How do you fit everything into one life? (And how do you pay for it?)

It seems like no matter where we are in life, we are waiting for something else. Generally, two things are holding us back from that “something else”. Time and money. But what if we weren’t in debt? Could we pursue the dream job we so desperately desire but can’t afford to take because it’s risky? Do we get mad at our past selves for bad decisions that put our future selves in financial straits?

tumblr_inline_mla13iE9gD1rnvwt1 tumblr_inline_mla13r0XNa1rnvwt1

I struggle a lot with forgiving my past self for getting into so much debt as I told y’all in It’s All My Fault. I know what you’re thinking. “But Erin, you’re amazing! You’re pretty and smart and witty and I accept you as my god.” I know, I know. But sometimes it’s hard to not get down about the fact that I have so much debt to pay off because it’s holding me back from doing things that make me happy. Like having a job where I get to look out the window or moving to Munich.

While it’s hard to deal with how long my debt payoff will take, the time is going to pass anyways. And a year from now, I would have wished I had started today.

How do we find balance in a place that encourages putting work above all else for forty years, then if you make it out alive, you can enjoy your life once your body and mind are in the midst of decline? (Whoa, that was depressing.) Even if we rebel against it, is it realistic for all of us to avoid the rat race? No, it isn’t.

Sometimes it feels like our options are

  • (a) being miserable but with fat savings accounts and the acceptance of society or
  • (b) enjoying your life but barely scraping by and ostracized by society for being lazy.

How do you find that balance that allows you to look back on your life with no regrets?

I think it is crucial that we figure out what we love and we do it. Whether that means it is your day job or something you do on the weekends. Work is not the most important thing. It’s not even in the top five (unless it’s your passion). It’s probably number six for the rest of us because food and shelter is still really important. As is Internet.

I guess that all we can do to create the life we so desperately want is to really look at our lives and prioritize what is important – from both financial and emotional standpoints. If you are mindlessly spending in an attempt to fix something that makes you miserable, you need to focus on cutting out that thing. Whether it be a job or person. Because spending on material things is not the solution, it’s a quick fix that doesn’t last. The truth is, most of us aren’t in need. Survival is not something the majority of us have to worry about. We have the ability to create the lives we want so one day we can look back with no regrets.

As for me, I’m going to continue to plug away at my debt while still not depriving myself of life-enriching experiencesI also pledge today to actively work towards my professional goals and dreams and not accept the status quo. I truly believe I can create a life worth living and come out ahead financially. I guess we will see…

How do you find balance between work and play? Do you ever get down on yourself for going into debt? What’s one positive change you could implement today to start living the life you dream of?

It’s All My Fault

As an adult in debt that is not related to absolute necessity (i.e. medical debt), I am fully aware that my debt is my fault. Not my parents’ fault because they didn’t tell me what to do with my money, not my school’s fault because proper financial education was not required, and not the big bad credit card companies’ fault for giving me credit when I was young and irresponsible. Mine.

tumblr_m20w18SvLA1ql5yr7o1_400

At the age of 18, we are officially declared adults. We can vote, smoke, have holes drilled into our bodies, and obtain credit with little to no income. I did all of these things. With this power comes great responsibility (thank you, Uncle Ben!). Adults are in charge of themselves. Therefore, whatever happens to them is directly influenced by the way they choose to live their lives.

Sallie Mae did not hide the fact that I would eventually owe the money I was borrowing back with interest. Neither did Visa. They gave me paperwork that laid this information out, and I signed it.

I am in a heap of debt. While it’s frustrating sometimes, the one thing I don’t do is play the victim. If you blame everything and everyone around you and do not take responsibility for your debt, you are essentially saying “I am not an adult. I am a child who ate too much candy and got a tummy ache.”

Grow. The. Fuck. Up.

If I may quote a movie (and I may because I’m the one writing this), “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Okay, ‘cause I don’t associate with people who blame the world for their problems. Because you’re your problem Annie, and you’re also your solution.” If you don’t know which movie this came from, we probably can’t be friends. It’s not personal, I just really can’t associate with people who don’t watch awesome movies.

Own every decision you make in adulthood. You should be proud of and/or learn from every single thing you do. When I get mad about my HUGE amount of debt, it’s at myself. No one else spent that money for me. No one else over drafted my checking account like twenty times freshman year. No one else decided to max out my credit card buying spray paint. I did ALL of it and I own it. Because blaming it on someone else would be me waving the white flag to adulthood. It would be saying, “I can’t make my own decisions”. It would be the easy way out and I would lose all respect for myself.

So please, stop blaming:

Your parents

Your teachers

The economy

Marketers

Credit card companies

Banks

God/Allah/Buddha/Satan/Nature/Dave Ramsey/Me/Whomever or whatever the hell you believe in

You’re your problem. And you’re also your solution. Decide today to own your life.

Gillian : An Introduction

I stand (okay, I sit) here before you a university graduate roughly $60,000 in student debt.  I know, this number seems astronomical. And let’s be real, it is. Let me explain the story of how I came to be in such a financial mess…

How it happened.

Although I was smart, I was the typical head-in-the-sand high school student who felt like the real world was miles away. I did not have passion towards any area, but excelled in my accounting classes and felt that I could make a good living doing this. I decided to go to a decent school close to home, and went off on my merry way.

I quickly realized I did not want to be an accountant. Ever. I was still very unsure about everything. I have always dealt with anxiety, but at this point did not know what was “wrong” with me. All I knew was that I dreaded school and had panic attacks doing things as simple as riding the bus to school. I mentally broke down, and left school by the end of November. One semester’s tuition and an entire year of rent (my landlord was not understanding at all) left me my first $5000 in debt.

I worked through a lot of my anxiety issues, evaluated what I wanted out of life and decided to go to school for something I truly enjoyed: fashion merchandising. The next Fall I headed off to college. School went a lot smoother for me, but living in Toronto cost a LOT. My two-year program cost me $25,000.

While in college, I realized that I wanted university after all. I attended university for marketing management. It was truly enjoyable and I am happy with my choice. Tack on the final $30,000 in debt.

I was a complete idiot with my finances. I made very little money in the summers because I could not usually find full-time work. I had a problem with spending. I knew I was majorly in debt but I thought I could easily make $50,000/year straight out of school and pay it back in two years tops. I liked a lot of stuff – M.A.C. make-up, lots of clothing, and going out to dinner multiple times a week. Once summer hit and I had a bit more income coming in, I felt like I DESERVED extra stuff and extra fun.

How I plan to pay it back.

It has been a very harsh reality check realizing that I am making more like $25,000-30,000/year, and am going to need to pay down at least $600/month in student debt to get out of this hole in eight years. It’s tough to look back at the frivolous way I lived, but all I can do at this point is move forward and not ever get back to that place. There are so many things I’d like to do soon; getting married and starting a family are something I’d like to do in the next five years and my debt is holding me back from being able to achieve those goals.

I have already started working to get out of debt by lowering my fixed expenses, cutting back on variable expenses (good-bye clothes, it was nice knowing ya!) and doing freelance work to increase my income. I am trying to be as frugal as possible without over-doing it.  I do not want to get debt burn-out since I’ve got quite a few years left of repayment. My goal is to be paying $1000/month (hopefully more!) towards my loan eventually. I’d like to eventually get a better paying day job so I have been taking steps with that. Even though my debt is lowering at a snail’s pace, this is the worst of it. Now instead of shopping, in my spare time I read/write blog posts, budget, figure out better ways to spend (or not spend) my money… and watch Dexter.

 

I’ve made over $5,000 in extra payments towards my student loans

While I regularly keep track of how much I put towards my student loans, I sat down recently to calculate how much I was actually required to pay. My student loans entered repayment in March 2012, but I’ve been throwing money at them since September 2011. The result? I’ve paid nearly $5,000 more than I had to:

um.. wow!

I spend so much time looking at how much further I have to go ($15,000+! GAH!) that it’s easy to forget how far I’ve come. Five thousand dollars is a lot of money, and to think it’s money I could have spent instead of put towards debt makes me feel just a little bit proud of the self-discipline it took NOT to go on a spending spree.

I mean, let’s be real here: there’s a lot things I would love to buy for $5,000.

  • Another 3+ week European vacation.
  • A new iPhone and maybe pre-pay my cellphone bill for the next oh I don’t know, six years!
  • A car! Yeah, I said it.
  • Some income generating stocks. How lovely would it be to see $5,000 become even MORE money?
  • Louboutins. Why not? Imma get 4 pairs!
  • Seven iPads! BECAUSE I CAN!

Ok well maybe I wouldn’t do all of those things but another jaunt in Europe and maybe one iPad sure does sound nice. I probably wouldn’t get any Louboutins unless I find them in some discount designer consignment shop, but it’s nice to dream!

Student loans: killin’ it

Ok, I’m getting the hang of this debt pay-off thing. My first student loan payment of $208.48 was due March 31, 2012 and I managed to slip in $4,200 (some of it got eaten up by interest, but I swear to you, $4,200 went in!). Given that such a substantial number of graduates miss a payment or default on student loans, the government is probably like, “what the hell??” when they look up my account. That’s right, government! And I’m not done yet!!

I’m feeling really great because paying down my loans means I’ve significantly reduced the amount of interest I’m being charged. I know this because I’m a spreadsheet-oholic, and I track it:

numbers are fun!

Sometimes I find it easier to measure my progress in non-monetary terms. To get some perspective:

My student loans cost me less per day than a Starbucks coffee! This is a big change from 6 months ago when the daily interest charge could have bought me a grande house brew with a flavour shot.

My student loans now cost me less than $60/mo which means they’re cheaper than my monthly cellphone bill! This is a big change from six months ago when my monthly interest charge could have paid my cellphone bill, with some extra international calls.

My student loans annual interest is now below $700 per year which is almost my rent! This is a big change from six months ago when my annual interest charge could have paid my rent AND bought groceries for a month.

I’m hoping to pay $800 towards my student loans this month in order to bring my payments to a lovely round $5,000 and slow that accruing interest even more. I always make the bulk of my payments towards the more expensive Federal Student Loan, and pay the minimum towards my Provincial Student Loan. Paying your higher interest debt first is the fastest way to reduce what you owe and get out of debt!

Looking forward to next payday and putting another few hundred dollars towards what I owe.