Over the past month I have made big changes in my life. I have moved to a new state and started work at a new job. After I got and accepted the official offer, I packed up and flew out of town less than a week later to no fanfare. I never heard anything from my former co-workers and they won’t be hearing anything from me. Not because I’m mean, but because I’m embarrassed about how my time there ended. It’s obvious that they don’t miss me anyway. I was miserable there for those last few months before I got axed. It was time to move on. So one quiet morning, one of my roommates drove me to the airport, helped me get my luggage on the airport curb, gave me a hug and wished me good luck.
When I arrived in the new city all alone, I had temporary lodging that I booked online. I had no housing arranged. It is impossible to find a place to live remotely via Craigslist. I figured that 10 days would be enough time to find a cheap room to rent. Boy was I wrong. What resulted was a cascade of financial rule breaking that has set me back at least one year in my debt payoff goals.
I’ll break down just some of what happened. I am not proud of this, but am blogging it as a learning lesson of some kind.
1. FIND CHEAP HOUSING = FAIL
My main goal was to find a cheap place to stay here. The housing market here turned out to be much, much more competitive than I thought it would be. While in temporary housing, I lived on Craigslist from the moment I woke up to when I went to sleep. After becoming used to paying $425 per month in rent in my low cost of living pacific northwest suburb, I wanted to find a place in this new high cost of living California city for between $500 – $800 per month. For the area, this is very low, but possible. But doing so was not possible for me, at least not in the time I had allotted to look. In that price range, lessors were flooded with people replying to their ads. Most ads that I answered, I never heard back from. For the ones that I did get to see, most were in not safe neighborhoods or were disgusting. I wish I could have taken pictures to show you some things that I saw.
There were a two places that were very nice and with a good price. I really wanted them. Unfortunately, so did 50+ other people. When I went to see one of the places, she said that I was the 10th person she’d seen that day. I didn’t audition well enough and was not selected for those two places. By this point I was desperate. I was in temporary housing and burning through $75+ a day. Unsafe areas and disgusting places were out because my health and safety come first. I was exhausted and frustrated. I had to go up in rent.
Long story short, I am now living in a two bedroom apartment with a roommate that I found on Craigslist. I am paying over $1,400+ per month. This is high; even for this area. I do admit that the location is killer (near public transit for work etc.), however this expense has all but destroyed my anticipated budget.
2. NO MORE FURNITURE = FAIL
Now with this apartment, I needed furniture for my bedroom. I plan to be here for almost a year, so it became apparent that I would need to get a bed, dresser, table and chair, which I did. $$
3. NO USELESS SPENDING = FAIL
While I was at it, I lost my mind and bought a new 32″ television. Yes. I know. I don’t know what I was thinking. Although cable is included in the rent, I didn’t by it for that. I bought it to watch Netflix, which I reactivated. $. I also bought a monthly gym membership. Granted the gym is actually needed to improve my increasing health issues, but it is money. Oh, wait, it gets worse!
4. NO CREDIT CARD = FAIL
Yes! I charged most of these things on my credit card; the card that I vowed I would never touch again. I had some rationalization about wanting to keep as much cash in my bank account as possible until I started getting paychecks.
5. NO ADDITIONAL CREDIT = FAIL (AND WIN!)
At my new job I am required to have a corporate credit card for work expenses, I have that in my name although my employer will reimburse expenses. I didn’t have a choice on that one.
In addition to that I have opened up two new credit cards. Now don’t faint, I did NOT open them up to spend more money.
I opened them because with my new increase in income, I am now finally eligible for 0% promotional APRs for balance transfers. So I am transferring all my Citibank debt at 19.99% interest over to these two cards which have 0% interest for 12-15 months. This will save me from over $400 per month in interest payments. I hate having more credit cards to deal with, but once the promo rates on these cards end, I will close them. The money that I save will let me get some traction on my debt.
6. BUDGET FORECASTING = FAIL
This job pays a lot more than the job I was fired from – over $25,000 more. Sounds great right?! Well, not so fast.
First, that $25,000 will be subject to various tax withholdings totaling about 35%. So that money is gone off the top. That leaves $16,250. That still sounds great right? Well, the rent I have now is $1000 more per month than I had in my old town. Then, there are the $200 per mo transit pass and $100+ – $200+ per month for health insurance. My last employer paid for all of our health insurance premiums. I was shocked to find out that I have to pay for that now out of pocket.
This is indeed a high cost of living area. All this means that painfully little of all that extra money will go towards debt, at least for one year. When my lease is up I will have more time to look for a reasonably priced living arrangement. Let that be a lesson to anyone reading this. Do a real world cost calculation when evaluating a higher salary.
I am still working my intermittent online job, but it can be very time consuming for the amount of money that I get paid. I want to quit it, but I can’t. I need that extra money to go towards the debt, at least until this credit card debt is paid off.
Once I get my first paycheck, I’ll have a better sense of what I will have to work with. That was just some of what I’ve been dealing with for the past month. More will follow. This should be interesting.
“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)