I was contacted recently by PayPlan, a company who wants to promote awareness of how important it is to manage your finances and how easily it can be to get into debt if you aren't prepared. They challenged me to write about how just one bad week can get you into such a spiral downward and cause you to go into debt if you don't have a backup plan. Like what happened when I was asked by YouNeedABudget to write a post about budgeting, I wasn't prepared for how emotional writing this post would get me. Because I had a really, really bad week a few years ago, and the repercussions of that sucky week lasted a long, long time. Years even.
You see, before we lived in this current apartment, we lived in a terrible apartment. It was big and more spacious than our current one, twice the size, in fact... but the rent was too high- we couldn't afford it anymore and we were drowning in bills.
The apartment came with not just one, but three methods of heating up hot water. A solar hot water heater, an electric boiler, and a gas boiler. Well, the solar hot water heater didn't work for years and the electric boiler never worked. We relied on that single gas boiler, and it broke. We went a few weeks in the winter with no hot water, literally taking sponge baths with water heated up on the stove. It was horrible.
Then Mike figured out how to get it to work again. Temporarily.
Then it died completely.
We called our landlord to ask him to send someone to fix it, since we had no hot water and we were suffering. He was dismissive of us, told us that we obviously don't know how to turn it on, and we should ask a neighbor to show us.... So we called a repairman ourselves, footed the bill, and when we asked for the landlord to pay us back he refused. That was a few hundred dollars we couldn't afford that we paid for repairs our landlord should have done long before...
We decided we needed out, come hell or high water.
We looked for a cheaper apartment, and we decided upon this apartment, 484 square feet, for $200 dollars less each month.
We found people to take over our apartment, friends who were moving to my community from abroad, who were going to sublet from us until our contract ended 4 months later.
We paid to move to the new apartment, which, again, was money we didn't have, but we spent it with the hopes of a better future, a future in which we wouldn't have such high rent bills every month, and we wouldn't have to foot the bill for important repairs to make our apartment livable.
And then disaster.
The day before the subletters were to arrive, our landlord put his foot down and said that he refuses to let them come. (He had even agreed to them coming and subletting beforehand!) He said he didn't know these people, doesn't let them stay there, and it didn't matter how much we argued, he said no.
We tried to find new subletters, people the landlord would approve of, but when potential people came to the apartment to check it out, the landlord was so disgusting to them that they wanted nothing to do with him, and we realized we couldn't subject people to him, and we'd just have to suffer and pay double rent.
For four entire months.
Before this whole thing started, we were already struggling financially. And then it all went downhill from there. One thing after another after another. Expense after expense using money that we didn't have. Debt. Debt. Debt. That horrible financial situation that all started from one bad week haunted us for years.
In retrospect, I do wish I would have done things differently. I wish we would have taken my landlord to court (small claims court, which wouldn't have cost us much, if at all) to make him pay to fix the things in our apartment that were basic living needs and for which he was in breech of contract. We should have sucked it up and stayed there to the end of the lease, and only then moved... But in fact, we also should have looked to move earlier, or even started off in a smaller apartment as newlyweds instead of staying in an apartment that was too big for us and that we couldn't really afford for 5 years. (The rent completely doubled during that time!) And we should have cut our expenses from the beginning, so that we had enough money to start a savings account, so that if things like that did happen, we wouldn't be in such financial trouble.
With our new apartment, I'm really hoping to put that chapter of our lives behind us, try to pretend that never happened... and just move onward and upwards...
But seriously, do what you can, follow what Dave Ramsey says and cut, cut, cut, and try to find ways to earn more so that you can start off with a baby emergency fund, and if you have debt, start a debt snowball so you can pay that off, and if you don't, figure out how to build a full emergency fund, because if you don't have a backup plan for emergencies, you can really get yourself into trouble, like we did.
See my disclaimer.