1. Moved Back in With My Family
After moving out at age 17 and being on my own for 6 years, I decided to move back in with my family to help me save money. At first it felt like a total “L” because I went from renting a nice two bed two bath condo, to my old small room. I sold all my furniture and moved back in with only my bed and clothes. My family doesn’t have the type of money to just help me with a down payment or help me pay for half of my rent. But their doors are always open to me.
Moving back in helped me a lot! I automatically started saving about $1,000 a month! I pretended like if I still had a rent payment and set aside $1,000 a month to go towards paying off debt. $11,000 in debt to be exact. But we all know that debt has interest and ends up doubling by the time you pay it off (I’ll explain in #3 how I managed to pay less interest on my debt).
I’m sure many of you have family and friends who would also be willing to let you move in and pay a lot less than you would renting somewhere else. Many are too proud to leave their “lavish” lifestyle and focus on their goal for a solid year. Yes, it sucks, and you take a punch to your ego and comfort, but if you are determined know that it is only temporary; it’s so worth it!
2. Faced My Demons
So if you know me, you know that I love Starbucks Coffee and occasional mixed drinks. At age 21-22 I swiped my credit card to buy “Venti Iced Caramel Macchiatos” and Vegas bomb drinks like there was no tomorrow. I went to Cancun and Miami and put it on my credit card once or twice too. Credit is perfect for building wealth… you are either building it for yourself or for the banks.
But you’re young! “Treat yourself!”. NO. Treating yourself is buying Starbucks or eating out once a week not every day! If you are doing it every day, it’s not a treat any more, it’s your new normal. Yes $5 Starbucks a day does add up! Do the math, $5/day is $35/ week, $150 /month, $1,300/year to be exact. That’s just Starbucks, not including eating out so many times a week. But you catch my drift. You could be saving a lot more than you think!
Although I don’t regret some of the great memories I made, I do know it wasn’t the most responsible way to use my credit. Pretty soon the interest on my credit cards started killing me! Those $5 macchiatos with interest really were costing me more like $7 each, and that $1,500 Cancun trip was more like $2,500. Banks were making a good profit off of me! My credit score went from a 750 to a 560 within 6 months because my credit cards were maxed out!
We often want to give ourselves the luxuries our parents weren’t able to give us growing up. We don’t like to tell ourselves “No”, especially if we heard it a lot growing up. This was my case, I wanted to give myself the satisfaction of buying that coffee, that margarita, that cute dress, and going on vacation when I felt like it. Our society normalizes living in debt and living way above our means. We are taught to strive to “keep up with the Jones/ Kardashians”.
Honestly, if we dig deep, we may be trying to cover something up with the way we are spending our money and time in living this way. It may be anger, sadness, grief, or insecurities; whatever it is, we buy things that will give us a temporary “good feeling”.
I had to work on facing some of my demons that whispered “just buy it, you deserve it”, and told them to fuck off. I faced my anger, sadness, grief, and insecurities and the spending urges started decreasing. I started eating out less, no more Chipotle, Panera, Olive Garden, IHop, or Chubby’s. No more Lodo’s, Brother’s, View House or Tavern. Yes, I lost some friends in not keeping up with this life style any more, but that’s OK. After all, the main thing we had in common was going out and spending money we didn’t have.
I developed new hobbies, that fed my soul, and saved me money because they were actually FREE!!! Like hiking, yoga, and dancing salsa and bachata!
3. Played with Debt
Remember that $11,000 debt I mentioned? It was a combined debt of 3 maxed out credit cards. My minimum monthly payment was about $200 on each card. I was paying a total of about $600/month on just interest and my balance was not going anywhere!!! Sound familiar? I had so much anxiety and felt stuck paying towards something that I wasn’t even making a dent in.
What actually helped me was that I went to my credit union and talked to a banker about consolidating my debt. Consolidation basically means getting rid of multiple small debts by replacing it with only one set debt. A tip for those who own their cars and may have lower credit: you can use your car as collateral and get a loan of the value of your car with a lower interest rate. I luckily was qualified for a personal loan for $11K without having to hand over the title to my car.
The credit union gave me the money cash, I then paid off all three of my credit cards. Now I only had one payment of $350/ month for the $11K loan at a much lesser interest rate. There were no pre-payment penalties, so instead of paying just the minimum of $350 and being debt free in 3 years; I paid extra towards principal and was debt free in literally 10 months! I would pay at least $1,000 a month towards this debt. Remember, moving back in with my family allowed me to do this.
Again, credit is perfect for building wealth… you are either building it for yourself or for the banks. I set my goal to stop making money for the banks and start making it for myself. By getting out of credit card debt, I was on the way to qualify for debt that will actually MAKE ME MONEY… A mortgage debt.
4. “Stack Your Money and Act Broke”
I am not going to lie, it hurt so much to watch my friends go to Vegas this summer without me. It made me so jealous to see other couples going on vacations together, while my boyfriend and I were always working. I hated feeling like I was working so hard to only watch other people live the life I wanted.
But I had to remind myself, that a lot of what we see on social media is not real. Or many of the trips I saw people taking may also be putting them in a worse off financial situation. Even rappers and actors lease fancy cars and rent lavish penthouses, but never really “own” anything. Plus, I had my fun already, and it was time to grind, sacrifice, and “stack my money and act broke”.
After I paid off all my debt, the only thing left was to keep grinding and SAVE! I was still working full time at a non-profit making an entry level Social Worker’s salary (not very much). But with no debt any more when I applied for a mortgage loan I qualified for enough to buy a house on my own; yup no cosigner.
I could have got a nice decked out townhome or condo with what I was approved for, but I decided to invest in a fixer upper instead. I needed more space for what I wanted to do (rent out rooms), that only a house would give me. Now, I am remodeling my house to my taste. (Blog about my remodeling journey COMING SOON) I am still on a budget and buying things at the Restore and Craigslist, but it is coming out AMAZING! Not to mention, I am learning so much about remodeling projects and fixing things in a home, which is making being a new homeowner and a landlord a lot less intimidating.
Honestly, I think that if I would have gone on that trip to Vegas a few months ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get my house this summer. I would have been short on the money I saved for a down payment and short on hours at work for taking time off. It’s all a domino effect. It’s the habits and choices that we make every day that will either allow us to make our dreams a reality. We don’t all make a lot of money nor have a trust fund that will help us get financially independent. But we do have control over our daily habits that WILL affect our financial independence.
Before I was broke, acting like I was rich. Now I’m being smart, acting broke and building wealth.
Hope you found this blog post valuable! Any follow up questions or comments are always welcomed in the comments section below.
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