My Debt Story (day 5)

Writing Prompt:

See if you can write 1,000 words in 20 minutes. Don’t worry about making everything perfect, just pick a topic and try to write as fast as you can. Write the wrong words, say silly things—it doesn’t matter! You can always edit later.

I’ve wanted to write about my debt story for a while now – and I was fearful that I would be “copying” other people. I’ve since learned that everyone’s journey is different. People have incurred debt different – and most of all people have different opinions about debt in general.

I was told growing up that student loan debt is “good debt”, similar to mortgages. I was told that credit card debt should be “managed”.

My knowledge and experience of this all changed after working as a bank teller.

First, lets establish the area this bank is located in: its in an urban area with many foreigners – Haitians and Hispanics and people of African decent were the ones that primarily the ones that frequented this bank.

Some people didn’t know how to write their names – let alone sign their names. Yet they understood the “value” of money. They could count and they knew what they could and could not afford. However, so many people would come in and intentionally go into their overdraft accounts. they would get fees from the bank and they figured, “I’ll let my next check take care of that fee”.

I was among the ignorant as I didn’t know how to balance a check book. My branch manager was kind enough to take time out and help me learn how to do that.

I realized this due to a lack of education in financial literacy. Spending more than you earn will keep you in the rat race of living paycheck to paycheck. Living “above” your means or allowing “lifestyle creep” to come in and take over your paycheck is the quickest way to spiral down into the deep abyss of debt.

The past year and a half (I think) I’ve been devouring information about debt through blogs, books, and online videos.

So how did I end up with thousands of dollars in debt? Well, I decided to go to college – and with the changes in education I’d advise those headed into college to go and work first. While in college I ended up getting a credit card, and purchasing things I could not afford. One credit card lead me to get another, and another, which lead me to not only have student loans but credit card debt as well.

I’ve since learned its best not to have a credit card at all. I really like the principles that Dave Ramsey teaches. I also like that he is teaching from a biblical perspective. Debt doesn’t help you or anyone else. It’s best to be prepared for the worse before it happens.

To anyone going to college, learn all the things you hate before spending thousands of dollars on a degree, that you may not even enjoy doing day to day. If I could do college all over again that’s one thing I would do. I’d work one full year than take classes, and continue to repeat that cycle until I was happy with where I was going. (At least that what I am telling myself).

Going to college doesn’t mean having to leave there with thousands in debt. Many people forget or even shy away from filling out those scholarships. One major way I was able to get scholarships was through community service. Apply to some even if you don’t feel qualified.

Also education doesn’t stop at college. You’ll learn more on the job than you will in college. College provides you with a network of people to access. I think the Alumni groups help with that if you put them to good use.

However, you should also tap into your networks within the professional fields you are interested in.

Here are the top three things I’ve learned:

  • spend less than you earn.
  • have an emergency account.
  • have more than one source of income.

My mindset has changed with debt and I am looking forward to a debt free life. I’ve set a date to be debt free within two years – and I know its possible. I just have to be consistent with applying all the things I’ve learned. Like packing my own lunch and taking the longer way home to avoid toll. (this saves me $120.00 a month!).

One other thing I often think about is I am the second born, and still part of the first generation in my family to be born in America. I often wonder if things would be different if someone led my mom and taught her the ropes of financial literacy.

One things Haitians know how to do well is bargain. And bargain they will at any store – coupons, sales and all. It’s what they know since that is what they have encountered in their country. I wonder if there is a way to bargain your way out of debt?

Not too long ago my business coach said to me, “money likes purpose”. I believe this is true. And if you don’t have a purpose for your money, you won’t know where it is, or where it goes.

While I don’t mind sharing what I’ve learned, I’m not interested in writing a debt blog. I just want to share bits and pieces along the way to my financial freedom.

One last thing that my business coach relayed to me, “don’t let your debt own you”. I kept owning my debt in saying, “I have xyz dollars of debt”. Instead I’ve learned to say, “I’m paying off xyz amount of debt.” My debt doesn’t own me and now that I have the knowledge I can make better financial decisions.

If you can’t visualize your debt freedom, you’ll believe its impossible to get there. Since I am very much a visual person, someone out of the kindness of their heart-  made a fabulous spreadsheet that includes all of my debt, the minimum balances, and the payoff amount with the future date. Debt freedom is possible, you just have to sacrifice a few things along the way to get there. What are you willing to sacrifice to reach debt freedom?

ps. this took me 45 min to reach 1000 words 🙂

Pps. My friend is launching her book soon. Click here to grab a discount.

 

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