From Eviction to Vacation in 10 Months

(Article today by Tom Meitner)

It’s October 2010. My beautiful new wife and I are sharing sandwiches for lunch while sitting in a purple VW Bug. The air conditioning is blasting cool air on our skin, and we are quietly staring out the windshield at the edge of a small, obscure beach on the northwest side of Maui.

It’s our honeymoon, and after a crazy couple of years, we were finally relaxing and enjoying ourselves in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

Sounds pretty sweet, right? Before you switch off, though, thinking that I’m some well-off dude that you can’t relate to in your own financial struggles, I want to tell you a different story.

10 Months Earlier…

On New Year’s Eve 2009, everyone I knew was together with family and friends, drinking and enjoying the company as they geared up to watch the ball drop. Not me. I spent New Year’s Eve alone in my tiny apartment, boxing up my life’s belongings and preparing for what would be a terribly long New Year’s Day.

Three days prior to that, I had gone to the post office to pick up a certified letter that I missed the day before Christmas. It was from my landlord:

I had five days to catch up on rent, or I was going to be kicked out.

The year 2009 was not a good one for me or my business. Because of some terrible mistakes on my part, I tanked my freelancing career and was stuck in a lousy customer service job. So, on New Year’s Day 2010, I did what every 24-year old dreaded: I moved back in with my parents. My two cats and I were locked in their basement for ten months.

I was living with my parents, had a failed business, and was working second shift in a lousy job with no future. Oh, and I was getting married in October. I needed a plan of action.

It took a lot of thinking, plus some trial-and-error, but here are the steps I took to get myself on that beautiful Hawaiian island in ten months:

I got on the same page with my (then) fiancée.

The first order of business, after settling in and figuring out the least-depressing way to organize my stuff in my parents’ basement, was to sit down with my fiancée and figure out where we were going to go. Knowing that our end goal was the same, we had to start working together from the outset.

Lesson learned – the importance of teamwork. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the love and support of my wife. If you’re in a tough spot, you need to find people that you can turn to and lean on. That doesn’t mean somebody you can borrow money from, but somebody that can help you dig yourself out of it, emotionally and mentally.

I sucked it up.

I was put in a bad spot, but there really wasn’t much I could do about it, at least not in the immediate future. Yeah, it wasn’t ideal, but sitting around complaining about it wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I had to make the best of it, and I did: I made arrangements with my parents to keep me somewhat independent. I tried to find a balance between my current situation and where I wanted to be.

Lesson learned – accepting your current lot in life. You don’t have to accept it permanently, but when you are dealt a hand by life, sometimes just taking it is the best thing you can do. You spend less mental and emotional energy on anger and bitterness that way.

I had an end goal in mind.

October 2010. That was the month I had to get to. It was a long winter, spring, and summer, but I knew that if I could make it to fall, I’d be okay. I wasn’t going to live with my parents forever. In fact, I had an exact end date. All I had to do was work backward from that day and figure out the steps I needed to take all year to get there.

Lesson learned – punishment is less severe if you know it’s temporary. If you think you’re going to be stuck in the same spot for the rest of your life, then you’re going to be pretty doggone miserable. Keep reminding yourself that it’s temporary, there’s a way out, and even if you don’t see it yet, you’ll find it.

We built up an emergency fund.

Hey, you know what’s the worst part of being broke? Being broke and not knowing what’s going to happen if an expense jumps out at you. In the average year, you’re going to have a handful of times where something will happen to you that will require money: car breaks down, you get sick, laptop crashes, etc. Just the pressure of the unknown can drive you crazy while you try to get ahead. Even worse, your progress stalls when you have to stop to pay for something else. We socked $1,000 in an ING savings account at the beginning of the year, so that whenever something came up, we were prepared to handle it.

Lesson learned – be prepared for anything. Yeah, $1K isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s enough money to handle a lot of those unexpected expenses pretty handily. Once you get that pressure off your shoulders, you can really think a lot more clearly.

We took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course.

My church was offering this at a nice discount, and we made time once a week for a couple months to go through it. To say that it gave us direction would be an understatement. Many people disagree on Dave’s methods, but the truth is: any plan is better than just hoping for the best! We set up our debt snowball, we figured out how to reduce our expenses, and we started living on a budget.

Lesson learned – always keep learning more. You don’t know everything, and new information can give you a clear perspective on what you are trying to accomplish. If you are suffering financially, just learning more about money and how it works can really help you get out of the dark.

I gutted it out in my free time.

I worked from 1:30pm until 10:00pm almost every night. I didn’t see my friends. I barely saw my fiancee. No one would blame me if I spent my mornings or late nights sitting around watching Netflix or playing video games. But I didn’t (well, not all the time anyway). Instead, I spent that time trying to get new writing work and rebuilding my business. I sat at the computer and wrote emails to businesses almost every day.

Lesson learned – you have more time than you think. If you think you don’t have time to work on improving your financial situation, you’re wrong. Turn off the TV and start hustling. There’s plenty of time to get things done – even an hour a day will net you some amazing progress. But you have to roll up your sleeves and do it.

The end result?

We got married in a wedding we paid for ourselves with 300 of our closest friends and family. We spent a week in Hawaii, and it was fully-paid with cash. We didn’t come home to a mountain of credit card bills from Maui. I went from being so broke I was eating bread and ketchup for a snack before getting evicted, to eating some of the most amazing fish that I’ve ever eaten while fire dancers performed in front of me. That’s what we call an “upgrade.”

So even if you feel lost, just calm down. Take inventory of what’s going on, and try to keep a clear head. There’s a way out. It may not be pleasant, and it may be really hard sometimes. But it’s not impossible, and the rewards on the other side are just too awesome to pass up.

Tom Meitner helps you discover your hidden superpowers at Your Superhero Reboot. You can also follow his musings on being a superhero and other random stuff on his Twitter page.

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  1. The Happy Homeowner April 19, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    LOVE this; thanks for sharing! Yet another example of what you can do when you put your mind to it/work your bootay off. Kudos to you for not wallowing and instead getting your life back on track.

  2. Tom Meitner April 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    Thank you! Glad you liked it. :-)

  3. Jen @ Master the Art of Saving April 19, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Thanks for sharing your story, Tom. I always get a kick out of reading about how people overcame financial hardships. :-) Congats on your success.

  4. From Shopping to Saving April 19, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    Amazing story and we can all take something from these lessons. I especially liked the point about thinking that a situation is temporary. I’ve been in that boat where I just dwell on a situation that I don’t like and if I didn’t like where I was at that moment in time, I’d turn so melodramatic about it and start thinking that my life was crap and over. If you keep thinking in that mentality, that will just bring you down. However, if you stay alert and keep your eyes open, you will find opportunities in places you would have missed if you were just feeling sorry for yourself.


  5. Mary April 19, 2012 at 11:25 AM

    What I want to know is: Did you settle up with your landlord and pay the back rent you owed? As a landlord myself, I feel bad when people don’t catch up their back rent. It is basically stealing. Did you settle up? Or, did you just write it off?

  6. LB April 19, 2012 at 12:43 PM

    So what is life like after the honeymoon. I know you end your story with a beautiful wedding and honeymoon with no debt, but what else got better. Is your business making lots of money? Are you living in an apartment? Just kind of wondering what real life is like now that you have no debt and seem to be happy.

  7. C The Writer April 19, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    I’m so scared that there isn’t a way out. : (

    I’ve always been poor and can’t imagine being anything else. I’m at the point where I almost wish I’d never gone to college. All it got me was more debt and no better hope of a job.

    1. EJ July 10, 2013 at 8:48 PM

      @C The Writer what country are you in? You HAVE to change your mindset. Keep coming to places like this to be inspired. The more you think “poor” the easier it will be to accept that you always knew you were going to stay poor. Focus on being wealthy, happy, stable. Have you heard of a vision board? maybe try that it will help shift your focus over time of where you want to be if you are looking at something you love every day. I have been in hard times too. It WILL pass if you apply yourself. I don’t have any special skills or talents except maybe the stubborness that I refuse to fail myself and my family. You need to surround yourself with people of the same mindset. Things WILL change Keep your eyes open to opportunities :)

  8. retirebyforty April 19, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    Great job Tom. You achieved your goals. How is your finance now? Hopefully you are in a better position now and will continue to make progress.

  9. J. Money April 19, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    Glad you liked this one guys! Thanks again, Tom, for sharing your story with us today :)

    Have some of my own responses here, though I’m sure Tom will chime in too later…

    @From Shopping to Saving – TOTALLY agree too with everything being “temporary!” And in high school it’s the worst too – people get bullied and stressed out and all kinds of nasty stuff – and most of them all think that’s how life is :( If only we could shake them and let ’em know it gets better!! Almost EVERYTHING in life is changeable, we just gotta go out there and take action and things WILL get better :)

    @Mary – I agree. When you don’t pay your debts it’s stealing, even if you write it off or file bankruptcy, etc etc. I have a hard problem with that myself, so def. interested in how you handled it, Tom. No pressure ;)

    @LB – I know the answer!!! But I’ll let him tell you, hehe… I actually cut that part out of the post cuz it was getting long – oops!

    @C The Writer – YOU CAN DO IT!!!! I know we’ve chatted back and forth yesterday and it seems hopeless out there, but I promise you it’s not. There is *always* something that can be done to change your situation – you just have to really put your all into it and not give up. Which I know is a lot easier to say than do, but it doesn’t mean it’s not the truth. You ask every single person who’s successful now how they got to that level, and almost every one of them will tell you it was hours and hours of hard work and failing over and over until they got on the right track. We all go through the phases, but we’re all at different levels right now. There IS hope though!!! But it’s only good if you take action.

  10. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager April 19, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    What an awesome success story! Thanks for sharing.

  11. maria@moneyprinciple April 19, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    This is such a wonderful, uplifting story. Well done for sorting your life and your finances. So it is a nightmare to move back in with parents, huh? It is hear breaking for parents asd well…

  12. Tom Meitner April 19, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Wow, lots of great questions!

    @Mary – All money that was due her was paid, including the back rent. She kept my security deposit, which we weren’t really happy about (grrr). But yes, we made sure to settle up after I moved out!

    @LB and @retirebyforty – A month after the honeymoon, my wife told me to quit my customer service job and focus on freelancing because I was miserable. I am still building it, but we have a strong budget worked out that I work hard at keeping, and my business continues to grow. We actually are not out of debt at all – we carry quite a bit of debt yet. But we are digging our way out of it, Ramsey-style! :-)

    @C The Writer – That’s the worst, isn’t it? Hang in there! There is something that you are good at – something you can offer that no one else can. Maybe a “traditional” job isn’t for you. Maybe there are more opportunities in freelancing or something similar. Keep hunting around and you will find what you are supposed to do. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

    @maria@moneyprinciple – It was mixed feelings. Actually, after I moved in, it was a great experience. I was able to help my parents through some things, and we bonded quite a bit. I was actually making plans to move in with one of my brothers when my parents came to me and said I should save the rent money and come home for a few months. I owe everything to them, and I was very blessed to have that ten months with them!

  13. James April 19, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Absolutely fabulous story. Glad you shared it. Keep your head up, work hard, and good things will happen. You are living proof of this.

  14. LB April 19, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Congrats on your continuation to kill debt, work for yourself, have an amazing wedding and I hope you continue onward and upward. :)

  15. BusyExecutiveMoneyBlog April 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM

    This is a great story. I know Dave Ramsey has his critics but for situations where one needs drastic measures, his stuff seems to be spot on.

  16. Tom Meitner April 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    Thank you, everybody!

  17. Tony April 20, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Tom great story. I would love to hear more details on how you did it exactly… Your awesome bud.

  18. J. Money April 20, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Looks like this post got picked up by The Business Insider – Congrats, Tom!

  19. Frugal Portland April 23, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Great work! It’s always good to get to the other side, so to speak. Kudos!

  20. Evan April 24, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    Wow what an inspiring story! Did anyone in your family or your friends give you crap about your new lifestyle?

  21. EJ July 10, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    I can completely relate to this and its what I have said to so many I know but the sad thing is , most people I meet would rather dwell on their losses and stick their head in the grounds. One person I met I tried to help by showing them how to compare credit cards and loans so they could save money on their debt by consolidating it. Instead they completely ignored my advice and just took out another credit card with their current back with high interest and repayments. The reality was that they were having more outgoings the incoming and neither wanted to work any harder. I decided not to pursue the friendship as I could see them going down a bad path and dragging me down in their negativity. I have been here myself. We were ready to go bankrupt but stubborness in me refused to fail and so I worked my butt off to put us back in another position. We have debt but at least its now manageable! Also writing my blog helps me to keep track of what I’m doing and reading blogs like yours inspire me to continue. It’s not easy being a stay at home mum when you have a child to care for and a house to uphold but it’s not a good enough excuse to not do anything else. Like you said there is ALWAYS TIME people just need to learn to prioritise and think outside the box. :)

    1. J. Money July 12, 2013 at 10:04 PM

      Agreed! Gotta use that time wisely and not waste away feeling all depressed 24/7. Though of course much easier said than done :)