My path to financial freedom
I got my first job and checking account at the age of 15, and my first credit card was a student visa that was peddled to me on the campus of my junior college at 18 years old. My mom showed me how to balance a checkbook (which I did incorrectly several times), but I don’t even really remember having conversations about how credit cards worked, the debt cycles, or buying things with money I didn’t have.
Growing up, the conversations about money in my house were very Chicken Little, “The sky is falling!”. I saw a lot of spending behavior that wasn’t consistent with the verbal messages and a lot of stress around money in general, but with the visual outcome of everything being okay and having what we needed (and then some).
I got my first car payment when I was 19 years old and my first mortgage at 23. By then, I had accumulated $11,000 in student loans and amassed $12,000 in credit card debt. I hadn’t even graduated college yet and was so deep in the rat race that my decisions were not my own. I chose living situations and job offers based on the debt hanging over my head, but assumed that was just part of being an adult. I had an amazing credit score!
When I was bought out of the house and received a check for $22,000, I wrote an $11,000 check to pay off my credit card, put the remainder in a money market account, and swore I would never make that mistake again.
Spoiler alert, I did. I made that mistake a few more times.
3 years later, I couldn’t figure out how I had once again accumulated over $10,000 in credit card debt. I was working in management, making a good salary, and still living paycheck to paycheck. I was paying the minimum balance on my student loans, a little extra on my credit card and paying all my bills on time, but the debt just kept climbing.
When I finally sat down to look at what was coming in versus going out, I realized I had been on average living $400 each month beyond my means. FOUR.HUNDRED.DOLLARS. I can see why that quickly added up between late nights out, saying yes to friends’ destination weddings, and frequent trips to Vegas. The FOMO was real.
I asked my parents if I could rent a room from them at a very low cost and set out to pay off another $15,000 in credit card debt.
I still didn’t have a plan in place for my money, and definitely didn’t have a budget yet. I just knew that all my bills were paid and I was throwing $1,000+ at the balance every month to get it paid off as fast as I could.
And I did.
8 months later I was CC debt free. Just in time to move into a brand new house that was priced at the highest edge of my budget with no room for savings or emergencies or job changes and so the cycle continued….
It wasn’t until a lot of behavior change, selling a house that paid off student loans, and getting a divorce, that I was able to truly become debt free in early 2016.
Even still, I didn’t have peace surrounding money because I didn’t have a budget (or “plan” for those of you who are sensitive to the B word) in place. I was still living in a scarcity mindset about money and didn’t believe my account balance.
In 2018 I was introduced to zero-based budgeting and finally understood what it meant to give every dollar a job. I no longer worry what that money in my account is REALLY for, or how much I have to spend on groceries, or if I can afford a $400 emergency should it pop up.
I know exactly how much I have and what its purpose is, and I can adjust and flow at any time, rolling with the punches.
It’s one of the most amazing feelings ever and it’s why I talk about it so much to anyone who will listen and those who don’t want to hear it. I want everyone to feel this way. And I am happy to help you get there.