By PAIGE LUNDIE
The idea of becoming independent is both exciting and terrifying. If you’re in a household that’s less than ideal, figuring out how to get by on your own is something that’s better sorted sooner rather than later.
Just a few years ago at 17 I was unemployed, I didn’t have a driver’s licence, I was dependent on family for living expenses and I was crying on my bedroom floor staring at a positive pregnancy test. Today, I’m in a place of my own, I’m in my final year of my undergrad degree, my son is three years old, thriving and our future is brighter than ever. There is hope, you can get on your feet, it just takes time, research and a little bit of hustle.
There are five important steps that come to mind when reflecting on my personal experience with developing self-sufficiency. Some steps include great detail which I realise might seem overwhelming if you’re only just exploring your options, so keep in mind it’s all a process and it takes time.
Anyway, let’s get into it.
Step 1. Lining up ducks and getting employed.
Start with money, if you already have a job, that’s great, if it’s casual or part- time you might consider asking your boss for more shifts and start a savings account where you can put away as much cash as you can for a potentially rainy day, maybe a car, or a bond/deposit for a rental when you finally move out.
You should check out your local grocery stores, restaurants and retail outlets for any job openings. Perhaps something casual or part-time if you’re still at school, TAFE, college or university.
While you’ve got some time on your hands, explore getting some extra qualifications to improve your chances of both getting work and eventually getting a better paid job.
Katy Sykes, 29 from the UK was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and was tragically a victim of child abuse in her family home. Katy says she endured many challenges throughout her young adult life including homelessness at times and addiction issues. She has lived independently for 11 years and says being prepared with certain skills and abilities could make your transition much easier.
“Preferably make sure you’ve got ways to support yourself like a job or you are in higher education or something that’s going to help support you further on down the line, that’s key. There’s so many people I’ve met like myself who have left whether it was through our own choices or we were pushed out and we just didn’t have any network or didn’t have any support, didn’t have any job or higher education or anything like that and have spent years and years trying to get back on our feet again so make sure you’ve got that network already set up,” she said.
If you’ve been raised a Jehovah’s Witness, the odds are stacked up against you in regards to higher education unfortunately. According to Pew research, 63 per cent of Jehovah’s Witness adults in America have no qualifications past high school. In 2014, research showed only nine per cent of Jehovah’s Witnesses in America held a bachelor’s degree.
But there is good news, while you may have grown up being discouraged from seeking out tertiary education and may have listened to countless talks about the ‘dangers’ of it, you have the power to make your own choices, do your own research and re-write your own story.
If you find yourself either studying or wanting to study, consider applying for youth allowance. Alternatively, look around for other payments and forms of support for students and young people available in your region.
The resources and terms I refer to in this article are mostly Australian (as I’m from Australia) so if you happen to be in another country, consider looking for equivalent or similar services in your local area.
Step 2. Find a practical place
When you start looking for a place to move into, consider what surrounds it.
Ask yourself questions like;
Are you close to public transport?
Can you access important goods and services easily?
Are you near a large shopping centre?
Do you have a support person such as friend or family member in the area?
It’s important to have as much access to these facilities as possible in case of emergencies or less than ideal scenarios like; not having much fuel, your car not working, not having a car, losing internet access, running out of money and a multitude of other inconveniences that will likely occur at some point.
When I was looking for my first rental I didn’t have a driver’s license yet so I found an affordable place that was close to a train station which I could walk to everyday to travel to work and university.
My place was also walking distance from a shopping centre, police station, Centrelink, social service centres, a library, a bulk-billing doctor’s surgery and lots of cafes with free wifi which gave me a sense of security knowing I could always access help even if I didn’t have money or a car.
When choosing your first place to rent, depending on your financial situation, you might want to look into just getting a room in a share house to start off with to see how you go with affording all other living expenses on top of rent.
This can help take away a lot of the anxiety with having to buy a full house worth of furniture and appliances as usually, established share houses are already set up with stuff like couches and white-goods.
This experience may not be ideal but you could use the time to learn how to manage money, figure out what you can actually afford week to week and perhaps save for those extras for once you finally do get your own place.
If you’re an Australian citizen, consider applying for rent assistance at Centrelink as soon as you move into your own place or a share house. You’re likely eligible and if it turns out you’re not, there was no harm in applying anyway. Every little bit helps.
Step 3. DO. YOUR. RESEARCH.
Knowledge is power, the internet helps you attain knowledge and therefore the internet is key to your survival. As mentioned above, if you can’t afford your own wifi at least make sure you can access it daily at a place that’s convenient.
Do extensive research into what services you can access. You might be surprised at just how much help there is out there when you look for it and most importantly, there’s no shame in taking full advantage of every available service designed to assist you.
Set up a gmail account, this is your adult email. Don’t let spam into it, just use it for the important stuff. One of the first things you should do as a new adult is create a my.gov account and link in services such as the ATO, Medicare and Centrelink. Sort out getting your own health care/medicare card, customer reference numbers (social security) and superannuation account and connect them to your personal bank account so it’s all under your name. This way only you can access your information as well as receive your medical and tax rebates.
While you can, it’s good to Google important numbers for the services you need access to all the time like your electricity, gas and water supply companies and save these numbers in your phone as contacts in case you lose internet access and need to contact them urgently.
Step 4. Budgeting- How to be a tight a**
When I was getting ready to move into my first rental with my boyfriend, my uncle was reading this book called “The barefoot investor” by Scott Pape and he let me have a read.
The book includes a strategy of separating your money into a few different bank accounts in terms of percentage. Pape says your everyday expenses (bills, food, fuel etc.) should take up about 60 per cent of your pay, 20 percent should be your safety money, 10 per cent splurge and 10 per cent ‘smile’ (savings).
You can alter this to your specific needs but try keep to the percentages when establishing what your budget should be.
This system has really worked for me in saving for big things while keeping on top of utility bills, insurance, rent, fuel and grocery expenses while living off a relatively low income.
Meal planning is also very important. Before doing a grocery shop sit down and plan what you will have for each meal for the next week. Try to set a limit for the total cost of each meal.
At first, I cooked A LOT of spaghetti. But this is where you can research and get creative, there are plenty of sites you can use to discover recipes that are affordable.
I often find if I’m cooking something cheap like sausage curry or spaghetti, I buy the ingredients in bulk and cook up a big batch so I can freeze some and have left overs for the next day. This saves a lot of money, food anxiety and time.
However, this is just one way of managing your money and you may find a different system that works for you. Everyone is different so another method could be what’s best in your situation. What’s most important is finding something that works and keeps you stable both now and in the future.
Sam says one of the biggest challenges for her when she first moved out was budgeting and money management. At first, she was excited about having her own money and was tempted to ‘blow it all at once’ but she said that can land you in a position where you don’t have any money left in case of an emergency.
“I grew up with no life skills so a major thing for me was budgeting. I didn’t know how much the things in the real world cost because I never had to deal with it until I moved out on my own.
I started to learn by trial and error and now I have a system where I write everything I spend down in a book so I keep track of my finances and it seems to work better that way and makes me more conscious of what I’m spending.
I think everyone can always get better with budgeting even if you think you have it down there’s always room for improvement,” she said.
Budgeting is tough, it requires time, organisational skills and it also takes a great deal of self-control but you can do it, I believe in you.
Step 5. Get your head right
When you move out of home you can get lonely, you learn a hell of a lot more about yourself and there may be a lot of un-processed feelings as a result of your up-bringing or potential fall-out from leaving your family home and becoming your true self.
Now that you have the space you need, it might be time to seek out some professional help to gather your thoughts and process some of those emotions.
Even if you have no past traumas, religious issues or existing mental illnesses, the stress alone from being an adult can be a burden when you first start out so I highly recommend seeking out some therapy.
Therapy can be expensive, however, in many countries there is help and resources available to young people in particular making therapy more accessible. If you’re between 12 and 25 years old and an Australian citizen I recommend visiting a headspace near you. Here you can access 10 free counselling sessions per year so long as you can provide a valid medicare card.
After you’ve used up your 10 sessions at headspace you can visit your local GP and ask for a Mental health care plan (MHCP) with which you can access extra sessions. I take full advantage of these resources each year and trust me, it’s really worthwhile. I don’t know where my head would be at today without professional help.
Community and Peer support is also essential to your mental health and can be a secondary source of therapy in the sense that having people to relate to, share your story with and validate your feelings (and vice versa) can be a great way to assist you in your healing process.
“You need a strong community, one of the things you tend to lose when you’re in a situation like I was in is you lose that community you’re brought up with and once you’ve lost that you need to as quickly as possible build a strong community again whether that be a community face to face with people around you or online. I would suggest anyone whose about to go through this situation go online, look at Facebook, look at the different forums and try to find a community there or even if you need it Recovering from Religion because they can help you build a good community,” Katy said.
Recovering from Religion (RFR) was founded by Organisational Psychologist and Author, Dr Darrel Ray in 2009 and provides peer support and resources for those who are having religious doubts, leaving religion or dealing with other religious related problems.
So, seek out therapy, find peer support and try to build a community. There are plenty of online places that can cater to your specific needs so please, do some research and reach out.
While it’s evident there is certainly a lot of responsibility and planning involved in adulting, it gets easier with time and it’s all a learning process.
Sam, from the United States says it’s important to try your best to keep things simple and celebrate the small wins.
“Don’t overwhelm yourself with lots of new changes at once, take it one step at a time. Celebrate the small accomplishments that you might think aren’t a big deal to other people or if people don’t give you credit for them that doesn’t mean they’re not big to you.
Like learning how to write your first rent cheque might not seem like that big of a deal, but to me that was one of the first things I did and I thought ‘oh I have an apartment for the next month guaranteed’ and it was a big deal for me,” she said.
Stephen, from New York says he anticipates some opposition from his JW family when he finally moves out and has space to distance himself from the Jehovah’s Witness religion as he identifies as PIMO (physically in, mentally out) regarding his status of belief. He says for those in a similar situation, it’s important to be patient and work towards personal goals.
“My advice is simple, once you wake up and become a PIMO unless you have it already made, start planning big time. Make short term plans and goals to hit, then expand that out to long term plans and most importantly, have patience. Being patient is a virtue and being humble and sucking it up sometimes when it comes to things you may not agree with as a PIMO is difficult, but important. Keep the end goal in mind and you’ll be able to successfully become independent,” he said.
Katy from the United Kingdom says while freedom may come at a high cost, it’s always worth it in the end.
“Theres nothing better than freedom in my opinion,” she said.
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