This is part of a series of interviews with people who are either working to improve their financial situation or who have already reached their goals. This week’s interview is with Craig Kessler, who works for Budget Pulse.
Could you tell us something about yourself?
I am 23 years old and now find myself living on my own for the first time in my life. After school I took the first job I was offered, basically because it was a job that paid. I was living at home in Long Island and commuting to NYC everyday. Because of living at home and being single, I basically have had no major financial responsibilities and was able to help put money into savings, as well as establish my own personal wish list account to save up for some big purchases I desired. I was able to save a lot, although my social life suffered from living at home and adjusting to the new working life. The job didn’t work out, it wasn’t for more but I enjoyed the industry.
I decided that I wanted a change of scene, so this past August I took a job and moved to the DC area to be near friends from college. Now I live with a roommate in an apartment, drive everyday to work opposed to taking the train, and have much more financial responsibilities and bills that I previously did not have. I am slowly trying to adjust to the new life change and balance a lower salary with more financial responsibilities. I have a nice safety net from my previous savings and job, but am now starting to live more of a check to check lifestyle which has been difficult to adjust to.
In what way have you turned your financial life around? (Or what are you working on changing?)
I am working on establishing a steady budget so I can live comfortably with a more close to check by check lifestyle. Now that I am on my own, I have more financial responsibilities and bills that are costly but necessary.
Can you give a little bit of background on your story? What were things like for you pre-change?
I lived at home. Other than credit card bills, cell phone, and car upkeep I really didn’t have any financial responsibilities to worry about. It was great, and because of it I was able to save a lot of money and could afford more material items.
How much progress have you made?
I have made a lot. Working for a web start-up that offers a budgeting tool has been sort of a coincidence. It has helped me visualize how much I make, what bills need to be taken care of, and what left over money I have after. I am slowly trying to adjust to life on my own and owning up to having more financial responsibilities. I have never had to ask for financial assistance from my parents which I am proud of.
How do you feel about your financial situation right now? (Or how did you feel after reaching your goal?)
I am starting to feel more at ease. I am learning my own limitations to what I have to spend money on, and what can wait. I am also slowly trying to build a small vacation/emergency fund account which is giving me another goal.
What was the catalyst that caused you to take action?
I do a lot of online banking. Because of that I like to use my debit card a lot to make purchases. It automatically appears on the screen for me, and I have a better time visualizing what I spend my money on. When I saw my bank account to be getting lower to a point of comfort, I really started to rethink things. Also, I have some friends who live a more “fun” lifestyle but complain about always having low money. I didn’t want that to be me. I would be too stressed out then.
Did you have any setbacks? If so, how did you deal with them?
So far I have yet to have any serious setbacks. I did recently have to have finger surgery done and have had the hospital bills to pay for. Luckily I was prepared financially for it and the costs weren’t too high. Add the fact that it’s the holiday season, I have had to spend more money than I would have liked to. But it is nothing too serious at all.
What has been the hardest part of the process?
The hardest part is probably taking a more structured approach to it. It’s actually wanting to get started and then looking at how you can improve in certain areas. Establishing that first plan and learning where you may have to sacrifice is probably the hardest part.
Working at home for a year really gave me a comfortable nest which allowed me to move out and live on my own. Because I am not making as much money now and have more expensive, it really has allowed me to live more stress free since I am unable to save as much as I would like.
How long has it taken?
It’s been ongoing for about 4 months although I know I have work to do and more planning I need to work on.
What will be your next step?
My next step will be to crack down harder on myself. After the new years, I will plan more and take a harder look at where I spend money, and how I can save more. I like setting goals for myself and usually reward myself when I can accomplish them. For starters, I want to save more in my vacation fund so when the time comes, I can comfortably take a vacation somewhere I want and don’t have to worry about money.
What’s the best financial advice you’ve received?
The best advice I have received is don’t spend what you don’t got. Sounds simple, but so true. Too many people get themselves into debt by overspending. I always try to pay in cash and on bigger purchases, save up and do my research so I don’t have to worry about interest rates and debt building up.
What inspiration could you give to someone in a similar situation?
Just get started and ask questions.
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