I was 18 years old and I had to turn down an offer of admission to university because I had no money saved up. My folks didn’t have extra money after putting me in a really good private school. Working to save thousands of dollars for post-secondary school seemed like such a distant possibility, so it was easier for me to just nix the whole idea of going to university altogether. After 12 years of school, I needed a break anyway. So I started working in a tourist shop.
I consider this first full-time job to be where I learned my most valuable lessons in personal finance. I had written in a previous blog called Couch Money about how my boss schooled me on the value of saving a portion of each pay cheque. Once I started doing that and saw my savings account grow, I unexpectedly began to see new possibilities and I decided university was going to happen the following year. I worked extra shifts and aggressively saved. I also started investing in term deposits and GICs. I was planning to work part-time at the same job while I took classes, so I worked out a budget.
A month after classes started, my boss called me, crying. She said the company wasn’t doing well and was going to start closing down some of its retail locations. Our store was going to remain, but they had to let go of all the part-timers. That meant me. My first thought was, “What about my budget?” Then it hit me that I was getting laid off. It stung to lose my job that I was so devoted to and loved so much. After I got off the phone, I sobbed for a bit, but panic took over and I went straight to updating my resume and looking for part-time work.
It was a over a month before I found another job, but I was grateful that I had saved enough so I actually didn’t have to worry much about my budget being too affected. I was still living at home, so it was all very manageable. I continued working part-time and taking classes all year and throughout the summer (it’s cheaper to study with less student fees).
Right before my second year at school, my parents had a ‘bit’ of a financial crisis, to put it mildly. I had one day to move out and find my own place to live. I was already dealing with a frustrating situation over being wait listed for some classes I really needed for my major. So while I had to figure out my course registration, getting textbooks, and paying tuition, I was sleeping on the floor at friends’ apartments and basements until I found a place to live. It was another two months until I found a semi-full time job and an affordable apartment on campus.
This was one of the most trying times of my life and I had to dig deep to stay positive. What I discovered was an amazing ability to prove to myself that I could come out on top. I took on a heavy course load, I worked nearly full-time, I achieved a high GPA, and I saved enough extra money from each pay cheque that I didn’t need to use my student loans (so I invested them in a GIC with flexible term instead). Working hard at work and school created an unstoppable momentum. I fast-tracked my studies and finished my degree in three years (plus I was motivated to finish early because they were talking about tuition hikes). I’ve had major ups and downs in my life since, but I learned to trust in my abilities to find solutions and persevere.
I was motivated to write about this as today we got a jobs report that we lost 31,000 jobs in July in Canada. My hope is that everyone who was laid off has a rainy day fund to provide some financial safety net so that they can get through their difficult time until they find new work.
Dig deep, friends. Best of luck in your job search. May you come out ahead!