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Posts tagged with: financial mistakes

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!


Isn’t This Supposed to Happen MUCH Later in Life?

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First off, I have a correction to make. I wasn’t completely honest with you and as much as that worked when I was dating (like when I said, “I absolutely LOVE football!” when the last game I watched was in the sixth grade), it’s not in the cards in my communication with you readers.

I’m not 27 as stated in my first post…

I’m 28.

I don’t lie about my age because I want people to think I’m younger. I lie about my age because I can’t remember how old I am. I honestly forgot I was 28.

Isn’t this supposed to happen MUCH later in life?

Why does this come up? My co-workers talk about my age a lot. They all assume I’m 21 or 22 and they act shocked when I break the news that I’m 27… er… 28. I guess the assumption is natural. I work for slightly above minimum wage and I’m surrounded by 18 year olds.

It could also be because, thanks to the greasy hot dog burner, I’m breaking out like a pubescent teenager.

Is it just me or does everyone feel 21 regardless of the emerging fine wrinkles and stray gray hairs?

It’s this mentality that continues to make me struggle financially. It’s OK to make stupid financial mistakes in your early 20’s. It’s not OK to continue those mistakes for the next 8 years. I guess I’ve always felt young so I always assumed that I’d live forever – and conveniently, that’s how long it would take to pay off my debts… including those club cover charges… from my freshman year in college.

But the reality is, if I want to retire before say… 2078, I need to take care of my responsibilities. I need a sense of urgency.

My financial class gives me that sense once a week but I find it wears away after a few days. By the following Tuesday I’m debating the necessity of Enya’s greatest hits or a discount cashmere sweater (fortunately I decided those were both non-necessities… for now anyway…).

Any ideas on how to keep that urgency? Other than someone poking me with a stiff cattle prod whenever I pull out my debit card?

How do you stay motivated?