This article is by Consumerism Commentary staff writer Smithee, who is juggling about a dozen clients and creative projects as a freelancer.
It’s been a year since I was laid off and decided to become a full-time freelancer, and it’s been six months since my wife and I made a risky decision to move the family from Dallas to San Diego. Overall, we think moving was the right thing to do, but there are a few things keeping me anxious.
I’m writing this update from the Starbucks near the house we’re renting in San Diego, because Starbucks has air conditioning, and the heat and humidity in the house were too difficult to ignore. The good news is that today is only about the tenth day that it’s been too hot in San Diego since we moved back in April.
As I hoped, moving to a place with nice year-round weather has had a good effect on my ambition and productivity levels. Some people like warm weather, but I found that Texas’s six-month-long summers would infect my outlook and attitude, creating tense and downright depressing work relationships.
In addition, working for myself means I can create my own hours and I’m not suffering from road rage or dealing with the rising gas prices. To be fair, though, San Diego’s rush hour is literally only an hour long, which is a level of sensibility I never saw in New Jersey, Seattle, or Dallas.
Most days I even have enough time in the morning to sit down and eat breakfast outside, which is part of my American dream.
Moving is expensive
Including fixing up the old house, packing, storing and moving all the stuff, animal medicine and drama, paying an agency to rent out our house in Dallas and $4,600 for the first & last months’ rent plus a security deposit in San Diego, moving wasn’t something we could do with cash on hand. We’ve created over $10,000 in credit card debt for the privilege of living somewhere better, and it almost always seems like the right decision.
Long-time readers might remember that I spent over a decade with thousands in credit card debt, before I finally buckled down and, with the help of a respectful salary, wiped it out over about nine months. I hate credit card debt, and knowing those balances are out there building interest against me causes some anxiety. The silver lining is that the “San Diego debt,” unlikely my legacy solo debt, is something that my wife and I are both contributing toward reducing, so it should go away that much more quickly.
The best part about our move (financially speaking) is that we’re saving at least $200 a month on air conditioning, which is the same amount more that we’re paying for housing. If we didn’t have to spend so much on rent deposits and agencies, it’d basically pay for itself. Over time, it will.
Debt reduction strategy
We’re not really reducing debt in a meaningful way, yet. At the moment, my wife has the big dependable salary. My work sometimes generates large paychecks, but freelance work is not reliable, so I’ve been spending more time finessing and futzing with each month’s household budget instead of putting payments and savings on auto-pilot.
I’ve been using the 50/30/20 guideline, and in the months where I have large freelance income, we’re able to save quite a bit. I know what I’m supposed to do is keep saving until we have three months’ worth of emergency savings available, or put it toward credit card debt and then build emergency savings.
What I want to do is use it to pay off the car loans early. One is on a schedule to expire in January, and the other one in June of next year. They add up to over $1,000 a month, and unlike the credit card debt, they always require the same regular payment amount, or else bad things happen.
In fact, once the car loans (and the old IRS installment) are completely paid off, we could fulfill all of our “needs” (the 50 part of 50/30/20) with just my wife’s salary. If things go the same way they have been, and if there aren’t any expensive emergencies, isn’t it smarter to free up $1,000 a month for saving or debt payments?
That’s the trick, isn’t it? You’re supposed to assume there will be emergencies that require you to have saved up a lot. I’ve never had that much saved in my life, but I’ve also never been hit with a truly expensive emergency, and I am impatient to be out of debt.
Published or updated September 7, 2011.