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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!

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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!

Confession: I’m Not Debt-Free

8 Jul

It’s true.  I’m in debt…at the library.

I’ve been $2.80 in debt with them for about 6 months.  I somehow find it impossible to return a book within the 3 week timeframe allotted to me.

I’ve tried to pay off my debt, too!

The first time, I scrounged around in my huge black satchel (it’s ridiculous, I’ve literally lost Lloyd in there before) and came up with a $0.56 down payment.  They rejected it!  They said to wait “until I had the entire amount of the debt all at once”.  Talk about debt forgiveness.

The next time I was there, I got frustrated with those cute little librarians staring over the rims of their glasses at me and asking if I “knew that I had a balance?”

Of course I know!  Here’s my credit card!

They wouldn’t take that either!  Something about how they can’t charge anything less than ten dollars or some crazy talk like that (pleeeease, I’ve charged 95 cents at Quik Trip before).

So, yep, it’s true.  I’m not technically debt-free.  I would really like to be though!  If only they would put me on a Generation-Y payment plan – they know we hardly ever have cash on us!