I quickly figured out that you need some pretty thick skin to stick it out on your debt free journey. When you decide to adhere to a strict budget things obviously change, and your balances are not the ones doing a disappearing act. Since becoming the cheap friend and employee I’ve had to endure everything from ridicule to lonely nights on the sofa, but I believe that I have now adapted.Read More
When you’re fresh out of high school, college marks an exciting transition from adolescence to adulthood. Sadly, it is during those college years that the biggest financial mistakes are made. An income is pretty much non-existent, thus the ‘borrowing’ stage begins.
I went to college for financial stability and wound up with a financial mess.
I moved out of my mom’s house at the end of my junior year with a one-year-old and a part-time job. It wasn’t because I didn’t have a choice, in fact, my mom advised me to stay until I graduated, but the rebel in me wanted to prove that I could survive on my own.With nothing but a tax refund, I dove into adulthood with no specific plan or budget.
I was in for a huge surprise.
Now I had budgeted (mentally) for my rent and electric bills, but the other expenses? Not so much.
It wasn’t until I went to sit down on the toilet that I realized I had no tissue paper, or when it was time to wash dishes that I had no dishwashing liquid. The little things that I had taken for granted became huge needs and unwanted expenses.
I was out roughly $650 each month simply for living expenses, in addition to a $459 car note and a $50 monthly medical bill. Around this time my paychecks were only about $530 every 2 weeks. Needless to say, I racked up on a lot of unnecessary debt due to depending on my credit cards to get me through the semesters.
Avoid unnecessary loans
I began taking out subsidized loans during my sophomore year simply to get a larger refund check. I had grant assistance and a scholarship, but the amount of money I had in excess was “not enough.”
Yes, I know—not smart—but it made sense at the time. Since I only worked part-time I would use my refund checks to pay up my bills so I guess I was not that stupid.
During my pregnancy, I dropped down from 6 classes per semester to 2, and when my classes dwindled so did my grant assistance. I went from taking out unnecessary student loans just for the heck of it to actually needing them to help cover tuition costs.
If I was the money-savvy mom I am today, I would have taken out just enough to cover tuition and fees instead of accepting the full amount.
*Sigh* What is done is done.
I wish that I would’ve saved, I mean really saved, during college.
I would set funds aside, but I would always do a withdrawal for something I thought I needed—like a new dining room table that no one sat at. My savings was like a give-and-take relationship when it should have been more like a give-don’t-take. Anytime I had an unexpected expense it was my credit cards that came to the rescue.
Figure out my interests
When I started college I had no idea what I wanted to do which (surprise) isn’t uncommon. It is typical to change your major at least once or twice as you test the waters and find your strengths, or when you realize that your middle school dream job is an absolute nightmare. I knew I had a passion for writing, but the thought of a writing career did not sound lucrative enough for my liking. Envisioning myself sitting at a cubicle was just not my thing (although I am now).
Quite frankly, I did not know what all I could do with a writing degree so I ran from my passion. Blood and body parts sounded more exciting, so I opted for a Biology major instead to get me into the medical field.
I hated Biology.
The price of each class was through the roof as most came coupled with a lab, and the amount of information I had to cram in for each test was a no. Literally desperate for some relief, I took a huge leap of faith and changed my major to Professional & Technical Writing.
Changing my major was the best decision I could have made, but I was still stuck with thousands of dollars from my previous Biology venture. If I would have taken the time to figure out my interests and what I could do with them, my student loan balance would not be so hefty.
When I go back and think of my college budget I want to take a palm to my forehead and just leave it there.
I had a new ‘budget’ every week, which only consisted of my bills and…that’s it. I had no idea just how much I would have left over to pay for my other expenses, such as gas, so when the funds dried out I would have to depend on my credit card to carry me until next payday.
Rent my textbooks
For my textbooks, I would always buy from my local Textbook Brokers. At the end of each semester, I would sell the books back but they would be worth breadcrumbs when just months before they were the price of a whole pie. I remember buying a brand new textbook series for my computer class for roughly $150, and when I went to sell them back I was told that my version was outdated and would be no longer used. The buyback price? $0.
Imagine the look on my face.
During my sophomore year, I rented a textbook from Chegg and the price was significantly lower than Textbook Brokers. The only downfall was that it took about a week for the package to arrive in the mail, and I was far too lazy to order all my books in advance. Looking back, I could have saved a fortune by simply getting the names of my textbooks before the start of the semester, but what a task that was (insert rolling eyes).
I’ll just use my refund check, I’d say to myself.
Get more scholarships
Scholarship money is free money, and only a fool wouldn’t want free money. I was a recipient of two scholarships— the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery and the Single Parent Scholarship. I was pretty darn proud of myself for snagging two, but I know I should have applied myself more.
A WHOLE lot more.
I remember my professor inviting one of her former students to be a guest speaker in all of her writing classes, and she explained how she got through college without a single loan. Searching for scholarships became her full-time job, and she was obviously pretty good at it. Inspired, I went home that evening and browsed through a few scholarship websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb. I thought that I was just going to fill out a few simple applications then sit back and watch the money pile up.
Boy was I wrong!
Most of the applications required an essay of at least 500 words (which felt more like 1500 at the time) or some sort of presentation. Despite my laziness syndrome, I managed to complete around 20 applications and won $1000 from one of my essays. Winning should have sparked some motivation, and it did, but sadly it was short-lived.
Begin making loan payments
If only I knew what I know now.
I wish I had thrown any extra cash that I had towards my student loans to save myself some heartache. I figured since I was still in school and my loans were not yet accruing any interest that I should just save my money. Sallie Mae showed me a $0 balance due, and $0 is what she got.
My loans were a ‘worry later’ type of situation, but now that I’m in that ‘later’ phase I cannot help but wonder how less frightening they would be had I just prioritized my money better.
I should have been more open to the idea of a roommate, but I wanted my privacy—especially with a baby and a boyfriend. I am a bit of a recluse, and the thought of ‘permanent company’ lead me to swiftly shoot down everyone who made it clear of their intentions to move in.
Thinking back, halving up the bills would have been worth the awkward moments and fights over unmarked food.
You know those people who try to live a Bill Gates lifestyle on a poor man’s salary? That was me.
I was more concerned with how others would perceive me if I lived within my means, so I swiped my card instead of facing the truth. I would even pass up the generic brands at the grocery store so I wouldn’t look ‘cheap’ at check-out.
Ridiculous, I know.
I suppose if we all came out the womb financially savvy we would not be working towards a debt-free life. What are some things you wish you would’ve done in your earlier life to avoid some of your financial pitfalls?
Lately I have been feeling a tad bit uninspired—more like defeated—at the thought of my debt. I often come face-to-face with this feeling when I’m experiencing problems in my personal life or have an unexpected expense. I also haven’t been dedicating as much time to my side hustle due to focusing so much on perfecting my website, and it’s leaving me a little worried about my expenses. I keep telling myself it will all be worth it in the end and I hope that I’m right.
My previous battles were the defining moments that once marked the end of my debt free journeys because I would just give up and fall victim to the pressure. These moments were my greatest mistakes but guess what?
I’m not falling off the bandwagon this time.Read More
So there I was—a broke college student with the hopes of getting a degree and becoming successful being my only anchor to sanity.
“How did that work out for you?” you ask?
Well, I graduated in May of 2015 with a Bachelors of Arts, and I am currently working in a call center at my local Blue Cross. A sad yet increasingly typical situation for a new graduate, but I was just hoping—praying—that I would be an exception to this fate. Sike. Joke’s on me.
With my degree came a wonderful $20,000 in student loans, $1000 in personal loans, and $4000 of credit card debt. Yes I had grants and a few scholarships over the course of my five years at my local university, but I needed the extra money to get through my day-to-day . . . or so I convinced myself at the time I did.Read More