money

My journey from terrifying debt to positive net worth and plans for the future

Let’s talk about money for a second.

It’s a topic I have touched on before because it’s a subject very close to my heart.

I want to share a personal story with you because my experience with money has been fundamental in putting me on the Path to Less.

I wasn’t always good with money. In fact, I’ve been terrible with money and on more than one occasion only the financial support from my family stood between me and bankruptcy, if not worse.

When I started working, I did not save any of the money I was earning. I was spending it all, and rarely on something long-lasting. I also didn’t save money for the college tuition I knew I had to pay every semester, only to let it catch me unaware, forcing me to dip into the credit line my bank had given me. It was a slippery slope and I wasn’t learning on my mistakes.

Then, I decided to quit my stable job for a sexier self-employment opportunity. I was young and impulsive and didn’t account for the fact that if I treat my one client gig like a full-time job I still will have to pay all the social security and taxes that self-employed people have to pay in my country.

Self-employment did not agree with me and I soon racked up a lot of debt. I had almost 20,000 PLN in debt by the time I realized how truly screwed I am. I had no savings, massive debt, a job that was exhausting me mentally and no prospects for the future. On top of that, I was under a lot of pressure because I was living with my elderly mother whose pension was not enough to pay the bills, let alone support us both while I got my life together.

It was a dark place for me for a couple of months. I realized I needed a stable job and so I started to look for a one. I decided to go the corporate route because corporations pay the best and I knew I needed the money. I was so thankful when I managed to find one I liked. I was over the moon when they actually liked me and offered me a position for more than I initially wanted.

I can’t even begin to describe the anxiety and fear that riddled me all through the first three months of employment when I was riding out my probationary period, hoping against hope that at the end of it they will offer me a permanent contract.

A permanent contract meant that my debt repayment schedule will be on track. I had to apply for public assistance in repaying my debt to the social security office (because I fell back on my contributions and I was seconds away from having my debt go to collections).

Half of my monthly paycheck was going to the monthly expenses like rent and food, while half of what was left was going into debt repayments. It was harsh and at times I felt like I wasn’t really working at a corporation. Especially when I watched my colleagues go on international holidays and buy themselves new clothes and electronics and such… But I stuck to my guns. I even cut my spending enough to be able to save small amounts each month to go into an Emergency Fund.

You can imagine the overwhelming joy that came over me last year in August when my scrupulous calculations revealed that I was net worth positive. Sure, at the time I still had almost 8,000 PLN in debt, but between my retirement fund and my emergency fund, I was climbing my way out of the hole.

Today, I’m months away from being completely debt-free and I feel like I can breathe again. And in the meantime, watching all the budgeting and personal finance videos and reading all the blog posts directed me towards minimalism, that later lead to zero waste and environmental causes that I discovered a passion for.

Today, I don’t spend as much money on impulse. I budget every penny I get and prioritize saving ahead of anything else. A big fan of calculations, I designed a plan to save up enough money to be able to buy an apartment in four years (as opposed to seven, as I initially thought). My Emergency Fund saved my butt more than once, preventing me from slipping back into debt.

And while I’m still anxious about a lot of things, none of those problems are financial in nature.

On the personal finance front, I’m an optimist. The tribes and tribulations I’ve encountered over the past two years as I worked hard to get my finances in order have proven to me that no matter how deep the hole is and no matter how dark it is. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I can get to where I want to be with a little luck and a lot of hard work.

I hope reading my story will help you realize that you can get out of debt too, and if you need any support, I’m here for you.

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