The trip: Sometimes plans are better off changed.
Much like my life, our Europe plans were ever changing. London was a for sure, since we were flying in and out of it. But Paris was a complete disaster and Austria cost enough to make my stomach churn.
So we pulled out a map, scanned our options, and decided to head west instead of east.
Thanks to my adorable grandparents who’d been in Portugal just a couple of years earlier, I had a decent idea of what to expect in Porto—lots of green, loads of wine, and views like none other. Spain was the real wild card.
We decided not to head for Barcelona or Madrid like most travelers do. Not because we thought we were above others, but because tickets to Malaga from Scotland were $20 USD and saving money was top priority. #unemployed
A quick Google search of Malaga revealed that it was on the Costa Del Sol (Sunshine Coast) surrounded by sparkling waters and miles of sand. We needed no more information before booking tickets and deciding we had a new obsession with a city we’d never heard of.
Tickets were booked, Air Bnbs were scheduled, and bank accounts were drained.
Life was good.
Reality check: Do what you’ve got to do and don’t be ashamed of it—unless it’s illegal.
Writing was going swell. Actually, it was going better than swell. I’d landed two new major clients that both offered incredible products I could get behind. Both CEOs were passionate, intelligent, and believed in my mission as much as I did.
I felt authentic. I felt creative. I felt on fire.
And I was almostmaking enough money to throw the peace sign up to a “real job” and live my happy little life typing away on my couch.
If I’m being completely honest (which I am), I was probably averaging 2-3 hours of work per day, with a lot of emailing, reading, working out, cleaning, and trip-planning in-between. For 10- to 15-hour work weeks, I was doing fab.
But beyond wanting creative freedom and value alignment, I wanted financial freedom. I had bills to pay!!!! I had plane tickets to buy!!!
So, I waltzed into my favorite restaurant and asked for a job. I’d waitressed during college and was good at it. Plus, I knew how much money could be made if you busted your butt, threw on a smile, and made sure people had a good experience.
The hard part was leaving my ego at the door and reminding myself that just because I had a degree and had worked a “big kid job,” didn’t mean I was above a job like this.
Here’s an important life lesson: You’re not above anything—unless it’s illegal, degrading, or harmful.
Another life lesson: Waitressing is hard! Your feet and knees hurt, you deal with angry rude people all day, and you’re paid $4.35 an hour. Tip. Your. Servers.
More money more problems: Budgeting is a business-owners best friend.
Now that my income fluctuated depending on the week, and aside from serving I didn’t have a guaranteed income at all, it was time to take a good hard look at my finances.
I’ve been a budgeter my entire life. My dad taught me the fundamentals of saving and spending wisely before I’d ever spent a penny. I even read finance books for fun. Which is only slightly embarrassing to actually write out.
I knew I needed to get clear on three essential things: how much money I had coming in, how much I had going out, and where that money was going.
Luckily my dad, angel that he is, created an extremely intuitive excel spreadsheet that tracked income and expenses and predicted how your upcoming months would look—money wise. (PS: I know they make apps for that but I’m #TeamDad)
The first step was determining what expenses I couldn’t get rid of:
- Insurance: car, renter, disability
- Car payment, gas, and service
- Phone (technically I couldget rid of my phone, but no thanks)
- Home basics: shampoo, toilet paper, food for my cat
- School loan
After adding all of that up I had one word: Yikes.
Step two was determining expenses that would fluctuate/come and go:
- Eating out: including drinks
- Travel: this one has yet to “go” but it’s technicallynot a necessity
Staring at those two totals combined I realized: Holy shit, living is expensive.
Then I thought: Holy shit, what if quitting was a mistake?
But that thought was fleeting, because I decided two things in that moment:
- I would make more money as a writer than I did in my previous role by attracting high-paying clients, producing good work, and spending money only where it fed my goals.
- I’d never consider quitting as a mistake—it was the best thing I ever did.
To make #1 happen, I’d need to budget—like really pay attention to my finances. I made it a habit to track (in the excel sheet) every penny in and every penny out—noting where they came from and went to. I raised my rates—and felt good about it. I cut out all the junk that didn’t help me reach my goals: eating out, buying extra clothes, grabbing drinks with friends (I didn’t always say “no,” a girl’s got to have fun!), and all the other little things I didn’t need.
To make #2 happen, I’d need to believe in myself and keep moving even when life gets hard…like really hard.
To be continued…