In elementary school, I wrote a paper explaining that Dave Ramsey should be president.
Money has been on my radar from a young age. When I was a kid, I was a pro at spending other people’s money – I would gladly ask my grandparents to take me to the store to pick out a toy every time I stayed with them. I begged my parents for money to spend at the concession stand at my brother’s baseball games and the local football games. When I got birthday money, I spent it right away. I could hardly imagine how other kids could save their money when mine burnt a hole through my pocket as soon as I got it.
I started babysitting at 11 years old, making cash here and there that I would quickly spend, begging my parents to drive me to the mall. Of course my parents urged me to save, to delay gratification, but that just wasn’t me. I got my first “real” checking account when I was about 16, and this was also the time that my parents were tired of giving me “fun money” for the movies or shopping, so I got a job in fast food. I was a bit better with money then, making and saving more, but I still took frequent shopping trips with friends.
I moved out of my parents’ home and into my own apartment at 19, during college. I worked 15-30 hours per week earning minimum wage at a movie theater and was actually quite smart with my money in most respects. I paid all of my own bills. The rent for the one-bedroom apartment in my small hometown was $390, and my utilities costs were low. I had plenty of money left over for myself, and made it a goal to keep my bank account up to at least $1000 at all times, which I was typically able to do. From that time on, I had picked up two more jobs and consistently have kept anywhere from 2 to 5 jobs at a time – to this day.
I commuted to school, so I didn’t have to pay room and board, but I did use student loans to pay for my education. I chose a state school (after becoming suddenly terrified by the price tag of the private school I had already committed to, which I promptly unenrolled from 20 days before my scheduled on-campus move-in). During my freshman year, I did end up going to a private school my second semester and living on campus – racking up A LOT of extra student loan debt – but (thankfully for my budget) that school didn’t work out and I went back to the state school. By the time I graduated college, I had switched through three different majors and accumulated over $30,000 in federal student loan debt. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had moved back home from the apartment in my hometown a few months before graduation to save money, and I began working at a local credit union. I gained a lot of financial knowledge there and that was when I started totally geeking-out over money.
I had been working at the credit union for six months when I began graduate school and moved to Cincinnati, a little under an hour from where I grew up. I worked full-time in various social services positions through grad school, in addition to several side-hustles (babysitting has been consistent through my life). I always had enough to pay my bills, but I wasn’t paying off my student loan debt because it was in deferment since I was a full-time student again, and I was accumulating even more student loan debt. Fast forward to May 2016, when I graduated with my master’s degree as a newlywed (married five months at the time), with several job prospects, and another $40,000 in student loans.
My husband brought his own student loan debt to the relationship, as well as $2500 of credit card debt. I had a loan on my car too; I had decided it would be a good idea to purchase a brand new car in 2013 when I had almost no other bills and lived with my parents. Paying off debt really became a top priority at this point, so I sold my car and bought a used one with cash. This eliminated $13,000 of debt and lowered my insurance cost by about $70 per month. We also began aggressively paying off my husband’s credit card, and within five months brought the balance to zero.
So now all that’s left are those student loans. We are aggressively tackling them right now. I’m currently a therapist at a private practice and I also do therapy for a community-based agency. I nanny 2-5 days per week in the early mornings, bringing in between $200-$450 extra per month. I babysit on the side whenever I have the time in order to earn extra income. I hope to have the loans completely paid off within three years. This seems like a huge goal, and I don’t even know if the math works out, but I am determined to be free and I’ve found that determination and intentionality haven’t failed me yet.