How I won the lottery and stayed broke

Cashflow seems to be the order of the day so far in 2017. Financial discussions and questions and worries abound.

(Un)lucky for me, financial worry is something of my speciality. I left home for boarding school at 14 and was properly out on my own at 17. I was largely estranged from family, in my first year of university, living in a house with drug dealers and supporting myself through minimum-wage, part-time cafe work but mostly on high-interest credit cards that no responsible adult should have ever given to me.

And I have been on the financial back foot every single day since.

I have never had more than $1,000 in my savings account. I have never, ever even imagined any scenario where I might own a home of my own. I like to tell people that my student loan debt will keep me company well into my afterlife.

But then, last year, I won the career lottery. I somehow extricated myself from a dead-end job and started a small business of my own. One which is risky enough that it seems almost certain that it will end up in that 96% of new businesses which fail.

But, also, maybe it won’t.

Maybe we can scrap and fight and push our way through to both making a living and making a difference.

But suddenly I’m noticing a very strange and unexpected by-product of us miraculously managing to survive this long. The outside perception of the financial success of the business has become completely skewed. Yes, we did win some actual funding money in late October last year. Which has seemingly given the impression that we’re rolling in cash.

The first thing we did with the money was a small return on investment for what we had already sunk into the business while unpaid and working to win that funding. That left $13,5000.

A few quick calculations. Let’s (hilariously) assume that we’re working only 40 hours a week and paying ourselves at least minimum wage. That would be $610 gross/week x 2 staff. That means that funding money runs out after 11 weeks. For those of you counting along at home, that’s this week…

So we’re really out on our own now. And I couldn’t imagine being any happier. Even if no one understands that our margins are still fucking terrible and, no, I actually really, really can’t afford to do x/y/z social activity with my friends or just casually jump on an international flight to visit family for the holidays. Because for the first time in my life, I might actually have some control over things like my future living circumstances or my debt. In a stagnant, salaried job, I would never even have had that chance.

Maybe we will fail. And maybe, just maybe, we won’t.

These days I’m living off of about $30 of disposable income a week and there’s no guarantee how long that’s even going to last. But every day that I can come to work and get paid at all for working for myself truly does feel like winning the lottery.