In some ways I think what I’m looking for is to be retired sooner rather than later, so I can be spontaneous and follow my interests where they take me! I am open to exploring different career options and the possibility of being self-employed.

2) Lifestyle:

  • Not working too much so I have lots of time for meditation, yoga, friends and family!
  • When I imagine my future self, I’m getting up early in a countryside home, doing yoga and meditating, eating some delicious healthy food, teaching a meditation class, spending time with my family, taking a lovely walk, writing a book, talking with friends about the important things in life.
  • Maybe being more adventurous and spontaneous. Really relishing life!
  • The house question is a big one. Renting feels like throwing away money sometimes, but the UK is so expensive to buy a house and I just don’t know if it’s worth pursuing. But we had to leave our wonderful last house because the landlord sold it, so there is little security in renting too. We don’t want anything huge but would love to live in the country in a beautiful place. We have talked about moving to Wales – where property is cheaper – but that wouldn’t be able to happen for at least 4-6 years whilst our son completes his education.

3) Career:

  • I am conflicted about my career. I would love to do something more with people and less with answering emails and being on the computer. It’s really important to me that whatever I do has meaning and purpose – I can’t just tick along in a job that pays the bills but means nothing.
  • I am often full of good ideas of things to do (I am an ENFP, slightly on the border of E/I – we love new ideas!) but then the reality of them isn’t practical or it’s not how I thought it was.
  • I have historically had a tendency to flit from job to job a bit, never really putting roots down. I quite enjoy change and ‘fresh starts.’ I think I like variety and spontaneity, I know I’m fairly intelligent and have skills, but I don’t always know how to manage that in a financially sustainable way.
  • Could this bodywork therapies idea be a good one, or is it just another bright idea that in reality isn’t the thing for me?

Lotus’s Finances

Note: all currency listed in Great British Pounds 

Income

Item Amount Notes
Salary £1,366.71 Minus taxes, national insurance and workplace pension
Child benefit £84.60 In the UK you receive a monthly child benefit for each child under 18 you have, irrespective of your income
Monthly subtotal: £1,451.31
Annual total: £17,412.00

Debts

Item Outstanding loan balance  Interest Rate Loan Period/Payoff Terms
Personal loan #1 £4,865.70 18.60% I pay the £162 minimum payment each month
Personal loan #2 £2,795.07 6.90% I pay the £191 minimum payment each month
Arrears on student loan £367.43 I don’t think it’s accruing interest I am currently ignoring this, which is silly, particularly as my student loans will be wiped out once this is paid (they are 25 years old). Not including student loans in this debt section for that reason
Owed to my sister £350.00 None Am paying her back £35 a month for 10 months
Total: £8,378.20

Assets: none

Vehicles: none

Expenses

Item Amount Notes
Rent £259 This is half our rent minus the bills I pay on behalf of both of us
Payment on Loan #2 £191
Council Tax £165
Music lessons for my son £163 Average amount for piano, violin and singing lessons. This is a LOT! He is musically talented but I am thinking about reducing this.

Sometimes my partner will contribute to this, but sometimes not – depends on what’s happening with his self-employed variable income

Payment on Loan #1 £162
Travel (bus & train) £117 I travel to work 2 days a week – some months there will be additional costs here if I’m taking a trip (e.g. in Oct I’m going up north to see family and this will cost an additional £100)
Food £100 Average amount for food – sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. My partner tends to spend a lot on food so I top up, generally with organic veg boxes and this includes ‘food on the go’ (like the occasional bag of crisps or snack bar when travelling)
Yoga subscription £46 I do 3-5 online real time yoga classes a week – this is really important to me and I trained as a yoga teacher in this method
Electricity £42
Retreats £40 I am a Buddhist and this is integral to my practice – again I tend to pay for them in larger sums and not save up
Payment on loan from sister £35
Christmas £35 This is what it would cost me a month but I tend not to save up for this so always find myself in a pickle come January
Fun money £30 Varies hugely. Periodically I take courses and this would be included here. I’m contemplating doing an anatomy course which would be 3 x £85 payments for example
Exercise subscription £24 Online classes and a Whatsapp community group – thinking about cutting this
Gifts £20 Small birthday or other gifts for friends and family
Oil (heating) £20 Comes in one large chunk, which I don’t save for (again)
Clothing/shoes £15 This would be the monthly amount but I tend to not have this saved up and then I have to cope with larger costs
Mobile phone £12 Through Giffgaff, which is very flexible and I own my handsets. This covers two phones I have – one smartphone, one dumbphone for when I want to be more mindful about my tech use
Donations £12 Charity donations including for my Buddhist group
Netflix £10 We don’t pay for a TV license or cable/satellite TV so this is our only media subscription
Magazine subscription for my son £10
Contact lenses £10
Monthly subtotal: £1,518
Annual total: £18,216

Lotus’s Questions for You:

My questions might be a bit vague and indecisive because that’s exactly how I feel! I don’t know how to move forward!

  1. How bad is my situation? Am I wanting to have my cake and eat it too?
    • I think maybe I’m a bit head-in-the-sand about my financial situation and feel like maybe it’s a lot worse than I think it is and I’m not taking it seriously enough! I’d love some good straight talking about this!
    • I also wonder if I’m asking for too much – to have a good financial future, where I might retire early but also to not work too much in the meantime and to have meaningful and varied work. So again, I would welcome a bit of tough love if it’s needed!
    • I know the first step is to live within my means but I don’t know how to start saving for the larger expenses – they just seem to come in so frequently and swallow up anything spare.
  2. What kind of financial plan should I have for the future? (I know this is vague!)
    • What do I do after paying off my debts? Do I start saving an emergency fund and then investing? What kind of goal should I set for savings and for my income? What about pensions? Should I save for my son’s university fees?
    • I feel totally clueless as I’ve been just focusing on being more frugal with my outgoings and paying off debt, so it feels like there’s a new set of goals that need to be developed once my debt is paid off.
  3. Should I retrain as a bodywork therapist or find another kind of job?
    • Should I stay in my steady but low-income employment? Should I branch out and explore different options for a portfolio career, something self-employed with more flexibility and freedom? Is spending money on more courses to retrain in various bodywork disciplines wise?
    • How can I have some sense of security in my income and yet find what really suits me? I currently work 3.5 days a week – would it be silly to reduce my hours to 3 days a week to allow for more exploration of what I want to do?
  4. What do we do about housing?
    • We rent our house and renting in the UK is expensive. But renting also feels like throwing away such a big chunk of money each year. Buying a house is difficult without any deposit, and also buying in this part of the UK is verrrry expensive! But is it something we should aim to do?
    • I do have dreams of doing something random and living in a tiny house/yurt/houseboat to save money but actually with our son still having 6 years in the compulsory education system, we don’t want to do anything radical now. He loves his school and is happy so although we live in an expensive place, it feels sensible to stay here.
    • A small two-bed place would be a minimum of £300,000 in the area we live so we would need a deposit of at least £30k which feels SO far out of reach. And I’m not even sure we want to try for that. If we were in the US we’d probably go for a tiny house on some land, but UK planning laws are so draconian that won’t work here…

Liz Frugalwoods’ Recommendations

Lotus has crafted a beautiful life and it’s wonderful to read about her intentional, loving community and family. It’s not easy to create a fulfilling existence and I commend Lotus for figuring out what matters to her and her family. I think Lotus is deeply insightful about her financial situation and I’m really glad she came to us for a Case Study. It takes courage to bare your financial soul and ask for help. Lotus, thank you for inviting us to go on this journey with you!

Lotus’s Question #1: How bad is my situation? Am I wanting to have my cake and eat it too?

I’m going to listen to what Lotus asked me for today and recall that she said,

I would welcome a bit of tough love if it’s needed!

I preface my recommendations with this because today is going to serve up some tough love. But it is said with love and it comes from a place of wanting Lotus to succeed. With that said, let’s dive in.

Income

Lotus and her family love living rurally – these are the fields around our house

Lotus is spot on in her assessment that her low income makes it tough to pursue financial goals. With an annual income of £17,412, Lotus is essentially at (or perhaps below?) the UK poverty line. Given that, I think the #1 priority for Lotus is to increase her income. She stated she’s not able to cover her monthly expenses on her current income and routinely goes into debt in order to pay her bills. This is not sustainable, full stop.

Although I completely empathize with the desire to work part-time, that’s simply not an option for Lotus at this stage, unless she’s able to find a position that pays tremendously more. I appreciate Lotus’s clear-eyed vision that now is the time to make a decision about what she wants to do for the final 20-ish years of her pre-pension working life. This brings us to…

Lotus’s Question #3: Should I retrain as a bodywork therapist or find another kind of job?

    • Should I stay in my steady but low-income employment? Should I branch out and explore different options for a portfolio career, something self-employed with more flexibility and freedom? Is spending money on more courses to retrain in various bodywork disciplines wise?

The answer here is that Lotus needs to do all of it, except pay for bodywork courses. At this point, Lotus needs to focus on earning more in order to dig out of debt and build up some assets (more on those two things in a moment). Lotus has a multitude of degrees, qualifications, natural abilities, passions and aptitudes. Now’s the time to utilize what she already has in order to stabilize her finances. Once she’s stable, bodywork courses could be something she explores, but I wouldn’t go into debt with the hopes of someday earning more money.

Bottom line: Lotus needs to earn more money now!

Unfortunately, unless she increases her income, there’s very little we’re going to be able to accomplish. As an immediate stopgap measure–to cover her expenses every month–I suggest Lotus increase her hours to full-time at her current job. This will give her the stability and security to consider her next move.

Lotus expressed she’s not wild about her current job AND it doesn’t pay well, so it sounds like it’s time to find something new. I encourage Lotus to start researching what positions she might be interested in applying for while continuing to work full-time.

Lotus, feel confident as you embark on this job search! Know that you have all the qualifications you need to find a better-paying job. It may not be the ideal job of your dreams, but it just might be the job that you need. You will find a way to weave your passions into your work and your life no matter what work you do for money. Lotus’s idea of building out a portfolio of paid work is also a great idea! If she can pursue a number of different remunerative passions, that’d be lovely! But, I would suggest she build up that portfolio while continuing to work at her current job. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the luxury of quitting her current job before another job is lined up.

Now, let’s circle back to the final bullet of Lotus’s first question:

I know the first step is to live within my means but I don’t know how to start saving for the larger expenses – they just seem to come in so frequently and swallow up anything spare.

I suggest Lotus implement a financial roadmap for herself. She expressed that her finances are something of a mystery to her, which explains her seesawing in and out of debt each month. I’m here to reassure Lotus that her money does not have to be a mystery any longer! It can be something she feels peacefully and completely in control of.

My Suggestions for Lotus’s Financial Roadmap

Step 1: Track Expenses

Lotus’s assertions about expenses popping up and swallowing all extra money indicates that tracking expenses is the place to start. When we track what we spend, we’re able to feel in control and prepared for the big expenses of life because we know they’re coming. Most expenses aren’t actually surprises, they’re just irregular. For example, Lotus mentioned not feeling prepared for Christmas, which is a very common situation because… it’s irregular. But it doesn’t have to be a surprise. By tracking expenses, we empower ourselves to plan ahead. It turns financial management from a place of helplessness to a place of enfranchisement. When we plan ahead for expenses, WE are in charge of our money. When we know what we spend every month, every year, WE are the ones making the decisions, as opposed to feeling ruled by our money.

For US readers, I recommend the free expense tracking program from Personal Capital, which is what I personally use (affiliate link). Unfortunately, Personal Capital doesn’t work outside of the US. But all is not lost! The best way to track your spending is to find a system you will stick with.

Here are a few ideas for Lotus:

  1. Paper and pen. Write down every expense in a notebook you keep with you. Input the figures into a spreadsheet in order to keep clear track each month.
  2. Use Money Dashboard, which is a free, UK-based money management app that receives positive reviews.
  3. Emma is another a free, UK-based money management app that appears to receive middling reviews.
  4. Check out this article from The Guardian for reviews of these, and other, free expenses tracking apps.

Whichever method Lotus selects, the key is for her to do it every single month, without fail. By doing this, she’ll build a reservoir of data about her life and about the expenses she can anticipate each month and each year. Collating the months in a spreadsheet is an easy way to keep track and to later reference specific months.

Step #2: Pay Off High-Interest Debt First, then Pay Off All Debt

Lotus’s musical family – and spot their beloved Lucy hound, who they sadly lost this year

This is one reason why Lotus needs to increase her income ASAP. Her total debt load of £8,378.20 isn’t all that much, but of concern is the interest rate of 18.60% on her personal loan #1. This is an incredibly high interest rate and it’s costing her money every month that she carries this debt.

Once Lotus has ramped up to full-time employment and increased her income, I suggest she prioritize paying off both of her personal loans, starting with the £4,865.70 at 18.60%, followed by personal loan #2 (£2,795.07 at 6.90%), then the student loan arrears of £367.43 and finally, the interest-free loan from her sister.

The priority is to wipe out the two personal loans with high interest rates, then turn her attention to the interest-free loans.

The other absolutely wonderful thing about paying off this debt is that Lotus’s expenses will decrease by £388 every month! Paying off debt pays YOU in two ways: you’re no longer losing money to interest AND you pocket more money every month because you’re not servicing your debt! A win all around.

Step #3: Reduce Expenses

Lotus already lives very, very frugally so there’s not much ground we can make up in this area. However, since Lotus is in the dire situation of not being able to cover her bills every month, we’ve got to trim anything we can–at least until we get her onto solid financial footing. As I just noted, Lotus will save £388 every month once she pays off her debt–a whopping £4,656 per year!

I really, really, really HATE telling people to eliminate important things from their lives, which is why I’m an advocate for balanced, mindful frugality and values-based spending, something I covered in-depth in the last Reader Case Study. Unfortunately, today I have to tell Lotus to cut some things that she loves and are integral to who she is as a person. When you are in debt, have no assets, and a low income, there’s just not room for expenses beyond the basics. Hence, I’m suggesting a bare bones, ascetic budget for Lotus, but this is not for the long-term. This is just to get Lotus on her feet. Please don’t despair, Lotus! Please see this is a short-term jolt to your finances–a fast, if you will–that’ll help you get out of debt and into savings.

A note on separate finances within a partnership: I think this is a completely fine approach and have no argument with it at all. The key is that all expenses must be divided evenly. I made notes below to that effect and want to reiterate for Lotus that, if she and Rowan want to keep their finances separate, they need to be precise about dividing everything up. Particularly the music lessons for their son–they need to split that cost between the two of them.

Here are my notes on Lotus’s Expenses:

Item Amount Lotus’s Notes Liz’s Notes Proposed New Amount
Rent £259 This is half our rent minus the bills I pay on behalf of both of us Fixed expense; no change. £259
Payment on Loan #2 £191 Fixed expense; no change. £191
Council Tax £165 Is this split with partner? If not, it should be divided up. £165
Music lessons for my son £163 Average amount for piano, violin and singing lessons. This is a LOT! He is musically talented but I am thinking about reducing this. Sometimes my partner will contribute to this, but sometimes not – depends on what’s happening with his self-employed variable income Lotus, this should be split between you and your partner. I think separate finances are a completely fine approach, but they need to be evenly divided. £82
Payment on Loan #1 £162 Fixed expense; no change. £162
Travel (bus & train) £117 I travel to work 2 days a week – some months there will be additional costs here if I’m taking a trip (e.g. in Oct I’m going up north to see family and this will cost an additional £100) Fixed expense; no change. £117
Food £100 Average amount for food – sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. My partner tends to spend a lot on food so I top up, generally with organic veg boxes and this includes ‘food on the go’ (like the occasional bag of crisps or snack bar when travelling) Fixed expense; no change. £100
Yoga subscription £46 I do 3-5 online real time yoga classes a week – this is really important to me and I trained as a yoga teacher in this method I HATE to suggest that Lotus eliminate important things from her life, but she’s in a dire situation and needs all the extra money she can scrape together to pay off her debt and build up some savings.

There are free yoga classes available online, particularly via YouTube, which is how I practice.

£0
Electricity £42 Is this split with partner? If not, it should be divided up. £42
Retreats £40 I am a Buddhist and this is integral to my practice – again I tend to pay for them in larger sums and not save up Again, I hate to advise Lotus to eliminate this, but for now, she needs to. £0
Payment on loan from sister £35 Fixed expense; no change. £35
Christmas £35 This is what it would cost me a month but I tend not to save up for this so always find myself in a pickle come Jan – £400 How low can this go this year? I hate to suggest austerity, but being creative with thoughtful homemade gifts and re-gifting is a priority this year. £20
Fun money £30 Varies hugely. Periodically I take courses and this would be included here. Contemplating doing an anatomy course which would be 3 x £85 payments for example Unfortunately, this needs to be eliminated for the time being. £0
Exercise subscription £24 Online classes and a whatsapp community group – thinking about cutting this Unfortunately, this needs to be eliminated for the time being. £0
Gifts £20 Small birthday or other gifts for friends and family Unfortunately, this needs to be eliminated for the time being. £0
Oil (heating) £20 Comes in one large chunk, I don’t save for (again) Is this split with partner? If not, it should be divided up. £20
Clothing/shoes £15 This would be the monthly amount but I tend to not have this saved up and then I have to cope with larger costs Unfortunately, this needs to be eliminated for the time being. £0
Mobile phone £12 Giffgaff, very flexible and I own my handsets. This covers two phones I have – one smartphone, one dumbphone for when I want to be more mindful about my tech use Fixed expense; no change. £12
Donations £12 Charity donations including for my Buddhist group Unfortunately, this needs to be eliminated for the time being. £0
Netflix £10 We don’t pay for a TV license or cable/satellite TV so this is our only media subscription Unfortunately, this needs to be eliminated for the time being. £0
Magazine subscription for my son £10 Unfortunately, this needs to be eliminated for the time being. £0
Contact lenses £10 Fixed expense; no change. £10
Monthly subtotal: £1,518 Proposed new monthly subtotal: £1,215
Annual total: £18,216 Proposed new annual total: £14,580

This proposal would give Lotus an extra £303 per month (£3,636 per year). This might not sound significant, but it is in this context. Lotus’s already low expenses also illustrate why priority #1 for her needs to be increasing her income. With these savings Lotus can attack her debts, in order of interest rate, pay them all off and then have another £388 to work with each month.

Step #4: Save Up an Emergency Fund

Lotus enjoys simple pleasures like vegan cooking

Lotus’s first order of business in a post-debt world should be to save up an emergency fund. Since she’s currently yo-yoing in and out of debt each month, I suggest she save up this emergency fund concurrent with her debt pay-off.

Thus, I recommend she not funnel all of her extra cash into debt repayment, but rather divide it up and funnel some into debt repayment and some into savings.

Lotus’s goal with her savings should be to have at least three to six months worth of her living expenses saved up in a checking/savings account that earns interest. If Lotus doesn’t already have a bank account, now’s the time to get one that offers as high an interest rate as possible (UK readers, please offer suggestions in the comments!!).

If we calculate this amount based on her current monthly expenses of £1,518, Lotus should target saving £4,554 to £9,108 in her emergency fund. This will be Lotus’s buffer against future debt. This savings account will ensure she can cover her necessary monthly bills without taking out another loan. This will empower Lotus to be in charge of her financial future.

Step #5: Save and Invest for Retirement

Once Lotus has:

  1. Increased her income
  2. Reduced her expenses
  3. Paid off all of her debt
  4. Saved up an emergency fund of six months’ worth of her expenses

…it’ll be time to turn her attention toward investing for her retirement.

I am (obviously) not an expert on the UK pension system but from my research, it’s my understanding that Lotus can–and should–find out how much State Pension she can expect to receive and at what age she’ll receive it. My source is gov.uk and the specific page for checking your eligibility is here. Lotus should do that first so that she knows the floor of what she’ll receive in retirement. It’s also my understanding that this State Pension won’t be enough to live on, but that it will supplement any other retirement savings.

If Lotus can find a new job that offers a workplace pension, that would be very helpful. Gov.uk has this handy step-by-step worksheet for helping you figure out your retirement, which I recommend Lotus complete.

Before we close, I want to address the questions that I haven’t covered yet:

Lotus Asked: Should I save for my son’s university fees? What do we do about housing?

Glorious skies near Lotus’s home

Both of these are longer term goals and not things that Lotus can (or should) prioritize right now.

Regarding her son’s university costs, Lotus is in a “put your own oxygen mask on first” situation. She needs to right her own financial ship before even considering helping her son with university. He will need to take out loans unless her (or her partner’s) financial situation dramatically changes. If Lotus finds a high-paying new job and is able to tick through all of the priorities we’ve outlined above, then–and only then–she can begin to put away money for her son’s education.

Regarding housing, Lotus doesn’t have the assets to purchase a home. Additionally her share of the rent is fantastically cheap! It sounds like she and her family love where they live, so I’m not inclined to suggest a change here. Again, if she (or Rowan) comes into a lot of money, then buying a home would certainly be an option. However, at present, it doesn’t seem like a pressing desire, nor is it financially possible.

Summary:

Lotus, I want you to feel confident that you have the fortitude and the knowledge to take care of your finances. You are a centered, mindful, caring person and you need to prioritize yourself as you journey towards financial wholeness. You can do this–we are all cheering you on! I wouldn’t give you all of this advice if I didn’t think you could do it.

  1. Increase your income ASAP. I suggest transitioning to full-time work at your current position immediately, then launching a job search for a higher-paying position.
  2. Start tracking your expenses with either pen-and-paper or one of the free apps mentioned in this article.
  3. Reduce your monthly spending per the suggestions in the above spreadsheet. Know that these reductions are temporary while you get your financial house into alignment. Increasing your income will deliver the greatest impact, but you need to hit this from both sides–income and expenses.
    • Have a conversation with Rowan about the equitable split of all of your expenses, particularly your son’s music lessons. This division needs to be precise and fair to you both.
  4. Pay off all of your debt, starting with the highest interest rate and moving on from there. This will free you from the mental burden of knowing you’re in debt, eliminate your losses to interest, and give you more money to work with each month.
  5. Save up an emergency fund of at least three to six months worth of your living expenses. Do this concurrent with the debt pay-off, such that some of your extra money goes to servicing your debts and some goes to building up this savings account.
  6. Save and invest for retirement. Once items #1-5 are complete, turn your financial attentions toward retirement savings.
  7. Enjoy your life! You’ve built a wonderful life and my hope for you is that by setting yourself on this financial roadmap, you’ll remove the stress from financial management. You’ll have a clear plan with concrete goals. Once you click the buttons on your computer to set these things in motion, you can release the thoughts from your mind. You don’t need to be saddled with worrying about money all the time. That’s the true beauty of prudent personal financial management. It frees you from worrying about money. You set up a system, you follow the plan and you live your life!

Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Lotus? We’ll both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask questions!

Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (mrs@frugalwoods.com) your brief story and we’ll talk.

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247 Responses

  1. Ash says:

    Youneedabudget.com (also called YNAB) is excellent budgeting software. The method encourages you to identify and save for those irregular expenses like heating oil along with your standard monthly expenses. It costs money, but if you email their customer service a link to this and explain your current financial predicament they will likely give you a year for free.

    • MaryP says:

      I second the suggestion to consider YNAB. It has users around the world and most importantly, it is forward looking so you are making decisions where to spend your money and then tracking where it has gone. You can see reports that look back weeks, months or even years (very handy for tax purposes). They have wonderful customer service, many free videos and a very active Facebook group for peer support.

      • Veronica says:

        YNAB is no longer free. Maybe useful when she’s out of debt. Until then, paper and pencil may be best.

        • Elise says:

          Worth getting a free trial membership tho, especially if (like another commenter said), explaining the story to their customer service might get you a one year for free. Lol I swear I don’t work for them, they just helped me turn my finances around so now I preach it….

    • Emma says:

      It doesn’t work very well in the UK

      • Elise says:

        I’ve always used it without automatic syncing, so putting in all transactions by hand, for which it works perfect anywhere!

    • MJ says:

      Seconding this!

      I struggled with saving for upcoming bigger expenses like car maintnenance, christmas etc. as well and YNAB makes it really easy and fun to save for this bit by bit.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Ash – I’ve actually used YNAB before and it’s brilliant. I think I’m happy with pen and paper now but I’ll definitely see how it goes and will consider it if the pen and paper doesn’t work well enough.

  2. Sam says:

    I understand stepping out of academia (it can be a rough bunch!) but I wonder if Lotus could find a different job related to her PhD in music – tutoring, teaching at a high school, working for/with a theater or symphony, etc. With the significant increase in remote work during COVID, it wouldn’t necessarily have to be local, either. Certainly a PhD carries weight and could help with getting a higher wage (in a related field, at least). I admit I was also a little surprised to see that Lotus is paying for music lessons for her son – if she’s this tight on cash, why not leverage her and her partner’s musical skills and teach him themselves?

    • Cyndi says:

      Sam, exactly what I was going to comment! Lotus has a PhD in music, so I say use that to the max; can she give her son his music lessons instead of out-sourcing them? (at least some of them). Can she teach music as a career? Do music therapy? Run music programs for her local community centre?
      I’m not sure what other kinds of jobs a PhD in music qualifies her for, but I can’t help but think that if she went in that direction career-wise (but not academia, which she said she doesn’t want to do), she could make a lot more money. She already has this education, and I don’t think she should spend a single cent towards taking any new courses.

      Also, just a note that renting is not throwing money away, and it’s too bad today’s culture makes people feel that way. Renting is paying for your home (your shelter!), as well as for maintenance services, taxes, utilities, etc. You get very important things for the rent that you pay! 🙂

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Sam – I will definitely be thinking about this, I think tutoring is a great idea in particular. My PhD is music history so I’m not super experienced on the practical side (plus I find my son is quite resistant to learning from his mum, he’s definitely almost a teen with the attitude haha!) We do support him as best we can though and I think what we’ll probably be thinking about is reducing his formal tuition to just 1 or 2 things rather than 3 and trusting that a musical environment at home will also work its magic.

  3. Caroline says:

    This is a very interesting case study! It looks to me like Lotus has a lot of very marketable skills and if she can’t ramp up her current job to full time or really hates the idea of doing so, she should seriously consider using her music qualifications to offer lessons of some kind and / or get into teaching yoga, ideally somewhere already set up, such as a community centre, i.e. literally just show up to teach, no actual financial investments required. This could be side hustle type work, depending on what sort of work is out there, but those days when she’s not earning at her regular job need to be remunerated in some fashion, if only modestly, and what better way than to use her very interesting, hard-won and unusual skills.

    Completely agree with Liz re the splitting bills properly with her partner. Clearly they have a great relationship, and separate finances is 100% great, but then the split must be even, especially when incomes are on the lower side for both parties. If they were both awash with money, a bit of disparity wouldn’t be such a thing, but Lotus’s debt and her financial future are at stake here and the costs associated with their son should be agreed and then divided completely evenly especially. I wouldn’t worry about paying for his tertiary education at this stage. There are always ways to pay for an education that’s wanted, if he’s talented (and it sounds as though he is!), possibly scholarships and bursaries could be a good option.

    Hats off to Lotus for living lightly and frugally already, for doing what genuinely inspires her and fits with her ethics and values. If more of us were like that, a lot of our societal problems would be greatly reduced!

    • Lotus says:

      Thank you Caroline – yes, I really like the idea of a side hustle and there are lots of halls and centres near me that I could teach yoga in. Everyone’s encouragement for me to be brave and get on with teaching is very helpful!

      I’ve popped a comment to Liz just to say that yes, Rowan pays way more than 50% of things so it is fair and equitable, no worries on that front.

      Thanks for your positive comments Caroline!

  4. Susan O'Donnell says:

    I love Lotus’ story of tranquility and inner peace. It takes most of us many years(if ever!) to find our passion. Jen’s ideas are spot on, but just a couple of minor tweeks: Can your son’s magazine and music lessons be part of a “gift”, such as Birthday or Christmas? As a parent of a musically gifted child, I know this could be his ticket to University in the future. Also, it is a life long skill that will bring him joy for the rest of his life, regardless if he becomes a musician(it’s probably like meditation to him). Have you gone to charity shops to find gifts? I often find fun planters and put a lovely arrangement of succulents or just a vase with a bouquet of flowers. Even a homemade(jam, bread, cookies) are appreciated. I also think if you start small with your Yoga teaching(beginner yoga and meditation), you will gain the confidence to grow the business. I gladly pay $10-$20 for a group yoga session. You could probably get $50/hr or more if you start small. I often see yoga teachers in my local parks, especially w Covid. Best of Luck to you and your family in this endeavor.

    • Lotus says:

      These are brilliant ideas, Susan! I love the idea of succulents in a planter, that really appeals. I think the creative part of me will enjoy gifting this way. Thank you for commenting

  5. Elaine Bell says:

    Hi.
    Would Lotus consider giving private tuition to earn some extra cash? She might be able to give piano lessons, for example, as I assume she is able to play a musical instrument to a fairly high standard since she holds a PhD in Music. She could possibly also teach yoga, either one-to-one or to a group ?
    Good luck!

  6. Julia says:

    I’m in the UK, so hello from Cheshire, Lotus! I don’t have any advice about a good interest rate on current accounts, unfortunately, as interest rates are less than the inflation rate and there don’t seem to be any good deals out there just now – but I’ll be following this conversation in case I’m wrong!

    I recently had a massive career change – I’m now 57 – and have finally found what I love to do, and it pays really well. So it’s never too late. I should add that I chose to do my retraining at almost zero cost, using library books and online resources available to me as an alumna of the university where I did my Master’s. Now that I’m earning in my new career I can splash out on lovely books and courses, but I was very strict with myself until I was sure it was going to work out.

    Good luck, and I can’t wait to read your update in the future!

    • Lotus says:

      Hello Julia! So glad you’ve found what you love to do, that’s really heartening. And retraining using libraries etc. is brilliant. I need to learn from your strictness with yourself!

      Thank you, and yes I’ll definitely be up for updating you all on how I get on!

  7. BG says:

    It can be hard, but you must ‘keep your eyes on the prize.’ You have training in yoga, know meditation, and have access to the outdoors. These ought to suffice in supporting your physical and emotional well-being.

    As a non-believer, I stopped engaging in the commercialized exchange of gifts with family and friends in my 20s. No one misses ‘stuff’, so gifts should not be a big deal. Perhaps something for your son, but I have to believe all the other people in your life will understand that you no longer engage in gift-giving. A hand-written note, or a homemade baked good are just as valuable.

    And I am not sure why bodywork keeps calling to you. As you point out, it requires quite a bit of education and training, and building a practice takes time. I would encourage you to build on the skills you have — yoga, music, to test out offering a small group class to a few people as a way to test the waters for teaching and working directly with people. Who knows how that may grow over time?

    • Lotus says:

      Thank you – your comment is really wise. Keeping my eye on the prize is I think what I’ve found hard to date, but I haven’t really had a proper roadmap before so hopefully this exercise will allow me to keep more focus.

      And yes, most of my family and friends already have plenty of ‘things’ and don’t need much. It’s a weird social thing, I do feel awkward about saying I don’t give gifts but I think it is possible. This year my family have agreed a ‘secret santa’ approach where the adults (there are 7 of us) just buy one small gift for one of us. So that’s a step in the right direction but it’s heartening to hear it’s worked for you to not give gifts.

      I think you’re right about experimenting with the skills I already have, looking forward to seeing where it leads me 🙂

  8. Holly says:

    Oh, my goodness. Just reading Lotus’s statement made my stomach clinch with anxiety. I agree with almost all of Liz’s suggestions, except … personally I would give up the contacts, wear glasses, and keep Netflix as my single “splurge”!

    My first thought is that even though Lotus and her partner keep separate finances, this is a family issue and needs to be approached as such. She needs to talk to her partner and her son and see what they have to say. What is her partner’s financial situation? Does he have debts, too? Would he be willing to take on some more expenses while she eliminates debt? Does her son need or want extra lessons in three areas? Could he cut down to two, or one? And pursue the others on his own with her help? The family as a whole needs to prioritize the family’s financial stability.

    What are the possibilities for selling/bartering/volunteering her skills to fill her need for things she wants? Perhaps personal yoga instruction for music lessons? Or giving time instead of a monetary gift to friends and family?

    And as gently as I can, let me suggest that none of the world’s great religious leaders needed classes or paid retreats to pursue their spiritual goals. They taught their wisdom for free and spent time by themselves in a natural setting when they needed to renew their spirit.

    If Lotus, and her family, truly want to achieve financial stability, I’m certain they can achieve it!

    • Walnut says:

      I agree with this – while shared finances may not be in the picture, a joint plan and shared information needs to be. Why would you borrow money from your sister and not your partner?

      Also, a bit of tough love, but people don’t want you to purchase gifts for them -especially if they know you don’t have the finances for it. A gift of bakes goods, however can be so meaningful. Who would turn down fresh bread that costs pennies to make though?

      For your sons music lessons, chat with him about if he wants to continue to pursue all routes or perhaps keep just a couple? I wouldn’t cut everything, but perhaps cutting back during the austerity period while you pay off debt is reasonable.

      • Chel says:

        I agree with you both here. If they make about the same amount of money & want to keep the financial side apart & they feel it works for them then that’s fine, but it’s not feeling equal & fair to me. I’m from the mindset of having your own accounts and jointly paying to the degree that you’re able, so a combo. As I read this it felt as if she was alone in some of this although partnered and that bothered me, especially borrowing money from her sister, that’s not a true partnership. Even my ex stepped up as needed though in the end he resented me for it.

        Aspects of this were challenging for me to read as it admittedly triggered me. My now ex-husband had the “50-50” mindset when it was convenient for him. I said “we” all the time, he said, “I” me/her, especially when it came to finances & resented having to pay the bills while I did the saving, but I couldn’t pay “half” because I didn’t get enough from disability. I told him we couldn’t do both, one of us had to save. He made 6 times the income I did on disability but he wanted me to pay half? Sorry but the math doesn’t add up. I also did many things including website creation & promotion for him for “free” that took time & when I felt up to it worked a 10 plus hour day in the comfort of my own space. My goal was always to return to my self-employed profession in mental wellness but it didn’t happen fast enough for him so he left & now he has a partner who is affording him the luxury of working minimal hours, less than part-time & I’m happy that he’s getting his needs met as he always did. I had people telling me he should work more because he had perfect health instead of pressuring/guilting/blaming me for not getting healthier fast enough to work. His connections felt I should push through & work to further support him. So, the lesson I learned for me was if someone is going to expect me to do all this “free” work as I’m able, including cooking, etc., and blame & shame me for who I am with my chronic health challenges & what my limitations may be, I’m better off alone.

        Unfortunately, since Lotus is in the UK I can’t advise as much as I could if she were in the US with respect to work with her talents, skills & abilities she could do lots of things in the US such as play music for eldercare facilities and the pay in the US is averaging $125-$300 per hour performance. Not sure if that’s an option in the UK or if it’s all-inclusive there.

        A YouTube channel can bring in lots of cash if done correctly. Maybe find some way to blend your music & Buddhist teachings? Even creating your own music for background meditation can be wonderful & earn you some money. I started reselling online & that’s a great way to earn extra money or even a full-time lucrative job for many, but again, not sure the culture of the UK on that either. Best of luck to you Lotus 🙂

        • Lotus says:

          Thanks for the comment! Sorry you experienced being triggered and to hear the difficulties with your ex-husband.

          Just to be clear, my partner pays WAY more than 50%. We split our rent and utilities 50/50 but he pays for most of our food (I pay £100 for veg but he pays for everything else from bread, to condiments, washing powder, coffee and tea, household things all our main shops at the supermarket) and all fuel and car running costs which transports our son around the place, and also he pays for fun things when he has spare. He is definitely paying a lot more into the household generally than I am. He is very generous and I don’t feel the way you do about my relationship. It works this way for us both.

          As I said above, my sister just offered to lend me money – I would usually approach my partner but we had just got talking and she made an offer which was kind.

          I have wondered about a youtube channel – it’s a great idea! And reselling online, there’s definitely possibility there too. Thank you so much for the suggestions Chel, really appreciated 🙂

      • Lotus says:

        Hi Walnut – oh I would usually borrow money from my partner if I needed, but my sister just offered in this situation (we were talking honestly about money and she said she had some spare she’d love to help me out with – we are very close).

        Yep totally agree re gifts 🙂 and about cutting back some music lessons, the plan is to cut at least one instrument when he knows his preference. Giving him at least one more term to see.

        Thanks Walnut!

      • KT says:

        That was my first thought! Splitting 50/50 also makes since when you both have the same income but if one person makes (hope that I am exaggerating) 50% more than the other, than 50/50 does not make sense.

    • Ada says:

      Count me in on Team Netflix (and no contacts)! LOL

      Best of luck Lotus; tough love is hard. But know we are all rooting for you. You got this!

      • Lotus says:

        Haha! I am team netflix AND team contacts! How to choose?! Thank you so much for your lovely cheerleading, I so appreciate it, Ada

    • Lotus says:

      Ha! Sorry about the anxiety stomach – and it’s so interesting to me that even despite reading Liz’s advice I still don’t have that fear! I must be missing that gene… 🙂

      I hate wearing glasses truth be told, it rains a lot in the UK and that is a big problem, plus contacts are easier when doing yoga or exercise etc. But I am also definitely considering the Netflix thing! I wondered if I could set myself a goal of earning an extra X amount each month then I would be ok to have Netflix. I think my son might freak out without any TV to watch!

      I think the family issue thing is an interesting one. I know our temperaments and am happy that we don’t ever argue about money! My partner has no debt, so that is good. My son would be up for reducing music lessons to 1 or 2 but initially we’re doing the 3 to work out what he really loves. We know piano is his top choice but a second would be great, so at some point he will have done enough lessons to make a choice and that expense will reduce a bit.

      Ahhh I am just a fallible human, not a great religious leader, and I do rely on teachings to support me. This is one of the reasons I practice in community, taking retreats together – otherwise I would be lazy and inclined not to focus on those deeper truths and values. But I agree there is much I can do for free (especially now in this online world) and I’ll definitely be prioritising those options for now.

      Thank you Holly for your lovely helpful comment

  9. Laura says:

    Congratulations on finding a lifestyle and community that works so well for you and your family! I agree that you seem to have a variety of wonderful skill sets that could be side hustles and would create that more flexible income situation long term. I in particular was thinking along the lines of yoga instructor since you have that training. I can understand the idea of teaching yoga but feeling not quite ready for that. Would it be possible to “assist” (aka shadow) a class with a teach with the idea to train to be a substitute? That may be a way to ease into it so its not a jarring. I also know of someone that started with teaching with non-profits related to the elderly and also recent immigrants and refugees. It gave them a way to use their skills, gain confidence, while also giving back. I think at first it was a few random volunteers classes but it became a paid position pretty quickly.

    • Lotus says:

      I love this idea of assisting, and actually I was recently approached by a friend to do this – I think you’re right, it could be a perfect stepping stone for me! The idea of teaching with non-profits is really lovely too. Thank you Laura for your warm and supportive comment!

  10. Nora says:

    Liz – I do love the tough love. Lotus, you want it all and you need to pick which is your true priority. I think working part time and volunteering would be lovely for me but doesn’t align with my financial goals. It’s important not to “live to work” but you may need to move towards full time for a short time to meet these goals and then “lean out” later on.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Nora – ‘ Lotus, you want it all and you need to pick which is your true priority.’ YES! I find it so hard to choose. I am definitely receptive to the short term approach to get myself together though!

  11. Richard says:

    It would be nice to pursue the life she wants, but it doesn’t fit the real world. You can’t have a dreamy world work part time and pay the bills. Lotus needs to get real. I’m not sure she is realistic in their spending either. £100 a month for food for three people or even £200 if she pays half sounds unrealistic. That’s only about $275 a month.

    • B says:

      It sounded liker her partner pays more for food then she does re food budget.

    • Lotus says:

      Hi Richard – I pay waaaaay less than half of our food. My partner pays the bulk of it, I just buy us a veg box most weeks he buys everything else food-wise.

      I think tough love is good, and I am clearly not seeing properly about my financial state, that is true. But I do think it’s important to make time for what’s really valuable to me. I have a friend who is a funeral celebrant and she tells me just how many people she does funerals for in their 40s/50s… I want to enjoy my time here on this planet. But I also want to be more financially secure – I think Liz has given me a good roadmap to do this, so I’m pretty happy to start making some positive changes.

  12. Emily says:

    I’m in the UK and there is one bank that offers 3% interest on account balances up to 1,000 if you can contribute £50 a month, so not ideal (Natwest). Or Nationwide (Building Society) offer a start to save account and you can be entered into a draw to win free money £100. Again the monthly sum needs to go up by £50 per month (although maybe they’ve closed this account, I have 1). So maybe not ideal right now but something to consider. The UK govt also make it essential for employee and employer to pay into a pension once you’ve worked there for 3 months (3% employee, 5% employer) if you earn over 6k a year- have a quick Google for workplace pensions. Good luck! 🙂 it will all be OK – happy to help with an UK/South East living hacks, single income household over here.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks so much Emily, this is really helpful. Going to look at these accounts as it’s hard work to get any interest right now isn’t it.

      I do have a workplace pension, so that is good.

      Hacks are very welcomed! 🙂 Thanks again

  13. Erin says:

    Thank you for sharing your lovely story, Lotus. Have you ever thought about working for the government at some level (municipal, state/province/region, federal; I’m not sure how it’s set up in England)? I admit I know nothing about those jobs in the UK but generally anything with the government are secure, decent-paying jobs with paid vacation, pension and benefits. You could work for government in a communications department, learning and development, health and wellness, or even as a chaplain/spiritual advisor at a prison or facility if you could stand that. I am biased because I work for the government in Ontario, Canada and love it. Hopefully you can find something full-time that pays well and do your retreats on your paid vacation time, and since you are so frugal, you could retire with some decent savings in twenty years. Good luck, Lotus! You have a lot of talent and experience to market to employers.

    • Lotus says:

      I occasionally look at government jobs, and actually my sister was suggesting a similar thing just the other day for the same reason – great benefits, pension etc. So I will definitely add that to the job search list, thanks for the tip! I love the chaplain idea.

      I’ve always wanted to go to Canada, sounds like you have a lovely life out there. Thanks for the positive comments, I so appreciate it Erin!

  14. Katy says:

    Hi from Scotland,

    Just a couple of practical suggestions – the Santander 123 account has a fee of £2 a month, but gives cashback on Council Tax and utility bills, so it pays for itself, with a bit of interest left for you. Check moneysavingexpert.co.uk to see if it’s the best for you.

    I have my mobile account with Smarty, 4GB for £6. You can also have a family plan, with a 10% discount on all the accounts you add – set this up after you recommend Smarty to your partner/son, then you both get a free month. No, I’m not on commission.

    Uni is free in Scotland, if you live here, though that may not be the most practical idea. All the best to you, wherever you end up.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Katy, that’s great – I’ll take a look at those accounts.

      My partner would love to live in Scotland, so actually that’s a really interesting suggestion for the future. Thanks for the well wishes!

  15. Sue says:

    I really enjoyed reading this case study as I’m 49 and also on a very modest income, in the U.K. and in an expensive city (Edinburgh). I agree with all the advice, the only think I think I might add is that if there is any way to avoid the temptation of spending on it, there are some excellent 0% credit card balance transfer deals available that might help in the short term – but I’m not sure how this works re: personal loans. I have used this method successfully by immediately cutting up the card and putting a ‘stop’ on it so that I can’t use it for purchases. I then set up a Direct Debit to pay it off and leave everything alone.

    Also, interest rates for borrowing are currently very low, so it might be worth seeing if she can move across to a much better personal loan rate.

    I use Money Dashboard and I recommended it highly. Using it opened up my eyes to a lot of things, even though I thought I was generally quite savvy already. Seeing absolutely everything in one place for the first time and truly understanding the relationship between things going in and out is a great tool.

    I would say, definitely get hold of a copy of ‘The Meaningful Money Handbook’ by Pete Matthew. This is has proved to be invaluable to me in working step-by-step through the priorities needed to become financially knowledgeable and become more secure. He’s a U.K. author so it’s based on our systems.

    The other (very short) book that made a huge impact on myself and my partner is ‘The Latte Factor’ by David Bach. It is unique and I re-read it regularly to keep me on track and resist temptations to spend!

    Once you have spent some time tracking and budgeting, my top tip is use technology to automate. The ‘Pay Yourself First’ principle is so true and I find by automating my payments, repayments and savings, I save time, beat temptation and have freedom, secure in the knowledge that the important things are taken care of.

    Having a plan and a goal/goals helps so much. I never had that before and it isn’t easy at first, but so worth it.

    It is hard for me to comment on your son’s schooling and well-being, but I wonder if you should completely dismiss the idea of moving to a cheaper area? It could be that after the initial move, he would be perfectly able to complete his studies elsewhere. Of course you wouldn’t want to relocate right in the middle of an important exam year, but I think kids are more resilient to change than we think and if it’s a move that would benefit and increase the happiness of the whole family, then maybe the ‘bigger picture’ is that it might be worth considering after all?

    Wishing you lots of luck and you’ve made a brilliant start being part of the FrugalWoods community!

    • Sue says:

      PS I forgot to say that I echo some of the ‘tough love’ advice above. You are in quite a precarious position and the last thing you want is to get into a deeper hole. All my life I’ve had to balance wishing to pursue my ‘passions’ and paying the bills. Exacerbated by the fact that until 4 years ago I lived on a single income, I have never been able to pursue the career I wanted to and keep a roof over my head. My work can be rewarding, but mainly what it does is it gives me the security to pursue those passions as a hobby instead. If I had dependent children, this would be even more the case. I agree with the above advice that in the short term, realistically you need to get your finances in order first before taking advantage of the ‘luxury’ of working less – unfortunately it sounds like you really don’t have enough financial security yet to do this and the vulnerability level to just one small ‘shock’ – illness, unemployment etc. is potentially a lot worse than working more hours and/or in a higher paid role until you are in a much stronger position as a family. In my city I’m surrounded by women who can do pretty much what they like because their partner is in a highly paid job. It used to upset me, but there’s no point comparing my situation with theirs. I had to get very real with myself approaching 50 with no plan. It’s empowering in the end, I promise x

      • Lotus says:

        Yes, you are totally right with this ps Sue! I am looking forward to the empowering stage though actually, it kind of feels that way even now if I’m honest, to at least have a plan and be in control despite being in a precarious position!

    • Lotus says:

      This is so very helpful Sue, thank you so much!

      I am really wary after having been bitten before with credit cards, but your suggestion of cutting up and stopping the card is a really good one. I will consider it for sure. I have quite a poor credit rating, so that might not help me, but I will have a look at whether I can refinance.

      I love the automation idea. I think what I need to do is find some way to automate sinking funds or put them somewhere else so they’re not in my main current account. I do have all my bills set up to go out mostly just after payday, but it’s the less fixed date stuff I struggle with.

      I agree with the bigger picture – I have much to reflect on and talk to my family about! 🙂

      Thanks so much for the warm wishes Sue, it’s such a supportive community here!

  16. Richard says:

    This will reveal my age, but I assume partner means not married and to my ancient way of thinking that says not fully 100% committed. Why are separate finances so important? Why for the common good wouldn’t your partner not want to help pay off that high interest debt to work toward a better future together? I can’t understand why your combined lifestyle would not be based on combined incomes. What would happen if one of you continued to accumulate debt and no savings as you reach retirement age? If you in fact, get your debt paid off and earn more money and are better off financially than your partner will you not share that as part of your combined retirement lifestyle or is it only your 50% ?

    • Michelle says:

      Not being married and having separate finances does not mean they are both not 100% committed, and I don’t believe anyone should expect another person to pay off their debt. My partner and I are not married and have separate finances and split all our costs 50/50. You can still work towards a better future without having combined finances. Everyone’s circumstances and reasons for having separate finances are different.

      • Lotus says:

        Yes I agree Michelle – everyone is different, and we’ve all got to find our own ways of living harmoniously in committed relationships. I definitely don’t want him to pay off my debt – it’s my issue, not his. And though it has some ramifications for him, I believe it’s my responsibility to sort it out.

    • Lotus says:

      Hi again Richard – ooh you love a pokey comment 😉
      We have been together for a very long time and have a child together. We are definitely committed to each other. Relationships are complex aren’t they? As are people. And there are myriad ways of doing things. We are not Christian, so marriage doesn’t hold the same values for us. There’s many people nowadays that feel similarly.

      We don’t split everything 50/50 – just the bills! He pays more for other things because he has a little more money than me and I of course would do the same if it was reversed. Our lifestyle is shared based on combined income, but I have debt and he doesn’t. I don’t want him to be responsible for my debt, and that is my personal choice.

      • Richard says:

        It’s just to me being married for 53 years, everything is OURS. Nothing is separate, the good and the bad and the finances.

    • Tonya says:

      This is an unkind comment, as was your earlier comment.

      • Jean says:

        I totally disagree with this being an unkind statement. It is a fact that without marriage vows there is not 100 percent commitment in a relationship. Too easy to pick up and walk away. I was an RN for 43 years and I saw this played out in the hospital for 38 years and in the nursing home for another 5 years. So many “partners” walked away from a partner who received a bad diagnosis or were horrifically injured in an accident and left the partner to be taken in by their mom and dad instead. Marriage is a different commitment no matter what the younger generation thinks. Yes, they will give us heck for this statement but I have witnessed it over and over while I watched committed married couples deal with bad circumstances and visit everyday.

      • Jean says:

        I disagree that his statement was unkind. Too easy for “partners” to just walk away when the going gets tough. I have been an RN for 43 years and have seen first hand how many partners walk away when someone is given a poor prognosis or someone has had a devastating accident or stroke. Then these partners are left in dire straights without help, often times needing to be taken in and helped by their parents because their partner is never heard from again. They no longer visit, no longer pay the bills, etc. being married makes it harder to just walk away when all is not perfect in life. Just something to chew on. I am sure there are exceptions to every case but still a little more security in being married.

  17. Adele says:

    quick comment re: online Yoga. I used to LOVE going to my local studio for yoga classes, but all of that changed with the pandemic. I tried the live and on-demand classes through my studio for a monthly fee but that got a little stale. I found Yoga with Adriene and started doing the free yoga classes on You Tube and then upped to an annual membership of $100 (I think there will be a small increase for hose not grandfathered in) to their Find What Feels Good platform and absolutely love it. Tons of class options, plus some enlightening chats on chakras and a meditation series. Might be a good compromise option for Lotus.

    • Erin says:

      Two thumbs up for Yoga with Adriene! I just do the free version and they are terrific; I am a long-time yogi and was surprised how excellent the quality and the mind-boggling amount of videos she has.

    • Caryatis says:

      Yoga with Adriane classes tend to be short and easy—worth checking out but probably not the best option for people at a higher skill level.

      That said, if you are at a higher skill level, you can just design your own class and practice without the video! Even cheaper.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Adele – Adriene is brilliant, you are right! 🙂

      Erin, yes she’s very good for variety isn’t she.

      Caryatis, good shout I think. I practice a very specific form of yoga with quite a lot of breathwork, but I can just do my own practice and there’s a couple of youtube videos for free that I can utilise, so I’m going to try that out for a while I think

  18. ZW says:

    1. Does the UK have credit card offers for zero interest balance transfers? If so it could be a good option if Lotus takes Liz’s advice on eliminating spending and having more money to pay off debts and Lotus truly could pay off one of the loans in the 0% period.
    2. The yoga and exercise memberships have to go. That money can go to the debt; as a motivation Lotus could renew the cheaper one when Loan #2 is paid off and renew the yoga membership when Loan #1 is paid off. As mentioned, there are SO many free online yoga options. It might also encourage her to develop her own yoga practice.
    3. I agree with the commenter that her son’s magazine subscription could be a Christmas gift. Alternatively, why isn’t he paying for it himself?
    4. Do a 12 month gift-less challenge. Send a card instead. After 12 months Lotus can re-evaluate whether it was the physical gifts that made those interactions meaningful or if writing a note could meet that need (for much less money).
    5. Lotus needs to read up on sinking funds as they are a great way to address known expenses that don’t occur monthly. If she does her homework now she’ll be able to start January with a really good sense of what she can afford and what she cannot afford *yet*. Example: if music lessons are 1,956GBP year / 163GBP month / 38 GBP a week and she needs to pay the instructor 339GBP every nine weeks then music lessons will pause from January 1 until she has that first 339GBP saved up. Then they can resume for the next period. If Lotus has continued to fund that expense then they’ll carry on. (Naturally b/c this is for someone else she would need to explain it to her son–that she needs to stop the lessons for a period so that they become more of a pre-funded situation rather than something that periodically puts her into debt.) Sinking funds are easier to demonstrate with a January 1 start; clearly she could use some time between now and the end of the year to save up the 2022 Q1 339GBP so that lessons might not have to be interrupted.

    • Lotus says:

      Hi ZW – yes we do have 0% credit card options. I’m wary as my debt was mostly credit card consolidated but I think if I set it all up well, it could definitely be possible.
      Yoga and exercise are gone! Felt quite liberating. Love the idea of motivation, that feels important thank you 🙂

      My son doesn’t really get money (you can’t work at 12 here) so no option for him to pay for it really. Love the giftless challenge idea, will give that a go.

      Sinking funds research – yes! This is exactly what I need to do, brilliant suggestion. Thanks so much

  19. JackeRose Boston says:

    Friday, October 29, 2021

    Title
    Subject
    Your job sounds OK, I just wonder if you could take those skills and free lance to gradually build up your own business and perhaps benefit from all the tax deductions and other perks of being a business person? Maybe keep part-time job to alleviate some of the stress of being an entrepeneur. As a meditator, it is possible to realize the job supports your time for practice and the job is not your identity. Your practice is what contributes to the world ultimately and other things will detract from that. If you are enjoying your practice right now, why make it all complicated by pursuing a more interesting complicated career? Where will your mind be taking classes and starting a new life? Sounds like a distraction. Just a thought. Temporarily you could create more income in order to be debt free and get that out of the way.
    The 50/50 split is how my husband and I do finances, altho when I did make substanially more than he did we did 60/40 to be more fair.
    Since you mention gift giving I would like to share what I say to people: you are giving a gift not buying love. In case that helps. Gifts can be homemade, start in January for Christmas. Or you can just declare a moritorium on gifts. Or offer coupons for your time or areas of expertise.
    When it comes to expected expenses that are out of the normal budget you can start setting aside money, perhaps in envelopes or sub savings accounts if the banks allow that. I save for shoes and by the time I get enough, I’ve worn out my Berkinstocks and get to replace them. We also are starting a savings for the next car, a roof on the house, and monthly camping.
    Retreats:
    Save money by being the retreat cook or?
    Or do home retreats availing yourself of all the free classes online
    Instead of time out, maybe a weekend each month within home and family respecting your silence and lack of participation for a couple of full days.
    Tracking your money and getting a spending plan is important. If you find that you spend emotionally then I would suggest looking into a 12 step program called Debtors Anonymous. Not professionals, just people who are getting out of debt, not incurring new unsecured debt, keeping track of money, learning how to plan. It is a support group. You mentioned a few times about difficulties saving, planning, or being ‘spontaneous’. DA has helped me in all those areas.

    • Lotus says:

      Love what you say about ‘the job supports your time for practice and the job is not your identity.’ Might have to write that out and pop it somewhere I can read it daily! And yes, where will my mind be taking classes and starting a new life… really wise words, thank you JackeRose.
      I think I’m mostly past emotional spending now but I’ll definitely take a look at DA. Sounds like that’s been really helpful for you.

      I really appreciate your advice, thank you so much

  20. Jc says:

    With strong writing skills (and presumably a good portfolio of writing samples) – why not hang out a shingle to be a freelance communications person with an emphasis on the nonprofit/charity sector? And/or move into development /fundraising for nonprofits/charities?

    • Lotus says:

      Argh freelance! But yes, this is totally possible as is fundraising

      • Sue says:

        I’m a Grants & Trusts fundraiser in Higher Education (previously government and charities) and we are VERY sought after at the moment. With your strong writing skills and general outlook, I think it could be a very good option for you. There are also lots of jobs offering flexible and remote working, which I thib’ is great if you have a family.

  21. Elise says:

    Love reading about your wonderfully crafted, fulfilling life Lotus! Back when I was an undergrad a couple years ago I felt very similarly about money, out of control, didn’t understand it, bigger expenses felt out of the blue. For me personally, I used ‘you need a budget’; they offer software to budget but much more importantly they offer a lot of guidance, free classes, etc. All of that made a huge difference for me, and I managed to turn my finances around, save up a solid emergency fund (on grad student wages!) and generally feel confident about money management. It really sounds like you would benefit too from the education part of YNAB (over and above just any tracking software without the education component). If you search online you can usually find codes to get ynab for free for three months.

    I am also a practicing Buddhist, and love reading about the big part this practice plays in your life. I am surprised to see though that you pay for retreats and contribute money monthly. It sounds like you do a lot of volunteering, as well as speaking at retreats. At our sangha, there are needs based scholarships to cover retreat costs, and people who volunteer (especially if they speak) don’t need to pay for attending retreats. And I myself, as a grad student, don’t contribute Dana but instead contribute my time, energy and expertise as a volunteer for my sangha. It sounds like you are doing both, and I think since you’re paying off high interest debt you really shouldn’t be contributing money right now.

    I’m also surprised you pay for yoga classes when you have teacher’s training; shouldn’t others be paying you?!

    I agree with Liz that it’s not acceptable for you to carry most of the financial burden for your son’s music classes. That’s unfair, your partner can budget and save up for those even on a variable income, especially since he earns a bit more than you on average. Also, being from the Netherlands, I’m very used to the idea of split finances, that’s what most couples I know do. However, in most partnerships I know, including my own, we don’t split 50/50 but we split income wise, so let’s say my partner earns twice what I do, then they pay 66% of all shared expenses and I pay 33%. It doesn’t sound like you’re planning to change that, but I wanted to provide some context 🙂

    Finally, I think your family and friends will understand you can’t do gifts if you’re going in and out of debt and still paying off an 18% (!!) interest loan. I am so sure that they value your friendship and presence more than any material gifts. If anything, open conversation with friends and family might be a gift to all and deepen your relationships. And think of it this way too: by budgeting and prioritizing ruthlessly in the short run, you are making sure that you can live and take care of yourself sustainably in the long run. And in fact, once you have payed off the debt, have an emergency fund and are budgeting for infrequent expenses, you will find space in your budget again for the thoughtful gifts you love to give.

    This case study really struck a chord with me, thanks so much for sharing Lotus 🙏🏻

    • Lotus says:

      Ah thanks for the lovely comment Elise, lovely to meet another practitioner here!

      Most of my retreats are on a dana basis, but there’s usually a booking fee. I don’t pay anything to my local centre, because I do a lot of volunteering there and I also attend some retreats for free that I volunteer on. But I pay £10 a month just as dana really to our broader tradition (not my local centre) as there are people in the world who really have nothing at all and need to access these teachings. So I have felt that £10 was doable. But now I’m seeing it’s the £10 here and £20 there that is contributing to my lack of security, I may have to consider putting this on hold until at least one of my loans is paid off.

      Yes others should be paying me, but I am just a bit of a scaredy cat 😉 but time to step up to it!

      My partner pays for lots of other things, way more than the costs of music lessons, and he also sometimes contributes to them. And he pays for most food and fuel and other things like household sundries etc. so outside of rent/bills it’s definitely more 60/40 if not more I’d say. Good to hear how it works for others, food for thought.

      Lovely comments about gifts, I agree. Being able to gift (just little things, even if it’s a nice cake or something consumable) is a joy to me, but that might be a good motivator for getting out of debt. I can restart when I’m on a firmer foundation.

      Thanks for your well wishes and helpful comments!

  22. Jen says:

    For some reason while reading this, I could not stop wondering what Lotus’s enneagram/MBTI was so I had to laugh when she mentioned she was an ENFP (Hi, from an INFP who is right on that E/I line!). Along with the tough love Liz provided here, I think there is something to be said for finding purpose where you are. INFP Me totally understands flitting from interest to interest and job to job (I’ve lived many lives on that front as well), but there’s no rule that says you have to find all of that meaning from your job. You clearly have a good handle on your values and make good use of your non-working hours; that won’t change if you work a 9-5 that doesn’t fulfill you 100%.

    • Lotus says:

      Hi fellow I(/E)NFP-er!!! This is a smart comment, Jen. I do place a lot of value on work because it takes up so much time and mind-space, but you are completely right. I don’t have to find all of that meaning from my job. Especially if it’s a more short-term thing to bring in more income to make the future brighter for us as a family.

  23. Stacie says:

    Lotus, you’ve shown us you have a wonderful heart and I admire your commitment to faith and community. However, to achieve freedom and security you need to get out of debt ASAP. This means getting a higher paying job that allows work full time instead of the 3.5 days a week you’re currently working. There are 24 hours in each day; if 8 hours are taken up to secure your financial future you still have 16 hours every day for personal endeavors. Use those 16 hours for yoga, family, worship, rest, personal care etc. The weekend you can continue your volunteer activities that are important to you. I’d advise you not to take on debt to seek more education; you have spent money in the past on a career path and studies that were important to you. It’s time for those studies to serve you in making money to secure your freedom and security. Once you are debt free you can reconsider working somewhere that’s more fulfilling, but the goal until you’re debt free should be to make as much money as possible. Follow the Dave Ramsey baby steps to eliminate your debt. The sacrifice is necessary. I agree with Liz in that you need to cut out all non essential spending (exercise memberships, retreats, etc) and you son’s music expenses need to be split with your partner.

    I wish you the best of luck and I hope you post an update.

  24. JanM, Essex, UK says:

    You’ve had some wonderful advice Lotus, both from Liz and the various posters. I live in the U.K. and the one website I would definitely direct you to is moneysavingexpert.com, run by the UK’s best consumer money expert, Martin Lewis. You will find so much help on this website – the best current bank and savings accounts, balance transfer credit cards, budgeting (including an online budgeting application), pensions, benefits and so much more. I was in a lot of debt a few years ago due to mindless spending and this website proved to be my saviour. There is also an online forum covering everything money wise you can think of.
    You have some lovely life vales Lotus and I wish the very best of luck to you and your family in your debt free journey and future dreams.

    • Lotus says:

      I love that website and have used it before, thank you for the reminder – I’ll take another look with Liz’s advice in my ears! Thank you Jan, I appreciate your well wishes 🙂

  25. Martha in Ohio says:

    A Ph.D. is a big deal, Lotus! Congratulations! There are a lot of resources for how to use your Ph.D. for non-academic jobs. And, if you like teaching, part-time adjunct teaching can be a rewarding way to supplement your income. For example, if you want to keep your part-time job but then take on a teaching assignment or two every semester. Seems to me you could make multiple income streams work for you…keep the part-time job, teach a college course or two, offer piano lessons out of your home, etc. I share many of your values (as well as a Ph.D.) and I find that teaching, not research, is the way that I can use that training to contribute to the good in the world while still making a decent living.

    Another consideration is the example you’re setting for your son in getting your financial life in order. He will fairly soon have to navigate his way through the financial realities of adulthood. I’m sure that cutting back on expenses, increasing your income and paying off debt will be a wonderful positive lesson for him.

    Good luck! I’m rooting for you!

    • Lotus says:

      Ahhh thanks Martha, it means a lot to have support. I think teaching is definitely an option. I have about 5 years or so of lecturing under my belt, so it wouldn’t be hard to get some more I think and it’s a good hourly rate.

      Love the comment about my son and budgeting etc. Food for thought there for sure.
      I appreciate your warmth and kindness!

  26. Kate stephens says:

    There is some really great advice here. My perspective is you have to earn more money. I don’t think it is as simple as doing more hours where you are, you need to earn more per hour. You have a PhD and I wonder if you can use that but in a different format that you tried before to earn more money and do something you enjoy. Working part time may not be an option if you want to get ahead financially for a little while. Love that you are living true to your values and I am sure you can find a way to maintain that and earn more……they aren’t mutually exclusive. I used to live in the south of England so I get how expensive it is. I bought a house in Hull and rented it out as that was all I could afford. I later sold it and that provided money for a family home. That may be something for you to consider in a a couple of years when your debt is paid off to get something in the north near your family and rent it out until you are ready to move when your son is older. If you don’t love in it at least you are building equity. You have made wonderful strides in reducing waste and living true to your values. I’m sure you will feel lighter with greater financial security. Good luck!

    • Elise says:

      Yeah I agree that meaning, values and earning more money don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I myself am about to graduate with my PhD and landed my dream job at an education company whose values I share. It’s some work to find a job like that but SO worth it!

      I also think that even if a job is not 100% super completely aligned, working a higher paying job that plays to your skills for a year or two while getting out of debt and building a strong emergency fund might be worth it in the long run. Your PhD qualifies you for tons of jobs, even e.g. administrative jobs. And there’s a middle ground between working for a charity that’s completely aligned with your values versus working for e.g. an oil company or a weapons manufacturer or whatever that is completely opposite your values. Like, government could be a middle ground like that, or teaching, or even administrative roles in things like healthcare.

    • Lotus says:

      Yes, the more per hour thing is important I think isn’t it – Liz’s advice to up hours for now but do a job search concurrently is wise.

      The long term idea about buying up north and renting it out is a really good one, I will pop that in the back of my thoughts for later!

      Thanks so much for the encouragement, Kate!

  27. Anne says:

    Lotus,

    Remember that life is a journey in which we live many chapters. The world also in an energetic shift where it is easy for us to look beyond linear time and glimpse our life plans years into the future. It seems this may be happening as you alternate between seeing a need to earn more in your next 20 years of career and also a vision of yourself working less and having more time to meditate and just be. Those can both be phases of your life, just not at the same time.

    Like Mrs FW I would encourage you to increase your job to full time if you can to ease the financial pressure. In just 6 short years your son will be at university and you will hopefully have long been debt free. Use this time to build up your savings and work on building up your confidence to find ways to charge for the spiritual work your are doing or have trained for. I would not recommend moving into bodywork modalities, because they can become very physically difficult to do as you age. If you are likely to concentrate on your spiritual work after 55/65, as many people do in retirement, keep to modalities that age well or where you will be able to modify to keep going.

    It can be tough to move from a mindset of giving your knowledge to charging; remember that it is your time that people will be compensating you for, not the spiritual energy. For now, maybe you can look for opportunities to help with yoga classes or help teach at retreats in exchange for waiving your participation fees. That would help your finances while building up your confidence. When you are ready to build up a paid practice, I would recommend looking into Elaine Grundy, who is UK-based and does energy healing and business/marketing coaching in holistic healing and spirituality.

    • Lotus says:

      Thank you Anne for these lovely words. I love the image of living many chapters. It’s hard to predict the future, but it is good to know there will be other opportunities for different things (everything crossed) and to keep that in my mind.

      Really astute comment about ageing and bodywork modalities.

      I’ll take a look at Elaine’s work. Thank you!

  28. Emilie Parker says:

    Like others have said, I commend Lotus for having the courage to remove your head from the sand to face your current financial situation. The sand can be really comfy, warm and dry. I am so familiar with this! I dug myself out once 10 years ago but somehow the sand dunes are back. So I’m currently looking for my shovel and trying to work up the energy and confidence to start digging. One thing I wasn’t aware of the first time I got myself out of debt was the profound feeling of pride one feels when you actually do it. That feeling of accomplishment waiting for you at the end of this journey far outweighs the (as Liz pointed out) temporary discomfort, anxiety, fear, and uncertainty you will feel as you start to tackle the debt. I too work in the non-profit sector and have found it difficult, because my professional work involves helping others, to turn the attention onto myself. We’re used to fundraising to help others. But in this case, we’ve got to fundraise to help ourselves! And once we get our own financial house reinforced, we will better be able to help others.

    • Sue says:

      A great analogy, Emilie – I’m a Fundraiser too, and I’d never really thought about it that way!

    • Lotus says:

      Yes! We have to fundraise to help ourselves, to then help others very good point! 🙂
      Thank you for the lovely words and good luck with the sand dunes – I am sending all good shovelling vibes your way Emilie!

  29. With a Ph.D. in music, could Lotus take on her son’s music lessons? That could save a lot and be a meaningful activity in her life.

  30. Kristi ODonnell says:

    Hello Lotus! A few suggestions, but not sure it’s the same in the UK yoga world as it is in the US. I actually haven’t visited to any yoga places while in the UK. Can you work at a yoga studio for free membership? I would suggest to buck up and start teaching. I know you said you were scared, but you have the certificate and it’s a way to earn money. Plus, some studios also teach meditation and you can teach that for money. This could be something that you do to supplment still working part-time. Also, you could see if there are other charities that need paid assistance for part-time to also supplemnt your income and that way, you can get a variety / change of pace. I agree with Frugalwoods about talking to Rowan to help pay for music lessons. Can your son maybe pick up a job tutoring or walking dogs for pocket money to help wiht lessons or the magazine subsription? I guess the other items like council tax were already split in the table. Another item would be to look at canal boats in your area so that you can rent and still have your son go to the same school. I know my husband and I would love to live on one too. Just a thought to research to see the cost benefit vs renting a house. I’m sure the bills would be cheaper maybe. I do think you should hold off on any new courses until you make sure you want this. I would do more research and maybe shadow someone in the field to see if you truly like it.

    Just my thoughts. I love the North and I would be pushing for that myself…but I totally get wanting to stay where you love.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Kristi – yep for sure with the bucking up and teaching! 🙂 No opportunities to work for free membership alas, or at least not with the type of yoga I practice.
      Like the ideas for variety and change of pace, that feels important to me.

      We just visited my family up north and sowed a few seeds in terms of possibly moving at some point, but then as soon as we returned here we just felt so happy to be here! It’s hard!

      Thanks for the lovely advice Kristi.

  31. Andrea says:

    Re: Gifts – If I had a yogi friend who gifted me with a private, individualized yoga session, I would be over the moon. Your friend gets the benefit of time with you as well as your expertise; you get to give a friend a gift that costs you nothing but your time and attention. This could also be a way to build confidence in your yoga teaching skills and help you decide if you’d like to teach formally in the future.

    Re: Your other skills – When I hear “vegan,” I feel intimidated and think – that sounds like so much work and I wouldn’t know where to start, cooking with new combinations of ingredients. Perhaps you could share your vegan cooking skills either informally (free gift, just make sure they buy the ingredients!) or more formally, by hosting cooking classes for people interested in exploring that way of eating.

    Just a couple ideas of ways to tap into your desire to nurture your friends and live mindfully while growing confidence in the marketability of your skills 🙂 Best of luck!

  32. Erin says:

    Hi Lotus,
    I don’t usually post anything but your case study was really interesting, highlighting the difficult choices we all have to make regarding our lifestyle and freedom versus work and income.
    I’m in rural SW England and like you am in my 40s, but I am already retired after serious ill-health, which was only possible because I previously worked long hours in a higher paid job and made personal sacrifices for my career and planned well financially. I’ve learnt the hard way that life is for living and cannot be taken for granted, but am nevertheless grateful to have had the financial freedom to retire early, given my health situation. Mrs FWs suggestions sound great as always, but I had a few specific areas I thought I could feedback on from a UK perspective:
    1. My low income parents faced the same dilemma as you regarding music lessons outside of the school system. I dropped singing and piano and focussed on my 1st instrument, and had to pay for the lessons myself though various jobs from the same age as your son is now. It made me really value the lessons and practice hard, and also taught me how to save and manage money.
    2. I was a doctor but also trained as a yoga teacher and in various integrated therapies. Since you’ve already achieved your yoga qualification, I’d say just go for it and start! I used to teach 4 evening classes a week in village halls. It was an enjoyable hobby/side income, but also that was plenty of yoga for me, so I stopped going to classes myself, which would be a double saving for you- but no one I trained with was able to make it their main income. You could also consider offering to teach classes at retreat centres in exchange for attending yourself.
    3. I know a lot of people in the uk who have trained in various therapies. The courses are expensive and never ending, and it seems to me that those achieving a good full-time
    income are in a small minority, particularly in rural areas. Talk to local therapists to see what their experience has been. It’s also worth considering the state of our economy post-brexit and that we’re still in a pandemic; in my rural area many people are seeing an increasing cost of living hit, and optional extras like bodywork can be the first to be cut. Is there a way of capitalising on the many experiences and qualifications you already have, rather than investing in more? No job is ever 100% enjoyable or meaningful or flexible sadly but perhaps you could find something that is an acceptable compromise? Being debt free is a huge freedom in itself.
    4. If you haven’t already, check out what Martin Lewis has to say on the Money Saving Expert website about UK student government loans and parents. I think the gist is that most are never fully paid off, and parents shouldn’t cover-but do read the details for yourself.
    5. UK Libraries give free access to a huge number of digital magazines via an app,including many music ones- it might be worth finding out whether your sons magazine is amoung them.
    6. Your food spend is really low, well done! However, I’ve found organic veg boxes in the uk to be an expensive way to get veggies. The PAN website (pesticide action network) gives the UK equivalent to the US dirty dozen/clean 15. Ive found outdoor veg stalls to be the cheapest for veg where organic is less important , grow my own salads/spinach/kale/chard in pots year round, and anything else that has potentially higher pesticide levels is usually cheaper in an organic version in a supermarket I’ve found.
    Good luck finding your own balance!

    • Lotus says:

      Hi Erin – what a lot of helpful suggestions and comments, thank you! I think you’re really right about bodywork…these are helpful things to think about.

      My food spend is just literally veg boxes – Rowan pays for everything else, but we’re definitely interested in saving more on food and I’m trying to set aside a bit more time for meal planning/shopping list creation. I love the idea of planting salads/spinach etc.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  33. Mandy says:

    Lotus, thanks for sharing your story, the way you reflect on things is very honest and beautiful. I think there is a lot of great advice from Liz and from the comments here. Have you read the book, Zen and the Art of Making a Living? It could be helpful in opening up new opportunities for you. Also the book, The Artist in the Office has reflective prompts to help you reframe and find meaning in time spent working at a job that isn’t your dream job. Best of luck to you!

    • Lotus says:

      Ah that’s a nice thing to say, thank you Mandy! I haven’t read either of those so thank you. Have ordered the first from the library 🙂 Love the idea of reframing and finding meaning. There is much to find meaningful about the work I currently do, so it’s helpful to remember to be grateful.

      Thanks for the support!

  34. Hannah Gokie says:

    Hi Lotus! I agree with the tough love given by Mrs. Frugalwoods. I’d echo some of the other comments: is there a way you can refinance those loans to a lower rate, perhaps for someone who qualifies under a certain income threshold? I know there are such programs in the US but they’re very local based, so might be something to look into. Any money you don’t *have* to pay on interest is a win!

    I’d also echo that I hope your partner understands what dire financial straits you’re in. Perhaps because his income fluctuates so much, he’s under the impression that yours does as well, and doesn’t know how bad things have gotten? Money is hard to talk about even for those of us who share everything so I’d encourage you to try to sit down and have an honest, direct conversation with him (and your son, he seems old enough) about where you are and where you want to be, and the steps you’re going to try and take to fix things. It cannot hurt and maybe he’d be willing to take on some more expenses in the short-term, especially if in the past you have done more care work, more house work, anything like that that can be qualified as unpaid labor for your shared home and son.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Hannah, appreciate your thoughts and comment. I will definitely try and see if I can refinance. I don’t have a very good credit score but we will see!

      My partner is definitely up for shouldering more – in fact he does already (I think from many of the comments I didn’t make that clear enough in my writing, so my bad!) He is building up his income and keeps talking about in the future where I don’t have to do work I don’t want to do, so we’re headed that way. But I want to take care of the debt myself – I really care about him not being responsible for that

  35. Christina says:

    I really enjoyed reading this case study.
    It seems like Lotus is concerned about what she’ll do once she gets her debts paid off- but that is down the road a ways. I would encourage her to embrace the present (she has so much she enjoys!) while focusing on paying off her debts and building up an emergency fund. She can look for a better-paying job and keep an eye out for opportunities that will add to her income, or her enjoyment of life, once she pays off that debt, but planning for what she’ll do after that might be an exercise in futility. The world is changing so quickly that what seems like a good opportunity now might not be there in 2 years, and something perfect might just open up.

  36. Gillian says:

    Lotus, I am a 32yo in the US but our paths are fairly similar, so I hope that you won’t mind my “tough love”! Everything I have to share is exactly what I am working on myself in my life too.

    First of all, I think your life sounds pretty dreamy, and I totally relate to living barely within your means. Based on my experience, and from what I’m seeing in your post, I would venture a guess that part of you is uncomfortable with having money. Having money may feel like it doesn’t align with your values, so you avoid it by overspending, under earning, and keeping yourself in the dark about your budget. I think the biggest key to determining your future path is to resolve your relationship with money. This is what I am working on myself and it’s truly a huge factor.

    Next, I would suggest that you don’t pursue retraining in bodywork, at least not right now. You already have plenty of talent and marketable skills that you could make more money with. If you are anything like me, you come up with a series of impulsive grand plans that are for sure going to be the thing that saves you this time. But the reality is that you have the ability within yourself already and it would be a better use of time no resources to get paid for skills you already have. For me this is a symptom of my ADHD, which I was only recently diagnosed with as an adult. That could also explain impulsivity and inability to choose one path, so it could be something to look into for yourself.

    I don’t know much about what jobs you’d be qualified for with your PhD in the UK, but I have to imagine that the title would give you opportunities even if you don’t work in academia or music specifically. I think you could access higher income potential with that on your resume.

    Third, I want to touch on your shared spending with you partner. I totally support keeping separate accounts and do the same thing (I actually have multiple partners so that applies doubly). However, if one of you makes more money, splitting 50/50 is actually not the fairest split. The person who makes more should reasonably be able to pay more of shared bills. And while that may be your partner at this time, it’s possible that you could be the higher earner at some points in the future too. I recommend flexibility about how you divide shared bills based on what you’re each actually making.

    I hope this helps and that you don’t mind me speaking from what I think may be shared experiences between us. Also a fellow vegan here! Wishing you best of luck and feeling confident that you can master your finances!

    • Lotus says:

      Ah yes Gillian, you spotted the uncomfortable with money thing! Well done haha! I read Brent Kessel’s ‘It’s not about the money’ book some years back – which tells you which money archetype(s) you are – and one of my primary ones is ‘The Idealist’. That’s basically social justice/compassion/service and seeing money as inherently bad. So yep. Good to be reminded of that.

      Thank you for the great advice, and nice to see a fellow vegan here *waving*

      • Nicki says:

        Hi Lotus! I see myself in you around some aspects of money. I realised that I’m way more comfortable giving then I am receiving. So, part of changing my relationship with money is being open to receiving, and shifting things back in balance.

        You give in so many areas, the type of work you do, with your family and volunteer activities. For me, it was about being open to receive, and also worthy to receive (along with all the other great advice you’ve gotten:)

    • Sarah says:

      Yes! I think you’ve got it exactly right–Lotus probably, deep down, thinks money itself (and the need for it) is some kind of negative and so she avoids dealing with it by not having any. This is probably the absolutely main thing she needs to get straightened out. I like Liz’s suggestion to think of this as fasting, as though it were a physical manifestation of a spiritual process.

  37. Rachel says:

    One thing that stuck out to me was Lotus’s comments about moving from job to job and career to career, yet desiring more follow-through and stability with her projects. I know she mentioned her ennegram style, but I wonder if Lotus has talked with her doctor about possible neurodivergence? This pattern really reminds me of ADHD tendencies, and getting into cognitive behavioral therapy could be the help Lotus needs in order to successfully start some of her side business opportunities. I wish you all the best and all the love! Good luck!

    • Lotus says:

      Interesting! I have never thought about this. I think ADHD symptoms are in the main low attention span, fidgeting and impulsivity (my nephew has ADHD) and the first two are definitely a no for me. Quite concentrated (meditator and PhD student) and quite still (meditator and mindful of body). Impulsivity, that’s potentially a yes. I do tend to go for things, heart over head. I shall reflect on that some more. Thanks Rachel 🙂

      • Rachel Sieg says:

        Specifically look into “executie dysfunction” some of the things may resonate with you, and others may not. But even if you don’t have a diagnosable neurodivergence, cognitive behavioral therapy could still be a really useful tool to analyze why you jump around so much and how you can prioritize and follow-through. I wonder if your meditation practice has actually helped you “self-treat” yourself and may be masking some of the other symptoms (all conjecture though!).

        I preach CBT because I had issues with executive functioning. I never went through with full ADHD testing, but I spent a couple of sessions with a therapist exploring different strategies for planning and executing and it really changed my productivity and workflow. Great job on all of your changes and improvements already, and good luck in turning your financial situation around!

  38. Jean says:

    It is so nice to read an English case study! I 100% agree with Mrs Frugalwood’s assessment and recommendations for Lotus. These changes will be tough, but the only way is up and the change for Lotus in terms of peace of mind will be huge. So it will definitely be worth it.

    I had worked full time for 44 years by the time I retired, and it’s fair to say that I was not always in love with my job. Like Lotus, I worked for not-for-profits and enjoyed the fact that I was contributing to organisations that made a positive difference. My approach if I became a bit bored was always to see whether I could add interest to the job by, for example, setting up new systems or looking into other improvements or efficiencies that could be make. This has a win/win effect, because it makes you more enthusiastic about what you’re doing and also gives you some great material for your CV and for job interviews to move to better-paid jobs. Lotus, you will ace those competency-based interview questions if you have a fund of great examples of initiatives you have set up in your current job!

    Lotus, you have touched on the issue that security can bring its own sort of freedom – though you point out that security can be illusory. I would add that, just as security can be illusory, so can freedom. We can’t be entirely free; we have to work to provide for ourselves and our family and we all have responsibilities of course, some of which we chose but some of which we did not. I had a parent who was financially dependent on me for many, many years and I can tell you that this often felt like a heavy burden. So, please take the chance now to secure your financial future, so that your son is not placed in the position of having to worry about you – or subsidise you – in your retirement. Also, by becoming financially competent now you will be giving him a blueprint and good example for his own financial life.

    Lotus, I would urge caution about the idea of changing career to bodywork. I have several friends who worked in this area as therapists and all found it increasingly difficult with age. It’s very physically demanding work which many women (though not all, of course) find gets much harder with the onset of the perimenopause as their joints and connective tissue start to become affected by hormonal changes.

    Finally, I would suggest that Lotus and her partner work together to understand their finances better, and to create a plan for what they would like their financial future to look like as a family. This doesn’t have to mean combining their finances (my husband and I have separate finances and split all our joint costs, and this works fine for us). But what Lotus has written makes me feel that there is something of a disconnect here, and being on the same page as her partner could provide welcome motivation for the changes she will need to make.

    Good luck, Lotus!

    • Lotus says:

      Thank you so much Jean for your lovely and wise comments. Your paragraph on your parent being financially dependent really struck my heart. That sounds so challenging, and I definitely don’t want to be a burden to my son. I have thought about not being a burden on him in other areas (e.g. making sure my paperwork is orderly and I don’t hoard clutter) but it hadn’t really hit me about finances until I read your comment. Thank you, I appreciate your sharing.

      I fear I may not have been clear enough writing about my partner. The main thing is I don’t want him to be responsible for my debt – or to have to make changes he doesn’t want to make because of my previous financial actions – so I think that is probably what you’re reading as a disconnect. Otherwise I think we’re pretty much on the same page.

      Thanks again for the support Jean!

  39. CJ_R says:

    Very quick – I noticed that the food spending is very low at 100 pounds a month because your partner does the bulk of the grocery shopping. Given that, I’m not sure it’s fair to say that your partner needs to be splitting the rest of the noted expenses with you on Ms. Frugalwoods’ rundown- it sounds like there is a balance here, but we might not be able to see the full picture (my exception would be your son’s music lessons, which I agree that your partner needs to help with, unless that figure is already your 50%).

    I’ll be blunt – you don’t need any more qualifications. You’ve got a PhD in music. Having done a degree in music myself, I’m curious what field your thesis was – ethnomusicology? Composition? Either way, this is a skillset that you can and should be leveraging, outside of your son’s musical education. I think you should take some time and examine whether or not you’re picking up new qualifications partially as a way to avoid dealing with the existing financial situation and push it off into the undefined future when things are different because you yourself will be different with whatever skillset you’ve picked up.

    Lotus, you are drowning financially. Step one is grab anything you can to keep yourself afloat. In your case, that would be your existing job – you need to bump it up to full time and use the methods Ms. Frugalwoods has outlined to dig yourself out of debt. Step two, once you’ve got a bit more income coming in and you’re digging out is to figure out how to leverage what you already have to increase your income further.

    My last thought is that we find meaning where we look for it. It sounds like the last 46 years, you’ve had a fairly defined idea of what ‘meaningful work’ is, which seems at odds with Buddhist philosophy from what I remember. If your goal is nirvana, then letting go of a rigid sense of self and opening yourself up to finding meaning in new places might allow you to both live your values and make enough money to support that simple life.

    • Lotus says:

      Yes! You spotted this right – I think I wasn’t clear abut the full picture! I’ve put more in other comments above.

      You’re right. I absolutely don’t need more qualifications. PhD was in musicology. I like your reflection about whether the new qualifications thing is avoidance. I will muse on that. I do love learning and I love new things (classic ENFP), so that’s my hunch but I haven’t thought about it through that lens, so will think on…

      ‘Lotus, you are drowning financially.’ so much tough love. But I AM appreciative of it. I just haven’t seen it before. It’s going to take a bit of view adjustment. I think I’m surrounded by a lot of people who are in a similar financial position (people who work for charities on low income, use service as their modus operandi) so it’s really good to get a different perspective and to see it more clearly for what it is. So thank you CJ_R.

      Well, the Buddha does talk about Right Livelihood – how to make a living without harming others, and keeping true to Buddhist values (we follow 5 ethical training principles). And I’ve tried to find ways of working that align with those. But definitely there is a parallel process of letting go of a fixed sense of self and being receptive. I think writing this case study was trying to do that, and hopefully taking on board all this excellent advice from Liz and the community will aid me in positive change for the future.

      Thanks so much for your insightful comments

  40. Amy says:

    Wow, a PhD in music is impressive. I wonder what instrument? There are ways to earn good money from this degree without being part of academia!

    I think Lotus should seriously consider offering part-time private lessons through her home or a local music/performing arts school. I see that she has a piano at home. She can choose her hours, keep her current job, and the pay is great!

    My daughter is currently teaching piano part-time while studying toward her ARCT (diploma through the Royal Conservatory of Music). As a new teacher at a non-profit school she is charging $28/30min. lesson (Canadian) and that is considered a lower cost to account for her lack of a degree. I know that in Canada at least, someone with a PhD can charge minimum $100/hr for private lessons. And yes, I know people who have happily paid this.

    Or what about designing some sort of group class or workshop combining music and meditation, music and yoga, or music and exploring spirituality in some way? If in-person isn’t possible then it could be online over video. Workshops by a musician with a PhD, where I live, can easily charge at least $50 Cnd per student or more. Depending on the number of participants this can be a great way to earn some extra cash.

    • Lotus says:

      Ah thank you Amy – I trained more in music history/musicology than performance, so instrumental teaching isn’t an option for me. But perhaps music tutoring at school level might be possible.

      I LOVE the idea of music, meditation and yoga. That’s briliant! I shall think on that one for sure

  41. Christy says:

    I admire how Lotus has been able to cut down expenses so much. I have a few thoughts. First, I think she should do everything she can to continue to pay for her son’s music lessons. I think it would be a great loss to him and that she would regret it especially when she could work more hours to pay for these lessons. Although $167 is a large sum for her, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be paying that amount for a teenager’s activities. I teach school full-time and if I needed to I would happily take a second job a few hours a month to keep paying for my children’s activities. My students are all at-risk 9th and 10th graders who have been assigned to our program for breaking a safety or drug and alcohol related. So many of them do not have any type of lessons or extracurricular activities or interests beyond their phone and video games. I feel like it’s a great injustice that some teens get to do things like karate and take music lessons, while others have nothing. Kids are so much better off doing something beyond school that they enjoy and that allows them to build their talents. Sidenote: I don’t fee the same way about paying for kids’ college – your own retirement should come first.

    Another thought I have is that Lotus may have to accept that the next 20 years is her time period to work hard and take care of her financial life. Until now, she has been able to enjoy a long season of life of not working full-time and the freedom to spend time doing things she loves. When she retires, she will be able to resume a life where the majority of her time is spent in fulfilling ways. I am also 46. Two years ago, due to a change in life circumstances, I had to switch from half-time teaching to full-time. I never wanted to work full-time, but for the next 20 years this is what my family needs and what I need to do to be in a position to be financially independent as a 65 year old. I take comfort knowing that for the last 20 years I got to enjoy a period of working half-time or less where I was able to spend lots of time with my four littles and life was less scheduled and demanding. Like Lotus, I also really love to design my own mornings and have time for exercise, rest, reading connection. I have had to accept that I only get to do this on weekends. Saturdays, I play pickleball for 3 hours for example. Sundays, I always read in bed before getting up. My ideal life would be to do this everyday of the week, but that is just not realistic due to decisions I made for the last 20 years.

    Finally, I suggest she read Laura Vandercamp’s book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think about how you really have more time than you think. With only one teenager at home, even with a full-time job Lotus has some time to continue doing many of the things she loves – just not as much as she would like to. Best wishes for Lotus.

    • Sam says:

      I second Laura Vanderkam! Completely and utterly changed my view point about what time I have.

    • Lotus says:

      I am jumping right in and asking what the heck pickleball is?! It sounds good fun! 🙂

      Thank you Christy. I feel similarly with the music lessons, though am hoping to reduce from 3 to 2 instruments once he’s had a chance to immerse a bit. I gave up lessons too quick as a kid and regret it so much as an adult. My son is very video game focused but when he isn’t doing that he’s playing piano so I think it’s wonderful to have too.

      Yes you’re right about the 20 years thing. I am seeing there is a definite mental shift needed here. And I love how you frame your weekend mornings as precious and that you’ve had more time in the past. I just downloaded that book to my kindle (felt like my last splurge before the financial fast, even though it was only £4 and I made sure I cancelled my yoga/exercise first!) – it sounds just perfect for the mindset shift I need.

      Thanks for the well wishes and advice!!

  42. KP says:

    What a dreamy life, but as others have stated… time for some changes to find that balance.
    Home: home is what you make it, regardless of whether owned or rented. There are a lot of costs that come with homeownership (expensive repairs/replacements, upkeep, etc) that you don’t have to deal w/as a renter. There are pluses and minuses to buying vs renting, but in your case, stick with renting.
    Job: could you find a meaningful (or semi-meaningful 🙂 ) job at a university which could come with free tuition to explore your interests and potentially pave a path for your son? Could you work at a yoga studio at the desk and work your way into teaching if you so desire? It might feel uncomfortable, but as a yogi, I’m not in there judging the instructor. The instructor guides, but it’s my practice. I believe most of us are similar!
    Good luck! 🙂

  43. Rachel says:

    Hi Lotus, I’m also in the UK (in the North) and also work in communications for a not-for-profit having left academia after becoming disillusioned. I think you should seriously consider moving north. The cost of living is cheaper than in the south and we have access to the most amazing countryside and coastline. I moved here with my husband and children after living in the SE and we love it! The bit we inhabit is full of cultural activties, community events and there ‘s a big focus on the environment and sustainabilty. What I’m trying to say is that I wouldn’t worry too much about not finding your ‘people’ if you move north. I also think you should believe in yourself (look what you have already achieved!) and start teaching yoga. Re saving for your son’s university fees, please don’t put any pressure on yourself. He can borrow money (at a low interest rate) for uni, you can’t borrow for retirement. I wish you lots of luck, you have created something special and I’m sure you can build on that.

    • Lotus says:

      Ah we have similar life paths Rachel! Yes, good to hear. We just visited family up north (NW) this week and we both thought more about whether it could be an option for us… will keep our eye out for possible areas I think and keep it in the background of our thinking.

      Thanks for the well wishes 🙂

  44. Kath says:

    Another Brit here, from the north of England. I agree with all Liz’s ‘tough love’ comments. She was very gentle with you! You have plenty of skills and qualifications so make the most of them, Don’t pay for any more courses. Increase your working hours and your income. A job you really love is a luxury in your present financial position but may be possible in the future. Cut down all expenses short term to pay off your debts. Come to an agreement with friends and relatives- no Christmas presents, or make them something edible- less ‘stuff’. Share all household and child costs equally. Once you have paid off your debts and have an emergency fund and a budget in place you can think of the next stage. Just buckle down for a couple of years. Note for Liz- you can just about live off a UK pension if you are debt free, own your own modest home and lead a simple life, especially as a couple- I know people who do so.

    • Anne says:

      That is a really good point about the pension. I looked at it and the spending level, and I think that would just about cover her spending if by retirement she is no longer servicing debt and no longer spending on the music lessons. If she has lower cost housing in the north, teaches in exchange for yoga/retreats, and especially if she does a small amount of paid work as a yoga teacher at that point, her retirement is actually quite doable. Such a huge difference from the US where retirees have to pay large Medicare premiums and worry about getting bankrupted by assisted living costs, often on social security payments that are not much higher than Lotus’ government pension.

    • Lotus says:

      Love how the Brits are here in force in the comments! 🙂

      Yes, Liz was very gentle wasn’t she. I 100% agree with your advice. I feel like I’ve had a bit of an awakening reading all these comments and advice, but it’s so helpful and as you say a couple of years to buckle down and things will be quite different. Thank you Kath!

      And yes, I agree about the pension thing. It is entirely possible if you’re used to living frugally.

  45. Ada says:

    Count me in on Team Netflix (and no contacts)! LOL

    Best of luck Lotus; tough love is hard. But know we are all rooting for you. You got this!

  46. Sandra Richardson says:

    If I were in your predicament, my biggest concern would be the lack of any insurance coverage for my family. You are one illness or accident away from financial ruin (in my humble opinion). I’m assuming that you and your partner don’t have comprehensive insurance through work, given that you work part-time, and there is no mention of any medical, dental, or insurance expenses in your financial analysis. You need to come up with a plan on how you’re going to manage, preferably without going into any more debt, if one of you loses their income temporarily or permanently, or becomes disabled.

    • Emma says:

      are you in the US? We have the NHS here so all our medical, dental,etc is totally free when you need it. Also we have decent paid sick leave periods, statutory sick pay and disability benefits. They aren’t perfect but I suspect they are not worse than her current salary

    • Jen says:

      In the UK healthcare is covered by National Insurance (free at the point of access) so there is no need for health insurance. Car insurance and home insurance etc more needed (although they don’t have a car).

    • Paula says:

      Sandra, think Lotus might be covered with the National Health Service in the UK. As an American, the situation depicted would be a 3 alarm fire emergency.

    • AW says:

      They are in the UK, where they have universal health care. No insurance or medical expenses.

    • Lotus says:

      Yes, we are SO lucky to have the NHS here – all healthcare is paid for. But that of course doesn’t cover any lost income so you’re right that this is something we ought to consider.

  47. Emma says:

    Hello from the UK. I think there are a few UK things missing here.

    1. Magazine subscriptions and books. You don’t need to pay for these. Sort out a library card and you can use Libby and BorrowBox for free- all the magazines and books and audio=ioboos are on there. You literally just have to out your library card number on it
    2. I think Elizabeth is wrong only on Netflix. In the UK if you don’t have a tv licence then you literally have no access to any tv channels. None at all, so keeping Netflix is probably a sensible thing, especially if you’re cutting everything else out, and especially for her son who is going to lose some of his activities
    3. Food. Organic vegetable boxes in the UK are extortionately expensive. You can buy a £23 organic box or all seven of the Super 7 Aldi fruit an veg for 65p each… stop with the veggie boxes and get thee to Aldi or Lidl.

    Other than that, I agree totally.

    • Lotus says:

      Hello Emma! My son and I do keep our local library in roaring trade. He is a bookworm, as am I, and we would have been bankrupt with our book devouring habits if it weren’t for the library 🙂 His magazine (he’s been reading it for about 5 years now) was always about something lovely coming in the post and being non-screen based. He has collected all the issues, so I am reaaaaaally hesitant to give it up. But I am thinking on it.

      I also agree re Netflix. We have no other media entertainment – no TV at all, just Netflix.

      Veg boxes are expensive. You are right!

  48. Jen says:

    I don’t have anything to add, but I think you have been incredibly brave to be so open and ask for help and advice. I relate a lot to the conflicting feelings towards money and feeling like you’re playing catch up to past mistakes and old attitudes you had. I think there’s some good advice in the comments and in the response – I hope you find a way forward!

  49. cathy says:

    Lotus, I’m going to suggest something I haven’t seen in other comments. Some people are predisposed to knowing what their “thing” is an working in that field, some for their entire working lives. In my late 50s, I’ve come to realize that some of us don’t have one thing we should be doing. My suggestion: Give yourself the grace to not feel like you have to find only one thing. Also (and maybe I missed this), though you work 3.5 days/week, I didn’t see anything that said you *could* increase to 5 days/week at the same job. If you can, and are willing–even in the short run–that’s one option. Another option is to increase your work to the equivalent of full time, but filling the other 1.5 days with other things you can do related to music, yoga, or meditation.
    It sounds like you volunteer a lot of time in your Buddhist community. At least for now, you should stop giving money as well. I’m sure there are other people who donate more money because they don’t have the time. It seems this should also extend to meditation retreats. There’s got to be a way to either get the cost subsidized with a scholarship, or bartered by working at the retreat.
    I also agree with Liz, you need to cut back/cut out spending money on gifts. Instead, give the people you love a homemade gift certificate for yoga lessons, or guided meditation, or something music-related. One thought on gifts. My sister loves to give gifts. She’s also on government assistance and is perpetually broke. I absolutely hate it when she spends money she can’t afford to buy a gift for me or someone in my family. In fact, I’d just as soon she didn’t spend money on cards and postage and sent me an e-card instead. I would bet there are people in your life who feel the same. Suggestion then, stop purchasing gifts (at least for now). If you still want to give gifts, then think of something you can make or give a gift of time. Think ‘Experiences Over Things.”
    I think your new guiding principle should be “Barter.” When I taught private guitar lessons, I had a student who was a massage therapist. We traded lessons for massage and each of us was certain we had the better end of the deal. Is it possible for you to trade for some of your son’s music lessons? If not, depending on where he studies, I would be really candid with them about the fact that you can’t afford the lessons. I know I would have preferred to negotiate a lower fee with one of my students than to see them quit or struggle each month. Especially if the student was extremely talented. As someone mentioned above, another alternative is to see what work you could do–whether it’s where your son takes music lessons or where you study yoga–and propose working there X number of hours in exchange for lessons or a discount on lessons.
    One final thought. If you and Rowan haven’t sat down in awhile and gone over your expenses, dollar by dollar, then you’re really only guessing that you are each contributing half toward each expense. Maybe it does balance out (you pay more for your son’s music lessons, Rowan pays more for groceries), but maybe it doesn’t. Also, don’t forget there may be a difference between what you would need for a grocery budget for the three of you and what Rowan “needs.” Especially if he’s a foodie, he might be willing to spend more. That doesn’t actually balance out the set costs of the music lessons.
    Good luck to you!

    • Lotus says:

      Thank you Cathy, I love what you said about giving myself grace. It’s a beautiful way to look at things. I actually thought a better way for me would be to up to 4 days at work and then the other day do something else like yoga teaching etc. so we’re thinking along similar lines.

      Yes what you say about food budget and music lessons is wise too. Thanks for the good advice!

  50. Leslie says:

    I want to say good luck to Lotus and it sounds like you have a happy family.
    I have to say, I have a friend who is in her 60s and still hasn’t found a job she ‘loves.’ It confuses me. I wonder if she is realistic about what jobs are! She spends a lot of her energy doing volunteer work, church work, etc., while working limited hours at a fair trade store for money. Even that is not satisfying for her. Any time you do something as a job it is less fun, in my experience.
    I’ve written freelance travel articles and when I travel for work, it’s not as fun as traveling as pure vacation.
    So, I would consider what others have said: don’t do something you hate, but I’m not sure whether there is a magical perfect job out there. Perhaps re-adjust thinking about work — at least for a couple of years. Or work in communications for a higher-paying company? If it’s a so-so job, at least get more money for it!

    • Lotus says:

      Ah thanks Leslie – we are a happy family (she said after just mediating a pre-teen meltdown around technology and dad haha!)

      I think this is very good advice that doing things as a job is less fun. And I know from self-reflection that I do really love to have fun, so perhaps I’m just needing to reframe and be more realistic. I do know ‘magical perfect job out there’ is a fantasy but it’s hard to remember that sometimes! Need to reorientate

  51. Nina says:

    Congratulations Lotus on living so mindfully and taking this step to improving your finances for your future. I’m also in the UK, and will mention Money Saving Expert again. It’s definitely the best place to get info related to anything finance related including which accounts have the best interest rates. There are a few different student loan schemes in the UK, depending on when you studied but do look into this. The one I have is essentially a govt backed loan that is automatically repaided from my salary once I earn over a certain threshold and is written off, after a certain amount of time. So it’s worth checking exactly the situation with yours. Finally, are you sure you don’t have any employer pensions from previous jobs? If you’ve been in salaried roles in the UK you are likely to have had a number of workplace pensions, even if only your employer was contributing. You can check here https://www.gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details. Finally, if you’ve trained as a yoga teacher you should go for it and start offering lessons. You sound like a person who’d be great at this so go ahead and give people the opportunity to learn from you.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks so much Nina – it’s great to have so many cheerleaders for me stepping into yoga teaching!

      I do have employer pensions. I have about 4 in total but all of them I’ve paid only small amounts into (either I worked there a short time or I was part-time, or both) and I have no real idea how to calculate what this will mean when I retire. I do need to look into this. And also go back to money saving expert, which I’ve loved in the past

  52. caryatis says:

    Yes, as everyone else has said, WORK MORE! Stop worrying about what “suits you” and start providing for yourself and your child. I would set a goal of working for pay at least 50 hours a week.

    Also, personally speaking I would prioritize paying off the loan to your sister. Yes, it’s zero interest, but paying it off early will help salvage that relationship. I would bet money this is not the first time Lotus has asked for a loan, and the sister is probably a bit tired of having to bail out her grown adult sister and her sweet and impractical dreams. Pay it off early and make it a goal not to borrow in the future from family or anyone else.

  53. Philip says:

    Hi,

    Great analysis from Liz.

    3 quick suggestions.

    1. Great article on how much you need to retire to have a decent life when the early part of the financial journey has been looked after.
    2. How about yoga and mediation for kids / or a retreat run at the weekend. Kids are fund and less judgemental. You can find your own style. Do some free classes at first in your local buddist centre for kids and see how it goes.
    3. Focus. It sounds like you are just trying to do to many things and too many things for others. Could be a case that people look for your help or advice as you are available. By giving too much you are leaving very little for yourself. Priority is the key and taking control of your life. Pick of theme for each month. Eg. Month 1: Cut costs. Month 2: Work 5 days and see how that goes. Month 3. Maybe look for new job. Month 4. Start free kids yoga classes. Within those months plan your time for the things you like such as walking, buddist classes, mediation etc. I think you just need the Macro plan and the micro will fit in. Good luck you are not far away. It just better planning to help you focus.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Philip, this is so helpful! Did you mean to link an article?
      The last point is really astute. I have spent quite some time trying to focus and not to do too much. Simplifying has been a long old journey for me and I am still learning, lol! My tendency is to be super energetic and enthused and try to do everything all at once and then collapse! I LOVE this idea of picking a theme and having the macro view. Thanks so much

  54. Tom says:

    With regards to the debt, there are organisations out there who can help. Step change or one of the others who don’t make a profit on the account (citizens advice, C.A.P.) should be able to stop the intrest on the debt and even allow reduced repayments.
    This is a debt emergency and sorting out a £1000 emergency fund should be top priority before attempting debt repayments.
    The student loan should be deferred payments on her income and not paid at all depending upon when it was taken.
    Look for other pensions from other jobs and consider consolidating into a SIPP (UK version of a 401k) with Vanguard and investing into vangards FTSE global all cap as this will be lower fees than the current providers and probably have better performance as well to maximize what savings you already have. You can do this DIY and usually transfer for free. Keep any final salary or defined benefit pensions and do not transfer them. Only transfer defined contribution schemes.
    Get the kid to pick their favourite musical activity and cut lessons for the other 2. They can still practice them if they want but YouTube videos instead of formal tuition.

    • Lotus says:

      Tom this is brilliant – I had no idea about the interest thing with Step change. I will look that up straight away.

      I think all my pensions are final salary/defned benefits – mostly from universities/local govt so good pensions even if small – but I will definitely check this.

      That is definitely the plan with music lessons, going from 3 to 2 for sure (possibly down to 1) but just need a bit of time for him to see which his preference is. Hoping a term will be enough to tell. I’ve paid up until Christmas already so that’s good.

      I also wondered about the £1k emergency thing… I might bump that up the priority list. I have the two months without council tax in Feb/March so they could go straight into an EF.

      Thanks so much Tom

  55. Pixie says:

    This is a really good case study, and I read all of them. Thank you Lotus for being so honest and for commenters for being kind and constructive. You can do this, Lotus. Many of us have been in chaotic places with our finances and with work. I’m looking forward to your comments and to how you proceed.

    Also, I think you really captivated us with your story, so maybe you could do more writing in your work life.

    • Lotus says:

      Ahh thanks Pixie – that means a lot! And I agree, everyone has been so helpful, non-judgemental and kind despite me being in a right pickle 🙂 And hopefully this case study will help others in a similar pickle too

  56. Sam says:

    Hi Lotus. Firstly I wanted to say what a delight it was to read your story. You personally are an inspiration and your practice and the spiritual life you have crafted for yourself and your family is beautiful and awe-inspiring.

    I am also in my 40’s and a few years ago me and my family were the subject of a reader case study. We were deeply in debt and had so many non-negotiables in our budget that it wasn’t funny. We did take the vast majority of Liz’s advice and some of the advice on the reader comments as well and this completely changed our financial lives. We are still debt free today, and have a healthy bank balance. So my first piece of advice to you is, take the advice! Put it into practice – you won’t regret it I promise.

    My second bit of advice is regarding work. Reading this, I could have cried for you as I am exactly the same about work. I have never found my purpose or passion in life and have no passions that I could use to craft a career. (Unless someone would employee me to sit on the couch and read books with a glass of red wine, or host barbeques with my family and friends). I too didn’t and don’t have a passion that drives me to work everyday, and would also prefer to work part time and pursue my own interests the rest of the time and spend time with my family.

    Eventually I decided that although I didn’t have a passion for anything that I can use for a career, maybe I could work for an organisation that did work that aligned with my values and made me feel good about sitting in front of a computer 5 days a week. And that what I wanted out of a career I wasn’t passionate about, was a decent wage, some flexibility over my hours, and that my wage and hours were reliable 52 weeks of the year.

    So now I work for a not for profit organisation who provides services and support to people with disabilities and people who are ageing with health issues. My position is flexible, dependable and OK a bit boring sometimes, but I feel good about the the good my organisation does, and I get paid decently with a wage I can rely upon.

    My point is this – to get the financial change you are looking for, like Liz and the other posters, I agree that you will need to increase your working hours to full time, in a job that you don’t find particularly fulfilling, or changing jobs to somewhere different with full time hours, but which will still not be something you are passionate about. This was something we too had to do to get out of our financial hole.

    But by changing the way you see the job that you do, it can make it more palatable. And it is a good feeling to have no debt and money in the bank and opens up so many opportunities and joys you don’t have when you are struggling with money.

    The other thing that really helped me with the full time work issue was changing my perspective on time. I read a book by an author called Laura Vanderkam – 168 hours is more time than you think. Highly recommend it. In a nutshell, if you view your time in a week, you will see that you do have time to work full time, and pursue the activities that are important to you, and spend time with the people you love. It really made me view my time differently.

    Perhaps while you are working more hours to increase your income, and kicking your financial goals, you could also be building a side business in the yoga and music you are passionate about as others have suggested, that will eventually be your full time role. I also wonder if you could negotiate with your current employer some flexibility over your own schedule were you to work there full time? Or the same with a new employer? Such as working from home some days so you gain some hours back since you are not travelling. Or condensing your full time hours into 4 days a week.

    • Lotus says:

      Thank you SO much Sam! What an inspiring story that you managed to change your life around so much. I’d love to read your case study if you’d be up for sharing the link? This is such great advice. I have noticed which bits of advice I feel are easy and which are harder and I’m more resistant to (yoga – that’s gone, not too hard… but netflix?! ha! Working full-time ARGH but probably necessary but also resistant). And I can see the more I follow this roadmap, the better.

      Haha I’m sure *someone* would employee you to sit on the couch and read books with a glass of red wine?! No?? You are right though, and I do work for an organisation that fits with my values even though it’s not perfect. And I can probably find another with higher salary (or negotiate a raise) that does make meaning in some way. And yes the side business too, that will help.

      Another commentor mentioned the 168 hours book and that is on my kindle waiting for me 🙂

      Thank you so so much for your wonderful comment, I appreciate it greatly

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hi Sam! I am so THRILLED to hear this! Many, many congrats :)!!!!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank you so much for making the point that you don’t have to be passionate about your work – oftentimes, it’s about having a reliable income that supports your lifestyle and values and provides financial security for you and your family. I think there has been an overemphasis on the idea that you should (or have to) find work that you are passionate about. Lotus — take the pressure off of yourself to get paid for something that you are passionate about! Are you passionate about your son’s music lessons? Your yoga classes? Veg boxes? Retirement? Financial security? There is nothing wrong with wanting those things and absolutely nothing wrong with working in a job that aligns with those passions and priorities and affords you the opportunity to pursue those. One should obviously strike a balance in that you don’t want to work 80 hours a week and leave yourself with no time to pursue your hobbies and passions. However, consider working more hours or getting a higher paying job to free you up financing to really pursue those passions. Think about it this way, you are getting paid not with money, but with yoga classes, music lessons, increased donations to charities, healthy eating, Netflix AND contacts, etc. – you just have to go through the task of converting your paychecks into those other items. I’ve found it’s far easier to find a job that pays for a passion than it is to find a job that IS your passion. Good luck and hang in there!

      • Elizabeth says:

        I should add that you (Lotus) sounded really reluctant to give up certain things in your budget and you already live a frugal and minimalist lifestyle (certainly as compared to me!). I am by no means encouraging you to go out and make money just to spend more money and turn to consumerism as a lifestyle. However, if there are things you are passionate about, and you’ve narrowed that list of things, then I think its perfectly ok to spend money according to what you value, and to go out and make money in pursuit of pursuing your passions/values.

  57. Angela says:

    Lotus, you sound like an amazing person. You certainly have the talent and brains to get yourself out of your precarious financial situation. I agree with the other posts about trying to up your hours at work, while exploring teaching music and yoga. In time they have the potential to become a full time job. I’ve had times of having to work at less than perfect jobs, but it didn’t matter because I really focused on what I was doing outside of work to give me personal fulfilment.

    I’m a Christian so Christmas is a big deal in our house, but my husband and I usually make consumable gifts. We don’t like the consumerism around Christmas, and most people we gift to have everything they need already. We each have a really, really good recipe, and our friends and family look forward to getting their gifts from us each year. I’d definitely encourage you to make your own gifts… whether it’s bread, biscuits, jam, handcrafts, a voucher for yoga class with you. I LOVE getting something that someone has made for me, it’s so meaningful; I’m sure your friends and family would feel the same.

    Once your son is a little older, I’d encourage him to get a little job to help pay for his lessons or his expenses. My friend’s son is also musically gifted and he’s earned money by busking (which increased his confidence in performing), mowing lawns, babysitting etc. He is from a large family, and money is extremely tight. He thinks nothing of having to help pay his own way, and willingly treats his younger siblings when he’s flush with cash. He’s off to uni next year, and has such a great work ethic already. You have plenty of time to explore university option for your son, like Scotland or even overseas in countries like Germany where the cost is so much lower.

    • Lotus says:

      Ahh thank you so much Angela, that’s sweet! And yes, it’s a mindshift isn’t it to make what I do outside of work my main personal fulfilment.

      Christmas is a big deal in our house too – I love the Christmas story, and am definitely inspired by Christian teachings of grace and love and mercy, plus we have three family birthdays around Christmas. I love the idea of consumables and I do enjoy baking, so that is for sure an option.

      The comments have really helped me think about my son’s financial education (I have been backwards/ill informed but he doesn’t have to be) and I think the little job idea is great. I want him to be independent generally so it will help with that, but also being able to contribute is important too.

      Thanks again Angela!

  58. Michelle says:

    Hi Lotus, thank you for being so brave and putting your story out there in the hopes that it might help you on your journey. I agree with the people above who have suggested maybe giving music lessons or tutoring children in music. Or if you are able to give private yoga lessons. I know you said you aren’t quite ready to teach classes, but maybe you would feel more comfortable in a one on one situation. I’m sure there would be a lot of people who feel uncomfortable going to group yoga classes, especially if they are a beginner, but I bet they would love to be able to do one on one classes. Maybe that would be an option for you.

    I’m looking forward to reading your follow up and seeing how your journey is progressing. Just remember how strong you are and that you got this!!

  59. Joe says:

    Hi Lotus, I am a UK reader and I second Tom’s suggestion to make an appointment with CAP or Citizens advice for some free debt counselling. Also you could use the Money Saving Expert Debt Free Wannabe forum (start with by posting a SOA); it’s an very supportive environment. I think to implement Liz’s very good advice, you would benefit from some 1-1; to guide you through the changes.

    I would strongly advise you not to qualify as a bodywork practitioner (very poor income prospects). Have you looked into bursary’s for training in an NHS role? I am aware several health authorities (who have staff shortage esp. in SE are offering paid training opportunities for UK citizens). Roles in MH and disability support etc. This is incredibly difficult work but highly rewarding, stable and will give you a good pension.

    I would echo what others have said though don’t use education and training as a way to defer decision making. I work in HE and absolutely understand why you decided to walk away; it’s truly cut-throat, extremely difficult to maintain a permanent position and full of raging egomaniacs. However, in my job I have seen many people take courses (costing them a great deal) because they didn’t know what else to do and then go on to take another course, then another. Education is a great joy but the debt that comes with it is burden that you need to take very seriously.

    Also many many people don’t have a job that 100% works for them. There are always imperfect aspects that one puts up with because of the rest of the work is worthwhile (for me satisfaction of teaching and helping others outweighs coping with the difficult environment).

    Lastly I wondered if getting an allotment might align with your values and be a way to save money.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks so much Joe – I will definitely make an appointment, that’s good advice.

      I did think about the NHS but that’s also a bit of a broken system, like HE! Friends in the NHS have warned me off it, but I am still open. I did think I could do a small bit of volunteering to explore it as an option.

      Allotment is a great idea. Actually we probably have enough space in our garden to grow a bit more than we do if I put a bit more time/effort in.

  60. Kriww says:

    Oh dear. Mrs FW is being really gentle with you. I agree with most commenters here that you need to:

    1. Wake up. Work more and earn more money. You have responsibility to provide for yourself and your child. Maybe your story will sound toleratable if you are on your early 20s trying to figure out life, but you’re mid40s, it’s about time to wake up, sis. You will be retired in 20 years and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be a financial burden for your son. Just because you’re a wonderful person with a pure heart, doesn’t mean that he will gratefully pay your bills for the rest of your life (and he shouldn’t). Please don’t make him hates you. I know I will hate it if I have to provide for my phd educated parents because they were slacking off when they were young. Also, being a hardworker and independent is a really good example for your son. Be someone he could look up to.

    2. I bet the sister is a wonderful person so please pay your loan to her first and save the relationship. I love my sister and I definitely will give her money if she was ever in an emergency, but know I will be annoyed if I have to loan my hard earned money because my grown up sister only wants to work 3,5 days a week and live an idyllic life. Just please see from your sister’s point of view for once.

    3. With the alarming financial situation, I think it’s time to cut off in every aspects of life. No lessons for the son, no classes for yourself, no gifts, no splurge, no treat yourself,.no nothing until your debts are paid off. Use up all your extra time to earn money, even if you have to wait a table or scrub the floors (and gosh you shouldn’t, you have a phd in music! you’re a certified yoga instructor! For god’s sake I just can’t)

    4. It’s also time to re evaluate your relationship. I know separated finance is very doable, but in your case, should it be? Why pay 50-50 when you make so little? Why doesn’t your partner pay for your son’s lessons? (To be fair, maybe he pays in other area that doesn’t show here, but then again, why?) I think you might have a deeper issue than just money. I know you guys sound like the happiest couple, but I just don’t buy it since you seems to be not comfortable talking about money to him.

    5. By all means,.please please stop this nonsense for the sake of youself, and your son. I’m sure it’s great to have a simple life, but you don’t need expensive retreats to be a good buddhist. Ajahn Brahms and the dalai Lama don’t, do they? And remember, the monks can life so peacefully with no income whatsoever, but that’s because they’re debt free (and have no children!)

    • Lotus says:

      I definitely don’t want to be a financial burden for my son. I think I’ve been around a certain type of person (broke, work for ‘good causes’ etc) for quite a while and have been in and around that mindset a long time. So it’s good to get perspective here from more financially savvy people. Also tbh it’s been good to get gentle advice from Liz – I think it’s helped me not be defended and stick my head back in the sand. People respond to carrots not sticks, especially when someone is being vulnerable and sharing personal information in order to change and grow.

      My sister offered the money to me, I didn’t ask. I have loaned money to her in the past. It’s not an issue between us, despite a couple of commentors suggesting it might be. We’re very close and very honest with each other but I will check in with her again and see if she’d like it back quicker than the £35 a month I’m currently paying.

      I’ve made other comments above about my partner so I won’t repeat that.

    • Dean says:

      Wow those are tough, yet so true. Please, Lotus, you can’t really FIRE without the FI. Work hard, pay your debt and provide for your family, at least until your son is an adult and is not financially dependent on you anymore. You could always join a nunnery if you like by the time your son is grown up.

    • Kim says:

      I’ve read all the comments thus far. THIS is exactly what I was thinking the entire time I was reading Lotus’ story. DITTO ALL OF THE ABOVE!

    • Margy says:

      Thank you. I agree wholeheartedly. I felt Liz’s tough love was still light on the tough and padded with love, but these comments ‘does what it says on the tin’ (reference to an old UK ad. Straight forward. No more pussyfooting around). You cannot guarantee your employment in today’s environment and sadly you are reaching an age where ageism will creep in which can make it harder to get a new job if you were to lose yours in this economic climate. Take this all very seriously, face the facts and stay focussed for what could be a long haul. I wish you only success and security.

    • RocDoc says:

      Yes to all the above!

      Lotus, I’m sure you’re a wonderful person. But your case is a financial emergency as Mr Money Mustache would say. You need to work at least full time. No more of this part time, yearning for early retirement, while you have high interest debt, and even more worrisome, debt to your sister. Debt to family/friends can ruin relationships.

      You need to work full time and work hard and make money. Your job does not define who you are. Your job is to make money. You need to make money, pay off your debts and start saving. You can use your free time to do activities that define who you are and who you want to be.

    • Lotus says:

      I see there’s lots of agreement but I actually found this comment difficult and wrestled with my reply. I think primarily because there are a lot of assumptions here that I wasn’t sure whether to correct… but here I go…

      I did a PhD part-time whilst working 3 jobs and looking after a kid, so I’m not sure that counts as ‘slacking off’. I have worked 3.5 days for the past year but for the four years or so before that I was working pretty much full-time. This year has been the first year I have just had one job for many many years. I don’t go on ‘expensive retreats’ – I go on regular retreats, sometimes they don’t cost much at all -mostly just simple accommodation and food costs. (I understand that I need to stop doing that for the moment until I get on an even keel financially.) There are assumptions about my relationships too which I find a bit rude.

      Yes I’ve made a lot of mistakes but actually I *have* really trimmed down my expenses over the past few years and have made a significant dent in my debt by doggedly paying a large proportion of it off each month. Despite my low income, by reducing expenses I’ve managed to pay off £7.5k of my loans in the past 3 years. The £350 from my sister is the only extra debt since 2018 when I consolidated credit cards with loans and started paying them off.

      I understand that I am in a bad situation but I think advice could be more constructive and this just made me despondent, not empowered to make positive change. I’ll be focusing on Liz’s advice and trying to remain positive

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        Thank you, Lotus, for replying with such grace. I would like to remind everyone that there are plenty of places one can go–online and in real life–to be yelled at. To be berated and accused. Frugalwoods is not one of those places. As I note in the introduction to all Case Studies, this isn’t a place to judge others. This is a place to demonstrate respect and offer constructive advice. I know that I personally have never changed/improved something in my life as a result of someone being rude or condescending towards me. It is easy to make assumptions about people online–and in our daily lives!–because we don’t know the full story. We don’t know the challenges, the joys, the realities of their lives. Let’s work together to be productive, helpful and, above all, kind to one another.

      • Kriww says:

        Lotus I’m so sorry I have offended you, please know that I too really want you to succeed financially and I am too rooting for you. That’s the thing I will say to my own sister or my own daughters if they were ever in your position. Tough love is well, tough. But I’m really sorry I have hurt your feeling and I hope you accept my apology. You can completely ignore my words if they were not true (some of them are wrong, I misinterpreted things) or I got the wrong impression from your writings. I’m sorry my comments had cause such harsh responses, Lotus and Mrs FW, and Mrs FW can delete it if it’s necessary, but i won’t delete it myself because I don’t want to be a coward who run away. Anyone is different I think, and please please don’t be discouraged, just ignore me and focus on other positive comments who can build your future finance. And I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

  61. Erin says:

    Hi Lotus,
    Another thought: Have you and your partner checked your NI contributions via the online government gateway account? It now takes 35 full years of contributions to get the UK full state pension. I was surprised to find that in my student years I had paid NI contributions on my part time jobs, but hadn’t worked the full 52 weeks due to time off for exams – This basically negated everything I’d paid, so these years didn’t ‘qualify’ at all towards the 35 years needed (ie it isn’t credited pro rata). What I wish I’d known earlier is that you can choose to pay to top up those missing contributions for up to 6 years back (I think), but it was too late for me to do that. If you’ve part-paid years, topping up is considered a low cost/good value way to boost your pension, but do check this out for yourself (again Money Saving Expert website is useful as is the government pension website). You can also purchase a full year if you’re not earning, which I now do since I retired early and don’t have the 35 years. Some benefits do give you NI credits which count towards your NI years, and the rules and types of NI are different for employed and self-employed people, but it’s worth checking every year, especially if you’re planning to rely on it in retirement.
    I’ve also been told by several UK financial advisors that although our age group is currently in line to have state pension payments from age 68, they confidently expect that to increase to at least 70 by the time we get there, as the current system is unaffordable. It’s worth considering this in your financial plans, especially if you’re going to have time off between jobs or earn under the NI threshold at any point.
    This recent BBC news article outlines what is needed in the UK for basic/comfortable/luxury retirements for both singles and couples, which might help you assess what level of retirement and pension you might need to plan for:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58883053
    And finally, if you haven’t already done it, Mrs FW’s Uber Frugal month challenge is excellent, and more fun than you might expect! I do it around twice a year, and always find something different to achieve. It really does make a difference whatever your starting financial position. Good luck!

  62. Hannah says:

    I really commend you for putting yourself out there like this and being so brave to tackle something so hard!

    I hope this doesn’t come as redudant as you’ve already gotten a lot of tough love, which can be really hard! Your journey sounds similar to that of many people with undiagnosed ADHD. (The impulsive spending and impressive abililty and thirst to learn so many new things!) I can also relate to the desire to “find my thing” but after spending some time reflecting on deeper issues around mindset, and how my brain works, I’m in a much more settled and content place. Using free resources to examine mindset around money and behavior patterns while concurrent with taking concrete action may feel empowering in the long run. (Unf*ck Your Brain is a podcast with some free info that’s been interesting for me, Mamas Talk Money also touches a lot on money mindset)

    • Lotus says:

      Thank you so much Hannah, that’s kind!
      You’re the second person to suggest that so I’ll for sure find out some more. Thanks for the resources ideas

      • Lala says:

        Just wanted to respond to this and say that I have a similar journey as yours Lotus (just finishing up my part time PhD- with two kids and a job). I have also struggled with finding my thing and tend to be impulsive and enthusiastic at the beginning of things.
        In terms of the ADHD-comments- both my husband and my son (and most likely my daughter) has Adhd, and I must say that it is very clear to me that I do not. Remember, you can still have those personally traits without it being a diagnosis- one key factor of ADHD is that it causes significant problems in your everyday life.

        I am really enjoying reading your case study and comments! I am rooting for you over here in Sweden!

  63. Daisy says:

    Like many here, I find myself thinking that Lotus wants the RE part of FI/RE, without having done the FI part. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Lotus. I admire you for your courage in sharing your story. I respect how hard you are working to ensure your life and values align. But here’s the thing, they don’t. You aren’t living a simple, minimalist life if you need financial rescue from family members. I have a family member that relies heavily on others to sustain their “lifestyle”. They work limited hours and seek regular financial assistance from others – including me at times. Trust me, it can become toxic stuff.

    I also admire your love of lifelong learning. I earned my PhD later in life as well, and now work in academia. Yes, it is full of egos and competition, but I have carved out a niche that allows me to (mostly) do what I love. It is possible, and I would encourage you to figure out how to turn your passion for yoga and music into something meaningful and financially useful. And, as several posters have suggested, it seems that you are using education as a deferral strategy, and it really needs to stop. You have lots on your CV, use it. You may never completely discover what you want to do when you grow up, but grow up you must. You have a son who is watching you closely.

    I wish you well and hope you explore some of the excellent advice posted here.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Daisy. I think all these things are just a journey aren’t they. I don’t live a simple or minimalist life in entirety but I’m headed that way, on that path. It doesn’t mean it’s not true just because there are areas of my life that need a lot of work.

      I can see there’s a part of me using education as a deferral strategy for sure. That’s not the only reason but it is one, and I’m definitely going to explore that.

  64. Lotus says:

    Thank you SO much Liz for serving me up some tough love! I really do appreciate you doing that AND the kindly way in which you served it up. It’s really given me a wake-up call to more clearly see my financial situation.

    I have just come back from a week visiting family and after reading this have just started cancelling some of the expenses you suggested as a first step. The yoga and exercise subscriptions have gone! ARGH! I’ll also be setting up my notebook this weekend to record my expenses. I have done this periodically and I do have a fairly good idea of things, but I could be more disciplined I think.

    In terms of increasing income, I think that will take a bit more time but I’m going to have a chat with my boss this week and take it from there. But I wholeheartedly agree that with more income this situation changes significantly. I loved the encouragement to use my existing qualifications too.

    You asked about the split of things with Rowan – our rent is over £1k and the amount I pay is half minus the half of his bills, so yes there is a 50/50 split on everything. The music tuition costs I pay because Rowan pays WAY more than that a month for food, fuel and other general expenses (toiletries, washing powder, household stuff). So this feels more than fair to me – he is paying well more than 50% of our overall expenditure. And as I say, sometimes he does contribute to music lessons – this month he gave me £150 as his self-employment income has picked up post-lockdown, for example.

    I do have a couple of questions Liz:
    i) When will I know it’s the right point to move beyond the bare bones, ascetic budget? I feel like I might need a motivator for that as it might be some time and not doing anything fun will be easier if I know the measure of when I can start easing up. Will it be when I’m out of debt? Or out of debt and have a certain amount of emergency fund?

    ii) Repaying the debts order. I hear that Dave Ramsey goes for tackling the smallest debt first for the psychological benefits. I get that my biggest one also has the biggest interest rate and that is losing money. But I think I might feel more motivated if I can get the smaller one done in less than a year and then snowball it. Can you say more about why you don’t do it that way? Is it purely numbers? (and I know I’m not good on that front haha 😉 )

    Thank you Liz for this financial roadmap – it is SO appreciated! And all the wonderful comments, I’m about to go through and reply to everyone – the Frugalwoods community is so full of wisdom. Hats off to you all!

    • Tina says:

      I completely understand not wanting your partner to take on your debt but would you be open to him paying it off and then you paying him over the next year? You’d get it paid off sooner without the additional interest but still not be making your debt problems his problems.

      Definitely agree with MSE (especially the debt free wannabe board) and gathering up information of your pensions from your old jobs – better to know now if your pensions would push your income over the level where pensioners get their rent covered now, rather than just before you retire!

  65. Helena says:

    Sometimes it helps to put time limits on what you’re going to do, for example a year of “boot camp” to tackle debt and then review. There’s a good Mr Money Moustache post called something like “Your Debt is an Emergency” and if you need tough love he’s good for that. As a UK person, I’d really recommend a job in the public sector to build up a good pension – you are earning pretty close to minimum wage, so almost anything in local government or the NHS will pay more and give you a decent pension at the end of it – start now and in 20 years’ time you will be grateful that you had the money taken off you and put into a pension! Good comms people are in demand, and if you want to change fields, there are a lot of new vacancies in the NHS for healthcare assistants and social prescribers – the jobs.nhs.uk website will list all the vacancies for your area. Yes, it will be a culture change from the voluntary sector, but right now you need the money. (A full-time comms job in the NHS will pay almost double what you’re currently earning, so a year would shift a lot of debt and help establish an emergency fund.) Once you’ve got the debt cleared and the income/outgoings stabilised, you’ll be in a better position to evaluate what you’re prepared to do about housing for the future and I’d agree with the poster who suggested buying a place in the north while renting in the south until your son finishes school.

    • Lotus says:

      Love the idea of a year bootcamp! I was thinking actually November is a good time for resolutions, why let the end of the year fall into overspending and overeating… I could definitely get behind doing this full on until next Nov and then review. And at that point one of my loans will have been paid off (hopefully earlier when I increase income) so I should have some good traction.

      I read the Your Debt is an Emergency post, thank you – that was super helpful.
      NHS comms is a good idea, I’ll take a look. Thank you Helena!

  66. Shain says:

    Hi Lotus, I don’t usually comment on these things but I could relate to your situation in that I also am ‘overqualified’ but at the same time have been underpaid for various periods of my life. It seems that gap in these situations is often confidence and indecision rather than skills and capabilities. In terms of your desire to do good with your work, I HIGHLY recommend reading a book that I just finished called ’80 000 Hours: Find a fulfilling career that does good’ by Benjamin J Todd. If you Google it, you will find a free PDF download from the author. It really flipped my entire conception of what it means to do good with my career and it is also helping me to push myself to earn more and make the most of my qualifications. Also, check out the 80,000 hours website, it is a brilliant resource.

    • Lotus says:

      I wholeheartedly agree about confidence and indecision, really good call. I’ve just signed up to get the book, thanks so much Shain. Wishing you so much luck with your career too!

  67. Sarah says:

    Hi Lotus, thank you for the bravery it took to put all this out there and ask for tough love. I hope you feel you’ve gotten some of that from Liz and the commenters. I want to double down on one thing that Liz mentioned in passing (while I’m also quietly seconding and thirding most of the other stuff, which other commenters have already supported): think of this next decade or two as a period of fasting. You will be familiar with fasts from your spiritual life, and you can apply the same principles to this financial journey. You will need to spend these next years doing something that is quite uncomfortable for you (working more, working jobs you don’t “love”, cutting back on expenses that you *think* are non-negotiable) but ultimately good for your body and soul.

    I also think Gillian above probably hit the nail right on the head when she suggested that you have a sense that money is bad and having/wanting/needing it is bad, so you treat it carelessly so as to feel like you’ve “detached” from it. But no one would say that about food, right? You might say that overindulging in food, or eating unhealthy foods, or using food in unhealthy manners is bad–but food itself is 100% necessary and can be a positive thing if used well. So think about money in the same way–it isn’t evil, and using it properly to care for future-you and your family isn’t wrong, so getting your financial house in order is not something inherently antithetical to your spiritual well-being.

    I wish you all the best in this period of financial fasting!

    • Lotus says:

      Yes, I really love this idea of fasting! And your analogy re money and food is really helpful too. Thank you so much Sarah. I feel galvanised for the challenge 🙂

  68. Debbie says:

    Yoga teacher here. Teaching yoga for most is extremely rewarding, but not so much in a financial sense. If you don’t feel ready to teach solo, find someone to shadow for a bit. When you begin, start with a small class maybe 5 or 6, not a huge group of varied skill levels at a community center. Teaching privately is more lucrative. If interested in this, find someone to inquire what the going rate is for your area. Bartering teaching a few classes for gym membership/access to someone else’s teaching is also a possibility.
    I spent a year living abroad without access to yoga classes and was thrown on my own resources and forced to use what I had learned to develop my own skills and practice. No classes, but no cost and an invaluable year.
    I substitute teach quite a bit and have developed a basic hour long class of asana and pranayama that with a few modifications, I am able to teach to a variety of skill levels. This makes it easy to show up and teach at a moment’s notice.
    There are expenses involved in teaching yoga – I pay through Yoga Alliance here in the US for liability insurance, yoga mats (if you practice daily, they do wear out), and clothing. Take care of yourself physically. Many teachers are sidelined with injuries.
    Congratulations on figuring out so many things about yourself. Except for the money thing, it sounds as if you are quite content. Lots of great suggestions here – dig in and solve the money issues. From a yogic standpoint, you are practicing satya (truthfulness) by acknowledging your situation and will practice tapas (discipline) by doing the things you need to do – working more, working differently with the skills you have, to move you past your current financial situation. Not all yoga takes place on the mat. Being a ‘householder’, with all its responsibilities, does not make us less spiritual. Best wishes on your journey forward.

    • Lotus says:

      Such great advice, thank you Debbie for sharing your experience. And of course yes, more expenses is a good point. I do have a space to teach for no rental fee though, so that’s one good thing.

      Indeed tapas! My teacher has encouraged me in this way with on the mat practice, so it’s good to remember I can tap into that off the mat too. And get some santosha and aparigraha practice on the way 🙂

  69. Jeannie Minnick says:

    Hello Lotus, Your story touched home to me as I am also a Yoga Teacher and forever a student on the path! I also have a degree in business and so I truly love yoga but yet there is not much money in it. I balance by doing what I am called to do and love to do – yoga and then work another job still serving people from all walks of life yet in a different way. This is the balance I have found and and we are forever seeking balance. We practice yoga and live our truth on and also off the mat. We need to make decisions and work towards some financial security and truth. There are many layers of being referring to Koshas – we also have that financial layer that we need to care for especially while we are able to do so. I am in my 50’s and just took on a customer service job to pay down debt. You can do this and you have all that you need already in you, push the pause Norton on additional training. Once you see progress in the finances then perhaps down the road. Thank you for sharing and be the change in whatever you decide! Namaste!!

    • Lotus says:

      I had never thought of the koshas in this way, but it really works – thank you Jeannie! Namaste to you also, I wish you ease on your path and much balance 🙂

  70. E S says:

    Hi Lotus,
    I am deeply moved by your sharing and willingness to put yourself out there!!! Knowing there will come suggestions for big changes, that doesn’t feel comfortable, at all. It takes bravery.

    There also need to be room for grief. For what has been and can’t be right now for example more time to enjoy life. And for past money mistakes that haunts our life now. etc.
    It could be a good suggestion to see those coming 20-25 years in the work force as one chapter in life focusing on getting out of debt a. s. a. p., building up your finances etc and know for sure that you can focus on other things when you are retired.

    I agree with previous commenter that perhaps you should look at your relationship with money. It could be linked with self worth. What money patterns did you see in your original family growing up? Mom? Dad? Other family members, people around? What did you internalise? What did you think “I will never do that”.

    I also took a loan from my sister once to cover some bills when I was in between jobs. I had secured the new job, but I hadn’t moved and started to work. Never again. I did not like the feeling and I payed her back as soon as possible. My sister teased me (that I was bad with money even though I had a higher salary than she at the time, a bad planner, an overspender etc. not without cause but it still hurt). That experience made me more motivated to always keep an emergency fund.

    Which brings me to the feeling that there are expences missing in your list. Please from now on track every expense. In a year from now you will have a clearer picture, including both needs and wants.
    Surely you must need home insurance even if you rent? What if there is a water damage, fire or burglar?
    Even if NHS take care of health I persume you will have to pay some nominal fee for visits? That it is not totally free? And the same goes for medication, that it is subsidized from taxes but not totally free? And travels back and forth to hospital has to be payed for.
    What about electronics? What happens when your phone is to old or your son or family needs a new computer?
    Or the TV or something else in the home needs replacing? Repairing a bicycle or replacing a suitcase. Renewing ID. The list of different possible expenses are long.
    After the debt has been payed of it would be great to start a monthly saving for recurring costs like travels to the family in the north, christmas and summer vacation.
    Pens and paper, even stamps, there are so many small expences that eventually add up.
    I have probably forgot many things.
    One idea could be to save and spend a small amount of money for yourself every month that you can do whatever you want with. Some call it splurge money, or fun money. It could be a way to trick the mind to stay on the path.

    I belive that you have many things on your CV -use them! Perhaps teach others about your minimalistic lifestyle? I know nothing about reducing things with 75% or living on that small clothes budget.

    If you have a strong urge to learn something new (and the time to do it ie after debt repayment) please use all the free resources that are out there like library, you tube. Or barter.

    Your community of fellow buddists seems to be very important to you and it is wonderful that you have found them! Please believe that you will be equally loved and appreciated even when you can not volunteer as much when you start to work full time and start different side hustles. It is ok to prioritize yourself and your son. I am sure they will understand.

    Good luck Lotus! I am sure many are looking forward to seeing an update.

    I am in a different situation but I think there are similarities.
    I have also had different jobs. I also love taking courses and learn new things. My brain craves it it seems. (But I don’t think there is any diagnosis behind.)
    Truth be told a part of me also want the retire early life without having reached FI, especially recently. Yes I know it sounds crazy. Normally I have a logic mind but recently I have dreamed a lot about winning the lottery.
    I am in my early 40s and recently become a mom for the first time. The love I feel for my child took me by surprise. I used to call me a feminist. Now I am first of all a mom and then a different kind of feminist. Even though I live in one of the countries that do offer payed parental leave I absolute hate and dread the idea of in the future having to leave my child at daycare to go to a less inspiring job. (Nope I have reached my 40’s and still haven’t found my true calling or passion, and I think I am starting to give up that dream. I have a severe allergy for bosses and office politics, it’s not necessarily always the job that is the problem for me.) Well first I have to find a new job, daytime and preferably that allows me to work part time. Since the job I left before going on parental leave demands work also at odd hours, weekends, nights etc. which is hard to combine with being a single parent.
    I am sure the day care personnel is kind and pedagogical, but what my child needs right now seems to be love, attention and a warm embrace, and love can’t be bought. The big groups of kids at day care also scares me, I am not convinced my child would thrive under those circumstances. (In my country 16 kids on 3 staff for 1-3 year olds and 25+ kids on 3 staff for 4-5 year olds seems to be common.) Day care is heavily subsidized so the cost is not really a problem if I start to work. I just wish I could get some of my tax money back even if I don’t use the standard currently in my country politically correct choice of daycare. (I respect that others have different needs of a career for example and I am sure there are plenty of parents who claim there kids love the day care. I am positive towards that there should be a plethora of choices and up to every family to decide what is best for them.)

    I feel lika I am in a sort of existential crisis of not being able to be the parent I want to be, that my hearts urge me to be. I feel so torn between my financial reality and my longing. And I feel like nobody understands me, which is perhaps why I write this long text. I know that I am fortunate in many ways and that my situation could be worse. It still doesn’t make it easier to go against what your heart tells you to do.

    I am a single parent, single mother by choice (SMC) so if I don’t return to the workforce my family will have 0 income, which is a scary thought. Some friends ask me if I don’t long for going back to work. Nope, not a single day. Taking care of my child feels more rewarding than any job I have ever had, no matter the pay check.
    Another friend just recently asked me to take the head out of the clouds since obviously I am not rich enough to stay be a stay at home parent. I guess that is similar to all the ”grow up” comments you have received here Lotus.

    So I am torn between apparently opposing wants. I want to be the best parent to my child possible, secure a good attachment and enjoy the first precious years that will never come back. And I have also started to dream about homeschooling, world schooling etc. (For home schooling I would have to immigrate since it is forbidden in my country. I am sure that is hard to understand for some body living in the US, Canada or GB.) I could stay at home longer but then I would eventually deplete my emergency fund and eventually start depleting my investments for financial independence. This might be my only child. To qualify for more parental leave days for a potential sibling I would have to work again for a certain time, if the second child doesn’t come within a certain short time frame, (very strange rule) and I am not even sure I want to have children close in age.
    So many choices; enjoy the here and now, plan for a second child (that might never arrive looking at my age I was lucky to conceive even this child), concentrate on FIRE and be done with working.

    So what choices do I have?
    One extreme is to stay at home as long as I have money without going into debt…
    But it pains me to think that my past efforts would vanish. I started to save on every paycheck in 2013, then eventually discoverd FIRE and set a firegoal in 2017. Before that I thought fire was for others and not possible for me. Downside: possibly harder to find work when I’ve been outside the workforce for a longer time. Getting longer from my FIREgoal.
    Another extreme would be to as quickly as possible find new work and work full time, knowing very well that my child would have very long days at day care. 10 hours or possibly more with lunchbreak and transportation. On the plus side would be to continue moving towards fire.
    A third option would be to work part time and only work as much as possible to scrape by, ie not touch my savings but not being able to add to them either. I think it would be hard to find well payed job for a few hours a week. Downside: No closer to fire. All the long term disadvantages with day care.
    A forth ooption would be to reduce my hours but still earn enough to save something. Since I am not fond of my career I think I need to know that I move the needle to be able to go to work without becoming depressed…
    And other choices that I haven’t seen jet.
    I have been dabbling with the thought of working from home, but I think it is hard if you don’t share childcare with a partner. My child is lovely but has never slept a lot.

    Dreaming about getting a sibling sounds irresponsible from a financial point of view, still doesn’t stop the longing. And time is against me.

    With a very optimistic mind I could reach FIRE in 10 years time. It could be even quicker but then something dramaticly positive needs to happen. A more realistic plan the goal is probably 15 even 17 years ahead of me. Then my child will be off. How do one balance needs and wants in the here and now compared to the needs and wants for a future self?

    • Lotus says:

      Thank you E S – there’s a lot here and I don’t have a huge amount of time, so apologies that this response doesn’t get to everything you mentioned. I really resonated with what you said about grief. Last night I responded to most of the comments here and reflected some more about the advice. I was surprised how emotionally exhausting it was and I think probably some of that was grief, as you suggest. Very astute.

      There aren’t many things missing tbh – paper pens stamps etc usually get covered in the supermarket shop that Rowan does. No, we don’t have to pay for anything for health appointments. To date I’ve luckily been very healthy so not much on medicines – I’d say max one prescription in two years, but probably not even that much (they are less than £10 I think). But I definitely need more sinking funds for more misc items like that, that might crop up in the future.

      It’s hard to make these choices isn’t it. For me (and I’m clearly not in a brilliant position to give advice) in the early years with a child I think a good bond together is vital. My son has had such a smooth ride through life to date because he’s really secure and knows he’s loved and had a good amount of time with both me and his dad. He did go to nursery but that was part-time for a couple of days a week. It really helped his development I think – mixing with other kinds of people, learning new things… he had a super lovely bond with his key worker there, he used to draw pictures of her flying through the sky with him, both with capes on! So there are definite benefits to some daycare, but maybe not super loads in the early years. You never get that time back. Someone above said that life has chapters, and the early mothering chapter is a particularly special one.

      However, I would also not get into debt. If I could do things over that would be the big one. I think what I’ve learned with this exercise is that compromises have to be made (e.g. I want to live life like X but actually it needs to be Y for now) and delayed gratification has to happen. So maybe there’s a balanced path you can take – working some, but not super long hours?

      Wishing you so well with it all and thanks for sharing, E S!

    • Lotus says:

      ps maybe you could do a frugalwoods case study?! 🙂

  71. Jessica says:

    Wanted to comment on the rent vs buy question since I haven’t seen many comments about that, and hopefully I can help you see it a little differently!
    Owning a house has SO many unpredictable variable costs, and they are very large! Not sure about the UK, but my parents recently paid $30K USD for a necessary repair (not an upgrade!) and will need to pay $8K soon for another. It sounds like you are already leaning towards renting, but wanted to mention that one of the (many) big benefits of renting is not being responsible for those variable costs! Since you mention challenges with other variable costs, I definitely wanted to mention this.
    Also, echoing the comments that renting isn’t throwing money away. Most importantly, you are paying for your housing, just like buying food or other necessities isn’t throwing money away. But secondly, the common “wisdom” that home ownership is a good investment is not necessarily true. Sometimes buying is the better financial option, sometimes it isn’t. It depends on the costs in the area (New York Times has a “rent vs buy” calculator that is great to show a concept of this comparison, though I’m guessing it’s not totally equivalent in the UK) and it also depends on luck of the repair/maintenance costs, how much the property value rises, and the timing of the market when/if you are selling. ALSO while owning a home does contribute to your net worth, it is a very non-fluid asset, it is not easy to quickly turn into money that can be used on anything else. So it’s not quite as useful as just having that same amount of money.
    I am not opposed to home ownership – I think it’s the right choice for many people and it certainly could be for you and your partner in the future once you both can have and maintain a large emergency fund for variable repair / maintenance expenses – but renting is also an awesome option that people often underappreciate. It might always be the right choice for you to rent, and you are getting many benefits from that as well.

    Good luck! You sound like you have an amazing foundation of family and spiritual life, and now are getting to work towards having a similarly strong financial foundation. 🙂

    • Lotus says:

      Such good points and this is actually a relief! I think I don’t really want to own right now. I particularly resonate with the ‘non-fluid asset’ thing, makes a lot of sense.

      Thank you Jessica!

    • Sue says:

      There are positives and negatives to both, but my main perspective on renting vs buying is that eventually, you can pay off a mortgage and own a home and no longer have mortgage payments. If you don’t, then even in ‘retirement’ (whatever that means to you) , you will always have to continue paying rent, and be at the ‘mercy’ of a landlord’s decision. I know it’s not always black & white and there’s not a right and wrong answer (owning a home means you still have to pay for its upkeep), but that’s what motivated me to buy. The hard part is finding somewhere these days that’s affordable, without a huge mortgage. It is more difficult later in life when there is less time to pay it off, but not impossible, if you keep all options open re: location and how (little) space we a actually need and use. Good luck, Lotus, it’s been great to read your responses. You’ll soon be on a better track x

  72. Kay says:

    Hi Lotus, I think you are very brave to be so open about your life and finances. I heard something on a podcast recently that resonated with me, and maybe it will with you, too:

    “It’s almost as if people are looking for the key to fit into the lock for the thing that was meant for them to do…and then everything will be wonderful. …[H]ere’s where I really think the answer lies…: Stop looking for your passion and instead look around right where you are. Stop distracting yourself and look around right where you are and see what needs to be done. So not ‘what do I want to do’ but ‘what is the work that needs to be done’. …[I]f we all did that, I really think the world would be a much better place.”

    This is from an interview with Dr. Anna Lembke on the Huberman Lab Podcast. I love this quote because I spent much of my life feeling bad that I never found my “passion” (until I had the good fortune to become a stay-at-home mom). Dr. Lembke’s advice to instead look around and see what needs to be done, to use what you already have to fill a need, makes so much sense to me.

    Don’t be dissuaded by some of the harsh advice on here. It’s easy to judge when you’re sitting behind a computer screen. The fact that you’re here indicates you know there’s a problem and you’re willing to address it. Many of us are rooting for you!

    • Lotus says:

      Hi Kay – this is lovely, and very Buddhist too! To be with what is here and do what is needed. Yes, I can get behind that.

      Thank you Kay for the kind words. It’s so easy to be disheartened by negative comments but you’re right, I do feel the support of people rooting for me and need to focus on that. I appreciate your comment very much

  73. camila says:

    YOGA WITH ADRIENE. AMAZING AND FREE!!!!!

    love from Brazil.

  74. Shelley says:

    Hi Lotus, I really appreciated your openness and vulnerability in talking about your finances. Thank you for sharing with us! I wanted to mention that if you’re looking for free ways to keep learning, EdX and Coursera offer free courses in so many topics, including anatomy and physiology (I believe you mentioned you are looking at a class in this area). I love to learn too, and accessing courses online was helpful to me when I had to really tighten my financial belt a couple of years ago. They can be a great way to add free/inexpensive certifications in areas like writing, marketing, SEO optimization and communications, too, which will help you be even more competitive for new positions, if you decide to go that route.
    Sending you best wishes on your financial journey!

  75. Mama Minou says:

    Hello Lotus, I would love to hear your thoughts and responses to some of the suggestions here, if that is something you felt comfortable sharing. (It is also understandable if it is something you need time to sit with!). Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks Mama Minou – I have replied to all of the comments, so hopefully you should get a good sense from that 🙂

      • MamaMinou says:

        Sorry, for some reason they were not updating for me! I am so impressed with all the steps you have taken and feel the excitement of building a plan. 🙏

  76. Anne T says:

    Hi Lotus

    You’ve received many helpful and sometime challenging suggestions, and you don’t need me to repeat them. I just wanted to add 3 thoughts;

    You and Rowan have a long lasting relationship, but it is always good for each of you to maintain the ability to support the family. One day Rowan may want some time out, or may be ill or unable to work for some reason. It would be a great gift to him if he knew that you were able to provide for your family’s needs if for some reason he couldn’t contribute as usual. Also there is dignity in work and being independent.

    Some people have mentioned government work. It’s called public service for a reason….. you may not earn as much as in the private sector but you are serving your community, and it seems that you have many skills that you could use in this way.

    And thirdly, as a mother of 3 adult children who all had many music lessons, I would suggest that you keep the music lessons in perspective. I have gladly paid many thousands of dollars in music fees which have benefited my children and supported their teachers. But there is a difference between joyfully participating in music and becoming a serious performer. As your son gets older he will have opportunities through school to be in orchestras and performance groups, and that may be enough for him. If he really wants the private lessons great, but in time he will need to commit to them through dedicated practice etc. if you don’t see that commitment from him then I would let it go. I have seen my children’s friends with real talent who just didn’t have the passion to succeed, and then lost the enjoyment of music as well through overdoing it. If your son wants more than to be an enthusiastic amateur he needs to lead that.

    You seem like a very caring intuitive mother, but your son might have dreams and ideas for the future you can’t even imagine yet. If he really has the passion for music I’m sure he will be happy to contribute to the cost in time ( or through scholarships etc).

    Best of luck, remember you don’t have to improve everything overnight. Just as you didn’t become a yoga teacher in a couple of days, you might take some time to achieve your financial goals. Don’t let setbacks stop you succeeding in the long run, every small step will help.

    • Lotus says:

      My son is OBSESSED with piano, I am literally always telling him to be quiet haha! He is very musically talented and orientated and this runs in the family, back some generations. But I *did* stop his singing lessons yesterday. I can tutor him in that if he needs it.

      I love the point about the partnership, about carrying finances when needed. I found that actually really motivating! Thank you for the support and lovely suggestions

  77. KnoxPatch says:

    Hey there from Tennessee, Lotus!
    I truly enjoyed your case study and respect your honesty and openness with the Frugalwoods community. I agree with Mrs. Frugalwoods’ action plan for you and your family. Her advice is spot on.

    My work experience was in training and project management at a not-for-profit for 30+ years. Not every day was exciting or fulfilling but it did offer good benefits and a secure (yeah, nothing is for sure) earlyish retirement.

    Work is never all one way. For me, some days were absolutely terrific and others were a disaster with tears and exhaustion as my ‘reward’. I doubt work is the be-all and end-all for any of us and that’s just fine. It’s a means to an end. So my suggestion is to get the most pay you can for your time at work. This will likely happen in gradual steps but I would focus on getting the most money possible for your services.

    Your next chapter won’t be all gray doom and gloom. It can be exhilarating when you do something different, like working full-time and building up your assets. There is satisfaction and pleasure in supporting yourself, your family, and your family’s future. Honestly Lotus, it’s okay to make money and have a financial cushion.

    Every workplace should have a Lotus!

  78. Lotus says:

    UPDATE: Steps taken already 🙂

    – Refinanced loan #1 from 18.6% to 11.4% (best I could do with my credit rating)
    – Cancelled yoga and exercise
    – Cancelled singing lessons for son (saved over £200pa)
    – Asked my boss if I can increase hours, will have conversation soon after he’s thought about it
    – Started my expense tracking notebook
    – Planned what I need in sinking funds and worked out monthly amount needed for each big expense (Christmas, half yearly oil bill, new glasss etc.)
    – I’m mid setting up a 3% interest regular saving account, to put some in each month
    – Looking into ways of making little bits of extra like switching bank accounts to get some free cash and selling some books and a flute I have
    – Remembered I have a close and very frugal friend and asked her to be my monthly accountability partner, so I can tell her what I’ve spent each month

    I have kept Netflix, Buddhist donation and magazine subscription for now. That’s £30 per month. I will be aiming to bring in more income and will keep these in review. I am up for thinking about pausing these but it might take me a bit of time. I’m kind of ok with that for now.

    Feeling HOPEFUL!!! You’ve all been so great, I really appreciate it

    • Lily says:

      Wow, Lotus! I’ve been reading through all the comments and am SO impressed by all the steps you’ve already taken. Bravo! Especially with that loan refinance and activity cancellations, you are going to see lots of savings in this first month alone. I am cheering for you, please keep us updated on your progress!

    • Leslie says:

      Good job getting all that going!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Woohoo! Congrats, Lotus! That’s an incredible amount of progress in a very short time period!!

    • Lotus says:

      Thanks everyone! Feeling motivated. Also did a snowball calculation and if I were to pay and extra £100 towards my debt each month I could be debt free in just over a year. That is EXCITING!

      • Maria says:

        This is indeed exciting! You ROCK! I enjoyed reading your story and everyone’s comments, !

      • Sally Mangan says:

        We are all proud of you Lotus! I know this has to have been difficult for you, but the steps you have taken and the way you have been open to suggestions speaks well of your desire to make changes. Please keep us updated on how things are going.

      • Jessica says:

        This is AMAZING! Congratulations and good luck!

    • Jean says:

      Well done, Lotus – you are now firmly on your way to financial peace and security. Asking your frugal friend to “buddy” you was an excellent idea and should prove an invaluable help.

      Jean

    • Kay says:

      This is wonderful to read! Keep the momentum going!

    • Stephen says:

      I am delighted to hear about the loan financing – that will make a major difference. I was going to suggest becoming a member of a credit union if you have one where you live, both to park your savings and for a cheaper loan. I am also rooting for you that your boss lets you increase your hours. All the best for your journey!

    • Sue says:

      Brilliant, Lotus! Very inspiring! x

    • Deborah says:

      Just read through this whole thread. Some excellent advice and suggestions here, and what a brilliant start you’ve made already! I’m sure it will be tough along the way, but I’m sure you can stick with it and there will be a great sense of achievement (and maybe ability to save a bit) once you get those debts cleared up. Good luck, and I hope you’ll feel able to check back in to say how it’s going from time to time xx

  79. Whit says:

    Have you thought of making a visual representation of your debt payoff? And put the date you will be debt free on there, too, and update it if it changes. That may help motivate you to save the small amounts and put them towards debt. I really think £10 here and there will make a difference. Good luck!

  80. Mlonica says:

    I did not read through all the many comments, so perhaps this has been suggested, but are you sure you son WANTS three different types of music lessons? Maybe he would be happy with just one or two of these. If so, you could drop one or two and have that little bit extra money for paying off debts each month. Or perhaps he could rotate. One type for 6 months at a time?

    • Lotus says:

      Hey thanks – yep we just quit singing. He’s been trying things out to see what he likes, hence doing 3, but I think actually singing is easy to learn other ways (and I sing, so can support him more directly)

  81. Natalie says:

    I will speak only of my own experience: I had a Ph.D. in literature and became an adjunct. The good aspect voluntary work in a profession which will exploit you is that I had the freedom to be myself in the classroom. I know that others have mentioned teaching but I was able to cobble a modest and enjoyable life that way. Not spending money was a great practice and I was content not to join the rat race of financial worry. You could inquire into various schools and colleges and your local university. Teaching can be a great Buddhist practice. The classroom can feel and be authentic. I love your spirit!

  82. Maria says:

    Soooo much good advice! I am 50 , I have worked 2 days for 26 years, have worked so hard to save and be frugal, while raising my 3 kids kids with my husband.. Many sacrifices were made. Working part time was indeed a big gift that I didn’t take for granted. I knew full time was not for me, Please update us on Lotus in a year!

  83. Carrie says:

    Lotus – you are highly skilled in communications. Your tone and messaging in response to difficult comments is impressive. Given this, and given my background in managing budgets for nonprofits, I recommend that you ask for a raise immediately. Yes, increase hours and yes, look for side gigs, but also ask for more money for the work you’re currently doing. I’m confident you’re adding a lot of value at your organization that goes well beyond 3.5 days a week.

  84. Isa says:

    I don`t know how it works where you live but here in Canada to be a physiotherapist it`s 5 years in University (Bachelor + Masters). But there`s also a 2 years course to become a ”physiotherapist and occupationnal therapist assistant“ , which is what I did. Maybe you also gave that option? I am working in a hospital. It`s a good salary for the required schooling, but it`s hard physically. This is really something you have to consider : there`s a lot of lifting people, patients sometimes fall and you can fall with them and hurt yourself (been there, done that!), LOTS of bending down, walking, lifting equipment, etc. Let me repeat : it`s VERY physical (same at PT). So personnally, at 41, I am now retraining to become a Social Worker. I want to use my body less and my mind more. I got hurt twice in the last year and I don’t want to finish my life physically broken.
    It`s never too late to go back to school but after 40 it needs to be worth it, since retirement is not so far away.
    I wish you good luck!

  85. JD says:

    Wow, Lotus has already made some major changes! Come back, Lotus, to update us or get encouragement if you start to flag a bit.

  86. Rachelle says:

    Hi Lotus, Thanks for sharing your story! I identify with feeling like I’ve not found my thing yet and finding it difficult to work just for money. I’d like to recommend The Art of Money by Bari Tessler. I found her approach incredibly helpful to bring mindfulness to my relationship with money and indeed, to think of it as a relationship and not just a burden. The budget category renaming exercise alone was worth reading the book and the whole thing was super helpful for connecting my values with both my spending and my earning. Good luck with your journey and I look forward to seeing your update!

  87. Ness says:

    I’d recommend singing lessons for your son before any religious donation, as you mention. Family should come first I think.
    I agree with someone saying make gifts- people love home baking. Why not bake for gifts and also bake for your family on the same day?
    Look after yourself before any religion. You could always donate a yoga class once a week for your religious group, instead of donating money.

  88. Jessica says:

    Hi Lotus, Thank you for sharing your story with us. Please recognize that you have already met several of your 10-years-from-now goals! (Specifically, the first three under “lifestyle”.). You are (mostly) living the life now that you want/envison for your future self . Don’t forget to celebrate this while reorienting your financial life.

  89. Elz says:

    Hi,

    My advice as a fellow UK yoga lover would be to check your current non state pension status while you’re getting rid of debt. Is it a DB or DC one, what is it invested in ? What fees are you paying? Any previous employer pension somewhere? Are you missing out on a match ? It’s very important as it can earn you a lot of money down the line. You mention having a workplace pension so it should be tracked in your assets. Pensions can be overwhelming but it will be very rewarding if you look into it.

  90. B says:

    Hi Lotus! I am fairly late to the comments here, but I just wanted to pop in and say a heartfelt KUDOS to you for all you’ve opened yourself up to and for the steps you’ve already taken to examining and taking steps forward with your financial status. You have replied to all comments with such grace, it’s heartwarming. Don’t let up – keep moving forward, the years we all have in which we can earn money are usually more limited than the years in which we’ll be spending money. One idea that might benefit you, as it sounds like you DO enjoy gift giving and many commenters have suggested yoga lessons, guided meditation, etc. maybe also consider if there’s a friend you don’t see “often enough” to perhaps gift them a “Sunday afternoon” date of meeting for tea or coffee together at either one’s home or via Zoom/video chat each weekend for a month, perhaps after the holidays…or whatever works for both schedules. Our time is a gift from and for our friends. … Finally, celebrate each stepstone you are reaching as you pursue your financial security! Best of luck!

  91. Victoria DL says:

    Hi Lotus, thank you for sharing your story, which was a really interesting read. I am in the UK too…. you may have already explored this, but have you looked into whether you are eligible for any state support through benefits other than child benefit – housing, council tax etc? Appreciate you may be over the threshold due to combined household income but thought it was worth mentioning. Very best of luck with everything xx

  92. Isabel says:

    Hi Lotus,

    It’s wonderful to hear you’re getting yourself into financial shape.
    As someone else who works in the charity sector, my main advice is that you keep motivation on why you need to budget when it gets too hard. When you want to splurge, or not being able to afford something feels too challenging, you can boost your mood with these reminders,

    Some more ideas from someone else England based:
    1. I know said your type of yoga isn’t one where you can work for classes, but it is worth getting in touch with teachers/ studios and ask them about being a ‘karma yogi’ (helping set up and clean up) or about places for those in financial difficulties. I’m based in London and these are widely available – the latter especially since Covid. It may not be your preferred yoga but one class a week in person combined with other free, online classes may keep you going and part of the yoga community until you can afford your preferred classes again.
    2. I see that you love your local library! Have you and your son/ partner downloaded the Libby app? You can load up your library card and use it for lots of resources including newspapers, audio books, electronic books and even subscriptions to services that your whole family can do online courses with. Also, speak to library staff about any clubs, activities and resources they may have for free. Library staff are usually fantastic sources of knowledge!
    3. Your son may be able to get some free or discounted classes through either his school or charities which provide musical education. I would speak to your son’s music teachers at school for advice and tips.
    4. Have you considered a bank account with Monzo? It allows you to track your spending on your smart phone very easily and save into different saving “pots”. I found it instrumental in allowing me to budget on a weekly, monthly and annual basis and would thoroughly recommend it as a budgeting tool. For example, you could create a pot for Christmas and pay into it on a monthly basis. It is satisfying to see yourself reaching your goals consistently through use of these.
    5. You sound like you have the skills for tutoring! I would think of all the skills your can tutor in (for example, music theory?). Then you can locally advertise or start networking among local schools/ parents. I have a friend who is putting her language skills to use this way to boost her income. Once she started tutoring one GCSE student, the parents recommended her to other parents.
    6. Citizens Advice’s often have debt advisors. You’ve already gathered all important personal data for here. It would be worth seeing if you can get a meeting and seeing what their view is. They may be able to advise you on particular credit card options or any benefits you’re entitled to and are not claiming.

    Good luck with your continued efforts. Best of luck!

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