Living below the poverty line these past three years have taught me a thing or two. I’ve been forced to learn some lessons, while others have come after reflection on my woeful situation.
LESSON ONE: Debt is cancerous
A month before my last fulltime job went away, I purchased a car on my credit card. That debt has not gone away, 3 years down the track. The interest, combined with the auto insurance and various other bills, is stopping me from paying off anything, since I’m only getting welfare while I study. So I’ve spent all of my time since being gainfully employed with a huge added burden. I could have sold the car, but that would have only been a temporary fix. I have needed a car many, many times these past years. The only safety net I have is living here with my parents. But they still charge board.
LESSON TWO: Apparently, nobody gives a moderately educated mid-twenties gal a job.
This one was a surprise, but in retrospect I understand it – despite it making me quite angry.
Turns out over-qualification is a real thing. And I have it. Plus, low-skill jobs always overlook the adults for the fresher faces that cost less, regardless of their work calibre.
It also turns out that I’m either under-qualified or under-experienced for the jobs on my career path. This one I’ve been working really hard to overcome, but so far it’s been no good. This is why I’ve been looking into getting a Masters degree after my Advanced Diploma: like our favourite treasurer, Joe Hockey, says: “Earn or Learn” – and earning is evading me continuously.
LESSON THREE: Wollongong is good and bad for being unemployed
Jobs? What jobs?
But at least the housing is… almost affordable.
LESSON FOUR: You have to get creative in how to survive on very little, while still investing in your future… somehow
A wealthy person may well stick their nose up at the fact I am frequently buying parts or accessories for my computer, or buying coffee while I am out and about.
Okay, I can’t justify the coffee except that I NEED IT FOREVER… but, as for the computer equipment: I can’t just sit by and watch my computer succumb to age and obsolescence. For someone like me, whose very future depends on her ability to use the latest design and video software, how am I supposed to work on a core duo processor and 2 gigs of RAM? How can I market myself as a photographer if I don’t have a DSLR? As an artist if I don’t have a graphics tablet?
So how can I afford it?
Well, I tread a very delicate path. I give up a LOT. Buy a beer at the pub? Psh, who am I, Richard Branson? Go shopping? Uh no, I have important being at home to do, where my money stays safely in my bank account.
Haircut? It can wait another few months, right? Shoes? Bro, I am wearing these sandals until they turn to dust under my feet. Clothing? Thank goodness for hand-me-downs and Millers sales.
Go to the movies? Ha, I don’t think so. I’ll borrow the DVD from you when you get that. Music? Uh, my Beatles collection is good enough for now.
LESSON FIVE: You gotta get thinking about how not to be homeless
Homelessness is an actual worry for me. I mean, I live with my parents today, but they’re getting on in their years. And what if they both died tomorrow in a car crash? They haven’t come close to paying off the mortgage on this house. There is no inheritance.
This has been the most recent lesson I’ve learned. I’m still working it out, but there is only one realistic way I can currently start living away from home…
Getting a cheap old caravan, and finding someone who’ll let me park it on their land.
So it’s come to this. I’m gonna be trailer trash.
Okay, I am a highly educated young person with a potentially bright future, so I can’t submit to boganity just yet. However, it just might take some years living like a retiree in a shoebox to get my finances back in order. And that’s okay.
In fact, it could be a smart move.
As I live in a spartan manner, I am sure to save money, after paying off my debts that is.
Eventually, I will be able to buy land.
And later, a proper home to put there.
A crummy 1977 Millard might be my ticket to freedom.
Care to… donate to my cause?