Janice McLeodLike many of us, Janice MacLeod wasn’t satisfied with her job as a junk mail writer for an ad agency, and she wasn’t satisfied with her life.

She wanted something better.

Many of us assume a change will just happen to us eventually, but MacLeod didn’t feel like waiting. So she did something amazing.

She started blogging about 100 ways to spend less money everyday and she eventually saved enough money to quit her job and move to Paris for two years.

She also put her letter-writing uses to use with a new business which sends out hand-painted letters to those of us who still live for a good old-fashioned gorgeous piece of mail. 

In addition, she’s the author of the brand new book is  Paris Letters (Sourcebooks)a memoir for anyone who has dreamed of changing her life.

She now paints and writes full-time—and (in an amazing love story) married a French butcher she met just days after moving to Paris. Saving money, moving to Paris and landing a French husband? Sounds like a movie! But no, it was just one woman making simple changes to her life and sticking with them. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to talk to Janice about her experience.

Why were you inspired to make such a drastic life change?

Desperation. I was in a good position in a good career, but my life was not fun. I looked at my future and realized I didn’t want to keep going down the same path. Something had to change. When one sees burnout coming, it’s time to stop, drop and roll into another plan. For me, that meant saving money, quitting my job and traveling. I figured if I saved up and gave myself a two-year buffer to not work, I’d come up with a more fun way to make money. Inside those two years, I came up with the Paris Letter project. I quit my job at the end of 2010 and haven’t had to return to Cubicle Land.

Was it hard to start cutting corners? Did it feel like a dramatic change?

It wasn’t hard; I actually started by not doing what I didn’t want to do. For me, that was dinners out with friends. I used to accept so many dinner invitations simply because someone asked. Group dinners are pricey. I started being proactive and asking friends to go hiking before they had a chance to ask me to go to dinner. Hiking was cheaper and we still had fun. I also stopped shopping. This was easy when I replaced it with hiking. In the end, I’m very glad I replaced money-draining activities with hiking because once I started traveling I was fit for all-day hikes around the cities of Europe.

Were there days where you felt like it wasn’t going to work?

Oh yes. There was so much evidence that told me quitting my job was a bad move. It just doesn’t make sense for a lot of people. Even I told myself my idea to quit my job and travel was crazy, but I reasoned that even if I didn’t quit and travel, saving up and paring down was still a good idea.

If you spend enough days yearning for the alternative, you start to convince yourself that it’s possible. Eventually it was possible.

What did you learn from making these lifestyle changes?

I will always live a minimalist lifestyle. I just don’t need a lot of things and now, I realize, having a lot of things stresses me out. I don’t like having so many choices in my closets. I don’t like finding places to store junk in my home. I don’t like when things collect. I’m done with that now. Clean and sparse brings peace. I prefer peace to dusting around knick-knacks.

Do you think anyone has the potential to do this?

Yes. ANYONE CAN DO THIS. You may think you don’t have the income to make this happen, but if you set an intention and think of ways to make money and save money, you can build a freedom fund. The best way I did it was by writing three pages in my journal each day, an idea I found in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Through this daily practice I came up with plenty of ideas. And you know what? Journal writing costs next to nothing.

What are your three best money-saving tips for women?

1) Rethink your hobbies. Do you have a craft that you can parlay into a bit on the side? With online marketplaces like Etsy, it’s easy to set up a shop and start selling what you’d be making anyway.

2) Stop tiresome spending. Sometimes we go shopping with the girls as a bonding experience. Look at it as just that: bonding. You can have a good time without buying.

3) Rethink spare time. We often complain about being too tired and too busy. Start eliminating activities and make quiet time alone a priority. In that time, you’ll come up with ways to boost the bank account. Or at minimum, you’ll rest. It’s difficult to ramp up your hobbies when you’re tired from shopping with friends.

You have all the inner resources you need to effectively deal with your situation. You. Can. Do. This.