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An overdue commitment- but I'm back again!

September 29th, 2012 at 07:50 pm

Writing today is interesting for a variety of reasons. It's been over a year since I've been on SA, and even longer since I made a visit to Pittsburgh. Given that I joined this community (and started this blog) in preparation to move there, my visit there coinciding with a refreshing of its contents seems rather timely.

As I was showing my friends the city, I was reminiscing about the different places I went, where certain events occurred. And I casually mentioned, "Oh yeah, but that was about 7 years ago." Then it hit me and I had to repeat it to myself: I moved to Pittsburgh 7 years ago. It feels like just yesterday I was a 19 year old moving out of her parents house, embarking on the fringe of the real world. Paying bills, continuing on with college, you know... the stuff of adulthood.

Fast forward almost a decade(!), and it seems like my entire world has evolved in a way that I never even imagined when I signed up for this little site, hoping it would help me save up some money for my grand transition into adulthood. I didn't stay in Pittsburgh. I moved back to Ohio 5 years ago. After a very long journey, I finally got my B.A. I joined the army. The guy I moved in with in PA was my first really long-term relationship. I've had two more since. I've started grad school, laid the foundation (I believe) for a very successful career, met the man that I know I will marry in just a couple short years, and will be graduating in only 7 months.

I've also amassed almost $60,000 in student debt. And it's a scary. Pardon my french, but that's a lot of f*&#ing money. It's really scary given that some of my debt has a hefty 9.75% interest rate attached to it, and all taken into account, my monthly payments will total at minimum $500. It's a very serious reality that I'm struggling with, but I still don't count it a total financial failure of the last 7 years.

When I moved to Pittsburgh, I had a waitressing job, no car, zero credit, and a serious dependency issue when it came to men (both financially and emotionally). I now work in a management position of a national nonprofit, have my own apartment for the very first time in my life as of a year ago, never struggle to pay my bills, paid cash for my car (though I worry daily it could explode on me), and rely on absolutely nobody in my financial life. My credit cards were at one point maxed, but they rest at a big fat $0 balance as of last week.

Needless to say, I have a lot to be proud of. But a long way to go yet.

Last week I downloaded an app on my iPhone (exhale. It's only a 4, not even the 4S, and I had a flip phone up until this summer. ha) that is supposed to help in debt reduction. I had to go in and put every single loan I have into it. It's probably one of the more depressing things I've done lately. Not an easy number to look at. But the positive here is that it really put into perspective what I'm dealing with here, and made me realize just how important it is for me to start taking care of this now. As a student for the last 8 years, it's been easy to ignore my student loans. They were always something I would have to deal with at some point, after I graduate.

Well... yeah, about that.

I downloaded Dave Ramsey's money makeover on the iTunes credit I had with the purchase of my laptop this year, and started reading through it. Though I can't say I *love* everything he says or every story that's in it (and I do skip through a lot), it highlighted some things I need to start doing, and emphasized something that I really need to put into context: I need a behavior change.

Though I live comfortably and don't struggle to pay my bills, I live way above my means when I take into consideration that looming debt. I'm a girl that loves food, loves eating at restaurants, is a total beer snob (and frequent drinker of microbrews). I tend to buy more clothes than I should, and have a bit of a Starbucks weakness during the school year. Whereas I don't think there's anything wrong with treating myself every once in a while, it's like, woah buddy. We need to take a step back.

So I suppose that's the first step. I've admitted I have a problem. I put a face on it. A big ugly, 5-figure face. And I'm ready to take control of it. I'm generally using Dave's system. I paid off that nasty credit card before reading that, so there's that. But now that it's done with, I'm working on that emergency fund. That car's exploding, and I feel it's exploding soon.

I'm in the process of trying to find more creative ways to add to that emergency fund so I can hit $1,000 and start on the debt. In the last 24 hours I've sold two textbooks and returned $80 worth of stuff I hadn't yet put up in my apartment from IKEA.

Let it be known that when I returned that stuff at IKEA today that I didn't make one purchase afterwards.

I know this sounds silly, but it's a huge step. The BF was absolutely amazed. My two friends were absolutely amazed. I was absolutely amazed.

I'm learning to say no and bring my coffee from home in a travel mug. I'm cooking dinner for a week so that I'm not tempted to stop and get something before class.

We're getting there.

I know this is a lot of information at one time, but it's also been a while. And today I felt really good about my financial behavior. Before heading to Pittsburgh for the day, I withdrew $50 from my bank account, limited myself, and still came home with $12 (as well as the $80 that will be credited to my CC account). I had an amazing time with two of my best friends (a much needed and well-deserved getaway), and there's not one purchase I regret- mostly because it was all tolls, transportation costs, only two beers, and one very delicious Primanti's sandwich.

I feel like this is yet another journey I'm starting in this community... and in many ways starting in a very similar way. Thinking about the person I am today, however, I feel much better equipped to make the kinds of choices I need to make. I'm older, of course. 26 feels worlds apart from 19 at this point. I also have quite a few important decisions to make in the next few years: what job should I take? Where do I want to live? When will I get my PhD? Should I get that second MA instead? When do I want to start a family? Buy a house? All of these questions are really a "we" instead of an "I" as well.

There are a lot of unknown factors... but I do know that my debt will affect where I'll be able to live, because making a certain wage has become incredibly important. Ridding it will open me up to a much wider range of possibilities. Though the BF having a really great job and earning potential is fantastic, I'm never going to let that fact solely dictate my future. I have to be able to do it on my own if need be.

So here we are. I've got some goals. I've got some methods. I'll talk about those a little later, but I wanted to at least give anyone who bothered reading a little frame of reference.

For all of you who have supported me in the past, thank you so much. The things I've learned on this site have truly informed me (though my time away certainly shows a lack of regard for that knowledge). For those who will help me along this particular journey, I'm equally appreciative, and hope I can be a source of knowledge and inspiration for you as well-- because these things aren't easy to do. It's nice to have a little support.

To cut this novel a little short, hope you all have a wonderful night, and I look forward to reintegrating myself into this community! Cheers!

7 Responses to “An overdue commitment- but I'm back again! ”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    Welcome back!

  2. Wino Says:

    Good luck on lowering the student debt. The 9.75% should be able to be lowered. You should join a credit union and start finding out if there is any loan they have with a lower rate. They may not, as it is unsecured debt, and I doubt explosive cars are good collateral.

  3. littlegopher Says:

    I remember you - nice to read your update, and look forward to seeing you here again!

  4. Blessed Says:

    I am a newbie so I haven't read your blogs before. However welcome back! Congrats on formulating a plan to get rid of the debt.

  5. North Georgia Gal Says:

    Welcome Back! As you said... you have taken the first steps!

  6. pjmama Says:

    Thanks to all who stopped by and said hi- old friends and new!

  7. Jerry Says:

    Blasting away that student debt is a daunting task. I am training in a field which leads people to routinely have student debt in the six figures (and, unfortunately, I am no exception). Fortunately there are many programs for debt repayment, and if you are smart you can have some insurance of paying it off pretty quickly in many cases. I met a woman this past week who is still living on the same amount she made as a trainee and throwing her entire paycheck at her student loans. Good move. You are doing a great job, keep it up!
    Jerry

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