In 2008 there was $35,000 of student loan debt and only freelance comicbook work. From 2008 to 2013 there was no income over $30,000.
We were living with family and had two children, a third in 2012. There were brief low paying full time positions outside of the house but the majority of the income came from long distance comic company work. In 2009, the comic company stated we would be receiving no more work from them as they’d run out. In 2010, the comic company decided to send work overseas as well as use US freelances and slash the pay by 2/3. Unable to find work outside the field that would meet all our needs, we began coloring work again. It was a rip off but one that would work well enough to get our debt paid and get us out of the family’s home (if we played our cards right).
No one has respect for you if you make little money, live with family, and are working hard to pay off your debt. In fact, people encourage you to take out more debt and buy a house you can’t afford. And of course the bank’s all for “helping you out” with that.
It took a little over five years to pay off all our debt and almost a year more to save money to move.
How did we do it? In such as the case of infrequent paychecks, we had to pay the loans infrequently but large chunks and we saved the rest to live off of. Because we were living with family our living expenses were incredibly low (only $500 rent/no utilities) and if we couldn’t come up with the money the family was very forgiving. There was no health insurance to speak of, we had doctor’s visits only for the children and then it was state care. We went to the dentist once maybe twice in all that time. We paid for our own food (but was supplemented with what was available in the house in general. I don’t ever recall buying spices or sugar, things like that) and miscellaneous costs, toiletries, car insurance, inc. There was no car note because we’d paid off the car years before. There was only one car. It was a hybrid and conserved on gas, so we only filled the tank once a month. During those years we may have gone out to the movies twice, maybe, maybe three times. The real splurge was eating out. That we did perhaps once a month. Maybe, if we had money. We saved money for trips to Des Moines Iowa from Atlanta Georgia, so the kids and Joe could see the Ketterer side of the family. That was a mandatory once a year trip that we had to forgo two times due to no money.
For a while we did not tithe because there was not enough. I know there is a tithe cult that says ‘you won’t get more unless you tithe’ but I heartily disagree. The Almighty who created all things does not need your pennies to survive. God is not standing idly by, tapping his foot at us wondering where his slice of the pie is. He does expect us to care about the church the same way we care about our little old mothers, grandmothers, struggling sisters, disadvantaged brothers, cousins that are in a bind, or anybody in need. I do not for one second believe God is mad at the poor for not being the poor widow who gave two pennies, which was all she had in the world. If you can’t give cheerfully, don’t give. If you can’t give easily, don’t give. This may seem to be against giving to the church but it’s not. Anybody that cares about the church will contribute to it. You take care of those you love. But for a couple of years we were not able to tithe and during that time God richly blessed us by our receiving help from others, without our having to ask. I will always be grateful to God, all the family in my life, the Davises and the Ketterers, and the simple government institutions that were in place because we would not be where we are without them. That being said, once we added the tithe like another bill into the budget we worked a little harder at saving, not spending frivolously, and making a little more. It upped the ante.
If you don’t have a budget because you hate them you will lose. Money knows better magic tricks than Houdini on crack. Houdini was not the master escape artist, money is. It leaks out of your household like water. Pin it to paper with a budget and at least see where the leak went.
One thing that we did repeatedly was horrify ourselves by paying the loan first and seeing what we really had to work with once that was done. Nothing makes you work harder like a huge deficit for food costs. Good gracious I hate oatmeal, but it is a staple in hard times. Vacuous slop is better than air sandwiches any day.
If you are an artist, writer, general creative person, and you are in debt, you can get out. But it may take some time. It will take some help. And it would be easier if you had humility about it. Don’t give up. Put a piece of paper, drawn as fancy as you like, with your debt on it and subtract it slowly.
The moment our debt was paid off it was a giant anticlimax. With the debt gone there was a hole that you’d think would automatically fill up with cash. Well, it didn’t. Working for money was still hard and buying necessities out of our pockets instead of asking the government (we started paying for doctor’s visits with cash–still cheaper than insurance, so we still practice that) and soon it felt like we didn’t accomplish anything at all. So we went to Disney…because we hated ourselves and wanted to stand in long lines in the hot, hot sun. I don’t totally regret it because the kids loved it. But that money would have been better saved. So we had to discipline ourselves to treat our savings like a giant loan, putting large amounts, albeit infrequent, into savings when we were paid.
Regardless we began to save money slowly to be able to move out…
Moving out when you don’t have a job anywhere is hard but is alot easier when you don’t have debt. With our new learned skill of living off savings until another chunk of income came in, we crossed state borders and moved to SC to be closer to a beach. Goose Creek, SC, was approximately 1 1/2 hours from the beach. Joe found a job, full time, where he made next to nothing. Since he could much easier make next to nothing at home with comic freelancing, he quit and returned to full time freelancing.
Let me stop and back pedal– Manic Repressive was thought up back in 2006. I know, I have file dates on logos that prove it to me. I had been creating little pictures, one booklet since way before then. Being both artists, we were both usually drawing–before children showed up–and projects abounded. The projects weren’t defined in any real story like way. I had little stories that I would write and Joe wrote up multiple story ideas. The website started out as Creative Pen and Mouse. Shortly afterward it was changed to Manic Repressive…
The name describes the feelings in us. A manic, excitability about creating, artwork, and God, but a need to repress it, smash it down, to not appear too cray or unintelligible. First thing we made was a logo.The logo was an overlap of three circles atop sat MR, the three circles having religious meaning. Then the opening page to the website. Where all the characters we’d created up until that point were super imposed on a flattened, far away perspective cross.
From 2008 to 2013 Manic Repressive was worked on very, very slowly, bit by bit. We tried to do as much as we could but income always called us away.
In 2015, I realized that the website was suffering from neglect. There were still people coming to the website looking for…well, I guess our stories, updates–but they weren’t getting them. You see, from 2013-2015 we’d moved and were just trying to adjust to life and our own family, which grew to six in 2015. Manic Repressive does not make money, yet money is what we need to keep surviving on our own. We’ve been trying to figure out how to create an alternate stream of income from our stories. By 2015 we’d put out a few books, one comic (Khozos), one graphic novel (Race War), a children’s book (Honest bird) and a few romance stories. There had been a few purchases but nothing noteworthy. The “if you build it, they will come” was not working. We had to focus on gaining income to support ourselves rather than create content for the website. And yet we’d kept the website and paid for it faithfully. In August 2015, I gave myself a birthday present: a challenge. The challenge was to put up content every week for a year and see what happened.
As you can guess, people came to the site to see what little had changed. So in 2016 I determined to keep going no matter what was going on in our lives. In our lives we’d moved again, back to Georgia where Joe found full time decent paying work.
Now it’s 2017 and we have managed to move again, to be closer to Joe’s job, and lessen the commute so he may have more time for more work besides the 9 to 5.
Slowly we are working. Slowly we are working on the website and building product. These things take time and money. Both of which are in low supply, hence the slowness.
And throughout this time Batman has been there, needing his tight grey leggings colored. So we color them, get a check, and put another dollar into savings. It’s slow going ya’ll but it’s better than standing still.