Why people who choose to earn less after uni have more fun
Mo’ money mo’ problems
My theory is that people who earn less have more fun. We’re basically students with more money and less time, so may as well make it count.
Living in a three-room flat in Islington costs me around £600 per month. In practical terms, this means my salary is half what it is on paper.
But that’s fine – because earning less means I spend my money better. I never think of my income as disposable; instead, I approach it as I did when I was a student, using my imagination to flex funds further.
Because firstly, obviously, a limited balance reduces your options. This means you have to be creative. You cannot default to doing unimaginative, “nice” things – a £4 piece of cake at Borough Market, say – because you’re already bringing packed lunch to work so you don’t spaff all your weekend money on Pret, and the carrot cake would cancel out the money saved by carting in homemade sandwiches.
And consequently, you discover that the coolest parts of any city are the affordable places: Efes in Dalston, a speakeasy in Spitalfields, the rooftop at the appallingly-named One New Change. And actually, putting on your best dark green trousers and fur coat to buy a £4 piece of gluten-free carrot cake at Borough Market is not just inaccessible but rather dull.
Plus, I know that I have chosen my job for its content not its salary. And I like being surrounded by people who’ve done the same. No number of fancy dinners or expensive bottles of wine merit running yourself into the ground, alongside frantic others doing the same. Yet so many people do.
I invited a friend who works at a top law firm to one of our office parties recently, and they said to me: “This isn’t the real world.” By that she meant partying after work and getting drunk with your colleagues was abnormal. But what does that even mean? I squinted between the lines and reckon it was a larger judgement about direction. I haven’t chosen to go down the path of the high-earners like so many other graduates at my university (Durham); it doesn’t mean what I do isn’t real.
Why waste your best years in a top firm preparing for the future? There’s nothing fun about working 88 hours a week. Saving shows foresight – but it distracts from the business of living. If you’re always planning ahead how can you think now?
Fun is all relative. You don’t need more money to have more of it, you need more time. Get the experience now, save the references for later. Be a yoga-instructor, work a ski season, get on your bike for Deliveroo. We’re too young to have worked our way up the ladder to worry much about losing out on promotions, and being on a base wage means we appreciate the finer things more because they don’t come easy.
The Shard can wait, alcohol is alcohol whether you’re sat up there in a suit or wearing leggings and a jumper drinking Bin in Spoons. Lloyd’s can have their after-work £26 bottles of wine and their hangover Fridays; PWC is welcome to its private dining at Sexy Fish. I didn’t dry my hair this morning because I don’t have a hairdryer and buying one’s a boring expense – and who cares when it’s going to get sweaty in Hackney, after I’ve paid £3 to gain entry to a small white room with an eight foot sound system.
Earning is draining; good times come cheap.