This post is part of the Broke Millennial No More series.
“Huh! What’s that black stuff on my pillow?” I wondered to myself upon waking up. I didn’t really think much of it. Just picked it up and threw it in the trash. You see, it has been almost two years now since I started my get out of debt journey. I had been intensely focused on getting out of debt ever since I got an audiobook called The Total Money Makeover at the end of my university career, and decided to put its thesis to practice.
Despite living a minimalist and frugal lifestyle for most of my life, pursuing the degree I wanted led me into serious financial debt. I wanted to become a pilot. And unfortunately, I was pursuing this during a really bad economic time in the market. So I made a couple pivots to finish school with a degree in Business Management and Communications.
During my university days, I didn’t really party much, didn’t get into any credit card debt. And to this day the only debt I have is my student loans. After university, the job market was rough. So I picked up every odd job that I could. I did some retail arbitrage (retail arbitrage is a form of flipping products. It’s when you buy a product from target or yard sales and then sell them on other platforms, such as Craigslist, eBay or other niche websites), Amazon and eBay flipping, tutoring, freelance work, yard work, and worked as a pizza delivery driver. Eventually, within 3 years of graduating, I landed one of my dream jobs, working in post-production for a television network. I also had gazelle-like intensity about getting out debt.
The problem with gazelle-like intensity is when it’s done without balance it can lead to other problems in the future. Remember the black stuff on my pillow that I mentioned earlier…. yea that was a chunk of hair. Something was going really wrong with me. I started to see a large patch of hair on my face that would not grow back after I shaved my face in the morning. You see with all this hustle since my college days, I thought I was living a fairly healthy lifestyle. I was a vegetarian. Never drank or partied. Focused on work. Stayed in my lane and avoided drama. This allowed me to pay down a lot of debt. Despite trying to do the right thing and learning from my mistakes, it was a little too late for my body.
With all this hustle, I neglected my health. I thought I was handling my stress fairly well but did not have the right kind of nutrition and exercise that would build a balanced yet high-performing, productive lifestyle.
As the weeks and days went by this hairless patch on my face started to expand. Soon there were multiple patches on my face and head. I went to see a doctor and was as diagnosed with a stress induced autoimmune disease and a plethora of food intolerances and food allergies.
This meant a rapid change in how I would manage my work and health. I had to look at the reality of the situation that I am in and take a much more balanced approach to get out of debt. All the side hustles that I was doing now had to come to a grinding halt, including the financial component of things. I had to reallocate my financial resources, what was once set aside to pay down debt has now been put towards rebuilding my health. The five-year plan to get out of debt just got extended.
Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned in this time.
- Focus on getting out debt. But take care of yourself first.
- Pursuing your dream job is not for everyone. You see in the first three years I had to work in an industry where there were no jobs that would pay me. It’s in this time that I learned that how you pursue that dream is what matters. I really had to look at the job market, assess my skills and interest to see how it could be used to deliver value that either a client or an employer was willing to pay me a living wage. Once you have built yourself a stable financial platform you are free to pursue your dreams.
- Do not overly fixate on one, single aspect of life. When growing, You need to grow in multiple areas, just like nutrition and exercise, fresh air, sleep, temperance all areas that help in living a highly productive life.
- Minimize your debt as much as possible. Don’t be tempted to take on more just because you’re already in the hole.
It’s been about a year now since I started this recovery process. The autoimmune disease is now slowly subsiding. (At least on the outward physical side of things.) I now set aside my entire tax return to be put into a gym membership and a nutritionist who builds my menu for me. Like clockwork meal prep for the entire week on Sunday so I know I am getting good meals for the week. I know that I will go to a gym and get the exercise that I need.
I am now slowly picking up my side hustle. But this time around I am not doing so many different types of side hustle. I work as a freelance video editor focusing specifically on clients who are passionate about what they do, strategic about their audience growth. This allows me to assist in a valuable part of a clients growth and having all the extra income going directly to paying off debt.
On the journey to become debt-free, you may want to consider what is a balanced approach based on your situation. Then make the best out of the situation that you are in.
Written by Philip Matthew
Photo from Pexels
Edited by Bridget Dennin
Disclaimer: Any products, banks, or companies mentioned in this article should not be taken as an endorsement from or by the Broke Millennial brand.