In July of 2019 I relocated to Phoenix Arizona – I went from a 35,000/annual salary to less than 14,000/annual salary. I began my third year of national service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, working to improve impoverished communities in rural Arizona. This massive salary decrease came in a particularly difficult time in my life, I had just completed my Master’s degree in Social Work and had been battling my Major Depressive Disorder several months leading up to my graduation.
I needed a refresh.
My father drove nonstop from Arizona to Chicago, I packed everything I owned in the back of his car and after 10 years of being on my own, I found myself living with my family again for the first time since I was 17 years old.
I was now living on $541.97 paychecks, an amount of debt worse than I had after my undergraduate degree, and a new found goal.
HOW TO GET STARTED WITH REFRESHING YOUR LIFE
I began watching Jordan Page’s YouTube channel shortly after arriving in Arizona. I needed to learn how to dig myself out of the debt hole I was in and make achievable goals to work towards, all while living on $1100 a month and no government assistance.
"I was now living on $541.97 paychecks, an amount of debt worse than I had after my undergraduate degree, and a new found goal – to get my life together."
After watching her How to Budget & Get Out of Debt video, I spent the next few months binge-watching her budgeting series. By mid-October, I felt comfortable with everything I’d read and watched to begin practicing her budgeting methods but first I needed to figure out what my financial goals were.
My Financial Goals for 2020
Separate my spending from my bills so that every dollar I spent was easier to track and I never went negative in an account.
Start saving money – one pot of money for things I wanted to buy, one pot of money for investment, and one pot of money for emergencies.
Learn to not overspend or spend without paying my debt first.
Begin paying off debt.
Organize my budgeting so that unnecessary spending could be caught before it turned into overspending.
According the Fun, Cheap or Free website and Jordan Page's YouTube videos, there were several systems and techniques one could use to help curb unnecessary spending, increase your saving potential, and pay off debt. Now I wasn’t sure if her guidance would help me because I was living off of so little, however, my project site I was serving at offered a $200 housing stipend to help with rent and I had the support of my family. So,if there was a time I would have the opportunity to really start making a dent in my financial goals, it was now or never.
ADDING MADNESS TO JORDAN PAGES METHODS
In Jordan's The 7 Bank Accounts Every Family Should Have video, she encourages you to create 7 separate accounts and designate a specific purpose to each. She gives examples of how these accounts can be split up and which one’s you’ll need to make sure you have access to – like your general spending and savings accounts. I highly suggest watching her video to get a better sense of her suggestions but here is what I did.
I ended up only needing to create 5 accounts:
Spending account – paycheck goes into, general spending comes out
Bills account – amount for monthly bills goes into, bills come out
Savings for debt – savings meant to pay debt
Savings for emergencies – savings meant to sit unless needed for emergencies
and Investment account – usually for retirement but mine is actually being used for investment purchases. I do eventually want to open an actual retirement account in the future.
Not only did I open 5 accounts but I also began budgeting weekly, started utilizing her envelope system for grocery shopping, and implemented a spending freeze once a month. I wanted to try out these systems for a year and see how far I was able to get with my goals.
“ Grain of Salt Rule: Take everything with a grain of salt, this is my unique situation and while the numbers tell a story, it is my story.”
HERE'S WHAT WORKED AND WHAT DIDN'T
Separating my spending from my bills was extremely effective! I could feel confident that my bills were taken care of because the moment I got paid, my bills account would be funded with the exact amount for all of my bills for the month. Creating a spending account, bills account and savings account budget really represented how much money I needed in my accounts every month and that really helped me budget smart so that I avoided negative accounts or running out of money before bills were paid or help save to pay off one debt at a time.
Saving money specifically for debt and then paying off that debt. I took this challenge very seriously and was able to save enough to pay off three debts, keep my student loans from defaulting, and saved enough to even start investing in a business. I avoided adding anymore debt and focused on making sure I was living well within my means every month.
The envelop system lasted one week, unfortunately, I just couldn’t get a hang of using cash. I wasn’t sure if that was a Millennial problem or a safety concern but this system didn’t work for me. Instead I began using Instacart and delivery services so that I wasn’t tempted to overspend at the grocery store (COVID helped this out a bit).
The spending freezes also weren’t very effective, when you’re living on so little the small amounts of money you spend really do begin to add up. Spending $7 a day on Starbucks coffee is money I could be saving. Unfortunately, it took me a long while to gather the amount basics I needed – like a coffee pot so I could make my own coffee (remember I had just moved across the country with pretty much nothing). I think the spending freeze is best used when you have a stock pile of groceries and household items first.
DOES JORDAN PAGE'S BUDGET SYSTEM WORK FOR PEOPLE LIVING IN POVERTY?
Surprising, yes. It became very clear that while Jordan has a completely different family dynamic, needs and income bracket, it’s the way you use the systems that really proved to me how useful they were. I had to tweak some things and other things I had to abandon but I know I will utilize them later down the road. With a monthly income of about $1,200 a month, my expenses including all bills and savings was $540. Since I changed my budgeting habits in January 2020, I have paid off $800 of debt, and saved over $1000.
Remember that I was living with family, had a $200 housing stipend, and received both my regular tax refund and the COVID-19 response tax refund within this time period.
Overall, the entire experience was an eye opener for me. I enjoyed the content in Jordan Pages’ videos and blog and while I’d always felt confident about my financial freedom in the past, to be able to still have that same freedom making the amount of money I made this year was so empowering. I feel ready to take ownership of my finances, heal my soul and refresh my life.
Excellent Blog posts you should definitely read if you are wanting to try this yourself!
Jordan Page and Fun Cheap or Free photos contributed to funcheaporfree.com
Coins and potato photo from Pixabay.com
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