Save. Spend. Splurge.

Success Story: I earn $26K and can’t do this any more. Please help me figure this out.

I offer career & money coaching here. If I can’t help you, I will say so upfront especially if it is not in my area of expertise (e.g. real estate investments), I don’t want to waste anyone’s time or money.

You can read all of my other Success Stories here.


That, was the subject of an email a lovely reader sent to me in the deepest throes of her despair.

I won’t post all the entirety of our email exchanges, but she had a long-term illness, and long story short, she was in debt, earning $26,000 a year and wanted to break the cycle but did not know how to, so she reached out to me for help.

I wanted to post her story and what happened as an aftermath because I feel like inspirational stories like this for people who want to change their life, can be quite motivational if you are in the same position.

I know when I was $60,000 deep in debt, I looked to articles and stories of other people making it happen to help me get out of the debt I was in, and personal stories are what motivated me.

With her permission I have posted the following removing identifying details:

“What do you advise me to do with such little? In your opinion, is it okay for me to concentrate (for now) in fulfilling my basic needs (food and housing) instead of saving until I get a higher salary?

I feel really ashamed that it took me almost 4 years from university graduation to land a job, even a low paying one as this. I’m also dreading the fact that if and when I go for more schooling, it will push me into debt yet again.”

I, not knowing her personally, nor her situation, gave her the best advice I could, writing back:

  1. My first piece of advice is: YES. ABSOLUTELY concentrate on living. Food and housing instead of savings or clearing your debt. I do not know your budget but if you are living on the edge, like $1 ramen meals at Dollarama because you’re trying to save then you are definitely being asked to focus on food and housing.
  2. My second piece of advice is to seriously reconsider school. That is even more debt, and ONLY IF you have done your research and you are sure of 2 things: (a) you can succeed and (b) you know what job / profession that is hiring in the medical field that WILL hire you and what the salary is (higher than the ROI it will take to get said degree plus the debt you already owe)

If you are unsure of A and/or B, then consider another field of work.

You know blue collar work seems very lowly but it does pay well. Being an electrician, a/c repair person, printer repair person, etc. I don’t know how to get into those trades, but I know that they make good salaries and are always in demand. Just food for thought.

My third piece of advice is to consider taking on a second part-time job at minimum wage. I do not know your medical condition, but if it is a possibility, consider it. You need to make more money which means you need to work more.

Throughout the course of last year and this year, she managed to:

  • Negotiate for 21% raise in her salary bringing it up to $38,000 which was the max they could pay her in that job description and level
  • Stuck it out where she was because of the experience that would look great on her future CV (the paradox of working for very, VERY little pay but knowing it will help set the foundations for your future)
  • Took advantage of the company’s situation to go back to school and pass the exam with the certifications required (again, more building blocks for her career)

And just recently? The best news ever in my inbox the other day:

“I do not know if you remember me, we corresponded some time ago and lost touch. I am sorry for this lapse as I had a great deal that happened in the last year.

First, thank you. Thank you for your advisement and kindly support during a low point in my life. Although we have never met, I was nonetheless grateful for your compassion.

I went for another position, this time in finance, and I am happy to tell you that I will be starting at 93K which is nearly triple of what I had been making when I had come to you in total distress.

In addition, I was able to reap the benefits of working in my chosen field by getting the credentials I needed for school. I am not applying this cycle as I had a family loss that impacted my ability to do so but when I am ready and when my savings are so much more secure, I look forward to be able to pursue my goals once again. Reading your articles on salary negotiations and budgeting were a tremendous help in that I was able to better prepare myself to springboard into a much more lucrative career.

Thank you Sherry. I do hope all is well with you and please know that you have my full gratitude. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I could not be happier for her. Truly!

ALL OF THE CREDIT goes to her, without a doubt. I was only just a sounding board trying to give the best advice I could and to encourage her in any way I could.

She is the real superstar who did all of the work, nailed her negotiations, worked her bum off and made it to a better position.

If you are interested and inspired, here are my posts on salary negotiations and budgeting that she used:


Read more posts on budgeting.

Salary Negotiations

Read more posts on Salary and Negotiations at Work and more specifically on Women who Work.


Loved this? You can read all of my other Success Stories here.

I offer career & money coaching here. If I can’t help you, I will say so upfront especially if it is not in my area of expertise (e.g. real estate investments), I don’t want to waste anyone’s time or money.


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