Three and a half years ago I moved from the east coast to the west coast with no job, no friends, and no place to live. It was equally brave and foolish. I thought I had a few years of work under my belt and I should be able to easily find a job, but wasn’t easy at all.
For the first year I lived in Los Angeles, I had a series of part time jobs and internships, and I cut down my expenses to the bare minimum. I slept on the floor and my apartment had no furniture. I bought a desk to work and a chair from Ikea. Other than that I dipped into my savings to pay my rent and I put everything else on a credit card – groceries, gas, insurance. I racked up quite a lot of debt even by cutting my expenses to only the necessities. Living is expensive.
I began racking up debt on my one credit card. It made me nervous, so I opened another card with 0 interest for the first 18 months. I thought I would be able to get a job and pay it off easy without having to pay any interest. It took me about a year to get a temp job which gave me forty hours a week and by that time I was several thousand dollars in the hole.
Having a temp job guaranteed me a steady income, but it only paid minimum wage. I only allowed myself a certain amount of groceries in order to stay under budget. Health insurance was incredibly expensive, but at least I had it. Any time there was a holiday or a half day, I got off work, but I also didn’t get paid. If I wanted to visit home, I had to to leave without pay. I wasn’t racking up additional debt, but I couldn’t save any money or pay off any debt either. It continued to rack up with all the interest since I could only pay the bare minimum. Then I had to do major repair on my car and racked up thousands of more dollars. I was definitely on the borderline of panic every time I looked at my balances.
Meanwhile I continued working my terrible, low paying job. I didn’t have the courage to quit because I was terrified I wouldn’t get any other opportunities, but eventually I had to go. I couldn’t stay forever or I would be there forever with no opportunities forward. Even though I was afraid, I left. The terror of staying there for a long time outweighed my fear of being unemployed. I was jobless for another month.
Eventually I got another temp gig, which paid more and I got some overtime. (The people were nice too.) Then I got hired full time, and got a promotion, and I could start paying off my pile of credit card debt. I paid off a bit and then I started paying off more and more this year. Yesterday I paid off the last of it. My savings are on the small side, but I should be able to save a whole lot by the end of the year, and I’ll no longer have this particular anxiety hanging over my head. There’s a freedom to not having any debt. So now I just need to work towards the freedom of becoming financially independent.
Two out of Five down.
73 days to go.