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Posts tagged with: debt story

Ashley L.’s BAD Introduction

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Hi! I’m Ashley L., a 28-year-old, single teacher. I was raised in a southern, middle-class household and in an extended family comprised of almost 5 public school teachers. Growing up I, all I wanted to do was to teach. But I knew that I would not make much money and so I tried to plan for a modest lifestyle.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to become one of the new BAD bloggers and to share that story with you! I’m also pretty nervous because my debt story is from a slightly different point of view. I do not have tons of consumer debt. I was blessed to be able to earn a scholarship that covered the costs of my tuition for undergrad, then earned my M. Ed. from a very inexpensive program, and recently got $5000 forgiven from my student loans. This brings my student loans to a total of $8000. I have about $14000 on a car loan and was able to refinance this note to an interest rate of .99%. I have had some build up on credit cards, but was able to pay them off by cutting my living costs.

Last year, I was living in a small southern city with my boyfriend (who I am so happy to say is the love of my life) and my adorable rescue dog. Then the funding for my position at my school was cut. I was devastated. I felt pretty screwed over and eventually relocated to another city about an hour and a half away from my boyfriend and my “doghter.” This made me get intentional about my financial security and hyper-aggressive about my financial goals. I committed to being a woman and a teacher who is financially astute and successful. I do not want my life to be dictated by money, I want to dictate the flow of money to create my life.

I am currently trying to reach my financial goals of eliminating debt and reaching financial independence by: 1) eliminating my entire housing expense from my budget by house-hacking (frugality!), 2) renting out my primary house as a rental property and doing small side hustles (investments and additional income!), and 3) feeding money into retirement accounts (savings!). I am happy to share my journey with the BAD community and to be able to learn from and enjoy this opportunity.

 


Starting the Debt-Reduction Mission

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Today I want to talk about a little of the back-story that lead to me really kicking into high gear on our family’s debt-reduction mission. Check out my story and be sure to leave yours in the comments! I’d love to hear more about what caused you and your family to decide that you really needed to kick some debt booty!

If you’ve read my debt story then you know that I haven’t always lived my life with debt. It wasn’t until I started graduate school that I took out my first student loan, then another, and another. Meanwhile, I also financed basic life essentials by paying with credit cards (and never paying them off). In the span of just two short years I amassed over $70,000 in debt.

It was an overwhelming amount of debt so I kind of distanced myself from it, psychologically-speaking. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make any real progress on it until I was done with grad school so I just pushed it out of my mind until that time.

I graduated with a Ph.D. in August 2013. I was lucky to land a position the same month, but at that point I still wasn’t gung-ho about debt reduction.

Really buckling down with debt-reduction had been in the back of my mind for awhile, but I hadn’t felt a great sense of urgency. I was making over minimum payments, but didn’t have a set plan in place (like my debt attack plan of action), and although we had a budget, the spending categories were all set much higher than currently (specifically, a lot more went toward groceries and eating out each month).

But the seeds had been sown.

By Fall 2013 I was really starting to feel more of a need to get our finances in order. I was working full-time (side note just to clarify the job situation…..I was hired at my old alma mater and worked a full-time/in-person position. But only a few months later in December 2013, the faculty member with whom I worked moved to a new university. I continued to work for the new university through distance, but switched from being a full-time employee to a part-time contract employee. This is the “University B” I’ve referenced many times). I started putting big chunks of my paycheck toward debt.

During this time, I started to immerse myself in stories of debt reduction. I’d been reading BAD casually for awhile, but I went back and re-read entire bloggers’ stories. I did the same thing with No More Harvard Debt, Man Versus Debt, and Fun Cheap or Free.

In February 2014 I was listening to my favorite morning talk show, The Bobby Bones Show (it’s a syndicated radio show in several markets across the U.S., so check it out, it’s really good!) and they had Dave Ramsey on. I’d heard the name Dave Ramsey before (Beks even wrote about attending Financial Peace University), but had never googled him, read his books, heard his show, etc. Bobby Bones had him on the show that day to give financial advice to one of the show’s producers, a mid-20s guy named Ray. Ray had just bet (and lost) his truck in a Super Bowl bet (True story. He got money at a cash-for-title place and bet it all on the Super Bowl. He lost the bet, his money, and his truck. You can see the segment here if you’re interested)

Anyway, this was kind of a turning point for me. Hearing Ramsey on Bobby Bones really made me curious about this money guy. I looked up his show and downloaded some (free) podcasts. Hearing the callers’ success stories and debt free screams was so incredibly motivating. I’d already been actively working on debt reduction, but this was the point at which I decided we needed to really be gazelle intense about it (a term Ramsey frequently uses).

This all set the stage perfectly for when Adam and Emily decided to step down as bloggers, and new bloggers were selected (in late March 2014 – you can see my first post as an official blogger here).

That brings me to the beginning of my journey here.

I’ve been lucky. I’d already committed to debt reduction previously, but hearing Ramsey for the first time, and then starting to blog here (and the accountability and encouragement that comes with it) has been a real kick in the pants! I have no doubts that I’d still be on this debt-reduction journey regardless (even if I hadn’t been selected as a blogger here), but I also have no doubt that progress would have been much slower. So I’m very grateful I’ve had your support and encouragement along the way. There’s still a long road ahead, but it actually feels doable now (something I couldn’t say only 2 years ago).

How did you get started on your debt reduction journey?


Stephannie’s Debt Introduction

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Note: Stephannie has taken the time to provided the following post to show why she thinks she would be a good blogger for BAD. Take the time to read her story, then ask any relevant questions that you might have. This is part of our attempt to find the newest blogger for BAD. You can find more information about it here

My name is Stephannie, I am 33 years old and my husband and I suffer from debt regret. I can’t say that it’s always been this way. I had no problems with debt when I first started to accumulate it but, more on that later. Let’s do background first. When I was growing up finances were not something of which my parents spoke. I don’t ever remember hearing about a household budget. It was absolutely taboo to mention how much you made and you never, I mean NEVER asked someone questions about their income or their financial situation. My mom was always very frugal but my dad had no problem spending money, especially if what you were spending the money on was fun. I don’t remember them ever discussing finances within earshot of my brother and I. What we heard was ” We can’t afford that” from my mother and “You only live once, right?” from my father. Needless to say, by the time I got to college I wasn’t exactly prepared.

My debt story truly began when I started college. Luckily, my parents paid my tuition so that I wouldn’t have to take out any student loans. I worked part time to pay for books and other necessary things that I needed for school. The problem with this arrangement was that if all of my money went to gas, books, and supplies then how on earth could I pay for important things like clothes and going out? It did not take long to find a solution to that problem. One glorious day as I walked through the campus courtyard I saw a table set up that was giving away t shirts. Who doesn’t love a free t shirt, right? Well, there was a catch of course. In order to get the shirt you had to fill out an application for a credit card. I swear bells rang and angels sang. Not only could I get a free shirt but, I could also get a magical card that would buy clothes that weren’t even close to being free. Let’s just say it didn’t take long for that card to start smoking from overuse.

Once I was introduced to the fabulous world of credit cards I basically lost my mind. The first one was so easy to get that it was closely followed by a second and then a third. It was completely doable to only pay the minimums and I was living a fantastic, carefree, well dressed life. A couple of years into college I met a wonderful young man. Three months later we were married. It’s pretty safe to say that we were not financially prepared. We did not even talk about our personal finances until a few months after we were married. It then became clear that while we were both sharp dressers and excellent accumulators of fabulous “stuff” we were not exactly money managing geniuses.

The early years of our marriage were not exactly spent living large. Between the two of us we made about $22,000 a year. I had a monthly car note of $250 and we rented an apartment from my parents for $250 per month. Our combined credit card debt was about $6,000. With all of this information in mind I’m sure you can see that for us, the next logical thing to do was to have a baby. It’s really amazing to me how two relatively intelligent young people can make such terrible decisions. Ah, youth. Anyway, our first daughter was born in 2002 and in our infinite wisdom we decided that I would quit my job and stay home with the baby. This lasted for exactly one year.

Through the next couple of years my husband and I worked, paid bills, raised our daughter, and paid some more bills. It’s funny, I can distinctly remember thinking that if either of us were to ever make at least $20 per hour then we would be free of our money worries. Doesn’t sound like marriage and a baby made me much smarter, does it? In 2005 my mom and dad sold us a rental property that they had owned for many years (it was actually their first home and we lived in it until I was about 10). They were generous enough to sell it to us at a price well below market value and also allowed us to live with them for a year while we put every penny we had into renovating it. Because it was such a great deal my husband and I thought it was a good idea to take a loan out for more than the price of the house so that we could pay off our other debts which, of course, had just gotten higher. Woohoo, debt free!!! Nope. We were debt free for all of about 2 months before we took out a couple of loans, put some more purchases on credit cards and bought a more expensive vehicle. I swear we are smarter than we sound.

In 2005 my husband interviewed for a great company and if hired would be paid about $15,000 more a year than he currently earned. We got the phone call in July with the job offer and in November I was pregnant with our second daughter. We carried on for about two years with little changes in our debt. Our lifestyle “improved” significantly but, we felt like having debt was just the way things were done so we made no efforts to get rid of it.

I feel like this is getting terribly long so, I’ll cut to the chase here, and if chosen I’ll go into more detail at a later date. After a few years of living in the house we bought from my parents a house came up for sale in their neighborhood. We bought it and turned our first house into a rental. Our debt currently consists of two mortgages, 4 credit cards, one vehicle loan, one furniture loan, and one signature loan at our credit union. We also have a decent amount of medical bills due to some health problems my husband has had over the last year.

A little over a year ago I started to feel like getting out of debt was the best, and more importantly, the right thing to do. When I first started to feel this way I started to look up any blogs I could find that were written by people dealing with the daily struggles of paying off their debt and becoming debt free. That is when I found Blogging Away Debt. When Claire decided to stop blogging I really wanted to put my name in the running but, I was hesitant because I felt like we have made so many mistakes when it comes to our finances. Now that another opportunity has come up I don’t want to let it pass me by. There is still a lot I don’t know about how to reduce our debt in a smart way but with all of my research I’m learning new things all the time. I think it would be so good for me to share what we are dealing with and to get feedback from others who may see things in a way that we have not thought of.

Oh, and just one more important piece of the puzzle. We live in the south and my husband works full time and makes well over that magical number of $20 an hour. I ran my own business for 3 years but, 6 months ago I went back to work full time so that we could try to really put a dent in this debt. Needless to say, my younger self’s thoughts about money worries not existing if we were to make at least $20 an hour turned out to not be true. I’m sure you are totally shocked.

I would rather not get into hard numbers until after a decision about the new recruit has been made but, I will say that our total debt is around the $200,000 mark. This does include both mortgages, we feel like they were both good purchases from an investment stand point and about a year ago we refinanced them both for 15 years at much better interest rates. We also have a home which we have recently (2 months ago) inherited. While we do not owe anything on it, it is costing us a bit in upkeep and we have yet to decide what to do with it.

I’m so glad I got a chance to do this and if I’m chosen, Yay! If not I’ll be so excited to see what the next person has to say but until then, please feel free to ask any questions you may have!


Ashley’s Debt Story

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Note: This is the introduction post sent in by Ashley in her quest to be the next blogger for BAD. Please feel free to ask any questions and express your opinions in the comments below. You can find out more information about the blogger position here

Hi! I’m Ashley!

ashley

I grew up in a middle-class family in Austin, Texas. While my parents instilled in me the value of money and taught me the importance of saving, we never really had any discussions about debt. When I was 18 my mother urged me to open a credit card so I could start building my credit. But I always spent less than I earned and was careful to pay off the card in full every month.

Fast forward 4 years. It was 2007.

I had graduated from college and was accepted to a graduate school in Boca Raton, Florida. I had bought a brand new car (a Kia Spectra – nothing crazy) for a reasonable price and paid off the 5-year loan in a little over 2 years. By the time I moved to Florida I was 23 and had zero debt to my name – no car loan debt, no credit card debt, no student loan debt, nothing. Plus I had a couple thousand in my savings account and over $10,000 in money market funds (my entire life’s savings! Remember – my family instilled the importance of savings and I was always stashing money away, having worked from the time I was 15).

I arrived in Florida with no job, no prospect for getting a job (graduate school is full-time!) and nothing but high limit credit cards to get me through. I also had lots (LOTS!) of student loans, too.

To be fair, my husband Chris (then boyfriend) had moved with me too. He was lucky to find a job the first week there and started working immediately. But even though he made pretty decent money (in our 23-year-old minds, “pretty decent money” equated to $15/hour), southern Florida was $$$$$ compared to Austin. His income barely covered his half of the bills. I still needed loans to (a) pay my tuition, (b) buy books, and (c) cover living expenses, including my half of bills and groceries.

I got my Masters degree in 2 years. During that time I also managed to rack up over $70,000 of debt. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Tuition = approximately $1,000 per credit unit x 12 units per semester (24 per academic year) x 2 years = $48,000 just for tuition.
  • Living expenses = about another $10,000 for the two years.
  • Credit debt = about another $15,000 for the two years.

Clearly, this is where things really fell apart. I went from ZERO debt, to having my credit cards completely maxed out. In addition to my new debt, I had also drained my savings and depleted most of my money market account (I had about $2,000 remaining).

Some of my reckless spending included:

  • Multiple trips to Orlando
  • Trip to Key West
  • Trip to Europe (England, France, and The Netherlands)
  • A cruise out of Miami
  • Countless nights out with friends and trips to the beach

ashley beach

Okay, so while these are really, really dumb things to do when you have no money – I can chock those up to being 23 and having no idea how to handle all the credit I was given. These things didn’t feel reckless to me (though, clearly, they were)…they just felt like “living.” But there were a few other really, really dumb things I did during this time that even I could recognize were very poor financial decisions…

  • At one point Chris was in an accident and his car was totaled. I bought a used car….on a credit card. Yes. I paid $4,000 for a used Cadillac that lasted approximately 28 days until it died. Thankfully, there is a 30 day lemon law, so the dealership was legally obligated to fix it, but it was a lemon of a car. The problems continued and we only had the car for probably 5 months total before it was donezo. That $4,000 balance, however…..still on my credit card even now (6 years later).
  • But that’s not the only ridiculous thing we’ve paid for on credit. One January we didn’t have money for rent (because Christmas spending had been out of control), so we put our rent – $1200 – on a credit card.
  • To finance these disasters, I would play the balance transfer game. I’d get a new card with a fancy 0% introductory APR and transfer balances from other cards. Only….I was unable to pay off the new card, so when the introductory APR expired, I was now slammed with a 17.9% APR! Yikes!

I don’t know how things got so out-of-control so fast. In just the span of 2 years I went from zero debt and decent savings to no savings and loads of debt. I was constantly stressed about money, but I guess since I had no income I felt like there was no way to improve my situation, so I just said “screw it” and went on with my reckless spending.

In 2009 we moved to Tucson, Arizona to continue my graduate career, pursuing my Ph.D. I made the decision to switch schools and move cross-country because my new school offered tuition-reimbursement and a small living stipend (about $300/week for the 9 month academic year). The tuition reimbursement alone was enough to make the decision for me. We had no money for a U-Haul this time around (a cross-country move costs close to $2,000 for the U-haul alone, not including gas and moving supplies). So we left everything behind. We loaded up my Kia Spectra with whatever could fit, and vowed to start fresh in Arizona.

I knew something had to change. Getting to Tucson took everything we had left in our meager savings and money market accounts. When we arrived we were flat broke, credit maxed out, and had no new credit available to us. It was the poorest I’ve ever been, and a very scary time. We had absolutely no “safety net” in case of any emergencies.

Flash forward 5 years to present day.

I’m now 30 years old, Chris (now my husband) is 31, and we still have a LOT of debt. Along with the debt, we also have 19 month old twin girls to care for. And we had not been expecting the 2-for-1 baby special. Daycare costs are exorbitant, as are costs for diapering, clothing, and everything else that comes with having young children (e.g., frequent doctors’ trips, etc.).

ashley mom

We’ve had a few other set-backs life has thrown our way, too. An unexpected (and very costly) medical illness for Chris, needing to invite my brother-in-law to live with us for several months, and the fact that I graduated (in August 2013) and have still been unable to find full time employment (though I do have an income doing consulting work part-time). On top of that, my husband owns a small business (a flooring company), and his pay is variable. When there’s a lot of work he does pretty well, but we can never “count” on the next big paycheck because there’s no guarantee of anything.

But even with the curve balls and commission-based pay, we’ve finally really committed to tackling our debt. My number one goal is to pay off all of our credit debt (currently approximately $10,000). We also have other debt to eradicate, including an expensive car loan (new, larger car to accommodate the growing family), medical debt, and….the whole student loan situation, which is currently in deferment.

We have been renters my whole life (outside of living with my parents), and I would love nothing more than to own a home. But, at this point, I feel as though we need to improve our credit scores (mostly by paying down debt), and save up a large down payment instead of falling into the zero-down, high (or variable) interest interest trap that many first-time homebuyers succumb to.

So that’s where we are. I’m new to the debt-repayment game and could use all the advice I can get!