Leaving the Family House While at School
I previously mentioned that I have been with the same girlfriend since the age of 15. We actually moved in together at a young age. As I was the only child in my family, I was fortunate enough to have my parents’ basement entirely to myself. I had a small kitchen, a pool table (that was actually my dining room table ;-) ), my TV with PlayStation and a huge double sized bedroom. I had asked my dad if we could remove the wall between 2 small bedrooms. I was lucky enough to have my own entrance and garage (the previous owner was renting the basement as a bachelor apartment). Life was great as a 16 year old teenager :-D
While still in college, my girlfriend moved into this little paradise. Therefore, I had to trade my pool table for a real table and establish a schedule for my Playstation time (it is crazy what a girlfriend can make you do ;-) hahaha!). We were 18~19 at the time.
We lived at my parents’ house for another 2 years or so. Because we all have strong characters, the living arrangements became uncomfortable after a while. At one point, there was too much tension in the house. I really love my parents and they were getting too involved in “our” lives. We wanted to leave yet we were still in school, my car just died (literally!) and I didn’t have a penny saved as I was coming back from a semester as a foreign student in living in France.
My dad came to me one day and said: “So what are you going to do son? It is not like you are able to afford to buy another car and pay a rent”. My dad has always been a great man and I really get along with him. However, at that stage of my life, I really needed to fly with my own wings and he wasn’t ready to let me go. He thought I wouldn’t do anything since we didn’t have the money.
I guess I surprised him and ignored the facts and felt that I was able to do anything I put my mind towards at anytime. When I was born, emotions such as fear, anxiety and low self confidence were apparently missing in my brain and they haven’t being acquired over time! So my girlfriend and I decided to pack our gear and move on.
Looks like credit cards can be useful sometimes”¦
Back then, we had two old cars. We put them for sale in order to create a small emergency fund ($1,500 is not much but it is better than a slap in the face!). My car wouldn’t start anymore but I was able to sell it for the body. It was a very nice looking 1981 BMW 320i. A retiree gave me $800 so he can work on the car and drive it on sunny Sundays.
Since I spent 6 months in Europe, I had built myself a pretty strong credit bureau for a 20 year old student. I had 5 credits cards each with $1,000 limit. Here’s how I used them the very first month:
#1 put cash down to rent a new car (we couldn’t afford to pay for mechanical breakdowns anymore and we needed a car to work)
#2 pay my tuition (I knew that the only way I would be able to pay back my debts was through a good job. Education is the key to a good pay cheque!).
#3 pay my girlfriend’s tuition
#4 and #5 were left empty in order to transfer the balance from one card to another, withdraw money to make payments on other cards. They were basically a source of cheap financing (close to an emergency fund.)
My girlfriend started working 6 months before me. It really helped in maintaining our budget. We were about to go over the edge because our credit card debts were killing us with their high interest rates. At the time, I didn’t know about the 6 month limit to 0 APR transfer credit cards so I ended up paying more than full price over 12 months.
This wasn’t a financially comfortable situation. However, we were free and happy. We were fortunate enough to avoid bad luck during that year. Each month, I would juggling credit card balances switching them from one card to another in order to make the minimum payment everywhere and keep a good credit rating. In North America, a good credit rating is your key to access financing and cheap interest rates. I just couldn’t afford to destroy this.
I finally finished my bachelor’s degree and started working right away. I actually had my last exam on Sunday and started my first job the next morning (no celebration for me”¦ couldn’t afford it!).
During that summer, I worked 6 days a week, doing overtime when it was requested and trying to do my best to keep my job. Each penny earned over our student budget was used to pay off our credit cards. So, we lived within our means for 3 months and we paid off $4000 of debt.
I have learned one very important lesson about personal finance from this experience:
Set your goals and be faithful, no matter what is your present situation, you will reach those objectives. Don’t be afraid to move on and do what you really want to do. Feeling great is much more important than having money and feel sorry for yourself!
image source: Blue Square Thing