Thrown Into the Deep End

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The past month has taught me some difficult lessons. In the same way working through college made me grow up faster than classmates who had the parental free ride, losing my job 2 months after starting to get my finances in order has taught me a lot, very quickly. In short, I did find another job that seems to be the perfect opportunity, but I will wind up losing a full paycheck because of the transition. This is my first week working full-time in 3 weeks.

First, I learned that even if I think I have things figured out, but don’t account for major shifts from the very onset, I’m doomed for failure before having tried. I started getting my finances in order in June. In August, I lost my job. Two months could have been enough time to get at least a basic strategy ready just in case something happened. Granted, I thought things were stable, but I still should have had at least one exit strategy.

Second, I’ve learned that it’s possible to be extremely frugal given the correct circumstances. I can say no to going out with friends, I can refuse to drive extra miles, and I can even eat off $100 for two weeks (when I normally spend $100 per week or more). I’ve cancelled every little subscription I had, and tried my best to find every spare dollar I had. If the money is simply not there, I cannot do that stuff. Translating this into my path out of debt, my goal will be to make debt payments first, and live off of what’s left. This means I’m forced to be frugal, where thus far I’ve tried to be frugal on the front-end. It’s hard to be frugal when the money is sitting there waiting to be spent, but much easier when you don’t know when the next check comes in.

Third, I’ve learned that some creditors are sympathetic. Within reason, of course. A few credit cards allowed me to not make payments this month, and resume next month. They are still charging me interest this month, but will not charge me for two months later, will impose no late fees, and will not report me to the credit bureaus. While it doesn’t completely save me from the lack of funds, it will be an immense help, and one less thing I have to worry about right now. It took a lot of time and talking to get it done, but a few hours work to save me peace of mind during this transition was well worth it.

Fourth, I’ve learned the real cost of not having my finances in check already. In June, I wanted to do it for peace of mind and looking to the future and marriage/family. I assumed the job was stable, that I would always have an influx of money, etc. By sabotaging my own future self financially, I made this thing much more difficult than it should have been. After all, I’m only missing one paycheck, not even a full month, much less half a year like some people do. I’m extremely happy I was able to quickly find another job, but if missing two weeks worth of pay messes me up this month, I’m in a very bad condition. If I was not motivated before to get out from under this debt, I sure enough am now.

My new job will be paying me a few hundred more per month than I am making now, but will not be paying my school expenses. After thinking long and hard about it, while school is important, I really need to build up some financial muscles. After this semester, I may put school on hold temporarily if I cannot find financial aid to help me out. At this point, I may even take out additional student loans to cover the cost, and use my extra money to get out of debt even faster. With a few hundred extra per month, and living more frugally, I should easily (or rather, difficult-ly) meet my target of next December. Even more, I should have a decent emergency fund by then. While it may put my education in somewhat of a bind or cause me to gather more debt in student loans, I’d much rather trade my credit card debt for student loan debt! And with the increase in salary, once my debt is paid off that gives me that much extra money to either invest or put towards those student loans, which is nice. Once I have my degree, that’s an immediate $10-15k bump in my value as an employee apparently (though personally I feel the caliber of my work is not affected by a piece of paper), and I’m all set.

And while it’s fun to think about the future, it’s taking everything I have to make it through September. I’ll probably be posting very rarely until money starts coming in, but know I’m getting some good life experience that will give me much better perspective on my posts. I hope I learn some more lessons worth sharing, but until then…