A few weeks ago, I met a new friend we’ll call G. We worked together for a short time, and one day when we talked, she told me her hopes for her life going forward. While our time working together was ending soon after that chat, she was on the fence as to how to leap next to reach her goals. How was she going to build her passionate acting career while being saddled with debt and needing a day job to make ends meet? She was thinking about meeting with a debt consolidator.
Upon hearing this, I offered to meet-up with her anytime she’d like for a coffee and to save her money instead of paying someone else to figure it out. I thought I could help her organize her finances and make a plan for debt-freedom while growing her presence in acting at the same time.
Be Open to a Frugal Mindset
She was open to the meet-up and we met in early December to talk about getting real with her finances and what steps she could take to unshackle herself. G was lucky in that she still lives with her parents and they don’t charge her for living expenses. Her main bills come from various lines of debt, a cell phone plan, and dining out often for most meals.
Before meeting, I asked her to bring me the balances of all her debt, the interest rates, and her monthly payments. It wasn’t easy to gather all of this information, but she was thankful she had it in a list when we sat down to meet.
List Your Debts
G has debt from: a car lease debt rolled into a new car payment loan, medical bills from a prior event, and maxed out credit cards shifting from 0% interest rates to 20%+ rates for travel she took years ago, and planned costs for dental repairs in the new year. Overall, minus the car loan, it came to near $20,000 with most of it in credit card debt at blooming high interest rates.
We went through what she could expect to bring in from a few part-time jobs, and faced the reality that she couldn’t stop working completely to pursue her acting career. Instead, we worked out a plan and a few goals for her in 2017.
Set Realistic Goals
In our one hour meeting, she went from feeling deflated and disempowered, to feeling like she had a focus, a plan, and steps to move forward to make her debt go away and her acting dreams come true. We talked about how she could pickup extra work, but also how she could promote her acting career at the same time to work closer in her desired field.
We made the year of 2017 the year of debt-freedom and hard work, that would eventually open new doors and opportunities for acting and further career growth. Without these debts, she’d be open to taking any type of acting jobs available to her.
Believe in Yourself and the Process
This couldn’t have happened if she didn’t believe that it’s possible. G shared that she had previously taken a Dave Ramsey course, which I agree with many of his philosophies, and she knew the right steps to take but just had difficulty finding her way. What I believe she needed right now was a new friend with an outside perspective to push her in the right direction.
Our meeting was challenging, as I am a realist, but was enlightening for us both. She was attached to eating take-out or stopping for lunch while at work and couldn’t imagine giving that up. I challenged her to eat her mom’s home cooking for lunches and make dining out a special treat. Not only would it improve her bank account, but it would help her health in the process.
We made a goal that when she was in and out of my work location, she’d stop by to show me her lunches. I was going to check-in and make sure she was bringing in sandwiches or homemade meals, saving the treats for special times or using her weekly allowance for such splurges. I’m excited to share that in a few short weeks she shared with me how much she’s saved from this small change alone and has already dedicated herself to it as a norm.
Look Your Debt in the Eye
G is a perfect example of someone who felt like they had no control, paid the minimums, and was afraid to face debt head on despite knowing from previous learning how to tackle it step-by-step. Once she made the choice to face the road ahead, it opened her up to so much more and she seems even more cheerful because of it.
After the holiday, I received a joyful email from G sharing that her family gave her small monetary gifts for Christmas to help her fill her emergency fund of $1,000, and her sisters are now keeping up a tumblr blog for her professional acting career and highlights. G is keeping me updated, and I cannot wait to see how this year changes for her!
You Can Make Better Choices
In a year’s time, so much can happen and change. Little steps every day are what add up to big wins. Skipping a $10 lunch per day at work equals around $2,500 per year. That’s an emergency fund and debt pay down from a small choice that has little impact on your daily life. All for just bringing in leftovers or homemade soups for lunch.
You Don’t Have to Live in Debt
I believe we don’t have to live a life of debt, despite being told often that “debt is a part of life” by many I know. Each hour we work can be put towards buying our freedom or towards what is most important to us. Those hours may eventually become work we do for passion and desire instead of for monetary need.
This recent holiday break proved to me that when we set our sights on something, it is within reach. First, we just have to make the decision to act. G acted and in a few short weeks has started to reap the rewards. In a year, she may be completely debt-free and open to taking acting jobs at any level of the pay scale. She doesn’t make a six figure income, yet she’s going to do it!
I don’t share this in hopes of becoming a financial coach of any sort. I share her story because if we both can make changes and take the road less traveled to debt-freedom, you can too.