‘My income halved overnight’: How an accountant-turned-yoga teacher adapted to a dramatic decrease in income

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“As a corporate accountant, I was in a high-stress environment and my mind was always pushing me towards the next goal and achievement,” recalls New Zealand-born Kirsti Patterson, 40, who lives in Hertfordshire. “It was taking a toll on my body and my stress levels were high.”

Kirsti signed up for a wellness retreat in a bid to learn how to look after herself better, and it was here she became a yoga convert. By April 2019 she was a qualified yoga teacher and had started teaching classes under her business name Forever Body Yoga.

But when she found out a degenerative eye condition meant she could no longer work at a desk for long periods, she left her accounting job permanently just two months later.

“When my health changed as I finished my yoga teacher training, I was happy to step into it more. It was one of those things you start without knowing how it's going to go. It turned out pretty cool.”

image of a woman with a laptop and a coffee

“Dropping half your salary – that's major”

Kirsti immediately enjoyed “the fun part” of the job – teaching classes and seeing students achieve new things. But there was a monumental downside to switching from a well-paying corporate role to being her own boss in the wellness space – her income halved overnight.

“It was scary and nerve wracking,” she remembers. “Dropping half your salary, that's major when you're used to a certain lifestyle. I never expected I’d need to do that because my vision has always been an unknown – there was no projection for the future. When it happened, it was a shock that they couldn't just change my prescription. It was difficult.”

As a high-earning accountant, and someone who’d received a monthly salary since she was 18, Kirsti had always been able to do what she wanted financially. “I paid my mortgage, I took holidays, I shopped, I ate at nice places and I didn’t think about it as much as I should’ve,” she concedes.

A Monzo customer since 2017, Kirsti had already appreciated the app’s simplicity and the ease of being able to do everything on the spot. “It’s great being able to check my account while standing in line to pay for something.” 

But when she moved to a part-time salary, it became essential for budgeting.

woman doing yoga by a canal

“Monzo allowed me to put money aside for bills and to have some money to still enjoy life”

“When I got paid, money went into a Pot for every bill I had and it would come out on the day of the payment. I never missed a bill, which was always important to me as I don't like to have debt. Monzo allowed me to put money aside for bills and to have some money to still enjoy life. I had a weekly pocket money pot and it would go on there once a month, and then every Thursday, I would get my allowance for the week. I wasn't spending monthly anymore, I was spending weekly.”

Kirsti has four Pots in her current account: one for her “monthly pocket money”, a phone bill Pot (£25 a month), one for accessible savings (£65 a month) and another for emergency flights (she splits any bonuses, tax refunds or unexpected payments between this and her joint account with her husband).

“Since moving to Monzo my dad got sick and passed away [in January 2019], so I actually had money to get there. I was going through grief, organising a funeral and chipping in for that. And I was able to do it because I'd kept emergency money aside.”

When Covid-19 hit and the first lockdown was announced, Monzo also helped Kirsti deal with the financial uncertainty. She had to revamp her yoga business model overnight, moving from in-person teaching to five online classes a week and a membership model during lockdown.

Kirsti set up a payment platform through Squarespace, which hosts her website, and it was easy to integrate this with Monzo, she says. “I was online within 24 hours so I didn't miss a single class of teaching.”

For ease, Kirsti uses her business account to automatically set money aside for tax. “I've got a tax Pot set up, so every time I have any income, I'm also putting money aside for tax and recurring bills.” These include the monthly fee for her website, the monthly fee for her social media scheduling platform, Spotify Premium, Zoom Professional and business administration fees.

woman doing yoga

The move online required upfront investment in equipment, like cameras, lighting and hosting tools. But because Kirsti no longer needs to pay for studios and renting halls, being online-only is marginally more profitable than teaching in person, she says.

Kirsti shares a Monzo joint account with her husband, a network engineer, which was instrumental in helping them save for a house move from Greenwich, South East London, to Hertfordshire in June. Kirsti contributed around £100 a month for three years and more whenever she received a bonus, special payments or tax refunds. They also locked their Pot to keep them on track.

They have a Pot for monthly expenses such as cat litter and subscriptions, one for anything around the house that needs fixing, one for weekly spending money and another for holidays. Around £5-10 saved via Monzo’s roundup feature goes straight into their holiday Pot each week.

Kirsti hopes to start teaching in-person classes in her new area next year, and to set up an online yoga course for pregnant people. She still works part-time from home as an accountant to supplement her income, but her work-life balance and job satisfaction are a far cry from what they once were.

woman against a brightly coloured wall

“I've adapted to a different way of living and a different way of thinking about money and achievement”

“I have the flexibility to manage demand with my energy and health. So if I want to work a full day, if I'm feeling good and my eyes are okay, I can. I've got that flexibility – as long as I'm meeting my deliverables and attending the meetings that are scheduled, I can manage my time around that.”

Having recently found her niche in pre- and post-natal yoga, Kirsti’s income is also on an upward trajectory. “I'm more comfortable with [my income] now than I was to start with,” she says. “I grew up in a single parent household, and I always wanted to be financially independent, no matter what happened in my life. So I've adapted to a different way of living and a different way of thinking about money and achievement.”