2 years ago, if you’d said to me ‘you’ll live in Cornwall, work part-time and still have enough money to pay the bills and have occasional treats’ I wouldn’t have believed you. Because I honestly thought we couldn’t afford it.
It wasn’t until my other half, who is a sucker for a good spreadsheet, worked out exactly what we could afford to live on and how much we needed to earn. And it was surprisingly a hell of a lot less than we realised.
Until that point, like so many other city dwellers, we were a bit caught up in the must-haves and materialism that our society dictates we should strive for – the career, the car, the house, the gadgets. We had well paid jobs but wasted a lot of money on crap and had very little to show for it. We were unhappy – we felt trapped in the rat race, wanted to live more simply and surf as often as possible.
Since moving to Cornwall, I’ve had a huge amount of people ask ‘how exactly did you do it?’ and ‘how could you afford it?’ Because the big problem here is jobs. Cornwall relies on tourism so jobs are generally seasonal or poorly paid. There are all-year round professional jobs but they’re fewer and further between and the salaries are a lot lower compared to the cities. It’s the sticking point that halts the dream for so many. But, as someone once pointed out to me, you don’t come to Cornwall for a career, materialism and to make lots of money – you move for the simplistic lifestyle.
And there’s a way around everything if you’re prepared to think outside the box, take the risk and a leap towards a better quality of life. Here’s how I did it, and so can you:
Change your mindset
Unless you’re already wealthy and can genuinely afford to live like you do in a big city, then you’ll need to change your approach. If you crave big houses, new cars, the latest clothes and technology, it’s not going to work for you.
Be prepared to make do with what you’ve got and making things last longer. Pare back your wardrobe, go without the expensive nights out and swap the gym membership for free beach runs. Think evening bonfires by the sea, coastal walks and surfs, which cost nothing!
Bring your work with you
I was lucky. I worked for a company that had a lot of home workers and I was one of them. My boss at the time was fully supportive of my move. All I needed to do was get to the company’s Bristol office once a fortnight.
More and more companies now support home and flexible working. It saves them money and prevents you from turning into a frazzled mess after a horrendous commute.
Find out if there’s any scope with your job or, if you work for a big organisation, if there’s an office within commutable distance to the coast where you could work instead.
Secondments and relocation packages are also possibilities, but the best way to do it is if you freelance. With no office base tying you down, you’re free to live wherever you want. There’s nothing at all stopping you so what are you waiting for?
Be open minded
This is key to living in Cornwall. With a lack of professional jobs here, you need to think outside the box and be prepared to do jobs you may not want to do. There’s lots of work here, if you’re not picky!
I waitress and I do this a few nights a week. It’s not what I went to uni for and because of that city mentality of striving for the career and job title, I’ve struggled with what people think. But if I look at the positives of my situation, I have all of my daytimes free – to build up my freelance content writing, surf, spend time with my husband and see my friends. I didn’t move down here for a career – I moved to Cornwall for a better balance and quality of life, and that’s exactly what I’ve got!
Use your skills
If you’ve changed careers and jobs a few times and worry that this looks bad on your CV, then fear not. In Cornwall, it’s actually a really good thing!
Before I moved, someone told me ‘you need a toolbox of skills you can draw on’ and it’s massively helpful when you’re job hunting. My husband’s worked as a chef, a teacher and a computer programmer – he’s got multi transferable skills and lots of life experience which has really worked to his advantage.
It’s also useful to have something to fall back on and to earn some extra cash if you need to. It’s also not uncommon for people to have more than one job and to trade skills instead of cash payment.
So put your skills to good use. Look into courses to enhance your skill set further or, take a leap of faith and start your own business or freelancing venture!
Simple living is all about having less. We had a 3-bedroomed house in Wolverhampton which, for 2 people and 2 cats was a massive waste of space and money. We didn’t use half the rooms in the house and before we moved, we got rid of so much stuff we didn’t use or need. Now, we have a one-bedroom house and it’s absolutely perfect for us.
So ask yourself if you really need those extra rooms and consider downsizing. Substitute a garden for the beach, consider a flat instead of a house or look into house shares. Sell things you don’t need on eBay or do a car boot sale like we did (which was a lot of fun!).
Don’t stop with your living space. Look at the number of vehicles you use. When we moved, we only had 1 parking space and literally nowhere to put a second car. Logistically at times it involved a bit of juggling around but it turned out to be a financial blessing in disguise!
Move in the Winter
A lot of people thought we were crazy moving in the winter but I maintain it was the best time to do it. Not only did we get a very realistic view of what Cornwall’s like out of season, but it made it a lot easier to get a rental. There’s lots of empty holiday lets available after October and residents who go overseas until Spring, so take advantage of a cheaper, more abundant rental market.
A short-term let also gives you a feel for a place before you decide to settle. We loved where we rented initially but ultimately wanted to live near Newquay.
Having a sea view and being a stone’s throw from the surf would be incredible but it’s so expensive! So unless you can afford to pay a premium on rent or mortgage, or you’re prepared to house share, you’ll need to be a bit more realistic. Plus, bear in mind how busy it will be during the tourist season!
Be prepared to compromise. The further inland you go, the cheaper the rentals and property prices. Equally, the further north in Cornwall you go, the cheaper it gets – you’ll just need to bear in mind access issues. The public transport system and road infrastructure (other than the A30) is a bit woeful!
I live just outside Newquay yet I’m 5 minutes from my nearest beach which is a hell of a lot better than 3 and a half hours away!
If you can’t get to Cornwall yet, you could try Plymouth. There’s surf-able beaches near by, it’s right on the Cornwall border and it’s just over an hour away from Newquay which makes after work surfs in the summer totally do-able. It’s a good compromise if you still want city living and want to cut down on surf travel time.
Above all, don’t give up. If you want something badly enough you’ll find a way around it. It may take a little longer than you hoped and some of it’s down to luck and circumstances but the rest is often down to a positive mindset. Because once you change your mindset you change your life, and that’s when awesome things happen…