Survivability in the 21st Century: Needs Versus Wants

This morning I was inspired to write a post on survivability after I noticed someone had reached my website after Googling the phrase “I only make 80k a year, how can I survive?” The first thought that went through my head was, “You have got to be joking, right?”

By now, readers of my blog know that I have an obsession with numbers. In fact, it’s one of the primary “hobbies” that takes up what little spare time I have outside of writing, gaming, traveling and reading. Most of the topics on my blog deal with rates and numbers as they relate to writers on a global scale, and this post is no different. But rather than argue the merits of one style or another, or focus on rates as a whole, I like to focus on the little things that make the difference for writers around the world, regardless of which city or country they call home.

I’m assuming the individual in question who arrived at my website is living and working in the United States. Personally, I have to question the standards of living a person has if they are questioning whether or not they can “survive” on 80k a year.

Seriously. Think about it.

If you’ve read my other posts on the subject, such as Obsession with Numbers, What is Success and the finale to my Content Writing Experiment, you will see a continuing theme that echoes throughout: the concept of livable wages. Bearing in mind that the average wage of a U.S. Citizen is 18 USD per hour (as of 2009), that’s a grand total of 34-35k a year. Combined income of 70k a year. That’s the average income of a U.S. household.

Livable wages are determined by your spending habits and cost of living. While the cost of living is somewhat dependent upon where you live in the world, your spending habits are reliant upon one thing and one thing only: you. In my last post on the subject, I showed the average spending habits of the average U.S. household.

I am a firm believer in people taking charge of their lives. This is a global concept; it does not relate specifically to the freelance writer. Think about your own life. Do you:

  • Work 40 hours a week (or more)
  • Make up to the average wage of a U.S. Citizen? (18 USD per hour)
  • Feel apprehensive about the thought of taking a day or two off of work because you either cannot afford to lose the pay or are afraid of being fired
  • Feel apprehensive about the fact you need to take a personal day/sick day but your boss/employer might fire you because you are already over your limit
  • Want to spend more time with your kids/family
  • Find yourself continually stressed about the fact you are going to have to work your fingers to the bone for the next 30-40 years until you hopefully pay everything off and maybe get to enjoy some of your savings after you turn 60 years old

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you aren’t in control of your life. You aren’t successful…you are barely surviving.

Based upon the aforementioned post that details the average spending habits of the average U.S. household, people are spending excessive amounts of money on “entertainment”. Don’t get me wrong…I’m a huge believer in the value of entertainment. In fact, it was my love of life and entertainment that encouraged me to make the move across the pond with my wife when the opportunity presented itself. Location Independence, somewhat, although we don’t technically live on the move. We simply relocated to another country, rather than the U.S. But I digress. The point is this: people are spending excessive amounts of money only because they lack control. Someone making 80k a year should be more than capable of providing for an entire family (2 adults, 2 dependents) and still have money left over to spend.

80k a year should be more than enough to pay for an entire family to live comfortably. In fact, in almost every country around the world the equivalent of 80k USD a year is definitely more than enough for an entire family to live like kings. If you look at the post I wrote regarding the cost of living in Italy versus the United States, you will see that an equivalent annual salary would allow you to live like a rock star. And, if you are a frugal individual, the same could be true in the States. If you know how to manage your spending habits.\

Writing from home is a blessing in and of itself because you eliminate transportation completely. No vehicle means no mandatory insurance, no vehicle maintenance, no car payments, no gas bill, no parking fees, nothing. I don’t know about you, but my last vehicle in the States was costing me around 250 USD a month in payments, 100 USD a month for full coverage insurance, 700 USD a year for tires, and another 1,500 a year for maintenance (minimum). That alone is around 2,500 a year, before factoring in gas. The last time I drove a vehicle was in 2007; I was spending upwards of 800 dollars a month in gas, but I also commuted a lot. For me, it was costing around 12-14k a year just to drive a vehicle.

12-14k a year.

Cutting a vehicle out of our necessary bills was a major bonus for our income. That’s 12-14k a year we get to stick in the savings now, because we don’t need it to get around. Think you do? Think again.

The average person can walk 3 miles in an hour, or cycle 10 miles in an hour. That means if you live within 10 miles of your office you could be getting a healthy dose of cardio every morning/afternoon (which gets you in better shape and out of the 70% of U.S. residents/citizens who are overweight, 30% of whom are obese, with only 8% of those having an actual hormonal reason for being so according to the CDC and the Mayo Clinic), and your commute time will be within an hour. Grocery store a couple miles from the house? That’s a 20 minute bike ride or a 40 minute walk, both of which are good for your health. As a writer, you don’t need a vehicle. You don’t need to transport tools to and from a job-site; your tools are in your office. And unless you are physically handicapped in some way or live out in the boonies, you really don’t need a vehicle. Sure, it’s convenient, but is it a necessity? Not in the least.

This is just one of the many ways you can add bonus money to your annual spending capabilities.

Do you want to live the life you want to live, or do you want to barely scrape by? I’m not going to make up your mind for you, but I can say this: it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to make the right changes to have a successful career/life. Scrutinize your own survivability and determine whether you actually need all those little things that continually drain money out of your account.

T.W. Anderson is the founder of Complete Writing Solutions, and is a freelance writer specializing in travel writing, website content, interior design and home improvement, green-related topics, as well as anything else potential clients need him to be.

Posted in Being a Green Freelancer, Freelance Writing 101 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
4 comments on “Survivability in the 21st Century: Needs Versus Wants
  1. Kimberly says:

    I completely agree with this entire post, but them I’m also a huge advocate for the simple living lifestyle.

  2. Hola, Kimberly.

    IMO, it’s not just about living “simply”. My wife and I live high on the hog, we just choose to spend our money on other things, such as travel and adventure, rather than “things”.

    Many people spend far too much time/energy/resources on things which are completely unnecessary. For example…a dryer. Sure, it’s convenient to have your clothing dried in 30-45 minutes, but is it necessary? Not in the least. You would be surprised how much you can cut from your annual utility bill by cutting corners on the little things.

    Thanks for your comment and best of luck out there!

  3. I really enjoy reading you blog which spirit me up and pursue for future.You really an outstanding person just the same as your articles.I really have a nice time with you.Thank you very much!

  4. Hello.This article was really interesting, particularly because I was browsing for thoughts on this issue last Saturday.

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