Author Topic: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life  (Read 8356 times)

magicalfeyfenny

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Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« on: July 01, 2015, 01:11:30 AM »
Life Situation: I'm a single 20-year-old millennial who just graduated from community college.
I have no dependents. I live alone in Reno, NV.
I'm transgender and on a hormone regimen (any comments about this being a luxury and you can go to hell), and have paid all non-recurring medical expenses (therapists, etc.) regarding that, only needing a legal name/gender change. My parents kicked me out when they found out.
I have no credit cards (or intention of getting credit cards), and I budget each week out (mostly because I enjoy doing so), prioritizing bills first and then letting myself use the rest for whatever I want. I have no dedicated savings.

Gross Salary/Wages:
$8.25/hr at ~20-30 hr/wk (last average was 24 hours), for about $850/mo.

Pre-tax deductions:
<none>

Other Ordinary Income:
SNAP benefits: $100/mo (food only)

Qualified Dividends & Long Term Capital Gains:
<none>

Rental Income, Actual Expenses, and Depreciation:
<none>

Adjusted Gross Income: ~$950/mo

Taxes: ~$75/mo (not sure how it breaks down but total is around this)

Current expenses: ~$860-870/mo
Rent, water, electric, gas, trash: $425/mo (studio, all utilities paid, moving back with parents is not an option)
Internet: $40/mo (AT&T DSL, lowest speed available)
Phone: $65/mo (locked into a Verizon contract until Feb, will drop to pre-paid then)
Laundry: $25/mo (laundromat + soap/dryer sheets)
HRT prescription: $30/mo (spironolactone and estrodial)
Student loan: $50/mo
Bus: $65/mo (main mode of transit aside from walking, bus pass monthly price)
Food: $150-160/mo ($100 groceries, ~$50-60 eating out)
Misc. consumables: $10/mo (soaps, etc.)

Assets:
No savings except for storing enough for each bill each week.

Liabilities: Student loan: $1780, 3.4% interest. Minimum payment of $50/mo.

Specific Question(s):
I know my income is really low right now and one small slip could run me over. It's also inconsistent, with some weeks giving up to 35 hours and others dropping down as low as 15. Is it more worth it to take a full-time job, or to take a second part-time job during a time window that I know I have open? On one hand, I dislike full-time work immensely and prefer variety, but on the other hand, the bus commute is a lot of time and both income and promotion opportunities split between the two jobs would be low.

Generally, what I'd do is give myself what's left over after bills are paid (or rather, the weekly portion of the bill is stored if it's not paid that week) in cash. However, partially due to lack of energy and partially due to laziness, this means I buy a lot of fast food, and I don't tend to keep track because it's cash and when I run out, I run out. Any suggestions for keeping better track of it so that, during windfall weeks, I can work better with my money? I clearly need to reduce eating out (which requires discipline), but any suggestions to remove the temptation?

I've been reading other finance books recently, and a lot of them (especially Dave Ramsey's) suggest saving an emergency fund before tackling debt. My situation has a lot of risk because of the volatility of my current job and very high expense:income ratio. Should an emergency fund come before trying to pay off my student loan, and if so, how much would be ideal to cushion me in this situation?

Should I worry about getting my legal name change (which I will get done) done now before I do anything else, including paying my student loan, or get it done after everything else is done? Right now, being forced to use a masculine name and pronouns at work (and everywhere else where it's legally required) heavily drains my mental health and also puts me at risk while I'm presenting as female. However, I also know that the cost of changing my name is rather high compared to what I can actually spend right now (~$250), and so I'm hesitant to do so until I'm in a better financial situation.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 10:40:28 AM by magicalfeyfenny »

MDM

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Re: Just getting started in life, found MMM through a friend's Twitter
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2015, 02:09:32 AM »
Specific Question(s):
I know my income is really low right now and one small slip could run me over. It's also inconsistent, with some weeks giving up to 35 hours and others dropping down as low as 15. Is it more worth it to take a full-time job, or to take a second part-time job during a time window that I know I have open? On one hand, I dislike full-time work immensely and prefer variety, but on the other hand, the bus commute is a lot of time and both income and promotion opportunities split between the two jobs would be low.
magicalfeyfenny, welcome to the forum.  Not much to go on, but it seems full-time (depending on the specifics) would be better.

Quote
Generally, what I'd do is give myself what's left over after bills are paid (or rather, the weekly portion of the bill is stored if it's not paid that week) in cash. However, partially due to lack of energy and partially due to laziness, this means I buy a lot of fast food, and I don't tend to keep track because it's cash and when I run out, I run out. Any suggestions for keeping better track of it so that, during windfall weeks, I can work better with my money?
The only way to keep track is to keep track.  Maybe a Google spreadsheet?

Quote
I've been reading other finance books recently, and a lot of them (especially Dave Ramsey's) suggest saving an emergency fund before tackling debt. My situation has a lot of risk because of the volatility of my current job and very high expense:income ratio. Should an emergency fund come before trying to pay off my student loan, and if so, how much would be ideal to cushion me in this situation?
You might consider starting a small Roth IRA at a place like http://www.ally.com/bank/ira/online-savings-account/.  If you would otherwise owe any federal income tax at all, Roth contributions will give you a 50% return in the form of a saver's credit.  Maybe $10/month for starters?

Quote
Should I worry about getting my legal name change (which I will get done) done now before I do anything else, including paying my student loan, or get it done after everything else is done? Right now, being forced to use a masculine name and pronouns at work (and everywhere else where it's legally required) heavily drains my mental health and also puts me at risk while I'm presenting as female. However, I also know that the cost of changing my name is rather high compared to what I can actually spend right now (~$250), and so I'm hesitant to do so until I'm in a better financial situation.
No firsthand experience so I defer to others' suggestions here.

What are your prospects for getting a full time role that comes with a reasonable likelihood of significantly increased pay as you gain experience?  You have correctly identified low income as your biggest hindrance now.  Improving that (job search, more education, whatever seems the best fit for you) is likely the best place for your efforts.  Good luck!

former player

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Re: Just getting started in life, found MMM through a friend's Twitter
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2015, 02:30:34 AM »
Welcome to the forums.

You are just starting out and a low and unstable income is pretty normal in those circumstance.  It sounds as though you are doing a good job with evaluating your work options: as long as you are keeping an eye out for better options and thinking laterally, you will do fine.

I think doing the name change as soon as you can would be a good idea.  Not just because it would be better for you personally, but the longer you keep the old one the longer it will trail along behind you in education certificates, training qualifications and references.  If you can have two good months without emergencies and cutting down your eating out and cash spending you could have enough on hand for the $250 bill.  Alternatively, are you in contact with any LGBQT groups in your area?  They might be able to refer you to a cheaper or free legal resource to get this done.  There are also lawyers on this site who might be able to refer you to a pro bono source of legal help.  In the meantime, the more informal situations in which you can use your new name, the better.

It is tough to launch out in adult life without the support of family, and as you recognise, it makes your situation more precarious if anything goes wrong.  If you can develop friendships and support networks to replace that family connection it will serve you well.  I hope this forum can be a part of that too.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Just getting started in life, found MMM through a friend's Twitter
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2015, 06:33:59 AM »
So you spend your entire SNAP benefit at the grocery store, then eat out for the rest of your food? Your own food money will go a lot further at the grocery store, especially if you're smart about what you buy.

I hope your parents will reconsider their extreme reaction, but I think you have the right idea that you're own your own and you'll deal with that.

Trifele

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Re: Just getting started in life, found MMM through a friend's Twitter
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2015, 07:08:55 AM »
Hi MagicalFF

Good job to tackle things logically, when you are just starting out and money is tight.  I think you will be fine.  I would focus hard on finding a full time job, and increasing your income. 

As far as tracking expenses, a spreadsheet is probably best, but you don't have to start out that fancy. Grab a small notebook and label the first page "July 2015."  Put down your spending categories -- "Utilities", "Rent", "Internet", and so on.  I suggest two separate categories for "Food" and "Eating Out."  At the end of the month total up each category.  Record all your spending in the notebook for a few months.  It is enlightening. 

I think your spending looks pretty good.  The biggest area where you could save is food, by not eating out.  Spending too much eating out is a common issue among young singles -- you are not alone there.  Cooking more at home is a win-win-win -- you save money, eat healthier, and feel better. But it can seem like an overwhelming task if you're not in the habit.  What meal do you typically eat out for?  I would attack it that way.  If it's dinner, focus on coming up with 10-15 go-to dishes that you like, and are healthy and cheap, and that produce good leftovers.  Then buy the ingredients to always be able to make those things.  A crock pot is a wondrous thing that pays for itself quickly.  You can dump in ingredients and leave them to cook themselves, and end up with a delicious meal, with leftovers you can eat the next day, or freeze for future meals.   Poke around on the MMM website for more shopping and cooking suggestions.  There is also a neat (and free!) online cookbook by Leanne Brown called Good and Cheap that has awesome suggestions for beginners, and shopping/cooking suggestions for eating well on $4 per day:  http://www.leannebrown.com/ 

You also might be able to save a little each month on laundry by hanging once-worn clothes to air out and wear them again, using a clothes drying rack or hangers to hang wet clothes instead of using a dryer, or handwashing some things in your sink and then hanging them.  In Nevada's dry air you should be able to dry lots of things by just hanging them.  If you are buying your laundry supplies at the laundromat, stop and buy them elsewhere.

X2 on the suggestion to contact your closest LGBTQ organization to see if they have suggestions for how to do a name change cheaply.  They may know of lawyers in the area that will do it for free or at a reduced cost.  If I was licensed in Nevada I would do it for you pro bono.   

Good luck, Magical!  You can do it!   

mskyle

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Re: Just getting started in life, found MMM through a friend's Twitter
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2015, 08:27:45 AM »
First suggestion: increase that income! If at all possible increase your wage per hour. Would it be possible for you to work off-shifts for an extra couple of bucks? Many years ago when I worked at Target, I had a job that officially paid minimum wage (or maybe minimum wage + $0.50 or something) plus a $2-3 shift differential because I worked 5AM to 1PM. People working overnights got an even bigger differential. $40-$90 extra a week would make a real difference in your budget, without you actually having to work more hours. Shift work sucks, obviously (that's what the money's for), but it might be worth a try. (Not having a car makes this more difficult too, but I don't know the details of where you are and what's within walking distance so put it out there and hope for the best.)

I don't know what kind of work you're doing, I'm guessing retail based on the wage and the hours? But there are unskilled jobs that pay more than minimum wage. I know you probably encounter gender identity discrimination that makes it more difficult for you to find work than cisgender people, but seriously you need to increase that hourly wage, either by getting a different job or getting a raise at your current job.

I am a little troubled by your antipathy toward full-time work when you're in a near-emergency situation, but it doesn't really matter how you increase your income so long as you increase your income.

Also, I totally understand why you're not budgeting for saving, but I think you should, even if it's just $10 a month in a jar.

On the nitpicky low-hanging fruit front: stop buying dryer sheets. They're gross and basically just coat your clothes in grease. The money you spend on dryer sheets can be your first little contribution to your savings jar :P

vhalros

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Re: Just getting started in life, found MMM through a friend's Twitter
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2015, 09:08:48 AM »
Well, you've got the low-cost living part of this down pretty well. You just need to work in the good income part.

I think you probably want to go with the full-time job route, especially if you can provide one that offers health benefits, which would probably (hopefully) help with some of your on-going medical costs.

magicalfeyfenny

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Re: Just getting started in life, found MMM through a friend's Twitter
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2015, 10:26:56 AM »
First off, thank you all so much for understanding and not immediately going into witch hunt mode.

magicalfeyfenny, welcome to the forum.  Not much to go on, but it seems full-time (depending on the specifics) would be better.

What are your prospects for getting a full time role that comes with a reasonable likelihood of significantly increased pay as you gain experience?  You have correctly identified low income as your biggest hindrance now.  Improving that (job search, more education, whatever seems the best fit for you) is likely the best place for your efforts.  Good luck!

First suggestion: increase that income! If at all possible increase your wage per hour. Would it be possible for you to work off-shifts for an extra couple of bucks? Many years ago when I worked at Target, I had a job that officially paid minimum wage (or maybe minimum wage + $0.50 or something) plus a $2-3 shift differential because I worked 5AM to 1PM. People working overnights got an even bigger differential. $40-$90 extra a week would make a real difference in your budget, without you actually having to work more hours. Shift work sucks, obviously (that's what the money's for), but it might be worth a try. (Not having a car makes this more difficult too, but I don't know the details of where you are and what's within walking distance so put it out there and hope for the best.)

I don't know what kind of work you're doing, I'm guessing retail based on the wage and the hours? But there are unskilled jobs that pay more than minimum wage. I know you probably encounter gender identity discrimination that makes it more difficult for you to find work than cisgender people, but seriously you need to increase that hourly wage, either by getting a different job or getting a raise at your current job.

I am a little troubled by your antipathy toward full-time work when you're in a near-emergency situation, but it doesn't really matter how you increase your income so long as you increase your income.

Good job to tackle things logically, when you are just starting out and money is tight.  I think you will be fine.  I would focus hard on finding a full time job, and increasing your income. 

You are just starting out and a low and unstable income is pretty normal in those circumstance.  It sounds as though you are doing a good job with evaluating your work options: as long as you are keeping an eye out for better options and thinking laterally, you will do fine.

Well, you've got the low-cost living part of this down pretty well. You just need to work in the good income part.

I think you probably want to go with the full-time job route, especially if you can provide one that offers health benefits, which would probably (hopefully) help with some of your on-going medical costs.

As far as work goes:
I'm at a call center. I have the job because it was the first one I could get. The specific call center I'm at is not known to give out significant raises, and I'm actively looking for either a second job (which I have a second interview for tomorrow), or a full-time job with any spare time I get. I can't take extra hours unless the company offers them, and they only work a single shift. They do pay Spanish-speaking employees a $2 differential, but I'm not fluent enough to do that. It offers no benefits, but I'm on my parents' insurance until they can take me off (which won't be for a few months due to open enrollment restrictions unless they want to take everybody off, which would hurt them a lot more). I'm definitely going to look into insurance companies in preparation for that though; I need one that covers the cost of transition-related care and prescriptions, but I don't strictly need the rest.

In Reno, my main choices for unskilled work are either heavy lifting (which I'm physically unable to do due to a history of back problems), casinos (need to wait until I'm 21), food service, call centers, or retail. The call center I currently work at is about 10 miles from my house. There's a few shopping centers that are much closer. The main reason I'm against full-time work so much is that it's so easy to lose 100% of your income in a flash. However, I'd definitely take what I can get at this point, since the same 'losing 100%' thing applies if I only have a single part-time job as well.

Also, I totally understand why you're not budgeting for saving, but I think you should, even if it's just $10 a month in a jar.

You might consider starting a small Roth IRA at a place like http://www.ally.com/bank/ira/online-savings-account/.  If you would otherwise owe any federal income tax at all, Roth contributions will give you a 50% return in the form of a saver's credit.  Maybe $10/month for starters?

Hmm... I'll look into the IRA. I figure that if it's just cash lying around earmarked for emergencies, some sort of "emergency" will happen. $10/mo really shouldn't be hard to put away if I can reduce other costs (especially fast food). There's no emergency so big that I have to have cash on hand right there to handle it.

As far as tracking expenses, a spreadsheet is probably best, but you don't have to start out that fancy. Grab a small notebook and label the first page "July 2015."  Put down your spending categories -- "Utilities", "Rent", "Internet", and so on.  I suggest two separate categories for "Food" and "Eating Out."  At the end of the month total up each category.  Record all your spending in the notebook for a few months.  It is enlightening. 

I think your spending looks pretty good.  The biggest area where you could save is food, by not eating out.  Spending too much eating out is a common issue among young singles -- you are not alone there.  Cooking more at home is a win-win-win -- you save money, eat healthier, and feel better. But it can seem like an overwhelming task if you're not in the habit.  What meal do you typically eat out for?  I would attack it that way.  If it's dinner, focus on coming up with 10-15 go-to dishes that you like, and are healthy and cheap, and that produce good leftovers.  Then buy the ingredients to always be able to make those things.  A crock pot is a wondrous thing that pays for itself quickly.  You can dump in ingredients and leave them to cook themselves, and end up with a delicious meal, with leftovers you can eat the next day, or freeze for future meals.   Poke around on the MMM website for more shopping and cooking suggestions.  There is also a neat (and free!) online cookbook by Leanne Brown called Good and Cheap that has awesome suggestions for beginners, and shopping/cooking suggestions for eating well on $4 per day:  http://www.leannebrown.com/ 

So you spend your entire SNAP benefit at the grocery store, then eat out for the rest of your food? Your own food money will go a lot further at the grocery store, especially if you're smart about what you buy.

The only way to keep track is to keep track.  Maybe a Google spreadsheet?

The biggest 'eating out' meal is lunch or dinner; I'm usually out doing errands, get hungry, and grab something quick. However, I could probably do all my food on the SNAP benefit, done right. I simply must have discipline, even if it involves taking out exactly the amount of money I need for laundry and non-food items from the bank and nothing more at all.

As far as food goes, I have some cooking experience, but not a lot. My usual pantry staples are oatmeal (+sugar, cinnamon, almondmilk), iced tea (+ice), ramen (+red pepper flakes), and bread/peanut butter. If I add potatoes and eggs in (+canola oil, salt, margarine) and maybe cheese (not a lot but some for flavor), maybe rice or pasta, and fill in the rest with cheap meats, fruits, and vegetables, I should be good on food. I would absolutely need to have discipline and cook my meals in advance. I should probably start carrying around a water bottle and fill it with tea before I leave to go anywhere, refilling it with water whenever possible. That'd reduce my spending a lot right there, since half the time when I eat out, I mostly go in to get a soda. I should also start bringing more food with me even if I'm not going to work, since that means that I won't get hungry on the go.

The crock pot is definitely a good idea since it'll let me cook some things that I won't otherwise have time for, and I know they're rather cheap too. I'll also start dividing money spent on food and money spent eating out in my budget so that I can keep track; the less money spent eating out, the better.

On the nitpicky low-hanging fruit front: stop buying dryer sheets. They're gross and basically just coat your clothes in grease. The money you spend on dryer sheets can be your first little contribution to your savings jar :P

You also might be able to save a little each month on laundry by hanging once-worn clothes to air out and wear them again, using a clothes drying rack or hangers to hang wet clothes instead of using a dryer, or handwashing some things in your sink and then hanging them.  In Nevada's dry air you should be able to dry lots of things by just hanging them.  If you are buying your laundry supplies at the laundromat, stop and buy them elsewhere.

I'm in a studio apartment, and I'm not sure on their rules regarding clothes lines. It shouldn't be hard to find a clothes drying rack, but price might be a concern for now. I buy my laundry supplies at the supermarket or the dollar store. I didn't realize using dryer sheets did absolutely nothing; I'll stop buying those.

X2 on the suggestion to contact your closest LGBTQ organization to see if they have suggestions for how to do a name change cheaply.  They may know of lawyers in the area that will do it for free or at a reduced cost.  If I was licensed in Nevada I would do it for you pro bono.

I think doing the name change as soon as you can would be a good idea.  Not just because it would be better for you personally, but the longer you keep the old one the longer it will trail along behind you in education certificates, training qualifications and references.  If you can have two good months without emergencies and cutting down your eating out and cash spending you could have enough on hand for the $250 bill.  Alternatively, are you in contact with any LGBQT groups in your area?  They might be able to refer you to a cheaper or free legal resource to get this done.  There are also lawyers on this site who might be able to refer you to a pro bono source of legal help.  In the meantime, the more informal situations in which you can use your new name, the better.

I've done the research. The $250 is not including court fees (which I can get waived based on income and circumstance). The rules in Washoe County require that I publish the name change for 3 consecutive weeks in the legals section of one of the two major newspapers in the county, which is the majority of the expense (the rest is stuff like new IDs and birth certificates, etc.). I've looked into LGBTQ+ groups, but I can't find any that work around my schedule right now. In the meantime, I'm actively trying to get people to use my new name as much as they can without running into legal issues.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 10:32:15 AM by magicalfeyfenny »

MissStache

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2015, 12:08:52 PM »
Just a little thing, but have you ever looked into making your own laundry detergent?    It is crazy easy and is costs pennies per load: http://wellnessmama.com/27059/diy-laundry-detergent/

I'm a total convert to it!

magicalfeyfenny

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2015, 12:39:12 PM »
Just a little thing, but have you ever looked into making your own laundry detergent?    It is crazy easy and is costs pennies per load: http://wellnessmama.com/27059/diy-laundry-detergent/

I'm a total convert to it!

That only really works in bulk, and probably takes far too much effort relative to what is actually saved. In addition, the only one of those ingredients I buy regularly is bar soap, so I'd have to buy the other ingredients and take the time to prepare it.

I'm living alone. I'd rather just buy a $1 container of detergent at the store; it works well enough and lasts at least a month. I can definitely see where you'd be coming from if you're raising a family, though.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 12:48:18 PM by magicalfeyfenny »

PARedbeard

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2015, 01:11:53 PM »
Hey MFF,
Even if you have limited cooking experience, there are GREAT websites and cookbooks designed to help you feed yourself with both variety and ease on a SNAP budget. I use Budget Bytes (just google it) constantly. Beth has great ideas for meals, suggestions for cooking ahead and storing in a budget-friendly way.

And if you start buying in bulk (and processing/freezing yourself), our own NWEdible is a great resource as well (and she can usually be found hanging around on these forums now and then). She is a gardener/chef extraordinaire, and she has great tips to cook well, easily, and on a budget.

You can do this!

opah

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2015, 01:18:08 PM »
I've been reading other finance books recently, and a lot of them (especially Dave Ramsey's) suggest saving an emergency fund before tackling debt. My situation has a lot of risk because of the volatility of my current job and very high expense:income ratio. Should an emergency fund come before trying to pay off my student loan, and if so, how much would be ideal to cushion me in this situation?

Welcome to the forum! I haven't seen anyone address this specific question yet, so I'll offer up my opinion that in your situation I would save up an emergency fund before paying off the student loan. Your student loan balance and interest rates are low, and as you pointed out you're currently relying on a single income source with fluctuating hours. If anything should happen to your job, or if you have an unexpected expense, you're currently unable to weather that storm.

I'm a big fan of The Simple Dollar, and I feel he has a lot of good posts for people in your financial position that may help you a lot. Here is a good one on emergency funds: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/a-step-by-step-guide-to-building-a-big-healthy-emergency-fund/.

justajane

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2015, 01:24:05 PM »
Another small thing: I have three boys that get clothes filthy and still only use half the recommended detergent. The clothes still get clean. For drying you can jumpstart the process by only drying 20 or so minutes in the machine and then air drying the rest at home. I used to do this. It made the clothes slightly lighter to lug home. You can get a metal drying rack for less than $20 at Target. You would make that back in a few months.

magicalfeyfenny

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2015, 01:41:30 PM »
Another small thing: I have three boys that get clothes filthy and still only use half the recommended detergent. The clothes still get clean. For drying you can jumpstart the process by only drying 20 or so minutes in the machine and then air drying the rest at home. I used to do this. It made the clothes slightly lighter to lug home. You can get a metal drying rack for less than $20 at Target. You would make that back in a few months.

Great idea to make that bottle of detergent stretch. I generally don't get my clothes very dirty. I'll look at drying racks since they'll save quite a bit compared to spending $3 on the dryer each week.


Hey MFF,
Even if you have limited cooking experience, there are GREAT websites and cookbooks designed to help you feed yourself with both variety and ease on a SNAP budget. I use Budget Bytes (just google it) constantly. Beth has great ideas for meals, suggestions for cooking ahead and storing in a budget-friendly way.

And if you start buying in bulk (and processing/freezing yourself), our own NWEdible is a great resource as well (and she can usually be found hanging around on these forums now and then). She is a gardener/chef extraordinaire, and she has great tips to cook well, easily, and on a budget.

You can do this!

Great idea! I'll search that site up. I also have a bunch of little tagged reference posts scattered throughout my Tumblr blog, a lot of them are 'living on the cheap' and are reposts from other blogs with recipes so I'll look at those as well.

Welcome to the forum! I haven't seen anyone address this specific question yet, so I'll offer up my opinion that in your situation I would save up an emergency fund before paying off the student loan. Your student loan balance and interest rates are low, and as you pointed out you're currently relying on a single income source with fluctuating hours. If anything should happen to your job, or if you have an unexpected expense, you're currently unable to weather that storm.

I'm a big fan of The Simple Dollar, and I feel he has a lot of good posts for people in your financial position that may help you a lot. Here is a good one on emergency funds: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/a-step-by-step-guide-to-building-a-big-healthy-emergency-fund/.

I think that if I can save up just the money normally used on fast food split between an emergency fund and a fund to pay for my name change, I'll make some good progress. Obviously, the root of the problem is my job, so I need to find another one to supplement or a consistent full-time job. I do have a second interview at a retail store tomorrow, so I hope it goes well!

expectopatronum

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2015, 01:51:39 PM »
That's some seriously already-frugal living - nice work. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll agree that a strategy of 1) focusing on income boosting and 2) saving a little each month would be a great start. I would fist save about $900-1000, which should cover a month's expenses. I would then continue to make the minimum payments on student loans while saving for the name change and then do that as soon as is feasible. To me, this is a valid health reason and deserves high priority. The student loan is just a debt with a relatively low rate.

Unconventional laundry solution, but do you have any friends in Reno (maybe from community college?) that live nearby and do have a W/D? I know this is kind of weird, but you never know. My cousin-in-law goes to her aunt's, and I offered for a coworker to come over to our house since their W/D are in storage.

Do you have a smartphone? I actually dropped home internet service entirely when I lived alone, because I never used that much and would just use my phone (which was $60/mo, 4G LTE) as a hotspot if I needed to use my laptop on Wifi. That could be a $40/mo savings.

For budgeting - I think moving to a monthly mindset could help, since that's a cycle typical for bills. That way, you can spread out windfalls over the month. If you are a recent 2015 grad, you can get YNAB (you need a budget) software for free, if you have a computer that you can do it from. (Updates from phone are easy but full use is best with a computer, IMO.) If not, what I would do is try to adopt the basic system, but just do it on paper (this is how I budgeted as a freshman, actually). At the beginning of the month, set out a spending cap for each category and include "emergency" as something that you HAVE to save/pay yourself. This approach helped me see those categories as legitimate categories and not just where I would dump "leftover" money. I was also horrible with cash; it would just disappear, so I stopped using it entirely.

It could even look something exactly like the breakdown of expenses you provided us! Then, keep a running total of how much is left in that category. It sounds like a lot of work, but you don't have to do it forever if you don't want - just a few months as you sort out how to form a saving habit. It takes some practice and lots of self-discipline to see that you're out of money for eating out, and you're having Ramen that night whether you like it or not.

Finally, speaking of food - I didn't know how to cook very well on a budget at your age, and I'm still learning. There's a really good rice & beans thread here on the forum; maybe try making a batch every week and having it for 2-3 nights of the week (some recipes even freeze). I also stock my house with fallbacks like Ramen, cans of soup, and frozen dinners - things that aren't good, but are still cheaper than $2 Taco Bell, and keep me from getting in a "eat out every night" rut.

Good luck!

ETA: Here is the rice & beans thread - http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/rice-and-beans-share-your-recipe/msg694220/#msg694220

We are shooting for this at least 2x/month. (I couldn't do rice and beans every day)
« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 01:53:42 PM by expectopatronum »

frugaliknowit

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2015, 01:56:18 PM »
Three suggestions for you:

1.  Yes, I agree that the sooner the better for the name change.  Try to find someone to do it "pro-bono" via the LGBT community (Lambada, for example (lambadalegal.org)).  My bet is you CAN get it done free...just keep trying.

2.  Work more hours, yes!!  Try for higher wages.

3.  No more fast food.  Just get in your head that fast food is not an option.  Buy some tupperware, etc. and your food is at home or "to go".  Leftovers, peanut butter and jelly, whatever.  Learn to prepare meals and have leftovers.  Money spent on unprocessed food (versus fast food) is effectively money in the bank.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 01:57:52 PM by frugaliknowit »

thedayisbrave

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2015, 01:59:23 PM »
I'm sorry to hear that your parents can't accept you for who you are.  I must say, for being 20, and going through such a challenging situation as that, you sound really grounded and reasonable about it all.  I can't say I would be the same in your shoes, so I really admire your tenacity.

You've gotten a lot of good suggestions on reducing expenses, so yeah it's just a matter of increasing your income at this point.  Good luck with your interview tomorrow.  Keep us posted!

sixup

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2015, 02:00:54 PM »
For tracking/controlling spending, I have to second YNAB (http://www.youneedabudget.com/).

It's an excellent program. The difference being the system behind the program. Not simply recording where money goes, but loosely planning it.

Rachelocity

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2015, 02:01:32 PM »
Are you using coupons?  This is a really easy way to save huge amounts on your grocery bill, and even Wal-Mart takes coupons. This is even better if the store price-matches or doubles coupons on a certain day (sadly, this never happens in Canada....)  If you bank your "savings", it'll add up quickly.  NB:  You can find coupons for a lot of non-grocery items such as deodorant, toothpaste, and hair products, not to mention cleaning supplies and laundry products. 

I wish I would have been as disciplined as you when I was your age.  You're gonna do just fine!!

Stash Engineer

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #19 on: July 01, 2015, 02:20:16 PM »
I'm surprised no one has mentioned this:  Can you trade your $65/mo bus pass for a bicycle?  You could ride that most days and if you just didn't feel like riding one day I'm assuming you can pay a low fee for a single ride on the bus or a one-day pass. 

The name change would be a top priority for me.  I would start saving money for this now.  Your identity and the way you present yourself is important for your own self-esteem and will also improve your ability to acquire better employment.  Just make minimum payments on that student loan until you have the name change completed and have saved up a small emergency fund.

I'll echo what everyone else said about how well you are doing in a challenging situation!  Continue to analyse yourself and always strive for improvement and you'll be well on your way very soon!

justajane

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #20 on: July 01, 2015, 02:38:08 PM »
You might have already found this national organization that helps transgender individuals with name changes, but this is a good resource for you. http://transequality.org/id-documents-center/transgender-legal-services-network

For Nevada specifically they list Gender Justice Nevada (https://www.facebook.com/genderjusticenevada) as a resource for legal help. Maybe they could direct you to a law firm in Reno that would do it pro bono or at a discount. For fear of discrimination, I wouldn't want to walk into a law office blind. It might be fine, but if you can find a law firm through this organization it would  be even better.

You should change your name. This is about more than money. It's about who you are.

SuperSaver

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #21 on: July 01, 2015, 08:33:38 PM »
No advice that hasn't been mentioned just a very warm welcome. A good friend of ours is in a very similar spot on her M2F journey so I wish you well. I hope you have lots of supportive friends since your parents choose to be that way.

magicalfeyfenny

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #22 on: July 01, 2015, 11:23:54 PM »
Thank you all so much for the support and great advice! I really didn't expect something like this.

Unconventional laundry solution, but do you have any friends in Reno (maybe from community college?) that live nearby and do have a W/D? I know this is kind of weird, but you never know. My cousin-in-law goes to her aunt's, and I offered for a coworker to come over to our house since their W/D are in storage.
Unfortunately, no. The only people who I know well enough to actually come over are my parents, and I'm not going to crawl up to their door and beg for them to let me wash clothes.

Do you have a smartphone? I actually dropped home internet service entirely when I lived alone, because I never used that much and would just use my phone (which was $60/mo, 4G LTE) as a hotspot if I needed to use my laptop on Wifi. That could be a $40/mo savings.
I do, but I could never get by on just 1 GB of data on my computer. I'd rather reduce phone costs and have stable, reliable home wi-fi than remove the wi-fi. Both are locked into contracts anyway, but the phone's contract ends sooner (February) and could instantly be reduced by $20/mo then.

For budgeting - I think moving to a monthly mindset could help, since that's a cycle typical for bills. That way, you can spread out windfalls over the month. If you are a recent 2015 grad, you can get YNAB (you need a budget) software for free, if you have a computer that you can do it from. (Updates from phone are easy but full use is best with a computer, IMO.) If not, what I would do is try to adopt the basic system, but just do it on paper (this is how I budgeted as a freshman, actually). At the beginning of the month, set out a spending cap for each category and include "emergency" as something that you HAVE to save/pay yourself. This approach helped me see those categories as legitimate categories and not just where I would dump "leftover" money. I was also horrible with cash; it would just disappear, so I stopped using it entirely.

It could even look something exactly like the breakdown of expenses you provided us! Then, keep a running total of how much is left in that category. It sounds like a lot of work, but you don't have to do it forever if you don't want - just a few months as you sort out how to form a saving habit. It takes some practice and lots of self-discipline to see that you're out of money for eating out, and you're having Ramen that night whether you like it or not.
I use weekly budgets because they match my pay schedule. Each paycheck (and any other money obtained in that week) is split up; current bills like rent or internet come first (each bill gets a portion equal to 'amount not yet reserved / number of checks until due', rounded up to the nearest dollar), then laundry and non-food consumables (which I calculate beforehand based on what needs refilling; food should be entirely covered by $100/mo SNAP), then the rest gets either thrown at me or at goals.
Since, as of right now, I've been absolutely horrible about this and have been only really giving the rest to me, I'm going to be more disciplined about it. To divide down the rest, I'm going to start divvying $10 to an emergency fund (until it's $500), then $10 towards my name change ($20 once emergency fund is finished, goes to investments once name change is finished), then the rest towards goals (these being large non-urgent purchases like a bike, paying off the student loan, investing, name change, etc.). Once every dollar in the budget is spent on-paper (some weeks might be $10 emergency, $10 invest, $50 goals, others might be $5 emergency and that's it), the budget is complete.
Since the food is entirely through SNAP, fast food is next to impossible without breaking another part of the budget. And I won't do that. When I eventually am no longer on SNAP, I'll hopefully have the discipline to make similar purchases and not be tempted by fast food.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this:  Can you trade your $65/mo bus pass for a bicycle?  You could ride that most days and if you just didn't feel like riding one day I'm assuming you can pay a low fee for a single ride on the bus or a one-day pass. 
My only job right now is ~5-6 miles away, quite a bit too far for walking (but not impossible), but feasible in ~30-ish minutes of easy biking in city terrain. I'm also not in a food desert, with two grocery stores within a couple miles. This could be an option, but I'll wait a little bit (still a couple basic house things I need first, like clothes, an ironing board, etc., plus it's 100+F weather right now) If I combine it with a 10-ride bus pass, I could take advantage of a lower cost per ride ($1.70/ride not $2.00/ride, and I don't have to carry cash) than the normal fare if I really need to use it. While I'd miss being able to sit down in an air conditioned bus to go a lot of places, the potential for savings would be very high.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 11:46:08 PM by magicalfeyfenny »

PARedbeard

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2015, 06:51:50 AM »
Hey MFF-
I think your goals for siphoning money towards an emergency fund as well as towards the name change are spot on! Once you do get your name changed, I'd challenge you to get an emergency fund in place that can last your for at least 3 months (depending on your loan/debt situation). That'll give you some leeway as you search for more PT or a FT position.

Once those rungs are in place, it is time to start climbing that FI ladder!

expectopatronum

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2015, 07:52:28 AM »
Yeah, fair enough. Those solutions are definitely situation-dependent. A drying rack sounds like the best investment!

You're on the right track. Wishing you good luck finding a job that might meet your CC qualifications. IMO that first job/opportunity can be the hardest.

mskyle

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2015, 08:02:29 AM »
I love my drying rack but honestly if you have hangers and chairs and don't mind things being a bit of a mess you can dry your clothes without one. Also try hitting up your local Freecycle group(s) for stuff like a drying rack - I've given away loads of stuff and gotten a snow shovel and an air conditioner, among other things. In fact, if you were to post that you were looking for a drying rack to my local freecycle group I would say, "Come on over!" because I have three right now and usually only use two of them. But I live in Massachusetts. So that doesn't help you.

Good luck!

little_brown_dog

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #26 on: July 02, 2015, 08:15:22 AM »
for part time work, i'm pretty sure starbucks and whole foods offer health coverage/vision/dental for part time employees working 20 or more hours per week. they may also include a 401K option for retirement. if you have either chain in your vicinity you might want to look into applying to these if you can swing 20 extra hours/week. securing a position here with the potential for benefits could add income and help set you up for when you lose insurance through your parents.

+1 to freecyle and craigslist for things like drying racks

justajane

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #27 on: July 02, 2015, 08:21:54 AM »
How far are you from the Reno Costco? That would be my #1 pick if I were in your shoes. Plus they are a progressive company.

magicalfeyfenny

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #28 on: July 02, 2015, 08:30:41 AM »
I love my drying rack but honestly if you have hangers and chairs and don't mind things being a bit of a mess you can dry your clothes without one. Also try hitting up your local Freecycle group(s) for stuff like a drying rack - I've given away loads of stuff and gotten a snow shovel and an air conditioner, among other things. In fact, if you were to post that you were looking for a drying rack to my local freecycle group I would say, "Come on over!" because I have three right now and usually only use two of them. But I live in Massachusetts. So that doesn't help you.

Good luck!

I don't know what a freecycle group is. Is it a swap meet? I've never really been to one but I'd check it out if I could find it.

How far are you from the Reno Costco? That would be my #1 pick if I were in your shoes. Plus they are a progressive company.

It'd be about the same distance as biking to my current job, possibly less.

for part time work, i'm pretty sure starbucks and whole foods offer health coverage/vision/dental for part time employees working 20 or more hours per week. they may also include a 401K option for retirement. if you have either chain in your vicinity you might want to look into applying to these if you can swing 20 extra hours/week. securing a position here with the potential for benefits could add income and help set you up for when you lose insurance through your parents.

+1 to freecyle and craigslist for things like drying racks

I'll try re-applying to both. Insurance would help out a lot more than having a check to be quite honest.

Thank you all so very much for all of this. I really didn't expect anything like this.

former player

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #29 on: July 02, 2015, 08:40:50 AM »
Since, as of right now, I've been absolutely horrible about this and have been only really giving the rest to me, I'm going to be more disciplined about it. To divide down the rest, I'm going to start divvying $10 to an emergency fund (until it's $500), then $10 towards my name change ($20 once emergency fund is finished, goes to investments once name change is finished), then the rest towards goals (these being large non-urgent purchases like a bike, paying off the student loan, investing, name change, etc.). Once every dollar in the budget is spent on-paper (some weeks might be $10 emergency, $10 invest, $50 goals, others might be $5 emergency and that's it), the budget is complete.
Since the food is entirely through SNAP, fast food is next to impossible without breaking another part of the budget. And I won't do that. When I eventually am no longer on SNAP, I'll hopefully have the discipline to make similar purchases and not be tempted by fast food.
I love it when a plan comes together.

Freecycle is an online place for people to give away things they don't need and get unwanted things they do need - the motto is "trash nothing".  No money changes hands.  Worth a try.  (The usual etiquette is to offer something before asking for something, but for a relatively small ask like a drying rack it's unlikely anyone will mind.

https://trashnothing.com/reno-freecycle

Stash Engineer

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #30 on: July 02, 2015, 08:43:35 AM »

I use weekly budgets because they match my pay schedule. Each paycheck (and any other money obtained in that week) is split up; current bills like rent or internet come first (each bill gets a portion equal to 'amount not yet reserved / number of checks until due', rounded up to the nearest dollar), then laundry and non-food consumables (which I calculate beforehand based on what needs refilling; food should be entirely covered by $100/mo SNAP), then the rest gets either thrown at me or at goals.
Since, as of right now, I've been absolutely horrible about this and have been only really giving the rest to me, I'm going to be more disciplined about it. To divide down the rest, I'm going to start divvying $10 to an emergency fund (until it's $500), then $10 towards my name change ($20 once emergency fund is finished, goes to investments once name change is finished), then the rest towards goals (these being large non-urgent purchases like a bike, paying off the student loan, investing, name change, etc.). Once every dollar in the budget is spent on-paper (some weeks might be $10 emergency, $10 invest, $50 goals, others might be $5 emergency and that's it), the budget is complete.
Since the food is entirely through SNAP, fast food is next to impossible without breaking another part of the budget. And I won't do that. When I eventually am no longer on SNAP, I'll hopefully have the discipline to make similar purchases and not be tempted by fast food.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this:  Can you trade your $65/mo bus pass for a bicycle?  You could ride that most days and if you just didn't feel like riding one day I'm assuming you can pay a low fee for a single ride on the bus or a one-day pass. 
My only job right now is ~5-6 miles away, quite a bit too far for walking (but not impossible), but feasible in ~30-ish minutes of easy biking in city terrain. I'm also not in a food desert, with two grocery stores within a couple miles. This could be an option, but I'll wait a little bit (still a couple basic house things I need first, like clothes, an ironing board, etc., plus it's 100+F weather right now) If I combine it with a 10-ride bus pass, I could take advantage of a lower cost per ride ($1.70/ride not $2.00/ride, and I don't have to carry cash) than the normal fare if I really need to use it. While I'd miss being able to sit down in an air conditioned bus to go a lot of places, the potential for savings would be very high.

Even though you are paid weekly, you should take a look at your budget from a higher view point.  Especially since your income varies a bit.  You can still divvy up your paycheck the way you do it now, but it's a lot more useful in retrospect and for future planning if you look at it on a monthly basis. 

5-6 miles isn't bad at all.  I bike 12 miles one-way to get to work and it takes me a little less than an hour each way.  Our avg high temp this week has been upper 90's with high humidity.  $65/mo = 7-8% of your income!  That's a huge raise!  AND as a bonus, you'll get healthier!

Trifele

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #31 on: July 03, 2015, 05:07:18 AM »
Hi MagicalFF
How did the job interview go?
T

etselec

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #32 on: July 03, 2015, 11:36:32 PM »
Everyone here is giving excellent advice in terms of prioritizing the emergency fund + name change fund, optimizing expenses, and increasing income.

If you're thinking about taking a different job in part because of the insurance benefits, make sure to read the fine print on whether they'll actually cover transition-related care. Far too many places don't, and even companies listed in the HRC's Corporate Equality Index as having trans-inclusive health insurance will sometimes pull awful tricks like where the bare-bones catastrophic plan (with a $6000+ deductible before the plan pays anything at all) is the only trans-inclusive one.

And no one has mentioned this yet, but if you find that stuff like nail polish, make-up, etc. makes a really big difference for you in terms of your dysphoria, it's okay to prioritize that in your budget (within reason) as a medical need, not a frivolous luxury. Seriously. Taking care of your mental health is important.

myrax

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #33 on: July 04, 2015, 12:29:53 PM »
I only have two small tips- you are living frugally and you are getting great advice here!

1. Check out your local bicycle co-op for an affordable bicycle: http://renobikeproject.org/about/the-shop-hours/

My local bicycle co-op occasionally does Earn-A-Bike classes where you can get a free bicycle if you go through a class on maintenance and riding in traffic.

2. If your clothes are stiff, try adding a tiny bit of vinegar to the dryer. A couple years ago I had great success in making DIY dyer sheets by tearing old t-shirts in to squares and putting them in a jar with a couple tablespoons of white vinegar and a few drops of essential oil. After a while, I got sick of reusing the old squares and realized that it's the same as directly adding a tiny drop of vinegar.


ABC123

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #34 on: July 04, 2015, 05:17:14 PM »
Do you carry any sort of bag with you on a regular basis?  Stick a few granola bars or whatever in it to tide you over if you are hungry but can't get home for a while. Might help cut back on fast food.

dess1313

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #35 on: July 04, 2015, 08:06:21 PM »
Welcome and glad to see you on the forum here.  You're doing an awesome job already.  sounds like it hasn't been easy but congrats on making it work!

For clothes, i used to hang my clothes on their hangers in the bathroom from the shower rod.  Got to make sure its a very solid one to do this.  In my basement i hung two hooks for utility stuff or bikes, and strung up a old broom handle between them.  Works great to hang my stuff from to dry.  Two chairs could also serve as a temporary holder or between two dressers.  also watch craigslist and other sites like kijiji for people selling stuff.  soemtiems you can find good things on there.  you might find something like a cheap bike or slow cooker on here.  clothes and everything.  just make sure you wash/dry any soft clothing items and cook them in the dryer for a bit to prevent unwanted guests. 

There are also these blue things called dryer balls, they're knobby and fall between the clothes to help keep them separated so they dry better.  I have gotten some at the dollar store before.  Somewhere i saw something about sponges being used soaked for replacements of dryer sheets. 

Also buy a few boxes of stuff like granola bars, and keep a couple in your bag/backpack.  It can be enough to tide you over until you get to where you need to be.  There's other stuff too, a small container with some dry cereal in it works as well.  Bringing your own water bottle is a huge bonus. 

I make several big batches of food such as chilli, which is easy to freeze.  Easy to do big batches of that, as well as soups and stews.  There are a lot of easy slow cooker recipes out there as well which others have already mentioned.   just start google'ing and you'll see lots.  Some will even have a 5 or 8 pack recipe, that uses common vegetables so you have less waste when buying say a big head of celery or onions and potatoes.  Some of these can be diced and frozen as well for future recipes if you cant use it all now.  There are also a lot of couponer groups, and food recipe groups on facebook that share ideas and recipes.  Pintrest can be decent as well for recipes and ideas and such.

I use a phone app called better than budgeting.  You can set up several categories of expenses and incomes, and keep track of everything you do.  Nice monthly break downs too.  Its something that's on your phone and usually always with you. 

And if you can pick up any other part time job that you can work into things, look at it as a way to fund faster what you need to complete your goals such as the legal costs.  Then later it can be used to fund some extras to make things easier. 

And starting an emergency fund even if its $5 a week, still is a great start.  At some point you may have low hours but need something urgently and it could save your behind.  any extra job would also be an opportunity to try something new, and maybe get into a better position/more solid hours down the road.  and medical benefits would be a huge bonus for you too.

racevedo

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Re: Reader case study ~ just getting started in life
« Reply #36 on: July 04, 2015, 09:45:42 PM »
You could get a job at casinos with just 18 y.o I had friends working at $17hr plus tips with just 18, in vegas you can go to culinary academy and get a training for GRA free and they will help you to get a job.