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Life, Goals, Study Plan, and Q&As

7 Mar

Hey guys!

I just wanted to do a quick update on how my exam went on Friday.  The good news?  I’m pretty sure I passed!  The bad news?  Wow, that exam was KILLER!  I was so tense for the three hours of the exam, that I left and my leg muscles were sore!

That was by far the hardest CPA test I’ve taken out of the 3.  We were only allotted three hours and we really should have been given closer to 4 hours.  There are 5 “testlets” or sections in the exam.  The first three are multiple choice and the last two are “simulations”.  The simulations are killer and involve 5-6 tabs of writing memos, filling out tax forms, complex calculations & analysis, and researching professional literature.  I OWNED the multiple choice sections, but my simulations were TORTURE!  My first simulation was pretty straightforward, but the calculations killed me.  My second simulation was beyond hard and just ridiculous.  I laughed out loud and almost cried when I saw what they were asking of me.  Luckily, I finished with 45 seconds left, but I don’t think I did very well on the last section!

Hopefully that test is behind me…for GOOD.  That night, Lloyd and I went out for fondue to celebrate.  Yum!

If I passed that test, that will mean that the NEXT test I take will be my LAST test!!!  *happy dance!*  Please keep your fingers crossed for me!  I should get the results in mid to late March!

Moving on…

So, here’s the new study schedule for my next test:

Disclaimer: this is an INTENSE study schedule.  I’ve taken 2-3 months to prepare for the last two tests and they encompassed half of the information on this upcoming test.  However, I am SUPER  motivated since it’s my last test.  I want my life back!  With this study schedule, I will be studying everyday over lunch (~45 minutes), 2-4 hours per night (OMG, *cries*), and 4-5 hours on Saturday and Sunday.  There is a chance that I might start this study plan and not be able to keep up and have to extend my test into July (since we can’t test in June).  Fingers crossed I can stay super focused over the next two months (which means less posting…)!

FAR Study Schedule

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Ask Me Anything!

Keep those questions coming over on my formspring account.  I love answering them!  I think there is a question sitting in my inbox right now, but I’m trying to figure out how to respond, so sorry for the delay!

Here are some fun questions:

Do you invest in the stock market (outside of retirement accounts)? Do you have an IRA (Roth or Traditional?)

Heh. I suck at investing. I don’t understand it and actually don’t care to. Isn’t that sad? It is the one area of personal finance that I could care LESS about. I just started a Roth IRA this year and have no idea how to invest it. I’m gonna have to do some research. LOL.

You’re so lucky that you can save so much money each month! What do you have in mind for your savings goals after your current ones are met?

Hmmm, well after we buy our house, we want to build a home gym and buy a doggie ASAP. So I’ll start saving for those things after I have the down payment for the house.  After that, we will throw every extra penny towards our house. Savings goals after that? Probably kids and retirement for the most part. As you can see, I think of more of the “big picture”. I guess I could say I’m going to save for a new computer, but that just doesn’t work for me. (That is TOTALLY how Lloyd saves though…so we’ll have to mesh at some point.)
LOL, I’m very blessed at this point in my life to make good money and not have any dependents. I say if you want to make a lot of money, go into accounting or medicine or architecture, or something like that. Or pro-sports. Now, those guys can probably save a lot of money. 😛

Do you have any other savings accounts aside from the ones posted on your blog? (Like for travel)

Nope. If I end up booking a trip to Mexico over the next several months, I’ll just use my paycheck to fund it and I won’t save any money that month. I know that lots of bloggers have various funds, but it doesn’t work for me. It’s all one big pot of money and I don’t really want to separate it out unless it’s a huge goal (like 20,000).

That is a lot of personal information you have put out on the net, do you ever worry about it?

The only information I have on my blog that I wouldn’t tell my friends or family is some stats about my net worth and my savings accounts. I don’t think I’ve ever even listed where I save my money at….so, no, I’m not worried. I have written a couple posts about friends that I ended up taking down because I wouldn’t want to ruin friendships over my blog.

How often do you get your hair cut?

Hmmm…truthfully, only when it starts to get split-ends, feel unhealthy, or look bad. My last hair cut was 3 months ago. I normally have really long hair and got it cut above my shoulders in December and I’m enjoying not having to get it cut as much. 🙂 I also used to highlight my hair a lot, but sort of stopped because it’s hard to maintain and expensive. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop forever… 🙂

I’ve been hearing about a lot of accountants who have terrible debt and awful personal finance habits. As somebody who chooses a profession related to finance, doesn’t this seed odd? But, you had some debt of your own. Any insight?

Hmm, that’s sort of like seeing a doctor who’s overweight or a smoker, huh? Yeah, I never got that.
To be honest, true accounting has nothing to do with finances. So I think those regular old accountants (and there are a lot and I’m one of them right now) really get a “bye”. Those types of accountants don’t have clients that are looking at their finances and wondering if they want this guy doing their taxes. However…if you’re a CPA or other financial expert, in my humble opinion, you better have your finances together – especially if you want to keep your clients.
As far as my situation, I came out of college as a staff accountant at a big company and I didn’t have clients (still don’t). “Personal Finance” is not in the college curriculum for accounting, so I had to teach myself the ways of PF after college. But, I think having knowledge of business and accounting does make PF that much easier for me to understand.
Success in personal finance is more about self-control than it is about knowledge.

What will passing all the CPA exams mean for your career? A promotion, raise, or finding a new job?

I decided to take the CPA Exam for a jazillion reasons (it’s a word, ha):
– I truly love my current FT job. However, my brain has been stagnant at work for several years. I haven’t learned anything new. At first, this was great. My job was on cruise control. But then, I started to get worried. An idle mind is never a good thing. I want to stimulate my brain so I didn’t become, well, an idiot and I wanted to obtain more skills to set me apart from others.
– With an accounting degree, there are many options for you in your career. With a CPA + an accounting degree, the options are truly ENDLESS. I wanted more options in case I needed them.
– Job security.
– To be better than those entry level accountants around me.
– Possible promotions.
– Possibility of being my own boss.
– Personal challenge.
I wanted to get this done before I was married and had kids, too. I am SO happy I am doing this. I am ALREADY seeing doors open for me and I’m only halfway through the tests. I highly recommend getting your CPA right out of college if you’re an accounting major.

Go HERE to ask me anything!

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Don’t forget – I’m still posting weekly over at Money Under 30.  Make sure to check out those posts and consider adding Money Under 30 to your feed reader!  I’ll be posting weekly until it gets close to my next test and will probably take another two weeks off during that time.

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Have a great week, guys!
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More Fabulous Q&As!

23 Feb

Here are a few more fabulous questions from my “Ask Me Anything” account over at Formspring.

What do you refuse to pay a lot of money for? [assuming it’s not an emergency situation]

Everything!
food
clothing
decorations
entertainment
electronics
household products & cleaners
utilities
cell phone plan
insurance
I normally get the cheapest option of all of the above. 🙂 This is a small list, too. ha ha.

In your previous answers, you mentioned you had debt.. what kind of debt? Student loans, credit cards, car? What motivated you to pay it off?

I had credit card, car loan, and a small amount of student loan debt. What motivated me? Hmmm…being “owned” by other people. Not living paycheck to paycheck. Not having a savings account. I hated my financial situation and wanted control of my money. I worked hard for my money and wanted to keep it. So, I stopped spending money and got my butt in gear.

Will you and Lloyd be footing most of the bill for your wedding?

I have no idea. I don’t think so. I think my parents will help as much as they can, but I certainly won’t ask for much. If they need us to help, we most certainly will. In fact, if my parents’ can’t pay for a wedding, Lloyd and I will pay for everything…and if that’s the case, it probably won’t be quite as big as I was thinking.

What are some items you’re willing to splurge on, every time?

Bras. That’s really about it! Sometimes makeup and skincare because I have outrageously super sensitive skin. But usually I can find skincare products that are gentle and affordable. Bras, however, you just can’t go cheap on those bad boys. 😉

Are you and Lloyd talking about marriage yet? Do you have plans for the future?

Yes, we’ve been talking about it for awhile now. Yes, we have plans to get married in the future.

When (or if) you have children, would you teach them at a young age how to manage money? Did your parents teach you anything about money?

Yes – I will definitely be teaching my kids the arts of saving. I will also teach them that credit cards and debt are not necessities for life. I think that is really important to teach kids. Going into college, I knew credit cards were bad, but I always thought “I’ll never have a problem with them.” Yeah right!
My mom is super super frugal. She definitely taught me how to be a bargain shopper! Looking back, now I realize just how much though she put into our groceries and all our other expenses. Back then, my parents didn’t make much, so they had to make every dollar stretch. My mom did such a good job of manages the small family finances and also taught us a bit about how to be frugal.

How long were you and Lloyd together before you started discussing the details of your finances?

Wow – great question! I’ve never even thought about this.
Lloyd got into finances before I did. He put himself on a budget after we had been dating for about 6 months or so. I remember thinking “Ughh!! A budget? That’s no fun!”
I didn’t know it, but he had just become determined to pay off his student loans.
I was annoyed at his budget for a couple more months before I got serious about my debt. In May 2007 – about 8 months into our relationship – we really started discussing our finances. I was just getting pumped up about paying off my debt and he was in full-force “budget mode”.
We talked about our debt situations seperately for about another year or year and a half. I’d say somewhere around the 2 year mark is where we starting talking about “our” future finances and how we’d like to live our life by way of finances in the future.
Now, we discusses our finances quite often. Our finances are not merged, and won’t be until we get married. Now that we’re both debt-free, talking about finances is way more exciting!
We still have little disagreements about money though – his tipping is OUT OF CONTROL. He tips 30% almost always! This drives me crazy! But if that’s the biggest of our problems, I’m not too worried. 🙂

How many years has it been since you graduated from college?

About 5 years.

Will you and Lloyd join accounts/assets fully? Before, or after marriage?

We will join everything together and we’ll do it after we’re married. We have about the same amount of cash in the bank, so it’s not like one will be bringing much more than the other into the relationship. And even if that was the case, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Keep The Questions Coming!

16 Feb

Over the weekend I signed up for a formspring account…also known as the website where you can ask me anything from what my income is to the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done on a date and I’ll answer it.  

However… I won’t answer questions that give away my identity or are just weirdly inappropriate (you know who you are). 😉

Here are the questions I’ve answer thus far:

If you had student loans, would you pay them off before you bought a house? What if you had $15,000 and what if you had $150,000, would it make a difference?

Ooohh, good question. The answer is yes. To a certain extent. I am very blessed to have reached a fairly high income for my age. So, even if I had $150K in student loans, I would definitely try to pay them off before I bought a house. I just HATE to have anything holding me back, ya know? Plus, if I have $150K in student loans, I better have a damn good paying job!

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What tempts you the most to blow your budget? 😉

Eating/drinking out. 🙂

I love to shop but generally just stay away from the stores so I don’t end up splurging. 🙂 Plus, I have ZERO free time right now, so that is seriously helping my budget!

But really, Lloyd and I love to unwind by going out to eat or to get a drink, especially on the weekends. We really, really try to keep it cheap, but sometimes it’s hard!

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When you think of your dream wedding, do you imagine a large and more expensive affair, or a small, intimate, less expensive one? Do you want a big, expensive honeymoon?

Well, I want it to be large in terms of people because we have such huge families. We’ll probably have 400-500 people. But, I don’t want to spend much! I don’t care about what the reception looks like or the flowers or anything. I just want all my friends and family, good food and cake, an open bar, and lots of dancing!

Yep – I want to splurge on an awesome honeymoon! We have talked about 2 weeks or so at an all inclusive resort in Mexico or Jamaica or something like that. 🙂

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As a kid, I lived in Overland Park, Ka. Have you heard of that place? I would love to go back and see what it looks like as I have very few memories of it.

Ha! Yeah – I’ve definitely heard of O.P.! It’s huge! It’s one of the biggest cities in the KCMO area. You should come check it out sometime!

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Are you a born and bred Kansas girl?

I’ll say that I’ve lived in Kansas City my entire life…yes. I can’t tell you which side of the state line I live on though… 🙂 Everything is better in the Midwest!

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are you a corporate accountant or public?

All I can say is that I’m an accountant… 🙂

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what do u do for a living?

I’m an accoutant. 🙂

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Keep ’em coming!  Ask me ANYTHING here!!

My Finances Weren’t Always This Good: The Finale

19 Oct

This is the fourth of a “My Debt History” series this week.  If you missed Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3, check them out here, here, and here!

When I left off last, I had $13,000 left in car loan debt and $3,500 in credit card debt (accrued due to the post-college-young-single-lady-lifestyle, a new boyfriend, and newfound independence).

Like I said, I went on for about a year with all that credit card debt.  Gradually, I started to despise living paycheck to paycheck.  I was a professional accountant!  I should have a handle on my finances!

I was desperate to pay off my debt and couldn’t seem to wrap my head around self-control at that point.  I had heard of something called a 401K loan and picked some of my co-worker’s brains about it.

I didn’t know much about this type of loan, but I did know my job was very stable and I didn’t have any fear of being laid off (which I now know is the biggest risk you take when you take out a 401K loan).

I debated for a couple weeks and then pulled the trigger.  I took out the exact amount of money from my 401K that I was in debt on credit cards – $3,500.  There was a $50.00 service charge and I would pay about $200 in interest over the one year of the loan.  Since $150 was deducted automatically from my bi-weekly paychecks, I couldn’t get out of paying $300 back to my 401K every month.

The timing actually worked out perfectly because I ended up getting a pretty sizeable raise around the same time – from about $45,000 to $57,000.

I know that all financial gurus practically forbid you from taking out a 401K loan, but in this case it worked for me.  I took out a fairly small amount and my job was extremely stable.  (Note: I am NOT recommending anyone do this without talking to your personal financial advisor.)

During the year that I was paying back my 401K loan, I did NOT use my credit cards under any circumstances.  Ironic as it was, I was teaching myself how to use credit cards properly, while paying them off with a loan.

I took out the loan in May 2007 and my final payment back to my 401K was in May 2008.  As luck would have it, I received another hefty raise right around the same time.  It felt like such a blessing since it was just the extra bump I needed to get my last debt paid off: my car.

In May 2008, my car loan had come down to about $10,000.  I enjoyed the summer of 2008 and didn’t think too much about paying off my car.

However, something hit me in late August 2008.  I just got angry again.  I absolutely hated the fact that I had to make a car payment every month.  As much as I love Toyota, I hated logging onto their website every month.  I got serious.  I meant business this time.

I stopped buying ANYTHING.  By anything, I mean anything at all that I didn’t need to survive.

I spent $40 on groceries per week, I didn’t go out to eat with Lloyd, I stopped buying drinks at bars, I forbade myself from buying ANY clothes, I learned how to make coffee at home.  I only spent money on necessary food and utilities.  All my extra money went straight to my car loan.

It was around this time that I started my very first budget.  Something I’m sure you all have heard of, right? 😉 The budget kept me on track and gave me a mental amount that I could follow on a daily basis.

I made a goal to debt-free in December 2008.  I paid anywhere around $1,500 per month towards my loan – many times more than that.

It was hard – very hard.  I wore the same clothes over and over to work even though I wanted to go out and buy the latest fashion trends that fall.  I ate peanut butter sandwiches quite a lot of work (which…actually wasn’t too hard because those things are amazingly delicious).  If I wanted to have a drink, I’d drink whatever was in my fridge and meet my friends out later and just have water.  Lloyd and I really got into cooking dinners at home around this time.  It becomes very easy to stop spending money on anything when you combine a female’s wrath (toward debt) and a crazy ridiculous goal.  I tell you what, that combination gets things done! 😉

In December 2008, I made my final payment on my car loan and never looked back. 

It took about 6 months to pay off about $9,000 in debt with these things:

HOW I PAID OFF MY DEBT:

  • 401K loan (not recommended)
  • Substantial raises (read: work hard)
  • Lots of self-control
  • Highly restrictive spending
  • Staying busy
  • Making a Budget

As funny as it seems, I am so grateful for my debt history.  There is no doubt that it changed my way of thinking about finances forever.  I am now in more control of my finances than I ever thought anyone could be.  I was one of those people that thought it was normal to always carry high credit card balances.  I thought it was a way of life.  It’s NOT.  Now, I never have to be in debt ever again.

It’s coming up on one year since I paid off my debt, and I have no intentions of ever going back.  It helps to have someone in my life that shares the same values of debt-free like Lloyd.

I was never frugal or mooched off anyone.  I merely tighten the grips on my wallet and learned to tell myself “No!”.  I think this is the best way to pay off debt.  It worked for me and I know all you readers suffering with debt right now will become debt-free someday, too.  Realizing that being debt-free is the way to live is already half the battle!

Thank you so much for following along this journey with me!  I hope this series makes me a little more relatible to my readers.  Now you know – I was once there, too!

My Finances Weren’t Always This Good: Part 3

15 Oct

This is the third of a “My Debt History” series this week.  If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, check them out here  and here!

After about a year of living with my parents (which was productive since I paid off my student loan and bought a new car), I decided it was a better idea to move out on my own than to continue my incessant complaining about having to live under my parent’s roof again.

Since I wasn’t making much at the time, my “budget” was a little tight.  Having a new car payment and living the post-college-young-single-lady-lifestyle made my funds even tighter.  You know the lifestyle I mean – you have a new career, you go to happy hours every  night, you go out of the weekends, you spend way too much money on going out clothes and events with friends.  It’s a very expensive, yet very fun, lifestyle to lead!

I continued to make the minimum monthly payment on my car loan.  It shrunk ever so slowly.  However, at the same time, I was funding my post-college-young-single-lady-lifestyle with my credit cards since my paychecks weren’t quite covering the new lifestyle as well as rent.

Don’t forget: when a young girl moves into her very first apartment, she instinctively gets the urge to decorate and make it her “own” style.  This urge is so powerful, it’s almost like the nesting instinct I hear about when women have babies (only kidding).  But, it’s true, when a young lady gets her first apartment, she must decorate like a mad woman.

The new decorating instinct was funded by my credit card as well.

It was around this time that I met a guy you all may have heard of…he goes by the name of Lloyd.  I was only out on my own for a mere 6 months before Lloyd and I started dating.  Dating someone new has a direct relationship with your spending.  It’s a well known fact that when you start dating, you generally always spends gobs and gobs of money during the “honeymoon phase”.  When Lloyd and I were first dating, we would meet for lunch many weekdays, have dinner several nights a week and on weekends, and of course go out for breakfast many Saturdays and Sundays.  Then there were the movie dates, the drinks with one another’s groups of friends, ice skating, miniature golf, and other gag-worthy – yet adorable – things to do that all couples do when they’re first dating.

Guess what I funded my new boyfriend with?  My credit card.

Before I knew it, both of my credit cards were maxed out.  My credit limits were low (Thank God!) and the credit companies never raised my limits when I maxed my cards out (I thought they usually did, but maybe I’m wrong).  My credit card balance sat at $3,500 for a long time – about a year – before I got down to business.  During that year that I couldn’t charge anymore on credit, I would just live paycheck to paycheck.  My lifestyle had slowed down a bit – Lloyd and I were settling into a more comfortable relationship and I wasn’t decorating as much – so I was able to live that way for a whole year.  I would pay off $100 here and there, but I would always charge it right back up.

Here I was with about $13,000 left in car loan debt and $3,500 in credit card debt that was raking up interest like nobody’s business.

How did I pay them both off over the next year and a half? 

Stay tuned for my big debt payoff finale!

My Finances Weren’t Always This Good: Part 2

13 Oct

This is the second of a “My Debt History” series this week.  If you missed Part 1, check it out here!

As I said yesterday, after I paid off my student loan debt, I quickly went into debt again with a new car.

I’m an avid Toyota and Honda fan since they are so reliable and we’ve had a loving and respectful car-owner relationship over the years.  I think buying one of these cars is one of the smartest financial moves you can make.  But since this isn’t a Car Tips Blog, I’ll move on to the point. 😉

I drove a cute little old Honda through the latter part of high school and all of college.  Even though my Honda was fast approaching the 200,000 miles mark near the end of my college days, I was really hoping that I could keep her for at least another year or so after college.

Hope as I might, my little Honda just couldn’t make it that far.  Bless its heart, it made it about 6 months after college before the ‘ol speedometer went out.  And then the  RPM-ometer (rev-ometer? I don’t know.) went out.  And then the car itself went out.  She was the little Honda that couldn’t – anymore.  After a couple hours of mourning, I went new car shopping!  Hooray!

I know there are some folks out there that absolutely swear by used cars and will only buy used cars.  That’s fine and I think that works well for a lot of people.  My next car will probably be used.  However, I had always driven used cars, and just once in my life, I wanted a brand-new car.  I think buying a brand-new car is just fine if you plan to pay it off quickly AND you plan to drive the shiz out of it (excuse my slang).  I mean it, I am a firm believer in driving a car until the day it absolutely won’t move forward without someone pushing it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – cars are a horrible investment and should be treated just so.  Don’t go out and buy the newest and latest edition every year – you’ll only be digging your financial grave!

Ahem.  Now, where were we?  Oh yes, I had just decided I wanted a new car.  After about a week of courting several models, I picked my dream car-mate (kinda like a soul mate, only mechanical).  Of course with my shiny new ride came a heaping load of debt – $17,000 to be exact on a 5-year loan.  My first car payment was December of 2005 for $320.  My original plan was to pay my car off as quickly as possible – which is very easy to do when you live with you parents…

I plucked down the minimum monthly payment for a couple years and my total loan amount inched downward at the pace of a snail.  It was frustrating to say the least.  Here I was again with a mountain of debt!  I wanted to get this paid off – fast -because who knows how my life would change in FIVE years – that’s a long time!

But I couldn’t pay it off.  And there was a reason why – I moved out on my own in April of the next year and found myself funding my new independence with credit cards and a lack of self control

Stay tuned for Part 3!

My Finances Weren’t Always This Good: Part 1

12 Oct

After my last post painted my financial life as practically perfect, I felt the need to elaborate just a bit on my history.  Yes, my finances may be smooth-sailing right now, but that wasn’t always the case…

I’ve been in debt three seperate times in my life:

  • Student Loan Debt to study abroad (2005): $5,500
  • Credit Card Debt (2006): $3,500
  • Car Loan Debt (2005-2008): $17,000

Unlike many personal finance bloggers, I started this blog after I became debt-free.  For this reason, I have to decided to tell you all about my debt history this week.  I learned a lot from being in debt – in fact, I think that debt itself showed me the way to financial peace.

MY FIRST DEBT

I’ve mentioned before that I was lucky enough to have my parents pay for my college experience.  I realize this is a huge blessing and many people come out of college with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt (including Lloyd!).

My junior year of college, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in the beautiful country of Spain.  (Side note – if you ever get the chance to study abroad, do it!  It’s a life-changing experience that only presents itself during the college years.)

My parents had always agreed to pay for 4 years of college and no more.  Studying abroad didn’t fit into that category, so I took out a student loan for $5,500.  The loan covered room & board with a host family, round-trip flight, classes at the Spanish college, excursions, and spending money in Spain (including many, many nights out on the town that I can’t detail on my blog 😉 ).

Just over five-thousand dollars seemed like a great deal for everything I was getting – and it was!

Of course, I had no money to pay off the loan during my senior year of college so I waited until I had graduated to start paying towards the loan.

After college, I endured living with my parents for about a year to get my finances under control.  I remember feeling just sick to myself that I had five thousand dollars sitting out there that I owed to the federal government (you know that sick feeling that debt gives you?  That’s what I mean).  I hated having debt so much that some months I threw 75% of my income to my debt.  My biweekly paychecks were about $950 at the time and I always had a goal to put at least $700 of that to my loan.  Sometimes I met that goal, sometimes I didn’t.  I didn’t even care that I couldn’t buy a fancy new wardrobe for my new full-time career.  I had a debt to pay off and I was going to do it fast.

Living with your parents is the best thing you can do for your finances.  On the flip side, it can sometimes be disastrous to your relationship with your parents after you’ve been on your own at college for 4 years! 😉  Since I had no expenses whatsoever when I was living with them, I was able to pay off my student loan debt in about 6 months – from July through November of the same year I graduated.

This seemed like quite an accomplishment to me!  I think at this point, getting into debt again in the future didn’t really cross my mind.  I think I figured that student loan debt was it and I wouldn’t have to deal with anything like that anymore.  Wrong…

Very soon after I became debt-free for the first time, I turned around and took on the biggest debt I’ve ever had: a new car loan.

Stay tuned for Part 2!