How I Got Here and How I’m Fixing It

how i got hereThe following blog post is part of The Road to Financial Wellness blog tour. The Road to Financial Wellness is a three-month, grassroots campaign promoting financial empowerment on a national level and encourages people to pursue their dream lifestyle. Find out more about local events near you.

You ever wished you could go back in time and fix some of your mistakes? I know there a few things that I wish I could go back and change. Surprisingly there are a few mistakes that I wouldn’t go back and change. Honestly, some of them that helped me become a better person. As crazy as it may sound, my debt situation is doing that. In today’s post, I want to share with you how I got in this situation and how I’m fixing it.

In college, I didn’t fully understand loans and credit cards. I didn’t take out my first private loan until my sophomore year. I didn’t get a credit card until my junior year. My problem wasn’t the initial amounts of the credit card and student loans. My problem was not making many payments on them after I graduated.

I graduated from college in 2008, which was right at the beginning of the recession. My mindset was much different back then. I didn’t look for a full-time job until the summer after my graduation. For one, I was just happy to graduate. I had a couple of trips lined up, so I was ready to celebrate. I also had a part-time job where I was making decent money. I also figured that the $50,000 job would be easy to find. Boy, was I wrong.

The decent money that I was making at the part-time job wasn’t so decent anymore. I moved off campus and started to have a lot more bills. I wasn’t really prepared for that. Also, in November of that year, it was time for me to start paying back my student loans. I damn near panicked. I had no choice but to do what I had to do. I deferred what I could and ignored the rest. I made small payments when I the money to. I eventually found a full-time job working with a bank almost a year and a half after I graduated. I was making a little more money, but with bad money habits, I couldn’t tell. I continued to pay when I felt like it on the loans. Some months I’d make a small payment then others I’d flat out ignore them. I kept this cycle up until 2013. I got to a point in my life where I was ready to face my debt. Because of late fees, interest, and a dumb decision to take a year worth of classes, my debt had ballooned to over $72,000 at its peak. I realized that I didn’t want to live a life full of debt. So I started making some changes.

In late 2014 I started getting my debt in order. I began to bring all my debt current. For some of the debt that was a struggle right there. I had to get used to seeing more money come out of my account to towards debt. It took a couple of months, but I got used to it.

I also took the time to understand interest rates and late fees finally. I can’t believe how much money I was giving these companies just a few years ago in fees. I was paying fees because I didn’t take the time to care. That was a dumb mistake on my part.

I also created a plan. My plan was to start paying off my debt using the debt snowball. The debt snowball happens when you make the minimum payment on each debt. You then add any extra money to the smallest debt. Once that debt is paid you use the extra money that you now have available to start paying that debt. As you pay off more debts the payments will get bigger and bigger, thus creating a snowball.

As of this writing, my debt is $4000 smaller than it was at the beginning of 2015. I should be more, but with anything there have been speed bumps, but I feel like I’m in a groove now. I have a strong feeling that by this time next year those numbers will be 4-5 times that amount. As long as I stay focused, that will happen!

Continuing to get my expenses in order is crucial to me. Are you trying to get your money right? If you are in the ATL on June 29th, you should check out The Road to Financial Wellness Pit Stop #17. It will be a unique event to network and improve your relationship with money. For more information you can view the website here.

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  1. I definitely made my fair share of mistakes — going to a private school, only paying the minimum when I could afford more, etc. But paying off my debt taught me so much. It brought me my new career (what?!). Kudos to you for taking action!

  2. I really wish classes were taught in high school and college regarding money management. I think that would help alot of us out in the long run. Similarly to you, I didn’t understand the effect of late payments and high interest until I went to apply for a car and I wasn’t approved. I am happy that I have turned alot of those bad habits around.

  3. I didn’t understand much about student loans when I was in college either. I heard a lot of people talk about how your student loans can be forgiven after 10 years but I later realized that student loan forgiveness does not apply to most people. It’s a learning process, but like you said you have to care and educate yourself about where your money is going. I’m glad you’re on the right track now and killing your debt!
    Chonce recently posted…How to Find the Energy to Side HustleMy Profile

  4. Speed bumps are part of the journey to financial wellness. I’ve encountered some myself. Understanding and learning from them made me stronger and better at it!

  5. Gosh if I could go back I definitely would have made some different choices surrounding college. I would have knocked out a couple years at community college – really loaded up on classes and credits. Then I would have gone to the U of M instead of a private college. But you can’t go back : ) And my student loan debt truly has motivated me like none other.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Share Your FinancesMy Profile

  6. I remember thinking around 2008, “I’m glad I’m not graduating right now” I was 24 by the time I graduated in 2011 and also thought like you, “I should be able to get a $50k-$60k job (I did hear about peers getting that). then I wasn’t getting any call backs for interviews and started panicking after a couple months. Finally landed one interview, a job was offered for about half what I expected, $30k, but at that point it’s a start and I needed the money. Today I just recently passed that $60k mark I expected yeas ago after jumping jobs and careers. Two days ago I paid off another student loan(felt GREAT!).

    Making mistakes sucks, but overcoming them is incredibly empowering.

  7. Loving this post Jason! It’s interesting to hear how others get in debt and what they learn from finally facing it their approach to dealing with it. I also have had issues with fees and interest just by not facing debts early enough. I’m paying for it now but it’s taught me some hard lessons and I won’t make the same mistakes ever again. I’d love to go back and make some more sensible decisions but I don’t think I’d be the person I am right now without having gone through this and, strangely, I’m quite proud of who I’ve become as a result. It’s matured me a great deal, I’ve learnt resilience and patience, I’ve also found a strength and faith in myself that I didn’t see before.

    Thanks for sharing the story. I’ll be getting around to detailing mine on my blog soon.
    Lloyd Phillips recently posted…Start a Blog in 4 Simple StepsMy Profile