New Beginnings

Today, I quit my job. 

If you have read any of my blog Custom Updates you would probably find this to be a bit against what I’ve been trying to do over the past year with my life. I mean, it’s pretty hard to pay off your student loans and buy a van when you don’t have a job. 

Priorities change though, and with perspective I’ve found clarity. I’ve learned a lot over the past year, because it was one hell of a year, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is you have take risks to progress. And to progress toward my goals this is a calculated risk worth taking.

My ultimate goal is to be a writer. I’ve dreamed about it for years. So I’m taking a risk to make that happen. I quit my job to focus on my writing. Simple as that. I’m going to give my passion, my craft, a 100% of my effort for three months to see what happens.

And let’s be honest, what’s the worst that could happen? I’m out three or four months from a job I hate, I write a truck load of content, and end up having to find a different job again? Honestly, that sounds like a dream. All I want to do right now is write and look for a new job anyway.

So why not? I’m ditching the job that leaves me dissatisfied with life (for my old co-workers that may be reading this: you guys rocked, the job was miserable) and  replacing it with writing full time for a few months. 

I have only imagined what I could do with that much time of concentrrated effort, but now I get to actually find out. And I know I can make something of it. Maybe it’ll be a big step, maybe it’ll be small, but the most important thing is it is a step in the direction I want to go.  

But first, it’s time for a vacation to recharge the batteries and reset the mind. 

Cheers, to a New Year and new beginnings! 

Life Happens and Change Follows

In 50/50, I talked about a budget being a big part of my plan to get out of debt and get on track with my life goals. I have done a lot of postponing because I have been back and forth on a lot of things. I have also faced some big lifestyle changes.

However, the day is here. I find no other day more appropriate than my 24th birthday to announce my budget and everything that comes with it.  This is going to be a woven post, with a little story, some deep explanation, and a lot of heart.

Get psyched and grab a drink. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

To preface, the income I have in the chart is based on my current job, working part-time (about 35 hours a week) at $11 per hour, after tax. (If you want a sweet calculator for guesstimating your paycheck, go here.) At this point, that is what I am working with.

So let me lay out my simple budget for you.

budget1 You are probably thinking to yourself right now that I’m nuts for even thinking this is a budget. Well, this just the extremely simple version. I have a very large sheet with 8 different tables, and all kinds of crazy excel magic going on. My guess is that most of you would be lost in my logic, so I made this instead. (I will try and make a more technical post some other time. Maybe a how-to? We’ll see.)

Why so few items? Because at the end of the day, this is all I am really paying for.  The roof over my head, the food in my belly,  my obligations, a little fun, and my future. That’s all I need to pay for right now.

budget2But look where that puts me. I am almost $350 underwater.  I personally think this is a starving child of a budget, but we can always trim away a little more, right? So lets say I cut out the fat; no savings, no emergency fund, and no fun money.

That gets me closer. Great. I could take my food budget down to $180 per month and skate on by…

The thought of skating by makes me sick. I refuse to live that way.

So let’s, for shits and giggles, look at another option.budget3

Look at that, a positive return! With savings, emergency fund, and some fun. It’s like financial magic.

Do you see the change? The concept may be so far-fetched that you did not even register it.

If you did notice, my guess is you are either trying to figure out what I mean, or cursing me because I just put a classic Chris Farley skit in your mind.

While it may not be down by a river, it does mean living in a van.

Before you stop reading, take a few moments to go through some of my reasoning.

Personal Equity

What does that mean? It means I would rather spend the $600 a month, or more, on my dreams and my debt, instead of lining someone’s pocket. I want to invest into me, and build myself up. If that means living in a van instead of living in an apartment; I will take it. Investments take time, but I’ll get there.

Less Work Needed

You are probably thinking I am just lazy. I could be working two jobs, burning the candle from both ends, and make plenty to survive. And I could, I probably will do just that, but not because I need to; I will work hard because I want to. I want to make more, but it won’t be to survive. I will make more to thrive. And if I decide I don’t want to work as much to pursue something else, it will mean I can take that time, because I can survive on a smaller income.

More Time

Like I just hinted at, this means I can spend more time on the people and activities, I love. I can afford to work less and write more. If you have been keeping up with my NaNoWriMo progress, or even this blog, that means you have seen how much I want to write per week. It is  a decent amount of writing. Writing is just one of the things I can do more with more time. I can also travel to see my best friends in January and spend two weeks skiing and climbing, because the opportunity cost is so small. There are other opportunities: more people, places, and activities; and I want to devote to them the time they deserve.

Mobility

Have you ever moved across the country? I have, and it was wicked expensive. I only had my few things and a car and it was about $2,500. Thankfully, I received a lot of help, but imagine if moving cross-country was as simple as getting in your vehicle and paying for the gas. While still expensive, it is immensely cheaper than hauling a bunch of crap around that you don’t even use (this is in my case). I am not going to list them all, but there are many implications of mobility being a fantastic reason for me.

Simplicity

This is a really important one. What do you really need? I have experienced a very eye opening 4 months. 95% of my possessions have been in a storage unit since July. I have lived out of a suitcase since then and have not missed the majority of the items in storage. I figured out I have far too much. I don’t need so many of the things I have. I am just lugging around crap that I am attached to emotionally, simply because the items are mine. I have a suit I have worn once and it was 5 years ago. I have a huge tool chest, with enough tools to fit in the smaller tool box I also have. I have 45 tee shirts and only wear my favorite 12. A plethora of items and I don’t even use half.

Not only that, but how often do you look at something you haven’t used in awhile and say “Gosh, I wish I [insert activity,  item, blah, blah, blah] more often.” And then you move on. You forget about it, or maybe you are like me and it nags at you. It takes up a bit of ram up in your memory bank, until little by little those things just add up and you are pulling your hair out frustrated that you aren’t focusing on anything. Sifting out the chaff, that is what this journey will be about.

The part that makes us keep things snapped in me. I figured out what is important to me. I want the experience of freedom.

So, why not find a better job? If my income is the limiting factor, why not work toward increasing that first? And to answer that simply, I have other priorities to tackle first. I could do a lot of things and make a lot more money than I am, but I do not want to do those things just now. I have a few things I am good at, and I will do, and I am actually in the process of finding another job that leverages my skills.

Think about this though, what if I get another job, or just a better job, and continue to live off a strict budget? Let me show you what I mean.budget4

If I take the new job, making at least $15 per hour (40 hours per week), plus continue working weekends at my current job (15 hours per week), and live in a van. I will have almost $900 left over by the end of the month.

Have you ever heard of the magic penny? If not, here is the story, or at least a version:

You and a friend are given two options: $1,000,000 up front or $0.01 doubled everyday for 31 days. You take the penny gamble and your friend takes the $1,000,000. Day 1 you have $0.01, Day 2 it doubles to $0.02. You are skeptical, but you still have 29 days. After a week, Day 8, you have $1.28, which is making you think you screwed up. On Day 15 you get $163.84, finally something is looking half way decent half through the month. Much better than the $0.01 to begin with, but it is still nothing compared to your friend’s $1,000,000. Day 21 rolls around and you have $10,485.76. Now you get excited. Day 28 and you can’t believe it: $1,342,177.28. You passed your friend, by almost $350,000, but then you remember you have three more days. By the end of the month, Day 31, you have $10,737,418.24. That is more than 10x what your friend received.

Why does this matter to my story? Because interest works over time in both directions; it either works for you or against you. The federal government, while I appreciate their help in funding my education, just unleashed the power of interest on all my loans. The current interest will be added to the principal in a month (referred to as ‘capitalization’), and that is a big deal. Luckily, it only happens once, but it changes the game entirely.

If I can pay $1,000 a month toward my loans instead of $200 that means I could be finished paying off my loans 5x faster.  That is a massive amount of savings, both in time and money, and as I just demonstrated time is money. Even if I can pay $500 toward my loans, that will still be a faster pay off. There is a lot more to it, and I will get heavy on the numbers sometime, but in essence, I want to work hard to pay off my debt as fast as I can, so I can start making strides toward investing in my future.

The concept of van living is a kind of distillation. Concentrating everything down to only what is needed and what is important. By getting rid of everything that is weighing you down, both physically and mentally, I can focus solely on the things important to me right now. For me, I want to focus on my writing, eliminate my debt, and change the paradigm I have always followed.

I have done a lot of talking about the van life and have yet to really talk about a plan to get there. So here is my fast run through of my plan.

My sister has graciously housed me for 4 months. I am eternally in her debt and so thankful for her help. However, it is time for me to move on. My other sister has offered to house me until the end of the year. That gives me another 6 weeks to continue to build my nest egg, finish down sizing, and figure out the nuances of ‘adulting’. In December,  I will buy a van based on the size of my nest egg and my projected income for the month of December. During the holiday season, last few weeks of December, I will spend time outfitting the van with help from my family. In the new year, I will start living the van life.

This is the plan, but I know that sometimes plans change, and I am okay with that. I am doing my best to better myself and that makes me happy. I feel empowered. I will do my best to stay positive, even with my debt high above me, because it is not worth killing myself over. I am doing this to enjoy life, and experience something different. While paying off my debt is a huge benefit, I will do my best not to get lost or grind myself for things not working out. Life happens. I am in this position right now because life happens. I am just doing my best with what I have.

This post is plenty long, so I will leave it here. Keep up with more details by checking out the Custom Updates every Monday, as those will be full of details about my budget and progress for now on.

At this point, many of you probably have a bunch of nit-picky details that you think I have not thought about. If you have questions, send me an email, or comment. I would love to see if I missed something. I haven’t been incredibly explicit in my planning, but I have a detailed plan and I feel that I have thought this through enough.

I am always open to feedback. A great mentor of mine taught me that, “Feedback is a gift.” Advice which I have taken to heart; thus, leaving me in hope for your two cents.

The Oyster

That old Shakespeare line, ‘the world is my oyster’, comes to mind when I reminisce over my outlook three months ago. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was a fresh graduate with two degrees in my hand. And yes, I mean degrees, not just majors. I mean two different pieces of paper denoting just how badass I am at being well-rounded and diverse. . . or just foolish and in debt. . . hoping beyond reason that my ‘renaissance man’ complex would get me a job.

But, I digress.

I thought I had it figured out. I knew I was in debt (details to come), but I had my plan to pay it off in 5 years. I also knew, and still know, what I want to do with my life. However, this ideal shiny world of debt freedom all hinged on one small detail. A detail that I obviously had worked hard, and had spent the months prior slaving, to tie down with a firm handshake and some scribbles of ink. That little detail that most college students are thinking about constantly through their senior year, or victory lap in my case. (I feel like something is missing here. . .) That small, insignificant detail that was the elephant in the room that I refused to acknowledge. Because, I definitely had it handled, and I absolutely did not need any guidance from my career center, or the career fairs, or my network connections. No, I was an adult, and I could handled it.

This would be the most childish lie I could tell myself, at least up to this point in my life.

If you have not guessed it, ‘it’ is the job.

My first lesson to you is a simple one; make sure you actually have the job. I learned the hard way what happens when you don’t get it in writing. That is a story for another time though.

Right now, it is important that you understand that I am taking hold of my life. This is my stand:

I am going to make a custom life for myself; a life that I will be proud of, a life that inspires others. I will have a life lived, not lost.

I am going to find that oyster, because, while Shakespeare might have meant that only a few are lucky, I believe we make our own luck.

The search for my oyster begins now.

P.S. I know some of my grammar seems terrible. However, I know the rules. The beauty of that? I can break them.