For a few years now I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show and learning about the ins-and-outs of personal finances. Finally I’m learning to control my expenses and have started saving for our future. You see the mr. and I want to have a house and children but without savings or a plan we won’t be able to. If we had kids right now we couldn’t afford to pay even the basic things we have to every month. Not to mention the vacations we would like to have, or the things we would like to buy because in reality we are broke. That’s why I’m glad to say we’re living on a budget and planning for the future.
I was the kind of girl who thought that I could charge anything I could to my credit cards as long as I make the minimum payments every month. I was too young when I applied for my first credit card [18 to be exact], it was one of those store credit cards that I had approved because even though I hadn’t really built my credit, I had a student loan. And so it began, it was just that “little” store credit card at first [the max was $200 I think] and then before you knew it [and pressed on by my old roommate] I had 4 credit cards at 20 without a “real” job. Sure I could pay the minimum on each with the work-study I had in college, and with my roommate pressing on I pushed the matter out of my mind and kept on charging. At 20 I was already $5,000 in debt with only a part-time job. So I did a really dumb move [suggested of course by a not-financially-savvy co-worker] I got a loan. I was supposed to pay off and cancel all my credit cards [very bad move] so would have only one payment. The problem? I only closed 2 of the 4 credit cards and ended up with a loan and credit card debt.
So these things keept creeping and creeping, soon I wasn’t able to pay the minimum and when I finally got a full-time job I spent every dime I made instead of paying off debts. Yes I was very stupid, but who isn’t at that age? I blame the media and advertisers because they created this “need” for things that you only really “want”. Of course most of the miss-education comes from our parents and although my dad is very frugal my mother isn’t so I grew up with different views. While my dad is of the philosophy “save for a rainy day” my mother is more like “live like there’s no tomorrow” and at that time it was my mother’s way of thinking that convinced me.
When we’re young we don’t want responsibility, we take for granted many things [like being debt-free] and we crave material things. That’s what happened to me. I was 21 with $7,000 in debt, a full-time job that paid minimum wage and a “need” to buy the latest phone, or some more clothes, or go on a vacation even when I was at risk of losing my job [that actually happened, I went to New York and came back to un-employment]. Why you ask? Because I was stupid. I let all these debts become more than I could handle, I ignored those collection calls and barely paid the minimum on the cards.
All those years of bad financial decisions caught up to me. Now more than ever I need good credit and I don’t have it on account [no pun intended ;)] of all the wrongs I did with my debt. But this all has a silver lining, I found a way to reshape my life without having to pay hundreds of dollars [for more info click here] and re-program all those ideas I had about money. Now I try my best to keep a budget, I don’t buy on impulse and only get the things we need. We are saving for the future and we are getting out of debt. Now I’m not saying it’s been easy, it’s taken us about a year to get to where we are now and it’s so easy to get misguided if you’re not careful. Take this weekend for instance, in my written budget I had $50 assigned to buy the first half of the father’s day presents. I went to the mall with one store in mind [a budget-friendly department store] and I spent a total of $47.59. Great right? I felt completely at ease because all the important stuff had been paid, the grocery had been done and I got the gifts for less than what I budgeted. It was a great accomplishment, but the walk from my car to the store at the other end of the mall was filled with temptation. I passed stores with cute merchandise and outstanding displays. I saw many stores that had sales on everything [like cute tops for only $5.99], things I “needed” just jumped off the display and into my mind and if I wasn’t careful I would give in. But I didn’t, I kept my plan and walked out of the mall with only the things that were planned. To say that I felt empowered is an understatement, especially for a compulsive buyer like me, and it was the best feeling in the world.
What I’m trying to say is that living frugally may be hard but in the end the rewards are so worth it. To live with the liberty of getting what you want instead of only what you “need” because you don’t owe anything is the greatest feeling and I can’t wait till we get there. Meanwhile I will keep working on fixing my credit [we want a house someday] and paying off any debts so one day I can finally say I’M DEBT FREE!!!!!