Debt is a complicated issue and everyone deals with money in their own way. This is in no way advice, just my story.
Being in debt is probably one of the most depressing and gut wrenching parts of living in this modern age. Debt ruins people, it scares people into living crappy lives, it can be incredibly daunting.
In my twenties I found myself in a lot of debt. I made around 32k out of college while attending grad school. Because I went to an expensive private school, my parents were able to pay for about two years of undergrad, my athletic scholarship paid for one year, so I had to pay for one year in student loans.
Then I had the bright idea to go to grad school directly after undergrad (I graduated and was in grad school 5 days later). I am still paying off this debt to this day, my total is currently over 50k.
I haven’t let student debt get me down, because I’ve always been told it’s the good kind of debt, it was an investment in my education, and it was meant to get me places in life. And it did, I’m one of those people who can claim that I went into and love the career that I chose for myself in college.
yes that’s a real academy award, yes I was hanging out at Lucas Ranch
While getting this education, however, I lived almost how I wanted to, which is code for, I racked up the credit card debt. I saved money by living in a room that was about 7×10, some area rugs are bigger than the space I lived in. I paid $450 a month for that room, which was in Chevy Chase, DC. Rent only went up from there, as I moved to Columbia City and paid $733 for a place near the metro. I was living paycheck to paycheck at that time so the big expensive move to Seattle did not help out my finances. After becoming completely miserable with my life, I knew I needed out and was willing to risk a lot to attempt to find happiness.
The Seattle move was very expensive, getting a studio apartment by myself but making about 37k was rough. More debt added up and I started to feel very bogged down by it. I’m lucky though. My family had purchased a bunch of saving bonds for me when I was very young, and while I did need to declare these on my taxes as income, they came in handy in wiping out my credit card debt that first year.
I became a little more responsible about my spending after tossing at least one of my credit cards away. What also helped save me was free rent for about 6 months. My friend Christy was off at sea with her job, so I “looked after” her apartment (stopped in about twice a week) while storing my stuff there and basically living with John.
Sol making herself at home in our old apartment, she is a worthwhile expense.
John and I had a lot of talks about finance well before we got married. We got a dog and bought a car together, which added to our collective debt, but was manageable. Then we bought a townhome; we had a lot of help with from our parents for the down payment. We had been told we could make a decision, house or a wedding, we chose the house and paid for our wedding ourselves. (PS- Weddings can be very expensive affairs, and I do not recommend spending a ton on them if you can help it.) I think in the end it ended up costing us 18k, which isn’t cheap, but reasonable in Seattle.
We couldn’t pay for it all up front, and paid it off in about 3 months. We didn’t go on a honeymoon right away, we did a “mini-moon”in DC after a friend’s wedding. As a wedding gift, John’s parents paid for a family trip, the 13 day hike around Mnt. Blanc. John and I left for that trip early and toured London and Paris before meeting up with my in-laws for the hike. I’m very lucky to have such generous and wonderful in laws.
John and I aren’t perfect, our savings is not robust, but it’s there (mainly because of him). We have been able to pay off all my credit card debt that I incurred while living in California, and now we pay full balances every month on our cards. I think that’s the biggest take away I’ve come to regarding finances in my twenties, don’t let credit card debt get out of control and never miss payments, even by a couple of days.
Cheap dates help too, renting a kayak for two costs very little for a couple hours of fun!
While quitting my job this year is tough for me, especially because I make more now, I know that through all the big life changes I’ve gone through, I’ve been able to figure it out. While our plan is to have a baby within the next year, which brings on a whole new slew of finances to think about, I’m not going to let college debt ruin me or my goal of living a happy life. I know that being with my husband is more important than bringing home a paycheck to a house I barely live in. I’m a very lucky person, and I do not take that for granted, and I show my appreciation to my family as often as I can. Sure I get night sweats thinking about how my husband will be paying off my college loans now instead of me, and yes I realize that not everyone has this luxury to make a decision like this. I acknowledge that moving from my twenties into my thirties with no credit card debt is a rarity for people in my generation. I’m thankful that I’ve made good decisions and have been given opportunities that have led me to where I am today.
Debt is a sticky subject, but do you have any tips on how to squash it? I know my friend Devon did an amazing job of getting out of debt while in her early 20s. You can read about her story here.