How My Emergency Fund Helped Me Change Careers

 Have you ever felt stuck in a job? Or even worse, trapped in a career?

You’re not alone. A lot of Millennials are in the exact same spot. And four years ago, that's exactly how I felt, too.

Like many young entertainment industry professionals, I hustled non-stop just to get my foot in the door of an independent concert promoter.

I worked as a temporary receptionist (making $10 an hour) for four months before eventually being hired full-time as an assistant.

Like many of my peers, I was willing to do almost anything to be successful. Even if that meant working excessively long hours for unbelievably low pay.

Traveling all over the United States and Canada to produce concerts was a dream job in my early 20s. I barely minded working 7 days a week, driving overnight in between cities, or being yelled at by agents.

It was part of the gig, and I was really proud to call myself a concert promoter for a long time. It was the coolest job ever … until it wasn’t.

When you finally land a decent job in the music business, you’re expected to be grateful for the opportunity. After all, hundreds (maybe even thousands) of other ambitious young professionals would kill to have your job.

It makes a lot of young professionals feel like they can't leave.

It’s scary to abandon something that you believe is so closely aligned with your identity. For me, that’s always been music.

I left everyone in my life to move to Nashville to work in the music business.

But the truth is, music is only a small piece of who I am.

Ever notice how your body doesn’t bounce back quite the same way it did when you were younger?

The relentless stress and lack of sleep finally started catching up with me in my late 20s. I constantly battled with anxiety, my weight, and binge drinking.

I knew I needed to change careers, but I had no idea what else I was qualified to do. When you’re stuck in that kind of a toxic mindset, it's difficult to think rationally or to see the big picture.

To make matters worse, I was spending almost everything I was earning.

Fancy cocktails, dinners out, designer clothing, expensive hotel rooms—that stuff adds up really quickly.

My lack of savings made me feel especially powerless.

I felt like a failure for having so little to show for my years of hard work. I couldn't afford to take a risk on a lower paying job.

So I made I vow to take back control—slash my expenses as much as possible and start building my emergency fund.

That’s how Cashville Skyline was born.

It was a way to publicly hold myself accountable for my spending decisions. I tracked every dollar I earned and spent for over a year. And it’s amazing how small changes can quickly turn into significant savings.

I increased the deductibles on health, car, and homeowner’s insurance.

I dropped to a cheaper cell phone plan.

I ditched my home warranty.

I stopped buying new clothes.

I cooked all my meals at home.

And it allowed me to save 40-50% of my income.

By the summer of 2014, I had finally saved six months of living expenses.

It was just enough to quit my job without another one lined up. 

As a homeowner, the decision made me nervous, but my new leaner budget gave me the confidence I could stretch my savings. 

A lot of people thought I was crazy to make such a risky move. After all, six months of expenses isn’t really that much. And finding a new job isn't always easy.

But I knew there was no way I could change careers and perform at my best.

So I spent a few months recharging, working a part-time job to make a little extra money, and landed my current job within a few months.  

Taking a few months to recharge and clear my head was critical.

I embraced the abundance mindset and didn’t accept the first gig I was offered. Now, I’m happily employed as a social media marketer for a tech company.

Cashville Skyline has grown into a side business that includes freelance writing and social media consulting. There's no way I could have done it on the side of my old job, but it pairs nicely with my new 9-5 career.

Now, I’m constantly looking for ways to further diversify my streams of income, so I never feel trapped in a job again.

Taking control of my money totally changed my life. And it can for you, too.

Readers: How has your emergency fund impacted your career choices?

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Discussions — 47 Responses

  • Lindsay @ The Notorious D.E.B.T. July 5, 2016 on 7:20 am

    I didn’t realize how important emergency funds were until I was in a similar situation. In my case, I knew exactly what job I wanted and it also was a key piece of my identity, but no one was hiring. I ended up taking a job in which I hated every minute, just to make ends meet. It felt like I was a slave – I didn’t have a choice, I had to go to work each day. An emergency savings fund would have allowed me a choice.
    Now, I’m working on building up my emergency fund, but it’s still tiny because I don’t make much and I have a lot of debt. I’ve started doing freelance writing, though, and I’m almost able to make as much in one month by doing this part-time as I am in my full-time job. So, I’m using this as a sort of emergency fund for now.

    • Kate Dore Lindsay @ The Notorious D.E.B.T. July 9, 2016 on 8:49 pm

      Wow, that’s awesome you’re doing so well with freelance writing. Every little bit helps, right? It sounds like you’re making the right moves. I would do a lot more freelance writing if I could do it faster! Hopefully, that will improve over time. 😉

  • Ray Ray July 5, 2016 on 7:28 am

    That’s great Kate. There good old emergency fund strikes again!
    A must for anyone who is managing a budget.
    The emergency fund is just as important as the budget itself!
    I happy you took the plunge and are better for doing it. Congrats

    • Kate Dore Ray Ray July 9, 2016 on 8:50 pm

      Thanks, Ray Ray! I completely agree. My emergency fund totally changed my life.

  • Brian @ Debt Discipline July 5, 2016 on 7:53 am

    Our emergency fund helped us out when I lost my job last year. It immediate gave us peace of mind and didn’t cause us to panic. It also allowed me to take my time finding a new job. I wasn’t forced to just take anything because I needed the money. I have since landed a new new job with a much better work/life balance and could not be happier.

    • Kate Dore Brian @ Debt Discipline July 9, 2016 on 8:52 pm

      I love that, Brian! I’ve lost a job before, but I can’t imagine the stress of having that happen while trying to support a family. I’m so happy to hear an unfortunately situation ended well for you!

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach July 5, 2016 on 8:50 am

    I wrote a similar post recently (although it was about escaping a freelance client, not a full time job), but the simple fact is this: an emergency fund give you flexibility to make choices. No one likes to think they don’t have a choice, especially when that choice isn’t favorable, so really happy for you that you’re in a much better place now!

    • Kate Dore Tonya@Budget and the Beach July 9, 2016 on 8:54 pm

      Me too, Tonya! Having choices is everything. I’m looking forward to getting my emergency fund back up to six months of expenses in cash again.

  • Holly Johnson July 6, 2016 on 7:22 am

    This is great! It definitely helps to have the cash in the bank to live life on your own terms. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re “stuck.”

    • Kate Dore Holly Johnson July 9, 2016 on 8:55 pm

      Totally agree, Holly. It felt horrible to be working so hard with nothing to show for it! I love seeing cash in the bank and knowing what kind of choices that provides me with.

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies July 6, 2016 on 1:24 pm

    Luckily, I don’t have the desire/need to change careers, but if I ever lost my job, we’d have a bit of padding while I reached out to the one other person I can think of in the industry who might need me and/or started freelancing to pay our bills.

    • Kate Dore Abigail @ipickuppennies July 9, 2016 on 8:56 pm

      I hope that doesn’t happen, Abigail. But it’s nice to know you have a solid backup plan. I wasn’t actively freelancing back then and I think it would have made a huge difference.

  • Financial Samurai July 7, 2016 on 3:34 am

    That’s great you changed careers and are working on your online side hustles.

    What helped me change careers was negotiating a severance package. It’s been the best emergency fund ever! I left in 2012 and it is still paying out in 2017.


    • Kate Dore Financial Samurai July 9, 2016 on 8:44 pm

      That’s amazing, Sam. True financial freedom! 🙂

  • Catherine Alford July 7, 2016 on 1:51 pm

    Our emergency fund gave me the confidence to try supporting my family with my freelance writing business while hubs attended med school. Without it, there’s no way I would have been able to do that.

    • Kate Dore Catherine Alford July 9, 2016 on 8:43 pm

      I love that, Cat. So inspiring to hear! It’s one thing to worry about supporting yourself, but needing to cover the expense of a family is way more challenging.

  • Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog July 8, 2016 on 9:41 am

    Very inspiring! I’ve been saving up money all year and haven’t decided what I’m going to do with it. After reading this post, I think I’ll beef up my emergency fund to six months of living expenses as well.

    • Kate Dore Aliyyah @RichAndHappyBlog July 9, 2016 on 8:41 pm

      That’s amazing, Aliyyah! I know you’ve been working really hard with all your side hustles. I imagine you’ve probably got a sizeable amount to get started with.

  • Kristin Wong July 8, 2016 on 5:47 pm

    “And it’s amazing how small changes can quickly turn into significant savings.” YES. And an emergency fund is one small step in the right direction. Back in the day, I saved up just a couple hundred bucks for an emergency, which isn’t a lot, but it’s so true–it really did make me feel more powerful.

    I mean, there’s the practical aspect of it– you’re moving forward with these tiny actions, and they add up. But more importantly, those actions give you control and empower you, and that’s what makes the biggest difference overall. Great stuff here.

    • Kate Dore Kristin Wong July 9, 2016 on 8:40 pm

      Thanks, Kristin! I’m still in the process of rebuilding my six-month emergency fund. Sometimes I’m disappointed when I haven’t saved as much as I could. But you’re totally right. Even small movement in the right direction can be significant when it comes to empowering ourselves.

  • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich July 8, 2016 on 6:33 pm

    My emergency fund let me take a job in NYC and be able to fund finding an apartment and paying bills till the first paycheck came in. I was pretty excited about that back then, despite eventually hating that job. It also gave me the confidence to switch to freelance stage managing, knowing I’d have a decent cushion if the next gig doesn’t turn up quick enough.

    • Kate Dore Mel @ brokeGIRLrich July 9, 2016 on 8:37 pm

      Thanks for sharing that, Mel. I think emergency funds are especially important for creative professionals and freelancers who often have uneven income and periods without work. You’re setting a great example for others! 🙂

  • FinanceSuperhero July 8, 2016 on 9:06 pm

    I can relate, as I’m in the midst of a career transition myself, which has been made possible by a healthy emergency fund. I’m glad you escaped from a stressful job and had the courage to leave behind what many would have considered a great gig.

    • Kate Dore FinanceSuperhero July 9, 2016 on 8:35 pm

      I’m happy to hear you’re making a career transition, FinanceSuperHero! Best of luck with making the career change.

  • Alexis @FITnancials July 8, 2016 on 11:32 pm

    I never really took the whole emergency fund thing seriously up until I received a medical bill. Life gets pretty scary when you owe a lot of money to a hospital and have no money to pay for it with! As sad as it may sound, a kick in the face like this had to happen to make me realize how important an emergency fund really is.

    • Kate Dore Alexis @FITnancials July 9, 2016 on 8:34 pm

      I’m sorry you had to experience that, Alexis! I can’t imagine being faced with a massive medical bill without the funds to cover it. It’s definitely something that could easily happen to anyone!

  • The Thrifty Issue (Kylie) July 9, 2016 on 1:22 am

    Emergency funds do wonders for our lives. When opportunities arise we can act or if we are unhappy in a situation we have the capacity to leave and change our life. Glad you were able to do it and great tips to create an emergency fund too.

    • Kate Dore The Thrifty Issue (Kylie) July 9, 2016 on 8:33 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Kylie! I totally agree.

  • Tre July 9, 2016 on 11:13 am

    I quit the job that I hated to start freelancing. It felt so good!

    • Kate Dore Tre July 9, 2016 on 8:32 pm

      Love that, Tre! My sister did the exact same thing at the beginning of this year. She hasn’t regretted her decision yet 🙂

  • ZJ Thorne July 9, 2016 on 11:15 am

    Having an emergency fund has helped me put up with less nonsense from my temp job. They are still confused at the pushback, but they are far more replaceable for me than I am for them. It has definitely increased my joy and decreased my stress.

    • Kate Dore ZJ Thorne July 9, 2016 on 8:32 pm

      I like that perspective, ZJ. I noticed my own job dissatisfaction decreasing as my emergency fund grew. There’s something really empowering about knowing you can walk away from a bad situation if you need to.

  • Joseph Hogue July 9, 2016 on 11:55 am

    Not just millennials, I was in this same spot almost 20 years ago. Great advice, wish I had an emergency fund back then.

    • Kate Dore Joseph Hogue July 9, 2016 on 8:30 pm

      True, Joseph! I think most people have been in a job they hated at some point in their lives. It can especially tough on parents who have families to provide for. I was lucky my mortgage payments were so low and I didn’t have anyone else I needed to support.

  • Frugal Millennial July 9, 2016 on 1:40 pm

    Your story is so inspiring! An emergency fund can have a huge impact on your career choices. I think that having less debt can also be helpful. When I finished grad school, I was buried in debt. I accepted the first (low-paying) job that I was offered because I was scared of being unemployed with massive debt. If I hadn’t had huge debt, I might have been more selective about the job I chose. I hated the job, but luckily, I found a better job a year later.

    • Kate Dore Frugal Millennial July 9, 2016 on 8:29 pm

      Thanks, Jen. You make an excellent point. Coming out of college with a large amount of debt can make it really tough a save up an emergency fund quickly. That’s definitely a huge part of why so many Millennials get trapped in low paying jobs they don’t enjoy. I’m really glad you’re underemployment only lasted a short time!

  • Chonce July 11, 2016 on 8:34 am

    Love this! I definitely know the feeling of being trapped in your situation due to a lack of savings. This is why even though debt payoff is my priority right now, I also committed to setting aside a decent amount of money for my EF fund as well. It’s scary not to have much saved up, and I don’t agree with experts who saw you should only save up $1k in your EF when you’re in debt. That is not going to cover much at all if you lose your job or something goes very wrong.

    • Kate Dore Chonce July 11, 2016 on 6:12 pm

      I’m with you, Chonce! Having only $1,000 saved wouldn’t help me sleep well at night, either. That’s the thing about emergency funds—they’re uniquely personal like everything else in our financial lives. You’ve got to do what’s best for you!

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  • Janet Fazio August 26, 2016 on 3:30 pm

    Awesome job! So many times, when you take a low paying job trying to break into an industry, it ends up having an adverse effect, making you think you’re not worth paying more. Glad you were able to break free and do your own thing.

    • Kate Dore Janet Fazio August 30, 2016 on 12:08 pm

      Thanks, Janet. I’m really glad I made the switch when I did.

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