Where is my CTRL+ALT+DELETE button? Craigslist season opens again.

ctrl_alt_del_life_by_j0hnnyr0tt0n-d5vm4um
Credit: John Ackerly

I know I’ve been M.I.A for a while. My job is causing me all kinds of stress.  It then takes me all weekend to build the strength to string two thoughts together, let alone write a partially coherent blog post. My new manager is still scary. Every time she requests a meeting with me I panic that I’m going to get reprimanded and put on the short list for a PIP (the pre-firing “performance improvement plan”).

I’ve slowed down my debt pay off. This has been hard for me to do because I’m getting so close to being in four digits of credit card debt instead of five. It will be such a boost to be under $10,000.  Why am I slowing down my credit card murder payoff? I need to move.  My lease will be ending within the next couple of months and I want to find someplace much cheaper to live. I also want to be able to see what kitchen counters look like again (messy packrat roommate). Soooo, I will need to save 2X – 3X rent to move into a new place. I’m sure this housing hunt will earn another post. If you’ve ever competed for housing on Craigslist in a large city with a housing shortage, you’ll understand.

Craigslist roommate listings. You either get:

1. The overly specific poster with a long list of random requirements. It’s easier to join the cast of Big Brother, than get a room in their apartment. O.M.G.!  “Must play french horn with us every Tuesday evening and speak Swahili to our three 10 year old triplet Bengal cats”.  NEXT! Sigh…

The Most Insane Roommate Ad

2. The poster with weird habits that don’t match your weird habits.  A lot of ads have this kind of “kicker” at the bottom of the ad. Everything sounds great until you get to the last paragraph. “Oh, by the way all 5 of the other roommates will have to go through your room to get to the kitchen. The last tenant didn’t mind”. (Really? Well, you should get him/her back.) I’ve started reading the last paragraph first to save time. Sigh…  “NEXT!”

The Most

3. The poster who wants your money, but doesn’t want you.

These posters will do things like spend several sentences bragging about the gourmet grocery stores within walking distance. In the last paragraph they inform you that there are no kitchen privileges. WTH?!  Am I supposed to feed myself by cooking out in the backyard on a hot rock? Oh, wait, I won’t have backyard privileges either…   Sigh… NEXT!

The Most Insane Roommate Ads Ever Posted On Craigslist   Cry For Help   Happy Place

You know what? I’ll confess. If I ever had a room to rent, I’d be likely to write one like #3…  There, I’m guilty.  But that shouldn’t be surprising considering that I REALLY want my own place.

Ha!

Craigslist weirdness, big city weirdness, and hell, even my weirdness (We all have a bit. Yes you too – don’t deny it 😉 ) are making for good times… NOT!  I’ve already told you about what happened to me last year and how I ended up in my current housing situation…  In any event, my goal is to rent a cheap room for a year, kill off any remaining credit card debt and save some money before I even think about getting my own place.

Assuming I find a decent room, what will I do with said anticipated saved money (~$3k – 8k)? I haven’t decided yet. Should I keep it as an emergency fund? I’m not convinced that my job is secure.  Should I put it in my high deductible HSA (health savings account)? My health issues will have to be addressed at some point. Should I use it to fund travel? Should I open a 401k with my employer and send it there? Should I just throw it at the $100k of student loan debt? I need to work through identifying and re-evaluating what my financial goals are.

Another year of renting a room means that next year I’ll be 40 and still homeless. Not literally of course, but for me, not having my own apartment feels like a form of homelessness. Is renting a room one step up from couch-surfing? Sometimes I wish I had a CTRL+ALT+DELETE reboot command for life. I wish life problems could be solved that easily…  Short of having that, it IS within our ability to launch our own personal life ‘task manager’. I can’t start over, but I can decide what I prioritize and spend time / money on going forward.  I can decide what activities/goals I shut down/drop from my life.

Decisions, decisions…

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“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)

Locked Up USA: Student Loan Edition

Every once in a while when I have a spare hour among my three jobs, I like to stream an episode of Locked Up Abroad.  (Record scratch sound here.) Yes, Locked Up Abroad.

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I started watching the show when I was still in my pricey apartment. Initially, I thought I was drawn to Locked Up because of my interest in seeing representations of exotic locales and the basic drama of the program. But as time went on, and I began to make plans to move and downsize, I realized that I was drawn to deeper aspects of the storyline.

Those of us making sacrifices to get out of deep debt often see ourselves in a metaphorical debtor’s prison. For many of us, while watching Locked Up Abroad, we  can see the parallels  in our own financial lives.

lua worried woman

In Locked Up Abroad, a relatively good person gets into a tough financial situation. Sometimes this financial need is real, but most times it is perceived. Next comes the inevitable bad and life altering decision. For some of us, this may have been the need of a college education, and the bad decision to attend an expensive university with big student loans.

We enjoy the fruits of our clever moves for a little while. The expensive college environment, an off-campus apartment, the smell of ivy and textbook glue. We allow ourselves the luxury of dreaming of a future life that will be better than what we came from. With the right effort, we expect to experience upward mobility. We dream.

lua - having fun

But we can’t stay in dreamland forever. After a while, it becomes apparent that it will be time to pay the piper soon. We get a wake up call when we see the loan debt we have accrued so far. We start getting cold feet. ‘Can I go through with this? Maybe I should stop now. But I can’t stop now. If I stop now, I’ll have nothing to show for all that I’ve done so far. I have people back at home counting on me to finish this.’  Next, ominous looking student loan notices start showing up at the door. We are becoming fearful for our future. But we buy into the sunk cost fallacy and decide to continue with everything despite the deep risk we now realize that we are taking. Reality is sinking in.

lua -woman with smugglers

We have now graduated and are likely underemployed. We are barely paying our bills, just squeaking by. Perhaps we realize that with all the debt we have, we’ll never have enough cashflow to buy a house, or start a family, or take a vacation that we see everyone else enjoying.  Meanwhile, either our loans are due after the six month grace period, are coming off of forbearance, or we simply have an unexpected financial expense. At this point, we have crossed the event horizon. We have passed the point of no return.

LUA - squeaking by

Around now, we experience a reckoning. Our bad decisions have caught up with us. We’re caught and exposed. There is no place to run. There is no place to hide.  We feel embarrassed. We have to pay. We hit rock bottom. That’s when we begin to do  hard time in debtor’s prison.  On the show, it is the prison segments that really strike a chord with me. Now, living in my small 10 ft. by 10 ft. old rented room with three pieces of salvaged furniture, I sit and think about all the decisions that I could have made differently to avoid my current situation. With roommates, I have little space and little privacy. This is not the life I envisioned having at 38 years old.

lua - cell

The show  helps me to see how they coped and survived their imprisonment; not knowing when or if their ordeal would ever end.  I can relate in some small way. I would never try to compare my situation to theirs, but watching the show helps me to cope when I need it; if only to keep in mind that many others are facing much harsher consequences for their poor decisions than I am.

LUA - hope

Even in the face of uncertainty, those of us in deep debt must stay hopeful. We must stay focused and disciplined when it comes to what we do with our money. We must protect it. The longer we stay on good behavior, the more of our debtor’s prison sentence will be reduced.

Remember that the prisoners on the show eventually regain their freedom, as will we.

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“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)