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rated:
This is my first post here, so let me go ahead and say thank you for reading this. I hope that you can give me better advice than those in my immediate surroundings have. I really need it.

I work as an entry level indie computer game programmer that has a bit of creative aspect to it. I write dialog and write out gameplay code and content. It's the best job I've ever had. Before it, I was working at a fast food resteraunt and in automotive retail for about $9-12.00 an hour part time, which gave me about $400-500 dollar paychecks. I own a newer car now, not driving around a pile of junk. I live on my own, with two roommates - BUT and a big BUT - I only earn $28,000 a year BEFORE taxes. I'm a 1099 and I've been doing this for about two years now, and between now and then I've gotten my associate's degree in computer science. 

Here's the problem.

I'm in about $30k in debt. I owe $12,000 in Credit Cards, $10,000 on the car, $5000 in student loans, and my expenses are about $1700 a month (car, electric, cable, rent, insurance, auto bill, student loans). I earn about $2400 a month without taxes, leaving me about $600 a month to spend on groceries, food, gas, etc. (It's been less recently because I've been going into overdraft on my account. My wage sucks so I'm dipping into credit cards to pay off things.) Taxes I haven't been able to pay for last year either, I owe $1500 federal and $600 state for 2015, and even more for 2016.  I literally don't know what to do at this point because.I can't find another job, and here's why: Game development isn't seen as real programming in the computer science industry, In the area I live every job in my field around here requires a security clearance. In addition I do not have a bachelors degree so it's next to impossible for me to find another job (It's a miracle I got this one). 

How this all happened was that the original roommate I was living with broke up with her boyfriend (who refused to pay his $700 rent), stopped paying rent for two months before I was able to kick her out. So I got a credit card and then WHAM the car needed a bunch of stuff to pass inspection. After all was said and done my $8000 credit card was used up, and I'm afraid to even look at my credit rating right now. I've been basically relying on family help for the most part but that's only going to last so long, and I feel it's wrong to rely on family members for financial help. 

Ideally the solution would be to find a job that pays better in my field - which frankly I should be getting paid 2-3 TIMES as much if I wasn't in indie game development and/or I was working a regular 9-5. If someone was willing to give me a chance I would be out of this rut in a heartbeat but charity and business don't go together in our society! Now I don't have the most strenuous work schedule (understatement) but financially I'm getting ripped to shreds with the low wage I got. I don't have any money saved up, but if I was earning $60k I would have it all paid off. But barring that, I can't think of any other way of paying off that credit card debt. What do I do in this case? It really seems like a no win scenario if I can't pay things off. One of the things I'm considering doing is opening up a bunch of other credit cards and distributing the balance but after maxing out that card frankly I don't even want another one. I can't sell the car - I've lived without one and I'd rather be homeless or back to living with my parents than lose it. 

I can't go back to school either, I'm too deep into the financial hole to back out now and go back to university, that would just end up piling another $20-40,000 dollars on my student loan account. Not to mention I don't even know if I can qualify for student loans or pell grants because of my taxes and income. I set up a payment plan with the IRS, they haven't called me or anything just "we'll look into it" in a letter and that's the last I heard from them - and last year was the first time I ended up OWING the IRS on my meager wage. I also have a pre-existing condition that I need insurance for but I don't even know if I'll be covered come September when I turn 26 - or even have enough money to pay for it for obvious reasons.

I need advice. What do I do at this point?

Member Summary
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Put your resume out there.  Apply for jobs.  Don't be afraid.  Your competition at your price range is pretty much crap.... (more)

riznick (Feb. 08, 2017 @ 7:50a) |

I'm late to the party. OP, after reading the first few posts/replies I was going to suggest moving back in with your pa... (more)

hipnetic (Feb. 09, 2017 @ 7:09p) |

Get out of the stupid "creative" job in game development. You are buying hook line and sinker. If you are already doing ... (more)

EvilCapitalist (Feb. 10, 2017 @ 11:19a) |

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rated:
Take up a second (part-time) job to get extra income.

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Most part time jobs around here are restaurant and involve a meager wage. I'd only be adding about around $300-400 a month at most as I work at my other job a lot and on weekends (it's required). If I found something part time in my field, that might solve the problem but it would have to be under the table as I'm under contract.

However, that doesn't help me get my degree in that case, which I could take night classes for but most part time for-profit colleges aren't viewed as being as credible as being from an actual university, from my understanding.

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daburnell said:   Most part time jobs around here are restaurant and involve a meager wage. I'd only be adding about around $300-400 a month at most ...That is $300-400 more than you have now.
  

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How much are you tithing? Dining out? Cell phone bill??

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1) List out EVERYTHING you are spending money on.
2) Take the list and circle the needs and cross out the wants.
3) Don't spend any more money on the items you crossed out.

Bonus:  Sell anything that you no longer use or need.

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NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   
daburnell said:   Most part time jobs around here are restaurant and involve a meager wage. I'd only be adding about around $300-400 a month at most ...
That is $300-400 more than you have now.
  

  Good point. Honestly I'd rather die than wash dishes or deal with the general public again though. Almost all humanity goes out the window when people get hungry. I've seen it. It's ridiculous.

I also have to frequently work weekends, so if I'm looking at having absolutely no free time I could probably do it. Would kinda suck.

qcumber98 said: How much are you tithing? Dining out? Cell phone bill??

Dining out way more than I need to. Cell phone service is being paid for by family. As for the rent, that $1700 is split three ways, my roommates combined pay $1000 and I pay $700 a month.

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NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   1) List out EVERYTHING you are spending money on.
2) Take the list and circle the needs and cross out the wants.
3) Don't spend any more money on the items you crossed out.

Bonus:  Sell anything that you no longer use or need.

I'm going to do this.
EDIT: There's no automerge?

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What is the car worth? I would try to sell if possible and pick up a beater. You have to much car for a 28k salary.

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daburnell said:   
NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   
daburnell said:   Most part time jobs around here are restaurant and involve a meager wage. I'd only be adding about around $300-400 a month at most ...
That is $300-400 more than you have now.
  

  Good point. Honestly I'd rather die than wash dishes or deal with the general public again though. Almost all humanity goes out the window when people get hungry. I've seen it. It's ridiculous.

I also have to frequently work weekends, so if I'm looking at having absolutely no free time I could probably do it. Would kinda suck.

qcumber98 said: How much are you tithing? Dining out? Cell phone bill??

Dining out way more than I need to. Cell phone service is being paid for by family. As for the rent, that $1700 is split three ways, my roommates combined pay $1000 and I pay $700 a month.

  Are you paying more since you have the master bedroom with your own bath I assume? If so see if one of the roommates is willing to switch rooms so that you can save $200 there. If you are out of a lease look to see if you can find something cheaper. The sooner you cut expenses and start paying down the debt the better.

I would also start looking for a higher paying job in whatever area you are qualified, not just in the same industry.

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Can you wait tables or bartend part-time? It's a lot better pay than back of the house restaurant jobs.

And how is a 28k 1099 contractor job without benefits your "dream job"? Or were you being ironic?

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Brush up your resume, look for another job. Move for the job if needed.

You should look for a higher paying job that is W-2 (not 1099 like you say your current job is). A W-2 job will often offer benefits, including health insurance.

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NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   
daburnell said:   Most part time jobs around here are restaurant and involve a meager wage. I'd only be adding about around $300-400 a month at most ...
That is $300-400 more than you have now.
  

  And, it takes away time that's be spent spending money.

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daburnell said:   
NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   
daburnell said:   Most part time jobs around here are restaurant and involve a meager wage. I'd only be adding about around $300-400 a month at most ...
That is $300-400 more than you have now.
 

  Good point. Honestly I'd rather die than wash dishes or deal with the general public again though. Almost all humanity goes out the window when people get hungry. I've seen it. It's ridiculous.

I also have to frequently work weekends, so if I'm looking at having absolutely no free time I could probably do it. Would kinda suck.

qcumber98 said: How much are you tithing? Dining out? Cell phone bill??
Dining out way more than I need to. Cell phone service is being paid for by family. As for the rent, that $1700 is split three ways, my roommates combined pay $1000 and I pay $700 a month.

  Why do you pay 41% of the rent?

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I'm assuming moving in with your parents isn't on the table.

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Move back in with parents and live rent-free.

Start taking public transportation.

You already recognize various expenses which are a want instead of a need. If this really is your dream job, you'll need to get your head out of the clouds for all your other stuff (eating out, blowing money on video games/comics, etc). I would suggest taking some sort of crash-course in a programming language or two to get some certs which shows you're still learning new stuff in your field. This way when your interviewer says "Oh, I see you worked at 'GFY Games' for the past two years" you can fire back with "and during that time I completed my AS in <blah> and leveraged my experience from GFY to take coding bootcamps in COBOL and Pascal, which as you can see I received top marks on exams."

It seems like you're painting yourself in to a corner just because you work at a company that looks like a shit stain on a resume. Anything can be spun for the better. Think about some of the fringe (good) things you do and make those highlights of the resume.

/edit/ and gasaver hit another HUGE point on the head.  It sounds like you're still in your early/mid-20s with no family/strings to haul around.  Broadcast that Resume everywhere and move where the money is.  DO NOT feel tied to a location, unless you're taking care of an ederly relative that no-one else can.  It sounds like your roommates suck anyhow, so get some new ones while you're at it.

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Yeah cuz COBOL and Pascal make the best video games. 

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Moving back in with parents is a possibility that I'm willing to explore as a last resort. All I'm going to say about that is bedbugs, drama, and at one point drug use existed there, not to mention plenty of toxic individuals used to frequent there. I will not elaborate on that further.

Taking public transportation isn't. The public transportation around where I live is extremely poor and I wouldn't have been able to keep/hold a job period without it. Neither is selling the car. I've spent a fortune fixing up beaters myself and at shops when the transmission breaks down to buy another one the next month, only to spend a thousand to get that one working. I ended up working in automotive because I've been ripped off so many times by car mechanics that I learned to fix 'em somewhat and I figured that was where the money was at when I didn't have a degree.

As for work, the things I'm doing at work is exactly what I've always wanted to work on, the pay and lack of benefits sure as hell isn't. Most jobs in the game industry do the same thing only they get paid more to do it.

And yeah, come next month the new ones I live with currently are paying more. Not as bad as the last ones though. They actually pay rent and aren't involved in heroin or skinhead gangs like the last ones.

@PhDeez that's a great post. I'm sending my resume out as I'm typing this. Thank you.

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I know somebody who has both a FT job and PT job. They work 6-7 days a week, 12-15 hours each day. You do what you have to in this life. You are young and can handle the extra work at this point. In the end, you will appreciate it more, and you won't let this happen again. Best of luck

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Great title anxious to read.

Content is F'd though.
 

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I don't know what advice you come here looking for. You either need to spend less or earn more. Getting into debt with the IRS will cause a lot of problems. If you aren't able to stay on top of self-employment tax, you should get a W2 job. I would say that most adults don't work their "dream job" but find the best mix of enjoyment and income available to them. You aren't yet in a catastrophic amount of debt, but could very well be in 1 or 2 years if you don't make a change now. Good luck.

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You need to control your expenses. Living within $28,000 is manageable particularly when you are sharing and your rent is $700 and cost of utilities is shared.

> stopped paying rent for two months before I was able to kick her out. So I got a credit card and then WHAM the car needed a bunch of stuff to pass inspection. After all was said and done my $8000 credit card was used up

Don't understand how does $700*2 + car repair expenses add up to $8,000 - that is exactly where the problem is - you have no control over your expenses. There is no "WHAM" stuff charging to my credit cards even though I could easily afford SUPERWHAM to my credit cards without batting an eyelid. I also wonder what kind of interest rates are you paying on the credit card - would not surprise me if you didn't investigate this and ended up with a high interest rate card. So to add misery to your situation, are you paying $2,400 in credit card interest every year? That is why I said - "control your expenses".

The other day I met an Ophthalmologist (or somebody who worked in vision doctors office). His earnings were around 100K - but he was committed to earning a lot more money. How was he doing it? Uber! (He picked me at the airport and dropped me home - I chatted with him during the ride).
 

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No judgement here, but you need to stop being afraid and take a look at your whole picture objectively and take the necessary steps. From your post, it seems like you know what is needed. Here are a few thoughts:
1. This one may hurt to hear, but your job is perhaps not as "dreamy" as you think. While your take home pay at that fast food restaurant and automotive retail was $500 a week, that's pretty much what you make now. The advantage with those jobs was that they were withholding taxes for you, which is better since it's very easy on a 1099 to make the required tax payments on a regular basis rather than letting the tax bill pile up. They were also paying part of your social security and medicare, which means that you may be making less now. Basically your current job is pretty close to minimum wage (about $13 p/hour), has no benefits, and doesn't help you develop professionally. It's comfortable, and you like the tasks that they have you do on a day-to-day basis, but it's not your dream job. You can dream bigger (and this is an encouragement and not an attempt at a put down).
2. Look at your credit rating and develop a clear picture about your debt. Don't try to wish it away, and try to get a handle of it before it really becomes unmanageable (keep an eye on those credit cards - they are not income).
3. Don't discount going back to school because you think you can't afford it. Going back to school and finishing a 4-year degree is what will allow you to get those higher paying jobs. You managed to get your Associate's degree while working so you can clearly do it. Fill out your FAFSA, which is free and will only take you a few minutes. That will tell you how much you can expect to contribute. You are probably not maxed out of federal student loans, which are flexible and can help you cover the gap. Stay away from private student loans. While you are at it, if your current student loans are federal give them a call and ask for a forbearance (it will allow you to put a temporary pause on payments due to financial hardship). BTW. if you go back to school those loans would go back into deferment (I now interest still accumulates, but you are investing in your future). The most important thing here is for you to get as much information as you can (go to the school's financial aid office and have a chat with someone there), and not discount it without looking into it.
4. If school is still not an option (please think about that carefully), you definitely need more income from somewhere. You have a liquidity problem and you need to plug the hole somehow. Cutting expenses may help a bit, but you need to increase that intake. Perhaps check a place like Starbucks that has benefits and I think they even help you get back to school.

Above all, have faith in yourself. You say that you like your job b/c of the creative side of it so use that side on your behalf. You've done 2 years of school while working so you can probably get to the answer on how to do 2 more. Don't get stuck, and don't be paralyzed by this. Get to a plan and put it in motion now. You can't keep doing what your doing week to week and expect things to get better. Good luck!

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daburnell said:   I owe $12,000 in Credit Cards, $10,000 on the car, $5000 in student loans, and my expenses are about $1700 a month (car, electric, cable, rent, insurance, auto bill, student loans). I earn about $2400 a month without taxes, leaving me about $600 a month to spend on groceries, food, gas, etc.Unless my math is way off, your after-tax income is probably closer to $1750-$1850/mo (you owe 15.3% self-employment tax on 28K, plus a little federal and possibly state). So no, you don't have $600/mo left to spend on groceries, food, gas, etc.

I'm seeing a problem with the first $1700 -- $700 on rent is probably reasonable (less reasonable than free, but you've made a good point about a toxic situation at home, so it might be worth staying away), but $1000 on car, electricity, cable, insurance, auto bill (again?) and student loan (which is only $5K) seems VERY high. Your student loan payment should be like $30/mo. Electricity and cable should be split 3-ways, so it should be like $40/mo tops. Where's the rest of the money going?

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entry level indie computer game programmer that has a bit of creative aspect to it.I get it, it sounds like my first real IT job too, the autonomy, the ability to collaborate on projects, and the comradery that comes from crunch time.

It's all a mirage.

The reason they give you the autonomy is because management is too stretched financially to do anything but throw corpses on the fires. If the project succeeds, you get a pink slip at the release party, and if you don't drama and heartbreak await.
Read the EA Wife Letter... It's always crunch time in this industry.

Just because it is the closest thing you've experienced to a dream job, doesn't mean it's the only one.
Everything from Business Intelligence Reporting to phone system implementation offers creativity, with more money and less stress.

Education is one path, but the instructors I've found are the type teaching Cobol who can't hack it in private industry.
Find a nitch few others can fill, perhaps a mixture of skills. Try not to be the grist in the mill.

IT is one of those fields where you have to have the passion to keep learning the latest thing instead of having a social life.
If you're going to make that sacrifice, you have to be certain you get paid for it, up front.

Bonus fact: All the coworkers you treat as family are just friends of convenience.

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ThomasPaine said:   
entry level indie computer game programmer that has a bit of creative aspect to it.
I get it, it sounds like my first real IT job too, the autonomy, the ability to collaborate on projects, and the comradery that comes from crunch time.

It's all a mirage.

The reason they give you the autonomy is because management is too stretched financially to do anything but throw corpses on the fires. If the project succeeds, you get a pink slip at the release party, and if you don't drama and heartbreak await.
Read the EA Wife Letter. .. It's always crunch time in this industry.

Just because it is the closest thing you've experienced to a dream job, doesn't mean it's the only one.
Everything from Business Intelligence Reporting to phone system implementation offers creativity, with more money and less stress.

Education is one path, but the instructors I've found are the type teaching Cobol who can't hack it in private industry.
Find a nitch few others can fill, perhaps a mixture of skills. Try not to be the grist in the mill.

IT is one of those fields where you have to have the passion to keep learning the latest thing instead of having a social life.
If you're going to make that sacrifice, you have to be certain you get paid for it, up front.

Bonus fact: All the coworkers you treat as family are just friends of convenience.

  I'll agree and expand.  Haha, well, to start, this isn't your dream job unless your dream is to be paid 28k.  I also work in tech, graduated right at the tech bubble (which I'm dating myself) and was in the same position, starting an entry level gig in the 30s.  Realize, in tech, everything is a stepping stone until you get where you want to be (and I would guess 28k is not where you would like to be.)  What you need to do is grow your career, take the experience you gained where you are currently at (which is worth way more than your 28k salary) and use it to take the next step in your career.  As others say, it might be fun where your at now but it will get boring and frustrating eventually when you start growing in you abilities.  So, go look at the jobs you want to have, look at what they are requesting for skills, and spend your free time learning them.  You don't need to be a master in them, but if they are asking for them (and they make sense since recruiters like to pick a lot of fluff to put into job postings) you can have a knowledgable conversation with your interviewers.

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If you're genuinely making 2-3x less than you should be getting paid for doing the same job with a better employer; guess what you need to do asap to fix the income side of your equation? If you do get a new game programmer job paying 2x as much, you can not only pay off your debt, but you can start to invest as well.

Until then, I would treat finding a new job like a part time job. I would block out on my schedule 2-3 hours every day to polish up my resume, apply to jobs, polish up my skills and learn new skills, apply to jobs, network with other professionals in the industry, and apply to more jobs.

Good luck!

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I'm having trouble understanding how someone in your economic bracket could possibly owe the IRS money? Did you not have taxes taken out? Everyone I know with your salary and no itemizing, still gets refunds?

Anyway, hindsight. I was just being curious. As to the situation at hand, why not become an Uber driver? Put that car to work. Or dog walking, pooper scooping, babysitting, computer help for seniors (they've got money and you have tech skills). I'm sure there are lots of ways to earn additional money after work. I would do that first, knock down the debt, and then worry about long term job prospects, moving, etc.

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ledwards said:   I'm having trouble understanding how someone in your economic bracket could possibly owe the IRS money? Did you not have taxes taken out? Everyone I know with your salary and no itemizing, still gets refunds?
 

  
OP is a 1099 independent contractor, not a W-2 employee.  No withholding.  Completely different ballgame.

I have a co-worker whose brother is trying to break into a similar line of work but hasn't found ANYTHING.  It's a hazard of working in a field with low entry requirements that a lot of people find "cool" and are willing to do for next-to-nothing.  You may enjoy the work you're doing, but unless you dream of being at a dead-end making near or below minimum wage for the rest of your life, you need to figure out your next step, figure out what the employer's expectations would be to get there, and then figure out what you need to learn or what skills you need to develop to meet them.  That probably isn't a BS, but it might be.

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Yeah, Game Design is one of those fields where the "big guys" pay pretty decently but the new "paradigm" is small independants who just self-publish on steam. The hat trick is to develop a one-person title either on a mobile or Steam and make enough to live off of and not need to worry about an employer. (there are a LOT of one-person-studio titles) Its also a very sexist field, it sounds like OP is female. Associate's degree isn't likely enough to get in with a big studio though.

Frankly if you are working that many hours and getting 28K a year on a 1099 you are VASTLY underpaid. I know people that work in design at Blizzard and I won't depress you with their salary. (very artistic/design side of the house)

You can easily get a $20-25/hour support job with a 2 year computer sci degree and a A+/N+ cert -- I get calls for those all the time with an Electronics degree and A+/N+ so that is how badly you are underpaid. And have time to work on your Bach degree. Toss a wide net if you want to stay in gaming - you have to be mobile because when a game goes gold then you can expect layoffs to follow. Make friends and follow the projects. You won't get to stay in one city unless you get one of the rare jobs like Blizzard which are HIGHLY competitive.

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Not sure if you car qualifies for uber. If so, drive uber after work.

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Whatever you do, make both a short term and a long term plan.

Short term plan should be cutting you expenses however you can - even if that means ditching the dream job for now. Find another job that pays more. Move to an area with lower rents and better access to public transportation so you don't need a car to work and to live - even if it's not an area you love living in.

Your long term plan should include getting a BS or even a masters in computer science if you really want to work in this field. When you don't have even a bachelor's degree, you make almost nothing - which is what you have found out.

Do the math and some planning: how much does it cost to get such a degree? How much would I make in the first five years, and how quickly would I be able to pay off my debts (new and old) after that?

Where will you be in 5-10 years? That's what you need to be thinking about. Paying off or at least managing your short-term debt should be baked into the plan but should not BE your end-all plan.

Another "dream job" will come along.

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I used to have my dream job and then switched because I wanted to move out of Texas, after a rocky restart I am now in a job I like even more. You never know what you will like i you don't try.

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Have not seen a posted budget yet.

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Daburnell - We need more information to help you. A lot of your story has a lot of unanswered questions from our perspective.
Such as accumulating $8000 of debt in 2 months due to no rent payment and car repair seems very excessive and if we can find the problem here it may help you for future decision making.

Let's start by providing us a breakdown of your spending habits.
Earn $28K/year before taxes. For simplicity let's assume 20% goes to taxes which we already know isn't true because you haven't paid taxes.
$1850/month after taxes:
- $700/rent
- $ Car payment
- $ Auto Insurance
- $ Electric
- $ Cable
- $ Student loans
- $0 Phone bill - paid by parents
- $ Grocery
- $ Going out to eat/entertainment

You also need to keep an open mind when we give advice. Your first response should not be "I can't"
Provide us your location as well. You said earlier that you cannot afford to sell the car because the transportation in your area is not sufficient.
This to me implies that you do not live in the city and you should be able to find cheaper rent than $700/month with roommates and possibly live closer to work.

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28k for programming games? Time for a new Dream Job.

Game programmers are dime a dozen, which means when you start asking for more money they drop you.

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Make at least $17 tax-free, per day, for less than an hour's work each day:  manufactured spending, using 2% credit card to purchase debit cards, then monetizing w/ MOs.

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Driving for so called ride-sharing corporations is not worth it - you lose money long-term. People advising you that have no clue or even a slightest idea.
You have good skills - leverage on your technical skills, not some waste-of-time gigs.

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Learn to wait tables . $200-$300 / evening for 4-5 hours serving diner at a decent restaurant . Waiters and bartenders are making a lot of money . It might not look like that because most also spend a lot of money and don't save much

Skipping 41 Messages...
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Get out of the stupid "creative" job in game development. You are buying hook line and sinker. If you are already doing programming of any kind you can go build reports in PHP for $50k/year tomorrow and become a Jr developer making $80k/year in a non-sexy industry in 6 months

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