Someone on Instagram was recently talking about life choices, particularly the things they choose to prioritise (time, mortgage-free living) and the things they choose to sacrifice in return (big house, plenty of disposal income, a retirement plan).
I needed to hear it. Because over the past year or so, basically since I turned 40, I’ve felt a mild financial anxiety creep up on me. My freelance income is enough for us to live comfortably from month to month – and I’m so grateful for that – but there’s little left over for savings. We own our home and (very old) cars outright, so we don’t have a lot of financial commitments, but nor do we have any retirement fund beyond whatever serves as the state pension by the time we retire.
So I’ve had this idea burning in the back of my brain that we need to buy a small flat in Sofia, rent it out, and keep it as our nest egg. It’s a solid plan, especially as property is still relatively cheap in Sofia (compared to other capital cities, that is, certainly not compared to our village). But we’d have to get a mortgage to do it, and I’m not even sure we could scrape together enough for a deposit. It’s been like a little weight on my mind. We have to do this before we get priced out of the market. But where will we find the money for a deposit? And if we don’t do it, will we be starving and poor when we’re old?
I needed someone else – a total internet stranger – to remind me that it’s okay to just say no to this bullshit, self-imposed pressure. That it’s okay to prioritise other things in life. Like mortgage-free living, which means so much to me. And the freedom to work part-time when it suits me, which I can do because our outgoings are low. Basically, living a slower life. Which is, after all, why we came here in the first place. It’s why I said ‘no thank you’ to life in England.
Yes, there are sacrifices associated with these choices. We live simply. We stay pretty close to home. Come to think of it, I haven’t travelled outside Europe for more than a decade (and even that was a work trip). Dreams of exotic holidays, month-long road trips, or one day buying a camper van will probably never be realised. And the closest I’ll ever get to that ‘new car’ smell is a fancy air freshener.
But what matters is how we spend our time right now. And in that sense, I think we’re nailing it. We may never be able to retire in the traditional sense – we’ll probably always need a small income to tide us over – but does that really matter? When I shut out the small, anxious voice in my head and instead listen to how I actually feel, I know we’re on the right path for us. And we’re in a better position than many.
These choices aren’t for everyone, of course. We all have our own priorities. I just found it useful to revisit my own.
Thank goodness I have the privilege of writing for a living. The thought of being an old and (fabulously) grey writer isn’t so bad. After all, Barbara Cartland was still writing when she was 95. #goals
Screeching change of topic, but… we managed to get our COVID booster on the second attempt. When we originally turned up at our local hospital’s vaccination clinic, there was much deliberation on whether they were allowed to give us our booster jab or whether they had to prioritise first and second jabs. After the nurse called her boss, she said they had to give four (first or second) doses to other people before they were allowed to give us our booster. You can wait if you like, she said. We were, as usual, confused by the whole interaction – especially as there wasn’t anyone else waiting. But we hung around for a bit anyway.
We waited for 45 minutes and not a single person came along to get vaccinated. (Public appetite for getting vaccinated is still pretty low here.) The nurse would regularly poke her head out of the office, look up and down the corridor, make an apologetic face at us, then go back inside. Still no one came.
Eventually, she took pity on us and promised to call us another day with an appointment. Which she did. And now we’re all boosted up, with the usual Bulgarian instruction not to drink alcohol for 24 hours after the injection! An instruction that I interpreted as more of a ‘guideline’. Obviously. Hey, we’ve all got our priorities, and that day my priority was a Bloody Mary.