This guest post from Lizzie is part of a new feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Every Sunday will include a reader story (in the new “reader stories” category). Some will be general “how I did X” stories, and others will be examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success.
Confession time: I read Get Rich Slowly on a daily basis. Phew, that was easier than I thought! Two years ago the major confession would have been the balance on my credit cards. I found this blog about the time I was just starting my own personal finance journey. Like many new college grads, I was in major credit card debt with a salary that barely covered rent and food — not that I ever really tried living within its confines.
Before I paid off my credit cards, I worried needlessly about things that were out of my control. Oddly, they were not all related to money. I worried that my dad would have a heart attack (he's in fine health). I worried that my bus would get me to work late (never happened). But the big worry was that people would learn how much debt I was in and think I was living a lie (which I was).
The wakeup my 23-year old self needed was realizing how much I disliked my current job. I was terrified of leaving, couldn't imagine staying and felt stuck. Looking back, it's easy to say the rest is history after that moment, but every single day of paying off my debt was a challenge. I needed drastic action in order to change the course of my financial life, and here's what I did:
- I moved in with Mom and Dad. This was weird, embarrassing and uncomfortable at first. But I love my parents dearly and we learned to cohabitate in a way that didn't make me feel 16 again. I spent 15 months saving on rent to pay off my credit cards.
- I took a high-paying administrative job. It's not like I dreamed of graduating college to become an assistant, but I found a corporate assistant position (that did not require I transport kids, cook diner or manage a household for someone else) and now I get all the same gold-plated benefits as my bosses.
- I make a budget. I don't do anything fancy. I prefer to use a post-it note and map out my spending plan for each of the next four weeks. Weekly budgeting is key for me since I'm paid every Friday.
- I use cash as often as possible. I do my best to keep spending money in cash form, a popular technique for those trying to spend less. It “hurts more” to use paper money than plastic debit or credit cards.
Now that I'm on stable footing again, I've resumed my life as a normal 20-something. I moved to an apartment that I share with two roommates. Together we can afford more apartment that anyone could separately and it works. I have let credit back in, by using my Banana Republic card in a way that maximizes my reward potential and lowers the cost of my work clothes. I don't worry about my financial future anymore because I know I've learned some very powerful lessons.
The best part of paying off debt is that I can dream again. This fall I applied to graduate school. Next I'll be starting a side business based on my administrative skills. Most importantly, I'll continue to read Get Rich Slowly because I like being part of a community of people constantly working to better themselves!