Life doesn’t always go as planned, does it? I can answer that question for you, heck no! If someone would have told me ten years ago that I’d be in the process of paying off $72,000 worth of debt, I’m not quite sure I’d have believed them.
I graduated college almost nine years ago. I really wasn’t worried about applying for a full-time job until after I graduated. I had a part-time job and a side hustle, so I figured I would be okay. I beat the odds by graduating from high school and now college. The neighborhood that I grew up in wasn’t the best. I can count on one hand the number of males that graduated from high school and college from there. I figured that since I did that getting a full-time job would be no problem. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. I learned a few valuable lessons a few months after graduation.
I struggled for a few years after college. I didn’t get my first full-time job until November 2009, which was a year and a half after I graduated. The job didn’t pay that much, but I stayed there until I was able to get another one. During this period, my finances suffered. The main bills that I was worried about were my car not, my rent, and my phone. Everything else was on the backburner including loans and credit cards. My finances went up and down until late 2014 which is when I started working at my current job. I realized things had to change. I didn’t want to be paying on debt forever. I had to make some changes, and that’s what I did.
I became accountable. I stopped blaming the world or “the man” for my situation. I messed up. I was the one who didn’t pay my debt back in the past. I was the one who didn’t start applying for full-time jobs until after graduation. My situation was my fault. I changed my mindset and started to get my act together.
Since I paid on my debt sporadically, some of them were 60 or more days behind. I called my lenders and let them know that I was trying to get all my accounts current. I had to get used to paying more money each month, but it was something that needed to be done. In about three months I was able to bring all of my debt current.
Knowledge is Power. If I truly wanted to change my bad habits, I needed to read and understand money better. There are a plethora of books out there on the subject. The Total Money Makeover and The Millionaire Next Door helped to change my thought process on debt and money. My negative thoughts on money began to change for the better.
Make Extra Money
I realized that the money I was making at my full-time job wasn’t going to be enough. I had to find ways to make extra money. I started selling items on eBay. At one point last year, I was bringing in an extra $200 each month. I’m currently still selling things on there. I also started freelancing in 2015 too. The extra income has allowed me to save more money and pay off my debt a little faster.
When I started this journey in late 2014, I told some people my plan. Some said I was crazy and that everyone has debt forever. I chose to ignore those people. I’ve also had to ignore or turn down trips and other activities. It’s crazy when you finally set a goal to do something to better yourself how you’re tested shortly after that. My closest friends know that I love to travel. In January of 2015, I made a decision to limit myself to only three trips. By February of that year, I had been invited on six different trips, by six different people. Two of the trips were to my favorite city, Miami. I practiced discipline and turned all of them down. To become financially empowered, I knew I had to be disciplined.
I will say that after the last two years that I’m much better financially. I still have debt, but it’s getting smaller. I’ve had minor struggles every now and then, but I’m proof that anyone can become financially empowered.