In the summer of 2009, I had been laid off from a job, and was preparing to be evicted within months from my apartment and live in my car with my dog. I didn’t know where I was going to go, or what I was going to do, but I was thankful that I would at least have a car. It was over 10 years old, but in pretty good shape, and there was room enough to sleep comfortably with Buddy and store a few things.
I was terrified of the idea at first. Me? Living in my car? With my dog? Like a vagabond? What the hell happened to my life? As I started to realize I would have to sell and discard the majority of my belongings, and store what I couldn’t take, I fought hard to avoid the fate I was running headlong into. I was in a state of denial and panic for weeks.
And then a very strange thing happened: I accepted this possible fate. Because it was staring me right in the face, I realized I couldn’t look away. I had to face it. Once I did, my fears turned into challenges. Daunting as they were, I began to embrace these obstacles. I started packing essentials. I researched articles about living on the road. I created a big to-do list: Get a library card. Start selling stuff on Craigslist. Make a list of emergency contacts. Buy a phone card. Get oil changed and top off fluids. Determine first destination. Get maps. And on it went.
Just in case. I had to be ready.
Meanwhile, I was still job hunting and trying to find ways to keep my apartment. Nothing was happening on the job front (no responses to my resume), and I was begging two temp agencies to send me anything. So I kept packing, researching and making plans. I started to look forward to life on the road. What an adventure!
One day, one of the temp agencies called. They had a two day stint for me. I couldn’t believe it! At this point, I was thinking the money would go toward my on-the-road fund. Then I was called about another temp job, and another. I was able to make my rent payment, and pay my bills. Gradually over the coming months, I found a full-time job, and pulled myself out of the slump. While living in my car could still happen, the possibility grew more and more distant. I felt both immensely relieved, and a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be living a “strings-free” adventure (or getting the satisfaction of seeing if I could’ve done it).
While that whole experience was scary and exhilarating, I look back and wonder “What was I thinking?” But I know I could’ve done it if I had to, though it would have been a lot rougher than I had imagined. The fact that I’ve been very close to the possibility of being homeless, but was able to embrace it gives me a great deal of contentment, because if push comes to shove, I have a workable plan, a lot more knowledge, and much less fear. While I would be broke, I wouldn’t be broken.
I’ve had some relatively secure years since, but a lot of lean months. A few pretty dicey times, that I was graciously helped through by friends and family. One day I hope to pay all these folks back, in one way or another. In the meantime, I try to pay it forward by helping others who are in dire straits whenever possible, with little donations on GoFundMe, etc. when I have a few rare extra bucks. But I gotta confess: I’m still trying to get myself sorted out and finally get enough security to not have to worry about money all the damn time.
I’ve tried various budgeting and savings plans over the last few years, with only moderate success (as I always needed to use whatever I’d managed to save). About 7 months ago, with downsizing at my company looming overhead, I decided to try again. This time, I’ve already managed to save more than I’d been able to in the last decade. And did I mention I’ve been unemployed for the last 3 months?
Let me show you how I did it, and how you can too.