I have always been a spendy person. I love to shop (who doesn’t?), and I love to pretend like I can afford that $800 couch I saw on Apartment Therapy. If you give me a credit card, it doesn’t take long for me to fill it up.
Well, when my side-hustle started to pick up steam, I thought I was well on my way to being a professional artist. Sales were increasing, profits were almost matching the income I was making at my day job, and it seemed like my ideal job working for myself was just over the horizon.
Unfortunately, my habits soon caught up with me. This is the story of how I found out (the hard way) that my personal finances ruined my dream job.
The Call to Adventure
I’ve always wanted to be a comic book artist. Ever since I was a little kid and picked up my first copy of Spider Man, I knew that my calling was in the nerd community. Of course, being an artist is extremely difficult. It’s impossible to “get rich quick,” no matter how good you are.
But that didn’t stop me from doing commissions and slowly building up a small fan base. While I was working my day job in retail — following the typical “adulting” trajectory with a 401(k), insurance, and paid vacation — I was also working on the side, creating a small but steady side-hustle business. My best sales always happened at conventions: where fellow nerds could come across my booth and “ooo” and “ahh” over my fan art. Sometimes I would walk away with a couple hundred dollars, if I was lucky.
However, I was also buying goodies at these conventions. It’s hard to remember that you’re there to make money and not there to stock up on more art, comics, and memorabilia. Sometimes those hundred dollar sales turned into $20 in take-home pay. Yikes.
Luckily my side business was doing well, for a time. I was starting to get commissions on a regular basis, and conventions were turning into fruitful weekends. I got to the point where it felt like my day job was really holding me back from my dream job. If I can make this much money on a regular basis, I sure didn’t need to waste my time working for a big corporation anymore!
Unfortunately for me, that didn’t last very long.
The Road of Trials
So it was that one fateful rainy day in September, when my car slid off the road on the way to a convention in Salt Lake City and hit a pole. Luckily, I only had a few scratches and bruises, but my trusty vehicle (the very thing I relied on to get to-and-from conventions) was totaled.
Once I was able to get back home, I had to consider my options. This car was my first, so it was gifted to me by my parents. It was probably about time I got a new one, anyways, but I had never gone through the process before. A friend drove me to a dealer in the area, and we discussed options.
I didn’t have the cash upfront to buy a car outright (my savings were limited due to my penchant for overspending), so I asked about a car loan. After a very stressful hour, the verdict came back: rejected. Turns out my lack of on-time credit card payments, as well as a couple of delinquent student loan payments, had ultimately tanked my credit score.
My spending and lack of savings had caught up to me. I needed to do a serious re-evaluation of my financial life.
Things were falling apart, but I didn’t need to let that get the better of me. I just needed to budget better and work on saving money instead of spending it all. Unfortunately, my convention gigs would have to be put on hold, but I still had my day job, a coworker who was willing to carpool, and a decent Etsy shop following.
First, I looked into ways I could repair my credit by myself. I researched my options, found a great secured credit card to help build up my low score, and worked on planning out a more steady budget. My student loans also needed some help, so I researched if refinancing was a viable option. Turns out with my low credit score, refinancing wasn’t a good option at the time, but I knew that I would do it once my score was in a higher bracket.
Next, I needed to calculate my take home pay from my day job, and I needed to put a complete stop to my unnecessary spending. That was certainly the hardest task to tackle, but my entire dream job was at stake. If I wanted a car, I needed to stop buying every cute little thing I came across. I looked into some online apps and settled for Mint to help me budget. I should have started using that app much earlier!
I was able to halt my spending and start saving money. Within a few months, I was surprised and baffled to find that I could easily save up $1,000 a month if I was just smart about my money. Within a few months, I was able to buy an old used car. Within a year, I was able to trade it in for an even newer car, and my credit score had miraculously increased by almost 100 points.
Things were really looking up, but I needed to stay vigilant. Who knew when another emergency would happen?
The Freedom to Live
Fortunately for me, this sudden emergency situation helped me reorient myself on my goals. I was lucky that I hadn’t left my retail day job yet, because without it I would have gone bankrupt. However, it was through vigilant savings and through saving my credit score that I was finally able to come out of this a better person: more financially conscious, a novice saving guru, and more eager than ever to turn my side-hustle into a real business.
I’m still working on my goals of making a living doing art, but it was through this that I was able to develop healthy saving habits. This tough situation taught me how important it is to build a more financially stable ground for my potential small business. The only thing standing in the way of my dream job was my personal finances. I’m glad I learned my lesson when I did.
If you ever get to the point where you’re thinking of starting your own business, take a step back and evaluate your finances. Are you spending a lot on frivolous things? Are you spending most of your extra money instead of saving it up? Are you struggling to make payments on time and have a low credit score as a result?
Take my story as a cautionary tale and work on building up better habits for yourself so your business can succeed. The sooner you make the switch to savings, the better and more successful you will be in the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Avery Taylor Phillips – Avery is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions. Check out her blog on https://www.equities.com/user/AveryTaylorPhillips