I mentioned on Monday that I managed to go shopping this weekend without feeling guilty or worried about the money and that I would explain later in the week. That promise and the fact that this is the month for scary stories, has prompted today’s post. I’m going to tell you a story of a girl and her finances and how she came through to the other side.
Some time ago, in a state not too far away, there was a girl. She was on the verge of graduating high school and fleeing the family nest for the great adventure that is college. Her parents, wanting to make sure she was taken care of helped her open a bank account and her very first credit card. They told her to use it for her books and gas and that they would pay it for her every month. This way they could help her with her finances while still letting her be independent. The first semester, with it’s books, bills, and gas came and went as did each subsequent semester. The girl thought nothing of what she put on her card or even about her card other than to clap her hands giddily every time the limit was raised. She eventually graduated college and moved on to grad school. There, she took over making her credit card payments. She was somewhat surprised to find that her balance was well over four grand. But again, since her credit limit was two grand above that, she paid it no mind and made minimum payment after minimum payment.
Grad school brought hard times for the girl though. Her major scholarship fell through and she had to take out student loans for living expenses. Her contract with her school prevented her from holding a job while going through grad school. She tried to live moderately, but the siren call of friends and activities lured her out again and again. When she didn’t have the money in her checking account she would pull out her credit card. The last semester of her grad school career was the worst. Her school had made an error and given her too much money in the Fall, so they took away 1500 for the Spring. Suddenly she was faced with graduation and the expense of publishing her thesis and moving with next to no money. The nights that she didn’t stay awake working on her thesis, she stayed awake juggling her finances. She would mentally tally the money and when it was coming in and when it had to go out to make sure she would have enough.
She survived that semester. A new graduate with no job, she moved in with friends with less than 30 dollars in her bank account and over six grand in credit card debt.
I consider myself lucky. I survived that period. It was a “there but for the grace of God, go I,” type situation. I had to cancel my health insurance and make minimum payments on everything for awhile. I lived with my friends, rent free, for 6 months. And honestly? Without their generosity, I don’t know where I’d be today. I don’t think I can accurately describe the panic attacks I would have over paying my bills. I would literally lay awake in bed and add in and subtract out everything in the order it would come in and go out. I would do this over and over again. No sooner would I finish, with the knowledge that I’d have enough money, than I would begin the cycle again. Every time I had to make a purchase I would worry that it would mess me up.
After I was hired to teach for two different music programs, I finally found breathing room. I started paying extra on my credit card. I took over my car payments and car insurance payments from my beleaguered parents. I had decided that everything extra at the end of each month would be split between savings and my credit card debt.
And then I met B. And he lived 1500 miles away. So, my extra income started going to plane tickets. In the 7 months that we were long distance, I spent 2 grand on plane tickets, 2 grand in car payments, and paid off 2 grand of my credit card debt. By the time I broke my lease to move in with him though? I had less than 300 dollars in my account. I used that money to get me up to North Dakota.
When we first started talking about moving in together, we laid out our finances for each other. It was so hard to admit to the man I loved that I was carrying credit card debt. He told me calmly that he disliked debt, and asked that I pay off as much as I could before I moved in. The day after we got married, he paid off my card.
That was another hard point for me. I was incredibly thrilled that the debt was gone. But, now I felt guilty that he’d had to take four thousand dollars from his savings to pay off my debt. Even though that money was now “our” money, I still felt horrible about it. It took me a good seven or eight months of marriage to finally feel comfortable with spending money again. Even then, I’d always feel bad about wanting to purchase anything. It got worse after we bought my car, and again, took money from savings to cover it.
I would put off buying things like make-up because I didn’t want us to spend more money on me. We had to talk about it again and again for me to finally find a comfort zone in buying things.
Y’all, I have an amazing husband. He loves to buy me pretty jewelry, sexy clothes, and anything that I need (or want) for any reason. He’s also incredibly astute with finances. Thanks to him, we have no credit card debt. We do still have student loans, mine are the lower balance but my interest rates are over 6% and his is .5% and no, that’s not a typo. We have a decent sized savings account, and we have money in mutual funds. We don’t carry any car payments right now. Thanks to my husband, I don’t have to worry about finances anymore.
Taxes used to be scary. As someone self-employed, I paid my own taxes. Each year was a scary balancing act of seeing how much I would owe and hoping to have enough to cover it. Now? I’m still self-employed, but my only worry here is tracking everything. Because I know we have the money to cover it and then some.
It’s a strange feeling, to not have to worry. But it’s one I’m growing used to. And I don’t want that to change.