My Quora followers will be absolutely shocked at this post… no matter, I’m glad to share these things!
When I lived stateside and was down on my luck I suddenly found myself living in my car with only my clothes to my name.
How did this happen?
Well, my wife had found a lover, one day I came home early from work and he was in my house and she wasn’t, so I had him arrested for breaking and entering!
Actually, this is an exceptionally hilarious story that I’ll save for another post…
Anyway, I promptly left the house and went to a hotel.
Because my wife was angry at what I’d done to her lover she blocked our bank accounts.
I filed for divorce, but she hired a really good lawyer and the judge gave her everything. I got nothing but the car.
Two weeks later I was laid off from a long-term and well-paying job, but because of the divorce I had very little money saved.
So, suddenly I had a really big problem, but there was no one who could really help me, not even my family.
I didn’t have enough money to get an apartment, so I started to sleep in my car.
I knew that what I really needed was a permanent address, but in my sudden new position in life there was no way I could get one.
Here’s what I did …
I went to a post office (PO) box rental company and rented a box.
Instead of putting down my address as “Box 12” when I was filling out a form, I put down “Unit 12”.
Not once did I ever get a complaint from the mailbox company or the post office.
All my mail arrived without a problem, including government mail.
It’s a really good way to maintain a permanent address if you’re moving around a lot or are temporarily living in your car.
It can even help you to improve your credit rating because it appears like you’re in a stable location for a period of time.
The other thing that I did was I got a gym membership. I’d go to the gym every day to take a shower.
The PO box cost me about $35 dollars a month, and the gym membership was about the same.
So, for less than three dollars a day I was able to stay clean and appear, at least on paper and to everyone else, to be stable.
I lived in my car for eight months before I was able to find a job and then another four months before I was able to save up enough money for first and last month’s rent and get myself into a small apartment.
Would you believe that no one ever found me out? It’s true! No one ever knew!
One of the first things I did after I got my PO box address was to try and get credit.
Of course I was declined, but the address went on my credit rating nonetheless.
I am absolutely sure that the apartment rental agency that I applied to wouldn’t have approved my rental application had I not tried to use the PO box’s address as my own to get credit a year earlier.
To them it looked like I had lived for a year at my previous address and simply chose not to renew my lease. I even said as much when I was filling out my application.
During that year I spent another ten dollars a week at the laundromat to keep my clothes clean, including the cost for laundry detergent.
Toothpaste, soap and other incidentals cost me around thirty dollars a month.
So basically my rent, water, electricity, laundry and personal grooming cost me about $150 a month, five dollars a day.
During the time that I wasn’t working I’d go to various public parks around town and remove soda pop and beer cans from the garbage cans.
When I had filled up the trunk of my car and then some, I went to the supermarket and put the cans in the recycling machines out front.
I got a nickel for two cans and two cents for a single can.
I was actually able to collect enough cans to pay the five dollars a day for my upkeep and also put two gallons of gas in my car so that I could drive around the next day.
Incredibly, I was also able to collect enough cans to buy a liter of water and a package of Tang (powdered orange-flavored drink) every day.
There was even enough left over for a Hostess dessert pie for breakfast, a 7-Eleven microwaveable burrito for lunch and some bread, ham, cheese and fruit for dinner!
My food expenses were about seven dollars a day and it was about the same for gasoline.
So, I lived on a budget of $20 dollars a day for nine months.
Somehow, and I have no idea how, I was able to collect between 400 and 500 cans a day—and I survived!
I have no shame in it, nor in sharing it; it wasn’t my fault to begin with, but in no way was I going to give up. I’m too proud.
Sure, I could have sold my car to rent an apartment, but then how would I get to work or find a job?
By bus? Not so practical in San Diego.
So I did what I did in the way that I did it.
Today, I have a house on the beach and I will buy a second one soon. I have a new wife whom I love and who loves me and we have a wonderful son together.
I’ve worked for 11 years at the same company, so my life is stable once again.
But I’ll never forget that year; it was a true life lesson.
And you know what?
It wasn’t so bad living in my car collecting cans so that I could get through the day!
Get a PO box, get a gym membership, maintain a prepaid cellular line so people can call you, try to get credit, do what you need to do to find the $20 to $30 dollars a day you need and in the end you’ll be just fine!
EDIT: My fellow Quorans! OMG! Thank you for your wonderful comments. 16000 upvotes and 300,000 views - and more comments than I can answer straight away, be patient, I will answer all of you, just give me a little time, I am a normal guy and didn’t expect that this post would go so viral, yet it has, and now I will answer all of you! I am flattered and humbled by the responses to this simple post. Thank you Quorans, you are incredible!!!