In March of 2012, I quit a temp job that I had been working. It paid better than any other job I had ever been at, but it was a miserable environment. My savings gave me a nice cushion for a few months while I job hunted, and I was able to find a job within a few months. That being said, I still didn’t make an exceptional amount of money in 2012 (I’d estimate it was less than $35,000 after taxes), but I still managed to pay off $18,000 in debt. I had a similar experience in 2011, when I paid off a good chunk of debt while not making much money.
How did I do it? Well, in a lot of ways. Some of them are pretty typical money-saving techniques, but a few are decidedly different. One in particular required a lot of explanation when I told anyone about it:
In 2011, when I decided to move to a new city, I had no job–and no good prospects. However, after job hunting for six months, I decided that I needed to live where I wanted to work, or I was never going to find a job there (I can’t verify the accuracy of this assumption, but after 6 months of job hunting, I think I would have made up any valid excuse to do anything different).
While searching for jobs on Indeed.com, I came across a posting from Care.com, written by a woman who was looking for someone to live in her mother’s home–with her mother. The position offered a modest stipend and required a small amount of housework per week, along with letting the dog out, and housesitting when her mother was out of town. In exchange, the individual selected would be able to live on the third floor of the house, rent-free.
After mulling it over for a few days, I crossed my fingers and applied for the position. Shortly thereafter, I spoke with the daughter and to my surprise, she sounded completely normal. I agreed to come meet with her mother, and after driving by her beautiful house (which did not look like a place where someone would tie a visitor up in the basement, never to be seen again), I did just that.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I ended up getting the position, and moved in a couple months later. The house was over 100 years old and was one of those big, old, wonderful houses with nooks and crannies everywhere you looked. The third floor had been built to be the servants’ quarters and had two bedrooms, a small entryway, a bathroom, and a ton of storage. It felt just like an apartment, minus a stove (though I was able to use the one downstairs). The woman who owned it was very active–always going out with friends, exercising, traveling–not at all what I thought she’d be. A care-taking position, this was not. I ended up living with her for almost a year, until my fiance and I moved in with each other.
This position gave me the ability to move to the city I wanted to live in, find a job, and bank some cash while paying off debt. And the added bonus was that I got along so well with the woman I lived with, that we still stay in touch and go out to dinner from time to time.
The lesson in all of this? Think outside the box.
I recognize how lucky I was to have this fall into my lap (and trust me, it came at a time when I was feeling very, very unlucky) and I certainly don’t advocate that you should move in with someone who advertises free rent on the Internet, but who knows?
Take that leap of faith. Make the choice that other people think is weird. Make the choice that you think is weird. If you’re lucky, you may find yourself in a situation that supports your financial goals perfectly.