Why I Would Rather Be Poor Than Work for Someone Else

This is what life should be about!

This is what life should be about!

As most people know, my kids typically go to daycare Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  And it’s been pretty nice.  Greg takes them to daycare on his way into work, which leaves me with the entire day to work on writing projects, tinker with our two websites, and do housework.  And, thanks to warmer weather, I’ve also been taking 20 or 30 minutes to get a short exercise walk in.  Other days, I get an early start on a really nice dinner that’s ready and waiting when Greg and the kids get home.

But it wasn’t always this way.  I used to have a 9-5 job outside of the home, and our life was quite different back then.  A lot different.  In fact, when I look back on those days, I often wonder how I did it.  Here’s why:

Vacation Was Impossible

When we first started working at our old place of employment, we got 15 PTO days each.  Three weeks doesn’t sound so bad, but it’s not that great since those 15 days were our vacation days, our sick days, and our kid’s sick days.  Add in the fact that Greg’s family lives out of state and that means that we were always scrambling to find ways to stretch our days.  We usually had to pray that no one got sick in November and December because we would literally have zero days off.  And since we “earned” our vacation days as the year progressed, we couldn’t take any unpaid time off.  We were literally stuck with 15 days a year- for vacation, for family obligations, and for the days when one of us got sick.  It sucked. 

I Never Had Time for Housework

When I worked a regular 9-5 job, I literally never had time to do housework, nor did I have time to make healthy meals.  Our entire life was spent rushing from place to place, running the kids here and there, and collapsing out of total exhaustion at the end of the day.  I worked until 5:00 so that meant that I never had dinner ready until 6:00 or 6:15.  By then, the kids were starving and crabby.  Any free time in the evening was spent doing laundry or dishes.  I started to feel like less of a human and more of a machine.  It was miserable.

No Time for the Kids

When I worked outside of the home, I felt like I never had quality time with my children.  Working until 5:00 meant that we barely had time to eat dinner and take baths, let alone play.  If we were lucky, we maybe had 20-30 minutes to really pay attention to one another each night.  The weekends were always spent catching up on yard work, cleaning, and errands.  By the time I was ready to quit my full-time job, I started to wonder if the life I was living was really what it was all about.  What is the point of having kids if you never get to spend quality time with them?

That Time I Quit My Job

Fortunately, I was able to quit my job and become self-employed in April of last year.  And now that I’ve been a one-man show for almost a year, I can easily say that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.  Gone are the days of neglecting my children and my health for the almighty paycheck.  Gone are the days are scheduling my entire life around my job and someone else’s agenda.  Some other perks of being self-employed:

  • I’m able to do housework during the day.  In fact, it’s a welcome respite from my writing jobs and blogging.  It’s easy to start a load of laundry, move it to the dryer, then put it away once per day.  Same thing with the dishes.
  • I get to take vacation whenever I want.  Sure, I usually work on vacation in some way, shape, or form.  But it’s totally worth it.  I no longer have to schedule around anyone else or ask anyone for permission.  Any time I take off is on my terms.
  • We get plenty of quality time with the kids.  Since I get to do housework during the day, I no longer have to do it in the evenings when the kids are home.  I also usually have dinner on the table when they walk in the door, which means we have more quality time in the evenings as well.
  • I get to live my life in the most natural way possible.  I love being home during the day because I can shower at a time that feels right.  I make myself healthy lunches.  I no longer have to plan my life around being somewhere else for the majority of my waking hours.

None of these perks sound particularly ground-breaking on their own, but I can’t express what a huge difference this has made for my family.  That’s why, without a doubt, I hope that I am never in a position where I need to work for someone else ever again.  Now that I’ve lived this life for a year, I can honestly say that the life I had before wasn’t a “real life.”  In fact, my “life” was work and everything else was planned around it.  Now that I realize that, I’m determined to succeed.

And the truth is, now that I know what this life is like,

I would rather be poor than work for someone else anyway.

What are your thoughts on balancing work, life, and family?  How many vacation days do you have?  Is it enough?

About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. Four weeks, about a dozen public holidays, reasonably flexible work.

    My tune might change when I have kids but for now I’m definitely on the other side of the equation.

    • You are in New Zealand, right? I’m guessing that your work situation and work culture is much different than ours in the U.S.! (in a good way)

  2. You really, really make this sound so great and tempting, especially since it is Monday morning and I’m about to get in my car for my 1 hour commute. Some day I’ll join the ranks of the self-employed!

  3. I’ve got 15 vacation days, but unlimited sick days, so it’s not horrible, though I do have to count vacation days carefully. Mr PoP technically has more vacation days than he knows what to do with, but if he’s not working, he’s not making money, so he feels bad taking them.

    But for now, our gigs are pretty good considering what we get paid to do them, so we’re pretty content to stick with them for a few more years.

    • 15 days wouldn’t be so bad if you have sick days. Ours were our sick days but we’re rarely sick so we usually ended up wasting them.

      • I don’t understand the concept of sick days. What are they? In Holland we simply have vacation days/PTO (25 days is standard, 20 the legal minimum) and when you’re sick, you don’t have to use your vacation days. You still get paid your regular wage and that’s it.

  4. I totally agree. I am temporarily in an office job again, but I love being my own boss so much. This office job is in Spain (I’m from Holland) and work times here are crazy. We start at 9-ish (or 9.30) AM up to sometimes 7 PM! Of course the people here have really late dinners, at 9 PM or 10 PM, and I suppose they go to bed really late too. Not my style. I prefer having my dinners at 6 or 7 PM, then go to bed around 10.30 PM :)

    On the plus side, people tend to have long lunch breaks, and eat their main meal at lunch (in my case paid for by the company). So they don’t really have to cook when they get home, which is nice.

  5. Haha…it’s as though I’m reading my own story here Holly. I completely relate to everything you’ve said.

  6. Wow Holly, this post definitely makes me want to work from home, and preferably work for myself. I have wanted to do this for some time now but I’m pretty sure it’s a few years down the road. There’s so many benefits of having the setup that you have, it’s hard to think of many negatives.

  7. The work/life balance is so important for me as well. I have to say that I work harder and there are higher highs and lower lows working for yourself but if it gets me to spend my time the way I want to than it is worth it.

  8. I would love to follow that same path, Holly.. and the flexibility that you get to spend time with your kids is the #1 reason why..

    • Well, my kids do go to daycare but I really do have a lot more time with them. And it’s much more “quality time” instead of just rushing around.

  9. I have pretty decent benefits considering I am relatively young (meaning, it isn’t because of seniority that I have so much time off). I have 20 vacation days plus 2.5 days off on Spring Break and a week off at Christmastime. That’s at least an extra week above my vacation days. I also have 10 sick days per year that can be banked.

    The only crappy thing about it is you have to wait until the next fiscal year to accrue your vacation. So for the majority of first year of work you don’t have access to any vacation. I’m not sure how that works with regard to sick time, because you can’t just not be sick for a year… I guess I’ll figure that out when I get sick.

  10. I can relate you about this one, I do have a seven year old daughter too. When I was working a few years ago, from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. at the end of the day I felt that I had no energy anymore and it really breaks my heart looking at my “baby” at that time. Working at home is totally one of my greatest decision in my life.

  11. I could not agree more Holly! Much of this is why I’m so glad I told my boss what he could do with my job almost two years ago. I had the same exact vacation situation and it was always a pain in the neck. I hope never to have to work for anyone else ever again. The freedom and the ability to do work when I/we want to is too valuable to give up in my opinion.

    • I liked my old job a lot, but they asked too much sometimes. I don’t think you should ask your employees to revolve their entire lives around work.

  12. Hear hear. Great post. This is where I’m at and is the exact reason why we are working so hard to build up side hustles that could one day turn into a full time gig. I already feel like the only thing I do with myself is work. With adoption on the horizon, I don’t want to feel like we are going to all this effort to become parents… Only to continue to spend all our time at our jobs. I too would rather be poor and happy than rich and miserable!

  13. Awesome post…We don’t have kids yet, but I feel the exact same way. My wife receives a lot more time off than I did. Since I’ve been self-employed, we can travel more frequently. Also, during the day, I can do work around the house, run errands and hit the gym. That means at night and on weekends, we have more free time to do the things we want to do. There is a chance that I might have to go back to full time work when kids do come if my wife wants to stay home, but I have made it a point to cherish this time I have now and to motivate me to get out of a full time job in the future should I have to get one.

  14. I have about 5 weeks paid time off of vacation, and my sick bank gives me quite a lot (but I accrue it – currently I could take about 8 weeks if something happened). Plus we have bereavement leave, and unpaid leave. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do I hope I can find a way to balance both work and kids. The people that work with me definitely have a hard time with it.

  15. I love working from home and am happy my business is pretty much at the stage it doesn’t require a lot of time from me anymore. I’m a single mum and have decided to go back to work for the following reasons:
    - I’m in Australia, we get 4 weeks vacation + 17% loading, as in 17% extra when we take our holidays. 2 weeks sick leave, mental health days etc.
    - The job I have been headhunted for is my absolute ideal and I was going to go to university to try to get into something like this, instead I have been offered it straight up.
    - I want a house. My business is great, but being a self employed single mum severely limits my options for mortgages, increases rates etc. If I have a job I can get a sweet deal.
    - I might be able to get a car with my job too.
    - I am already outsourcing some housework, so that won’t really change.

    However, were I married and had someone else to help me get the mortgage and the other benefits applied to their job (which they would here in Aus), then I would probably j stay as I am.

  16. Poor is such a deadly word because its a mindset of getting stuck. Better broke than poor. Congratulations again on being a successful self-employed. Better to work for yourself and make yourself and your family rich than work for bad bosses. Its personal finance blogs like these that gives me hope and inspires me to succeed in my side hustles. Thanks

  17. I can totally relate. I think I saw my daughter for about 15 minutes some nights when she was little and I had to work late. I can’t really work from home, but not working every day gives you that time to get your “chores” done when no one is home so you can have family time when everyone is there. It does wonders for my attitude as well.

    • Yep, been there. There were so many days when I actually didn’t see my kids at all. It makes me sad. Fortunately, that never happens now unless we go on a trip without the kids.

  18. I feel like this is an answer to the post I wrote about not wanting to freelance anymore. :) I think it’s easy to say you’d rather be poor though until you are poor or struggling or living paycheck to paycheck. It’s VERY stressful! I think you made a good point on commenting on my story in that it’s a lot less stressful when you have a fallback person OR have a high tolerance for the unknown and things often feeling like a roller coaster. Now that I’m a freelancer I take a fraction of the vacations that I used to because I can’t afford them. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are awesome perks to freelancing and I think that it can be great, and for each persons the pros and cons are different. I’m so happy it worked out for you and that you are in a much better space than you used to be!

    • I think the difference between us is that I’m married and have kids. If I were a single gal, I would probably be very hesitant to work for myself. I honestly don’t know how you do it!

      But my situation is entirely different. Greg makes plenty of money. I can fail and we’ll be fine. Plus, I need more flexibility because of the kids.

  19. I like being upper-middle class. Having a fancy job also means I have a lot of work flexibility. DH does too, working for the Man. And it’s very nice being able to throw money at problems.

    DH has family that is both poor and doesn’t have any time. Because when you’re genuinely poor you spend all your time and mental energy trying to deal with basic necessities. They’re much happier when the mom is employed (usually as a waitress) than when she is unemployed (but has more free time). That little bit of wiggle-room makes a world of difference in terms of stress. And she’s tried running businesses, but they never pan out.

    Despite the click-bait title, I’m pretty sure you would not rather be poor than working for someone else. Living on your husband’s middle-class income is nowhere near the same thing as being poor. There’s a world of difference.

    • You are reading way further into the post than a Monday morning requires. Sure, my husband’s income is middle class and we wouldn’t be poor, but we would have a lot less than we have now.

      I’ve been truly poor and it sucks. I remember when I worked at a group home for $8.10 an hour and was flat-ass broke all the time. I had less than $10 in my bank account after paying bills and it was awful. What I learned from that experience is that I didn’t want to be poor, especially with kids.

      I don’t understand why you always get snappy about the titles of my posts. The whole point of the internet is to get people to read your stuff, and part of that process is creating titles that sound somewhat interesting.

  20. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since you took the leap, Holly!! And I’m SO glad it’s working out well for you. I can hardly find time to get everything done here, and I can’t imagine working full time out of the home and trying to manage the house/kids, etc. Even with our financial mess, I’d rather have it this way than go back to working for someone else. Some things are just not worth the money. Adorable pic, BTW! :-)

  21. I don’t know if l would rather be poor than work for someone else, but l definitely like where l am at now. I surely wouldn’t be here if l hadn’t put in all those long long long years, 29 years and 11 months but who’s counting..lol! l know what you mean. It’s nice having time to do nothing!

  22. Everything changes as soon as you earn enough to have choices! Whether you work for yourself, part time or some other alternative. I love teaching and the schedule is easier than my former profession (CFO). I used to work 60-70 hours a week as a CFO and the stress was excruciating! The money is lot less, but I don’t need as much at this stage in my life. Having choices has a great deal of value!

  23. Having freedom of your time and getting rid of the job has no fulfillment is an awesome thing and it’s one that I’m striving for as well. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a day when you have this freedom combined with a purpose driven action.

    I’ve also noticed that when I’m not at work for an extended period time that I also tend to feel happier because I’m not around all the negativity and I think that makes a big difference on my day as well.

    Great post Holly!

    • The negativity is huge!

      My old workplace was actually really positive with a lot of positive people, but it was hard not to get frustrated at times. I took that frustration home with me a lot, and it showed.

  24. Oh I’m so jealous. Your “old” life sounds like my current life. I have 15 PTO days too and you’re right, it sounds like enough but it never is. I’d love to work for myself as well but as a single mom (husband passed away when kids were little), my job has to provide the health insurance so I can’t see myself making that leap until the kids can get their own insurance. But my employer is great in that as long as I get my 40 in there’s flexibility for me to make all my kids school and sports activities so I won’t complain too loudly. Both kids are in high school now and soon I know I’ll be complaining I’m bored and there will be too much time for housework.

    • I’m glad your employer is flexible. That makes a big difference. Mine wasn’t that flexible, but it really wasn’t their fault. It was mostly due to the 24/7 nature of the business I worked in.

  25. The life you left behind feels like my life now…and add into it my 1 hour commute each way to work, it’s tough. Although I do get a good amount of PTO so there’s that. But my wife just started a new job in the fall so she can’t take much time off. So does Greg had more PTO in his new job?

    • Yes, he gets 12 days PTO. However, he can take as much unpaid time off as he wants so that helps a lot. He’s got about two weeks of unpaid time off scheduled this year and we’ll just budget accordingly. To us, the time off is just as important as the money~ It would suck if I had all this flexibility and he couldn’t ever go anywhere.

  26. That’s great you can take vacations whenever you please. In other countries employees are given about a month for vacation. Here most are frowned upon for taking a week. It does not help the work like balance.

  27. This post is so inspiring, Holly. I hope to be able to be a full-time blogger one day! Reading about your journey makes me think it is something attainable. I appreciate you sharing!

  28. I understand your point of view, Holly, but guess personally that it would depend on how poor I was willing to go. The reality is that most people need a certain income level and either can’t or don’t want to strike out on their own to achieve that amount. Not everyone can be self-employed at home. Even if self-employed, their go to their store or office etc. and are not working from home as you do. You obviously have the emotional make up as well as a skill that allows you to do your work at home. I’m so happy it works out well for you.

    • Yeah, everyone is different. I honestly don’t think I could go back to the life though. It’s just too hard with little kids. Maybe I would feel differently if they were older.

  29. Another benefit of your new work-style is that it has potential benefits for your kids; emotionally, personal development, educational, spiritually, etc. YOU now have the opportunity to mold them into the model citizen you believe that should be. They might not thank you for taking on this increased role. As a child of a single parent I will…Good job, Holly!

  30. I had to follow this post from Pauline’s blog because the title was just so captivating. After leaving a comment I’m going to make my way over to your post on why you quit your job and what you did to become self-employed.

    For me it’s a lot of the same. I’m still employed but working almost part time. It’s all of the intangibles that make it so much better, nothing to do with the money. I can spend more time working in the house, pursuing hobbies, visiting family, etc. Things slow down, and I like it that way.

  31. I love this Holly! I would much rather be poor than work for someone else as well. I don’t think I could ever go back.

  32. I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since you became self-employed. Wow! Time flies. My hours are still 9-5ish but I definitely have a lot more flexibility in my schedule than I did when I worked for Corporate. I was fortunate that I did have a fairly generous vacation benefits package but it still had to be approved, you know. I will say that my life is still very, very busy but I do feel that I have more control over how my days flow and the time I spend with my family.

  33. Good stuff Holly. I’m not sure id rather be poor though. I did a calculation on how much an entrepreneur has to make to replace a day job income and it’s kinda daunting. The freedom and correlation with effort is amazing though!

    The question is: Will you still feel the same way if you actually become poor or business income declines?

    • It’s hard to say. Obviously I’m married and Greg makes a nice income so we wouldn’t be “poor.” We would have to make some drastic cuts though! Honestly, I don’t think I could go back to a 9-5 job. I would have to find something else.

  34. I have been on my own before and it wasn’t for me. I was finding that I was working more than I did with a full time job and blogging. I still get time with my son. I don’t work on the weekends and I have good flexibility with my job. I really enjoy my job though, but my side income is just an added bonus. I don’t want to have to feel the pressures of self-employment right now. Maybe later down the road, but not now.

  35. One of my favorite things about working from home these days is being able to wake up with my kids in the morning. Rather than heading out the door before they’re even up, I get to spend about an hour of quality time with them before I get back to work. It’s a pretty awesome way to start the day.

  36. Amazing post Holly! Totally spoke to my life, 2 kids under 5 I work full time, my husband commutes an hour to work, 2 drop offs and pick ups for daycare and school, rush rush rush. And I feel as it’s getting harder as they get older

    I get 20 vacation days and 2 personal days but like you were I acrue as I go with no options for unpaid time. If a call comes mid day that a kid is sick? There goes 3 hours of vacation time nickle and dimed away. I have to punch in and punch out and have no flexibility with hours which is tough with young kids. Ever since my daughter started school I feel like I am not ‘present’ for my kids the way I want to be. You talking about spending all your time with them cooking, cleaning etc is my life

    Although working for myself isn’t an option I have been thinking about asking to go to 4 days a week to allow for 1 day to get house stuff done and be more actively involved with school once my son starts this fall. I feel even that small change would do our family a world of good

    Love your site!! Thanks for this today

    • Oh goodness, I can totally relate! It’s hard not to space out at night when you work your ass off all day. Sometimes it’s all you can do to make it through the day. I think that a 4-day week would be awesome! That way you could have an extra to do chores so that the weekend is for fun.

  37. Sounds pretty nice. I agree that it’s very important to have a work/life balance and if you can get that by being self employed then that is excellent. I have a family member who has his own business and was recently offered a good amount of money to go back to work for his old employer. He tried it for a couple of days but quickly realized he couldn’t do it. The freedom he has by being self employed is priceless to him.

  38. When I was working full time, I had 3 weeks vacation, 1 week worth of sick time, 1 work worth of personal time, + holidays. Not bad, but I can see the issue with kids. My coworker (with two little ones) is constantly stretching her vacation time to make everything work!

    • I think it must be easier if you have more vacation. 15 days total was just not enough! I did get 20 days after my 5th year, and that helped.

  39. I have to admit that right now, I’m happier taking the paycheck and giving up the freedom associated with being a freelancer. I do get to work from home with a flexible workday, so that certainly helps. But in the short term, I’m willing to bite the bullet, take the money, with the hopes of cashing out in a few years…

  40. Yep, pretty much. Now I know that want out of life can’t be found in a 9-5, at least at this point in my life.

  41. I really hope to be in a similar situation sometime in the next few years. We want to start a family in the next few years and I think it would be much easier if I had a flexible schedule where I could pick when I was going to work.

  42. I feel you. I have a 9-5 job and SO WISH i had more time for stuff you mentioned-housework, cooking, blogging etc but I don’t…What I do have though is a job I really love, so for me that makes it easier. I do wish I could work 8-4 or 3 days per week (instead of 4) but until this debt is gone it’s what I need to do. I have a career that I went to university for and think I’ll always work in it but would like to cut back if we decide to have more kids.

  43. All of these are my motivation for tripling, quadrupling, etc my freelance income. I want to work for me!

  44. You already know therefore substantially in terms of that subject matter, manufactured me personally many people feel accept is as true coming from several many attitudes. It has the just like people don’t seem to be interested except it is actually something to execute using Rhianna! Your personal stuffs superb. Constantly cope with it down!

  45. I guess it’s a different matter if you have kids – I’m planning to take my business solo in July, but I’d also happily work for someone else, as long as it offered everything I’m after (flexibility, decent pay, ability to work on interesting projects).

    In Australia, we get four weeks paid leave, plus around 10 days sick leave. I also get a moving day(!) and bereavement day so you do actually get to use your leave for holidays.

    Having said that, Australian’s are notoriously bad for actually using up their leave – it’s like we’ve got all these amazing places to visit, but we’d all rather just stay in our gray-box cubicles. Go figure!

  46. I am completely with you!!! And I actually think that all of those reasons are groundbreaking because I feel them myself. I am probably working harder than I ever have in my life, but I am able to work in a more flexible manner that I feel as though I am a better wife and mom while also running a company, and I would not trade that for anything.

  47. I enjoyed reading your blog and I have to agree that being your own boss is wonderful but many people do not have the knowledge or inspiration to do it and we become the cattle in this corporate world. I also hold a full time job and I do blog in my spare time for a small side income. Hopefully one day I can be my own boss.

  48. I know exactly what you mean. Quit my job this past November to become self-employed and can’t ever imagine going back to work for someone else!

  49. I have been self-employed and working from home for two years now. I’d rather die than go back to my cubicle. Nothing beats the freedom of going for a walk on a nice day, and having time to cook myself quality meals.

  50. I agree, it’s totally worth it! Of course, I’m in the military, so I don’t really have a choice right now, but family is much more important than money any day.

  51. I must say Telecommuting is the best approach to work independently, if you are not willing to work for somebody. I am glad I came across such an interesting post here.

  52. I’m self employed and I think when I have kids I would probably not put them in day care, but get an au pair to help out with them so I can really focus on my work :)

    • Good luck with that! I can’t imagine trying to get anything done with my kids home. It’s not as easy as it sounds!

  53. I live in the Middle East. We like vacations here. I get 30 days vacation, 15 days sick leave and loads of holidays a year but my company takes every last pound of available flesh for all the days. My working hours are insane. 9 am – 10pm is a good day. I’ve actually worked from 9 am – 3 am many many times. My entire life is work and nothing else. It’s one of the reasons I’m more determined than ever to strike it out on my own this year. Congrats on taking the plunge. You inspire me. :)

  54. Very nice blog post. I absolutely appreciate this site. Stick with it!

  55. Hello colleagues, its fantastic post regarding educationand completely defined, keep it up all the time.

  56. Hi there to every one, thee contents present at
    this webxite are in fact awesome for people experience, well, keep up the nice work fellows.

  57. This is really inspiring. At present I’m still working a day job and running my online business on the side. Look forward to when I can work fully for myself.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Holly from Club Thrifty explained Why I Would Rather Be Poor Than Work for Someone Else […]

  2. […] my inspiration for this post from Holly. Last month, Holly at Club Thrifty published the article Why I Would Rather Be Poor Than Work for Someone Else. It was an awesome article, and I knew I wanted to do a followup article to […]

Speak Your Mind

*