Day 18 | $24,666 paid | $66,051 till freedom
Sarah, the first roommate to move in, got her MBA at a prestigious b-school, she just moved to Austin for a job, and she’s renting a room and driving a used, high-mileage car so that she can pay down her monstrous student loans. She’s the one I talked about earlier who’s doing what I would have done if I could start over. Well, she must have taken a class in negotiations–either that, or I’m a softie–because not only did she negotiate the monthly rent down by $100, but she also negotiated the right to park on the driveway, even though I had explicitly added a no-driveway clause to the roommate contract template I found online. I have two cars and a bike that I park in the garage, the driveway is only two lanes, and while I typically ride my motorcycle to work every day, I like the flexibility to switch it up–especially on the weekends–and I don’t want the hassle of having to move a car just to pull one of my cars out of the garage.
On the first night, Sarah eschewed her parking privileges and parked on the street in front of the house, but last night she decided to leverage her parking prerogative and took to the driveway. I had to run an errand last night, and as I was pulling out of the driveway, I noticed a large puddle of oil in front of the house that hadn’t been there two days ago. I assumed that Sarah’s car was leaking oil, and not wanting a puddle of oil on my driveway, I checked under her car and confirmed via oil that was beading up around her oil pan and transmission area that it was her car. A little irritated, I went into the house and asked her to please move her car.
I was thinking more about myself and the driveway and less about Sarah and her car, so I wasn’t expecting the reaction that I got when I told her about the leak. She was frustrated and angry–not about having to move her car to the street, but because she anticipated a very big, expensive car repair in her near future. I could read the dejection in her tone and in her body language; she was not happy.
Then it clicked. Here she was, making sacrifices by renting a room out of a stranger’s house in a strange city and driving a very used, high-mileage car so that she pay down her student loans, and this was literally the last thing she needed. It struck me that the very same thing could happen to me. I’m making sacrifices by taking on roommates, cutting my entertainment way back, looking for extra work, and despite all that, I’m not immune to an oil leak, either. Some costs are uncontrollable. Heck, I have three vehicles, so my chances are much greater than Sarah’s that something will go wrong. And random cost hits like that are not isolated just to vehicles–my computer could break, my TV could break, the house AC could break, etc. And I’ve already been a victim to breakage–look at how I have to run-start my motorcycle these days because something on it broke and I don’t want to pay to get it fixed.
It just goes to show you that “the things you own end up owning you.”
I’ve never been able to feel more empathy for a black female than I did at that single moment in time. The empathy I felt for Sarah, my ability to relate to her yesterday…that’s one of the few instant (rather than delayed) benefits of this financial challenge. There’s this powerful feeling of camaraderie and unity that has the unique ability to cross boundaries. Many people have debt that they’re trying to pay off, both genders and all ages and races and walks of life. Out of the 148 comments on this blog, many are written by people who say they also have student loans and that this blog is an inspiration to them. Are these people all white, 28-year-old dudes?
I’m not even three weeks into this journey, but I’ve already experienced several bouts of severe loneliness, like I’m the only guy in the world who’s making sacrifices by cutting costs and working harder to pay down debt. And out of my group of friends, that’s a true statement. But taking a broader cut of the population–taking a closer look at the people around me, and I realize that I’m far from the only person who’s doing what they have to do to get out of debt, and that it transcends all demographics.