A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.Lao Tzu
The Beginning- I got fired from GEICO on December 31, 2014.
What a perfect way to ring in the New Year… UNEMPLOYED. I was already living paycheck to paycheck, so being fired was the icing on the cake. All I had to live off of was the $281.30 in my 401k until I found a new job.
Funny thing is, GEICO was my backup plan. I was originally supposed to ship out to Bootcamp for the United States Navy on January 13, 2015, but I changed my mind once I began working at GEICO in August 2014. I fell in love with GEICO. I lived, breathed, and pooped GEICO. I put all my eggs in one basket and lost every single one. I literally got fired 14 days before I was supposed to go to Bootcamp.
I had officially hit rock bottom. I had no job, no goals, no plan, no degree, and no money. It was time to make a change.
I cried and soaked in my sorrow for a few weeks. I called the military back, but my recruiter scoffed at me for wasting her time and told me I would have to start the entire six-month process all over again. I was (for lack of a better word) FUCKED.
In between applying for jobs, I came across this Youtube video by a high school football player named, Apollos Hester. He was so inspiring and gave me chills.
Apollos said “All it takes is an attitude to be successful. Sometimes life is going to knock you down, it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be hard. You’re going to have to battle. You continue to do your best and give God the glory. It’s an awesome feeling when you truly believe that you’re going to be successful, regardless of the situation. Win or lose, you are going to be alright. You can do anything you put your mind to. Never give up on your dreams.“
I watched that video EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, all I knew is that I wanted to travel. I had this desire to see the world and I was going to make it happen, NO MATTER WHAT. Buttttt, there was a slight problem: Traveling requires MONEY, and I only had $281.30 from my 401k.
Question: How can someone without a college degree and no money travel the world?
That’s right, I googled those exact words and spent hours researching the results. The most popular jobs were Au Pair, Flight Attendant, Pilot, Truck Driver, Cruise Ship Worker, and ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher.
Becoming an ESL teacher piqued my interest, because
- I am a Native English Speaker
- It doesn’t require a college degree
- I love teaching.
Cue another fucking roadblock: Getting certified costs over $1000 and you have to pay for your own travel costs (in most cases).
I thought it’d be a good idea to share my dreams with my parents in hopes that they would fund my aspirations. Long story short: They looked at me like I had three heads growing out of my neck. Also, they said the world is a dangerous place and that I would end up like Liam Nesson’s daughter in Taken -_-
Eh, back to square one. It wouldn’t be the first time my parents shit on my dreams. I kept applying for jobs in the process. I wasn’t passionate about any of them, but I needed money. I came across a call center position making $9/hour. (I was originally making $16 at GEICO, so this hurt, but it was still better than $0/hour). I got the job and I HATED IT, I had to get out of there and see the world.
The worst job ever gave us full internet access, so I spent the day plotting my escape via Google. While browsing Craiglist I came across an ad that read: “Hate your desk job? Come live and work in Hawaii!” (Okay, maybe not those exact words, but that’s how it was interpreted in my brain). I clicked the ad and read the requirements:
*At least one year of restaurant experience
*Able to work 7 days a week
*Must be able to lift more than 25 pounds
*Must be fluent in English
I fit the description and instantly submitted my resume. The next day, I was invited to an open house at the Marriott in Virginia Beach, VA on January 30th at 9 am. Slight problem… I had to work that same day 🙁 So what do I do? Follow my dreams or go to work?
I decided to follow my dreams. I called out sick and went to the open house for Norwegian Cruise Lines.
The open house was very straightforward. It included a 45-minute informational video about Norweigan Cruise Lines, what to expect, requirements, rules, etc. There were open interviews afterward if you were still interested and fulfilled the necessary requirements. I sat my little black butt in the chair until my name was called.
I’d say the interview lasted all about 5 minutes before I was offered the job!!! I was hired as a Restaurant Steward, making $7.25/hour. Normally, I wouldn’t accept minimum wage, but
- I was going to be in Hawaii!!!
- The company provided meals, flights, and lodging.
- I wouldn’t have to work at that shitty call center anymore.
- I WAS GOING TO BE IN HAWAII!!!!!!!! ALOHA BITCHESSS!!!
Cue: Another minor setback…
Getting hired for a cruise ship isn’t as simple as getting the job and flying out the next day. It’s more like 4-6 months later. You’re required to take a physical exam, drug test, and get obtain government documents that certify that you as traveling worker and to work on water (They’re called TWIC & MMC). It was back to the hell hole until I received my ship out date. FML.
The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.Arnold H. Glasow
I accepted the job offer on January 30, 2015. It was now May 20, 2015, and I still hadn’t heard anything back. I submitted all the required documents and received confirmation from my recruiter. I gave her a call…no answer. I called her again…no answer. I sent an email… no reply for over a week. Did I just get ghosted? Is this entire thing a scam? AM I GOING TO HAVE TO WORK AT THIS CALL CENTER FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE?!
Then it happened…
My recruiter called me back and I missed her call. I called her back as soon as I saw the notification, but she didn’t answer. I checked my email about an hour later and my heart stopped beating…
It was time. I was going to Hawaii on June 29, 2015!!!!
YA GIRL WAS AMPED!!!! My prayers had been answered, and my dream was coming true. However, there was one MAJOR problem…
I had never flown on a plane before. I was 23 and deathly terrified of airplanes. The only thing I knew about planes was that Amelia Earhart disappeared while flying across the Pacific Ocean, R&B singer Aaliyah died on one (RIP sweet angel), and that two planes crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11. Now I’m expected to get on one of these death machines?!
Clearly my dramatic ass made it to Hawaii, otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing about it right now. Just know that I cried during my flight and thought that every noise and movement was going to be followed by me plummeting to my death.
HAWAII WAS EPIC! It was everything I imagined, and more. The crystal clear water, the kind-hearted locals, the delicious food, and the world-class beaches. On top of that, I made some life-long friends and learned so much about myself.
It really forced me outside of my comfort zone. However, I did develop an addiction while I was cruising the Hawaiian Islands.
I became addicted to traveling.
I was HOOKED. I finally got the see the world outside of Virginia Beach, VA. Now I wanted to see it all. My former boyfriend planned a cross-country road trip that we would take after I finished my five-month contract in Hawaii. We would fly to California to meet his family, then drive from California to Miami. From Miami, we would take a cruise through the Western Carribean, stopping in Jamaica, Mexico, and the Cayman Islands.
My first paycheck from the cruise ship was about $728. I used $550 of it to pay for the cruise. I told myself I would start saving $20 per paycheck for the cross-country road trip. I lied. My money went to alcohol, eating out, new clothes, and living my best life in Hawaii (parasailing, tattoos, snorkeling, renting cars to drive around the island). I was also paying for a brand new car back home, my cell phone, and my maxed out credit cards.
I worked 7 days a week in Hawaii and was STILL BROKE.
I managed to save $1000 by scraping together my last two paychecks and putting away $500 each. Spoiler alert: I spent every last penny on our cross-country road trip and cruise. All of my credit cards were maxed out. I ended up stuck in Miami because I didn’t have enough money to fly back to Virginia. I had to call my Mom and ask her for $89 so I could get back home.
My mother is an angel and I thank her for always saving my ass, but I was 23 and asking her for money was getting really old. It was time for me to grow up. I thanked her again and said these words that I’ll never forget:
Thank you for everything. I love you, Mom. This is the LAST TIME I will ever ask you for money. It’s my turn to take care of you.My promise to my Mother and my promise to MYSELF.
A few days after I got back from Miami, something very unfortunate happened…
I wrecked my $30,000 Mustang. My brand new car was TOTALED.
Luckily, the accident wasn’t my fault. I was rear-ended while sitting at a traffic light. By the grace of God, I wasn’t injured, and GEICO wrote me a check for $12,374.83!!! The same company that fired me, was now paying me TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!!! I owed about $4,000 on my Mustang, which I paid to my lender and walked away with $8,000 IN CASH! Now I was left with two options: buy another car or take the money and travel the world?
“Take the money and travel the world for $500 please, Alex.”
Now, I did have about $15,000 worth of debt on my credit report, so I still had a negative net worth. I offered my mother the entire $8,000 since she sacrificed so much, but she wouldn’t take it. She finally accepted $1,500, which left me with $6,500.
I went back to Hawaii and worked about a month before I decided to quit. I had a lot of back pain from my accident, and I was tired of working 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week. I also missed my boyfriend and craved a normal life again.
I moved to Washington, D.C. with my boyfriend and took a few months off from work. I used my savings to pay off my credit cards, and I finally had enough money to pay for my English Teaching certification!!! I was spending quite a bit of money and my savings were getting a little low, so I started looking for work. I landed a job working at a diamond store in Downtown D.C.
I had sooooo much free time on my hands at work, so I would complete the assignments for my English Teaching Certification Course, then spend the rest of the day reading finance books. I started out with Suze Orman’s Young, Fabulous, and Broke, which laid the foundation of personal finance for me. From there, it was a shit-ton of trial and error. I tried to save money by not eating out as much. Then I tried putting money in my savings account the moment I got paid. Then I tried challenging myself to see how much money I could have leftover until the next payday. From there, I tried living off $150 a week. I kept doing little things to push myself financially, and it worked. I started saving $500 a month, paying for vacations in CASH, paying down my student loans, and keeping credit card usage to a bare minimum.
In September 2016, my boyfriend and I broke up, and I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job and move to Nicaragua.
Long story short: I lasted 21 days in Nicaragua before I lost my mind, paid $500 for the next plane out of the country, and moved back to the United States. My former boyfriend and I made up and moved back in together.
Unfortunately, the diamond store didn’t hire me back, so I was unemployed, and my debt payoff came to a halt. I was forced to live off my savings and credit cards yet again.
I worked a few temp jobs to stay afloat, then the diamond store called me back! I was super excited and it felt good to be back.
Then they laid me off after the holidays…
What the actual fuck?! I’m ringing in the New Year unemployed AGAIN?! The owner failed to mention that he only needed me for the holidays, otherwise I would’ve been seeking other employment. Your frugal friend was unemployed yet again.
I hopped back on Craigslist and found a part-time job at H&R Block. I was hired to be a receptionist during the tax-season. Here’s the kicker: it ended in April. The manager was very clear about the job ending after tax-season. He also said that we could go to other job interviews and find full-time employment.
I began working with a few staffing agencies and went on every interview imaginable. It took about two months before I found a full-time job as a Receptionist for a firm in Downtown D.C. The hours were 8 am to 5 pm, Monday-Friday. The pay was $40,000/year, with full benefits. I kept working at H&R Block 3 days a week from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Then I worked on the weekends serving wine in grocery stores from 1 pm to 5 pm. YOUR FRUGAL FRIEND WAS BACK ON TOP! The goal was the become debt-free, which required working seven days a week and correctly managing my money.
My friend Kierra, suggested that I read, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin which inspired THE FUCK OUTTA ME. It really helped kickstart my journey again. Once that inspiration wore off, I happened to come across Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money laying around my apartment. My former boyfriend’s colleague let him borrow it, so I asked him if I could read it. From there, I started with:
Baby Step 1: Save $1,000 for Your Starter Emergency Fund
I already had $1,000 saved from my car accident, so I now I was super motivated and immediately moved to Baby Step Number Two:
Baby Step 2: Pay Off All Debt
(Except the House) Using the Debt Snowball
I started by listing all of my debts. I put them in order by balance from smallest to largest. This is called the debt snowball method, and I used it to knock out my debts one by one. I kept working, and working, and working, putting all my extra money towards debt repayment. I cut out ALL CREDIT CARD SPENDING, purchased groceries, ate at home, started tracking my spending, stopped shopping for clothes, stayed at home on the weekends, picked up extra shifts at work, and only spent money on things I NEEDED (aka rent, groceries, and transportation to get to work). I kept doing this over and over and over again until all my debt was paid off.
I submitted my final student loan payment on September 13, 2018. I was OFFICIALLY DEBT FREE!!!!!
So you see? Your frugal friend was a hot mess (sometimes I still am), and the journey was far from easy. It all started when I got fired from GEICO……
Hindsight is 20/20 and I truly thank GEICO for firing me otherwise I’d still be in Virginia working at a call center listening to people complain about their insurance premiums. NOTHING HAPPENS OVERNIGHT. I got fired in 2014 but didn’t become debt-free until 2018. Keep going, do your best, and always believe in yourself.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. You could’ve been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with me. I appreciate that.
As always, stay frugal, be BRILLIANT!