My first job after finishing my MBA was a brutal experience. I realized within the first week that it was the wrong place to be and that I'd sought out and accepted the job for the wrong reasons. It was a year of pure personal hell. I'd leave the office at lunch to go cry in my car and I'd even cry on my way to and from work. My husband would plead with me on a regular basis to just quit. But, because I was the primary breadwinner at the time, and because of my ego, I stuck it out until I was "thanked for my services" near the end of my first year. I was the sacrificial lamb and the a-holes who made life miserable for me got the keep their jobs. Harsh.
Introducing the "Burger Flippin'" Rule.
The burger flippin' rule was borne out of that experience. What is the burger flippin' rule? It's simple: my at-the-time soon-to-be husband and I would keep our lifestyle in check so that either, or both, of us could "flip burgers" for a living if that's what made us happy. We wouldn't be slaves to a job because of a big house, big car, or big [financial obligation du jour].
That promise lead us to live below our means and avoid debt (OK, except for a very stupid decision to buy an SUV at one point). Our level of saving was definitely not as badass as it eventually became, but it did give us a lot of leeway when it came to potential fluctuations in income.
Anytime we wanted to make a change to our lifestyle, we looked at what it meant, how much we would need to borrow (such as buying a home) and ensured that, even with a job loss, no one would have our necks in a noose. I guess you could say that our jobs were to maximize our happiness by maximizing personal security as opposed to maximizing our status-enhancing possessions.
We didn't know it at the time, but this was the start of our journey towards frugality and financial independence. We learned many lessons along the way, and increased our savings and investment savvy as a result, but the foundation was a solid one and I recommend it often.
The rule has served its purpose a number of times over the more than 13 years it's been in effect. It has allowed my husband to change careers three times and enabled me to resign from a high-paying but soul-sucking position 18 months ago without wondering how we would manage without the income.
Could you decide to flip burgers today?
If you cannot truly say that you can leave your job now if you feel that your life's calling is to flip burgers or to do some other low (or no) salary work, then the question is:
What would you have to do to be able to say "yes"?
- Stop buying on credit?
- Start an "emergency fund"?
- Sell some of your expensive sh*t?
- Increase your monthly savings percentage?
- Move to a less expensive home or apartment?
- Ditch expensive habits, memberships and "friends"?
- Stop useless/destructive habits (smoking, excessive drinking, shopping, gambling)?
Being able to say "yes" to that question is priceless. The payoff is HUGE!
- Won't feel deprived if you choose to change careers.
- See the potential in yourself and can feel free to explore it.
- Sleep soundly at night knowing your aren't "stuck" financially.
- Spend more time thinking the world is full of opportunities, not constraints.
- Have no one to answer to but yourself (and your supportive potential burger-flippin' family members).
Whether this level of lifestyle management results in you choosing to wear a paper hat (and having a manager half your age) or not is up to you. It's the bada** grin no one will be able to wipe off your face that matters.
(Special thanks to Mrs. Frugal Woods for making me think of our "flippin' rule" with her post "Behind the Scenes of a Happy Frugal Marriage".)
What about you? Are you a potential burger flipper? Have you made a significant change in your life as a result of having the personal freedom to do what you want to do?