A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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It's The End Of July As We Know It

...and I've written a grand total of two posts this month. Three, if you count the Finances After 40 contribution by It's A Kate Life, but those were her words, not mine, so I can't take credit there.

It's not that I don't want to blog. I do. But July just felt so up in the air. I kept telling myself that as soon as things settle down, as soon as I figure things out, I'll write.

Things didn't settle down and I really didn't figure anything out. Hence, no writing. Until now.

July In Review: Wildfires, Video Games, And Getting Back To Work

In July, we wrapped up a vacation to Disneyland. My kid spent several hours a week practicing for soccer and participating in weekend matches. My partner read like it was his job and worked on one of his side hustles. We lazed around, ate ice cream, and played video games (I'm now dangerous in Beach Buggy, so watch out).

At the end of the month, a wildfire started about a mile from our house and grew rapidly. It unsettled our neighborhood and our entire community. Nobody was prepared for it. Unlike early 2018, which was scary dry and led to the precautionary closure of an entire forest for more than a month, we had a wet winter and a drizzly spring this year. As a result, information about fire danger was sparse, and there was generally less awareness despite the fact that we had almost no rain in June. Nobody's said it officially, but the fire was almost certainly human-caused.

The level of stress fueled by the fire was off the charts. It was palpable. I and everyone I knew spent the last part of July obsessing about wind direction, air quality, the safety of the animals in the forest, possible evacuation routes, where we would go if we were evacuated, whether our houses would be okay, and whether our friends' houses would be okay. Luckily, the firefighters and hotshots were able to get in there quickly and prevent a total disaster. As of today, the fire is mostly contained, and people have now turned their attention to the increased flooding that the fire scar is likely to cause when it rains.

I had petsitting gigs lined up almost every day this month and brought in a grand total of $429 (after Rover fees and taxes) for what in retrospect felt like a lot of work. My bookings included one incredibly stressful housesitting situation with an unexpectedly territorial dog who refused to let me get within six feet of her (it was nobody's fault, but it was still terrible for everyone involved). The experience cooled me a bit to the entire endeavor and made me feel wary of taking on new clients without careful consideration.

The thing about Rover, though, is that it really is the Uber of pet care. People don't want you to spend hours assessing whether you and their pet are a good fit; they just want you to say yes to the job and show up so that they can go on their last-minute vacation. Usually, it works out. Now I know that sometimes it doesn't.

I realized that if I want to continue petsitting, make money at it, and set myself up for both safety and success, I probably need to branch off and create my own business, one where the emphasis is on forming lasting relationships with clients who have trained their pets and want to pay a decent wage for someone to look after their fur babies. But am I ready to take on my own endeavor and everything that entails? I don't know yet. For now, I'll keep going with Rover - but I'll be much pickier about who I say yes to.

Lastly, I applied for several jobs in June and in July, thereby signaling the beginning of the end of my career break. Wrapping up my self-imposed sabbatical wasn't planned. I just a) got bored and b) started daydreaming about what we could do with an increased income. I was ignored or ghosted by several companies, but two of my applications led to interviews. One "interview" was actually more of an informal meeting for a part-time online teaching job that was essentially created for me after I applied for a different position that had already been filled. The other was a much more typical interview for a full-time lab manager job. I was offered the part-time position (yay!) and am waiting to hear back about the second.

Money Talk

So given that this is supposed to be a debt blog, where are we at with money?

It turns out that we're in pretty good shape. Thanks to Fortysomething's side hustle and his bonuses, we were actually able to put money into savings this month, bringing our total emergency fund to $8700. We didn't have to dip into savings at all in June or July.

My new part-time job is supposed to generate 10-12 hours of work a week. Whether that work will be truly consistent remains to be seen (I'm always skeptical until it actually happens), but if it is, I should be able to earn around $800 a month. If I can make an additional $200 a month from petsitting, we will break even - meaning that we won't have to touch our savings account for regular monthly expenses. That's exciting!

With one more bonus in the works, it's also possible that (and this blows my mind) we'll meet our $10K emergency fund goal that we set at the beginning of the year.

And if I can earn more than $200 a month by petsitting, we can even start a vacation fund (which we've determined is something we all want) and/or just throw more at our campground membership and student loan debt.

If I'm offered the full-time job and accept it? Financially, we'll be in really good shape even though the salary is lower than it should be.

In other words, so far, this career break has not led to a financial implosion. Even if I don't go back to full-time work and even if I do have to find another health insurance solution, we will probably be okay. It's a huge relief.

Part-Time Freelance Or Full-Time Traditional?

I'm now at a point where I'm figuring out whether I want to pursue a more flexible but lower-paying, part-time lifestyle or a more traditional but higher-paying, full-time lifestyle. When I quit my last job, I was aiming for the former - and I've managed to create that exact situation in a little more than three months. Go me!

But I'm not ruling out the possibility of the latter. I think a regular full-time job could work out if it's the right job. In retrospect, the last three jobs were so not the right jobs, but I couldn't see that because I had no room to stand back and gain some perspective. (Also, I had brainwashed myself into thinking that I had to have another job before leaving.)

The right job would use my skills and experience, be of interest to me, allow me to interact in person with cool coworkers, give me autonomy, and respect my personal time. The right job would not exceed 40 hours a week. The right job would have me working for a boss who won't micromanage and doesn't need to know where I am or what I'm doing every minute of the day. The right job would give me the stability of health benefits and a retirement fund.

If I can have all that, then maybe.

That said, I'm holding off on applying for anything else right now. Per my recent Twitter rant, the job application and interview process seems like a dog and pony show to me, and I generally abhor it. I want to get started with my part-time job and see how the full-time opportunity pans out. If it doesn't materialize, I'll probably experiment with part-time work life for a while just to see how it goes.

Where This Blog Is Going

For the past six months, I've written almost exclusively about work satisfaction, mental health, and unconventional career choices. I'll continue to pursue those topics when I feel like it and when the opportunity arises, but I also want to get back to what this blog was when I first started, which was a personal record of our financial journey.

Instead of writing less often, I'd like to write more often - but more in the vein of what A Dime At A Time does on her debt blog. In other words, I'd like to write shorter posts more often.

Moreover, I'm okay with keeping it personal and not feeling the need to craft something exceptional every time I'm faced with a blank page.


  1. I didn’t know you’d put money INTO savings this month! That is so awesome. I am all for the PT deal now if you can make it work.

    1. YESSSSS! Thank you, friend. I was so very excited to put money into savings. If we stick to our August budget, we should be able to cross the $9K mark for savings. At this point, I just really want to make sure we have money on hand in case the side hustles or part-time jobs dry up.

  2. I'm so glad that you were all safe after that fire and crossing my fingers that the flooding isn't terrible.

    Re: Rover - my favorite sitters used Rover / DogVacay as their initial screening and clientale building place, then we moved to private bookings after that. May be a good approach for you.

    I love the idea of the PT work if you can make the money work. But I love more that you are finally getting the space to see what you really need, for yourself.

    Last - I enjoy more frequent but authentic posts. No need for great written art here.

    1. Thank you, Revanche!

      I need to figure out a better approach to petsitting, and your idea is a good one. If I go that route, I think I'd want to purchase my own insurance (it's not super expensive, as far as I can tell).

  3. So scary about the fires, and glad you are okay! Living in Southern California we've had some horrible ones around here in the past few years, and the return to normalcy can seem like a long one.

    I'm intrigued by the fact you say you've already become bored without working. My fiance and I ruminate over this often - while I toss out the idea of quitting my job once I hit FI, I also worry that I would become incredibly bored and feel like I've lost my sense of purpose. I'm glad to know I may not be alone in this. It's great that you were able to find another job so quickly, and hoping that it is something that you truly enjoy!


    1. I hate feeling stressed out - especially if the stress is chronic - but boredom isn't great for me, either. I like having a project or two to sink my teeth into, and work is a direct source of projects! I have some other ideas that are unrelated to work, but I haven't gotten around to putting them into action (or I've been hesitant to put them into action for fear that they won't work out and it'll be a waste of time).

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  5. Way to go to getting a good return on petsitting only 3 months in. Yay! That's pretty scary about the wildfires. Especially being that close, man. Id be a nervous Nelly until it got contained.
    Way to go adding to savings this month! Sounds like it was a good one!

    1. Yeah, July was a good petsitting month! I can definitely tell that it's slowed down now that school is back in session. Kinda thinking that I should dial back on the one-off petsitting gigs and just conserve my energy for the holidays, when it's possible to make a relatively substantial amount of money in a short amount of time.

  6. Congrats on the job offer and on saving money despite your career break! All of that is awesome. I hope whatever comes next, be it part-time or full, brings you much more fulfillment and satisfaction than your previous jobs.

    1. Thank you! I don't know if the new job will be particularly fulfilling, but at worst, it seems fine. This job came at a good time for me.