On Saving My First Thousand Dollars
I was living in a new town after a year of unemployment. In a stroke of luck, I found an amazing company, but they got me dirt cheap. I did not have any immediate experience, and they could taste my desperation.
Nonetheless, it felt indescribably good to no longer rely on my girlfriend's income.
She was a waitress, at the time, working at a rooftop bar in the dead of summer. She sweat for every dollar earned and never complained. It is easy for me to admit that without her, I would not have had an opportunity for success.
It saddens me now, to think about the fact that we have nothing to show for all that hard work. Every dollar earned just evaporated. We lived for the moment, in bars and clubs, without a care in the world.
Living on our own in a strange town, having moved three hours away from everything we knew, felt like an adventure. Without money, we became obsessed with DIY, tiny houses, and other movements promoting a self-sufficient lifestyle.
We started an above-ground garden outside our apartment complex, took up sewing as a hobby, and researched alternative home construction techniques. It was fun, but eventually, we realized that if we ever wanted to experience this lifestyle, we would need money.
Let's stop here a minute because you need to understand my money situation, at the time, a bit better.
I had no bank account because I over-drafted my account by $750. Did you know that was possible? And, I had bad credit from foreclosure and other generally irresponsible behavior.
I was cashing my paychecks and living out of envelopes. The envelope system was really the only personal finance technique I was familiar with, so I made it work. Every payday, I would divvy up my money.
I'm not sure exactly when I wrote, "Savings" on the front of a white envelope in black Sharpie.
I think I was saving $40 a paycheck and all my leftover change. A quick observation, when using cash, the result is a lot of change. I remember depositing said change into a mason jar every evening. Clink.
Honestly, it became a habit, and I didn't think much about it. It wasn't until a year later when moving apartments (I hate moving!) that I counted my savings.
A thousand dollars and some change. Well, a lot of change.
I was shocked. Mostly, because it was so easy. In any other universe, I would have just spent that money on beer and cigarettes. But, in this universe, luck should have it, I had a small emergency fund.
Except, it wasn't luck. I was saving first, before spending, prioritizing it like any other obligatory bill. Later, I would read a quote by a man who would reinforce my behavior.
That start was all I needed, to put myself on a trajectory toward financial independence. In the end, it was about momentum. The momentum that I am still benefiting from today.