A year ago, I was backpacking through Eastern Europe, unsure of when or if I’d return to New York City, where I’d lived since college. My stuff was in storage and the only possessions I had on hand fit into an oversize backpack. My overhead was low — an average of $30 or less per night for a bed at a hostel, a few dollars for food and drinks along the way, with a splurge being a plane ticket to go to a new country. I was able to easily pay for my on-the-road lifestyle with money I made from freelance assignments, often filed at cute bars or cafes. It was a lifestyle that was perfect for a single person with no obligations.
And then I found out I was pregnant. I knew two things: First, that I wanted the baby, even though the foreign father wouldn’t be in the picture; and second, that I needed to get my finances in order, ASAP. It took some pretty drastic measures — and a lot of middle-of-the-night financial freak outs — but 12 months later, I’m in an entirely different place. Do I feel 100% financially secure? Not yet. But I know I’ll get there, and more importantly, for pretty much the first time in my life, I feel in control of my finances. And while my situation had a pretty extreme deadline, what I learned can apply to anyone who wants to get their finances in order in a hurry.