In 2007 I was working my first salaried job, a somewhat-specialized IT position in a large company. I come from a blue-collar background and was shocked at the amount of money I was making - and how little of it I was keeping. I wasn't accumulating debt, but I also wasn't saving anything, despite a huge disparity between my pay and the amount of money I really needed to live. Then I discovered Get Rich Slowly, which led me to Your Money or Your Life. I figured out where all the money was going (short answer: restaurants), got rid of my most burdensome outflows, traded my car for a bike, and "retired" with savings in 2008. I lived on my bicycle for a while, contracted when the money ran out, and decided to go back to university and finish my degree in 2010. I graduated in May of 2011 and got a fantastic job as an embedded systems programmer, for which I'll soon be receiving my first paycheck.
I'd like to skip the 'spend like crazy on dumb stuff' step this time around, and keep my money habits good. I'm moving into my own place soon, and will need to outlay a lot of money for one-time expenses (I gave away all my furniture and kitchen stuff some years ago and haven't needed it, but I'm going to need to replace that stuff now). I have about $3,000 in credit card debt to pay off, and I also need to pay back the money I borrowed to go back to school. All told, I have just shy of $20,000 in debt, of which $10,000 are subsidized Stafford loans bearing a fixed, relatively low interest rate. I don't feel an urgent need to pay off the Stafford loans.
I am paid monthly, so careful budgeting will be very important in order to avoid being short at the end of the month. On the plus side, my cost of living is not very high; I cook at home a lot, I generally don't spend much money when spending time with my friends, I don't have a car, and I don't have any kids. I will need to pay for health insurance, but I am young and do not have any chronic conditions. I plan on getting a high-deductible plan combined with an HSA.
Here is my game plan:
First paycheck (July) - set aside money for security deposit, first rent check, and a moving van rental; set aside a little for some thrift store cookware and knives; pay off highest-interest credit card and half of other credit card
August - pay off my bank's 'reserve line of credit', a relatively low-interest $400 loan. Pay off lower-interest credit card. Celebrate paying off credit cards by spending at most $300 on things for my apartment (like a desk and filing cabinets). Send a payment to my unsubsidized Stafford loan, which is my only student loan accruing interest until November.
September - Stick a little bit of money in an emergency savings account, and send most of the rest of it to my unsubsidized Stafford loan.
October - Finish paying off unsubsidized Stafford loan. Put more money in my emergency savings account.
November - Other student loans begin accruing interest. Pay off small Perkins loan from this month's paycheck. Pay minimum on unsubsidized Stafford loan (I plan on doing this until my emergency fund is more established, and will then evaluate paying it off in total).
December - Spend at most $500 on Christmas presents for my family. Continue building up my emergency fund.
I'm planning on funding a Roth IRA in 2012 once my emergency fund is at a comfortable place (that should be around April).
I'm looking forward to walking this path with all of you!