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IMG_3145 IMG_3180Me, freezing my buns off at Chatham University, Pittsburgh, December 2014
Photos by Joel Darwin

It’s hard getting a momentum back, writing-wise. Since I discovered that I’m not the type that writes as she travels, it’s been an ordeal marching up to my WordPress dashboard to come up with something. I wrote something for the website 8list (8 Fonts Non-Designers Should Recognize) last week though and I’m thankful that I have another article with them lined up already. Deadlines always force me to stretch my muscles and I think I have enough energy in me to start posting weekly again.

It doesn’t help that I became really sick last week and I spent four days in my bed clutching my pillow begging to die. Even my design deadlines got stalled and it just became even more clear that week that if I can’t design, there’s no designer, and there’s no work. It got me thinking about life outside of design and I’m just so grateful that I have a husband who has his own earning capacity apart from our business (which isn’t Scrooge McDuck levels, but every bit helps).

The last two months in Manila have been very interesting, to say the least. We’re travellers that come home broke from every trip and usually we have a fat credit card bill waiting for us when we arrive. But this time, we also had to pay business registration fees and our quarterly VAT, plus unexpected hospital expenses when I had to have my blood work done (long story) when we got back. This all happened in January. I don’t know how we managed to pay all of it. It was horrifying examining all our bills.

This is where miracles came in. One, we forgot about Joel’s 13th month pay from his teaching job. We had money in our accounts when we got back, and we promptly used it to pay off whatever we could. Our VAT was totally unexpected and our accountant only told us how much we had to pay the night before it due! It was a huge amount. So two, a check from a U.S. client got wired at the exact perfect time to cover it.

Of course this meant we lived like paupers for a while, to the point of taking advantage of whatever privilege we still had with our parents (laundry, free meals, etc.). But it’s been insane how money people owed us just kept coming in when a bill needed to be paid. It happened many times during the course of these two months (including one time a client decided to pay in full before we started on a project, imagine that) and it’s been an amazing financial and spiritual life lesson for us.

We went through every rookie freelancer’s mistake when we first started out — that our spending increased as our income did. It’s a habit that we’re hoping to shake out of our system permanently but it’s hard because we’re stubborn and we can be such entitled assholes. We examined our 2014 spending last December (Joel diligently jots down our expenses everyday) and found out that we spent almost the same amount as our rent on EATING OUT. That money could’ve gone to savings! Or to airline tickets every month! Or a bigger apartment! Ugh. You get the idea.

That was our wake-up call and the big cautionary tale that kept looming over heads as we worked to whittle down all these brand new 2015 bills. Because money always came in the nick of time to cover a bill, we barely would have anything left over for us. It’s been weeks and weeks of learning the concept of “enough” and the weird thing to come out of all of this is that we’re the happiest we’ve been in a long time.

It could be because we’re having more meals at home and we team up to cook them together. A lot of it is also being forced to be creative with having fun that doesn’t entail a lot of spending — more walks and more talking. And just because we’re being frugal doesn’t mean we don’t see our friends anymore. People kept dropping in our apartment the minute we got back, and we love it! We also host our friends for Bible Study every Saturday night (we started in July last year and it’s still going strong) and I was still able to have a balls out birthday party even when we couldn’t afford the barbecue pit this year (our annual tradition). We have friends at church that we see every Sunday. Life’s just been so good.

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