Finding Small Victories and Celebrating Baby Steps
July 23, 2009 3 Comments
Like I mentioned in my past post, I’ve been very nostalgic lately.
I was thinking back to when I first started this blog and the situation I was in. I was broke CONSTANTLY. I was using my credit card and mutual funds to get myself through the month. However, I finally reached the end of my credit card balance and the market fell and I realize: I have NOTHING to fall back on. In August 2008 I decided that something needed to change, and in September this blog was born.
In the trite way of saying things, a 1,000 mile journey starts with a single step. And for me, a $16,000 credit card debt began with a single change.
Thinking back on this, I was drowning. I couldn’t imagine saving money or making drastic changes to my life (to be perfectly honest, I HAVEN’T made drastic changes overnight – more on this later). However – the key for me to getting started was to get myself a BUFFER. Some amount of money to keep me out trouble and keep me from using that damn credit card!
After a week in August of looking over personal finance blogs and before starting my own I realized that I needed an emergency fund. But I still didn’t know HOW I would get an emergency fund. Sure, I NEEDED one – but needing and getting are two different things.
The ONLY reason. No, let me emphasize this a little more. THE ONLY REASON that I was able to finally get my head above water was to INITIALLY GET MORE MONEY. Sounds redundant right? But before I could start shaving down on my own debt and change my spending habits and get an emergency fund was to FIRST: get myself more money. I got a gig tutoring at Tutor.com. In the first month I made $400, and made between $100-$500 every month since then up until around February (we’ll get to this in a moment).
Why was this money important? Well, it allowed me to feel comfortable putting AWAY $100/month in my emergency fund. It “bought me” time to assess for a few months my spending habits, where my money was going, analyze my mistakes as I made them. To be honest, the ONLY THING that changed in my life from September to December of 2008 was that I made more money – cause I sure as hell still made some pretty, stupid financial decisions.
But that was important. The Tutor.com money allowed me breathing room to step back from the stress of “OMG I HAVE NO MONEY I AM AT THE PIT OF DOOOOOOOM” and assess my financial situation. I started to see ways that I could slowly trim parts of my budget where before I didn’t realize I could. It allowed me a few months to grow my emergency fund without taking away from my “standard of living” that I was accustomed to having. And in the end, it was the buffer that supplemented my income when my “crazy” ideas for that month didn’t work our as planned because I spent my money poorly (see list of links above).
It has been 10 months since I started this blog and 10 months since I started working at Tutor.com. When I look at my life, I don’t think that my QUALITY of life has decreased. I have just TRIMMED back on the things that were unnecessary. And where before I NEEDED the Tutor.com money to be able to get me through my month – now I’m happy to report that I’ve UPPED my savings each month and haven’t even USED my Tutor.com money to supplement my income since March of 2009! That is four months of comfortably saving money, paying my bills and living within my means! And not to mention a FANTASTIC vacation to Europe for 20 days without breaking out the credit card and COMING BACK with money!
Honestly, when I think about that, it is just incredible. However, I don’t think that I would have been able to do it if I had not INITIALLY gotten the 2nd job at Tutor.com. That second stream of income was like a straw that I could breathe out of while the rest of me was submerged in a body of debt. (You like that analogy? I do.) Once I was able to get my head above water I could see what it was that was causing me to drown… and slowly chip away at my unnecessarily large food budget, my desire to keep Jack in daycare every day and my ridiculously frequent trips to San Diego.
All in all, though I still have so far to go… I’m SO PROUD of the baby steps I’ve taken. =)