A Drug Addict, The Alcoholic, And the Naive: Becoming Financially Stable.
I'd say I live pretty comfortably in my current financial situation. The only debt I have to my name is my car loan and a few hundred dollars in credit cards every so often. I'm able to spend money on things I want (and sometimes things I want and don't really need), including traveling where ever I please whenever I want. Iceland for a day. Dublin for the weekend. It's no secret I'm constantly traveling across the country for just a weekend getaway.
But it wasn't always like this. Like most cliche success stories, there was a point in my life when I was struggling. Very badly. I had 2 apartments (and the new furniture) that I had to pay rent for at the same time, car payments, car insurance at 19 years old (which was over $250/month), and my other miscellaneous bills. Oh and pay for my ex-boyfriend's DWIs. At 19 I was just a year out of high school, trying to figure out how to do the adult-ish things in life without any help. At that time, I was not on a term with my parents where I could reach out for help... Or an answer. I'm actually super thankful for that tough experience because I've learned a lot of things, including what NOT to do.
If I could go back in time, I'd like to warn my younger naive self to not move in with someone who was dating your best friend at the time. Yeah- it was a big mess that ended up in a lawsuit and a big headache. Hey, at least I can say that I've sued someone at 19 years old. "Been there done that"
My financial issue wasn't due to the lack of money I was making. I worked 3 jobs while going to school at that time as well. I was making 3x the salary someone at 19 should make. The problem occurred because I trusted that the people in my life would never betray me. I let my first roommate borrow a couple thousand dollars. Let's say... he was pretty fond of some fancy drugs. How could I ever let someone do that? Dude, to this day, I have NO idea how I could be so stupid or how I got lured into letting him borrow money. Btw- filing small claims court on someone - not easy.
My ex boyfriend liked to drink. A lot. And managed to get his stupid ass charged with his 2nd DWI. And like a great fantastic loving beautiful wonderful extremely great girlfriend, I helped him pay for the violation, lawyer fees, the whole 9 yards. You wanna know what's more expensive than a DWI? The second DWI. It was extremely toxic and I wouldn't wish it upon anyone. I remember lying to social workers just to keep him out of jail. Loving someone that much who chose alcohol over you, every. single. day.
I remember laying down in my bedroom of my second apartment, thinking where did it all go wrong. I'm struggling to pay for rent (over $1000/m total for both apartments by myself), car payment of this stupid car I bought ($250/m), and trying to eat f**king healthy. And I was still a teenager. I truly thought I've screwed myself for good.
I just kept taking it, day by day. Working so much that it exhausted me. Collecting $20 every month from the couple thousand dollars I loaned my P.O.S roommate. Just like most things that hurt in life, it will pass. Needless to say, I'm extremely happy I live alone now.
After that whole fiasco of a year, I began to save everything I could. I was living on very minimal of my income. I paid for the necessary bills and that's it. I realized that I couldn't live the life I had dreamed of because of my older lifestyle. I gave up everything at this point - going out with friends, going out to eat, grabbing that snack in the checkout line, buying clothes, etc. Because I couldn't afford to spend money on things that weren't important. I believe that is why I've adapted this habit in my later life. I don't really ever go out. I've just grown to be kinda tired of drinking and going out to eat every day. I wanted more things, like traveling. I had a bad case of FOMO because I was missing out on all of the moments my friends were having without me. But that's the cost I had to endure.
The money I saved, soon enough became a lot of money. All of my debt was paid off and I had no one to worry about getting money from. No one to spend money on except for myself. I started to budget every dollar that comes in and out of my life so I knew exactly every figure. Then I began to set goals. My first year I wanted to save 5% of my income. And ever since, it has increased every year after.
Today, I save on a more organized scale. I look at all of my accounts, investments, retirement plans, bills; every single day. Most of my savings are automatically withdrawn to each specific account. I know the exact number of my expenses and can budget an estimated amount of my salary. I remember being so excited that I hit my biggest goal (at the time): $500 in my bank account! After having virtually every penny taken from me, I managed to save half of a thousand dollars (sounds more important than 500 hehe). I'm happy to say now I've even put money away for my children (when that time comes). Even though they don't exist yet. $500 to me now is just a fraction, and that's crazy to think back on. I make it sound like I'm 50 years old reflecting on my life lol.
It all starts somewhere. It just happened that for me personally, it happened at a younger age than anticipated. I used to underestimate the power of saving money. It really adds up so quickly. I have even tried smaller scale savings tools like Acorns. It's an app that rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar. You honestly won't notice the difference and it's set aside to invest, depending on how conservative you set your account to be. I recommend trying it out, especially for those are just starting.
Honestly, I don't remember how I dealt with my emotions and mental state during my financial struggle years. I just know it was not a fun time. I know it hurt and it sucked. At that point, I was so tunnel vision that the pain didn't really phase me. I'm grateful that it's over with and definitely was an abundance of lessons learned with the gratitude that I did it all by myself. I had hopes that the hard work was going to be worth it. It so was and still very much is.