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.