The free money concept

I don’t think I know anyone who isn’t in some sort of debt, whether it be student loan debt, credit card debt, or debt from a mortgage. And in a country that is in debt itself, it’s pretty hard to have a good understanding of money and how to manage it. Even now I’m still battling debt (although I’ve come a long, long way), so when I saw Molly’s post about her personal debt story, it gave me the courage to share mine as well.

I got my first credit card when I was in college. I was working part time in retail and the company had a store card. I figured it’d be a good way to build a little credit and I couldn’t do too much damage with the low credit limit. Instead of being responsible, I started spending money I literally didn’t have. Something new came into the store? I had to have it. It didn’t matter if I didn’t have the money in checking, because I had all the free money in the world I could need thanks to my credit card. I may not have been the “girl in the green scarf,” but I was happy to be the girl in the leopard scarf, red shoes, black dress and everything else I bought out of want instead of need.

My credit card count jumped from 1 to 3 and I started working at a more upscale retail store, so my debt only grew more as a result of my on a whim purchases. I was convinced I was getting a great bargain and that I was smart for getting clothes at discounted prices, but it’s never a bargain when you’re spending intangible money that doesn’t belong to you, money that isn’t real, money you didn’t earn.

One day, it finally hit me. I had spent thousands of dollars on almost clothes alone. I used all the money I’d made from photographing a wedding to make a credit card payment, and it still barely made a dent in what I owed. My debt wasn’t huge, but in comparison to the money I was earning each month, it was overwhelming. I’d justified shirt after dress after scarf convincing myself I needed it, paying no attention to my monthly expenses and things that were more important, like school supplies and groceries. I vowed that I would cut back and really start focusing on paying the cards down, but I still kept slipping up.

It wasn’t until I made the decision to move to Florida that I really faced my problem. If I moved, that would mean no job, and I didn’t know for how long. I didn’t want to be burdened with my credit card debt, and I didn’t want John to become responsible for my own bad choices. I also had student loan debt that I was paying down, and I’d have no way to keep up with all of my expenses if I was jobless. Then and there I vowed to myself to get rid of as much debt as I possibly could before moving.

I stayed true to my goal, cutting back on things I didn’t need and budgeting my money each month. I wrote down my monthly expenses and subtracted that from my monthly earnings so I could visualize where my money needed to go and how much I would have left over. I found writing it down helped me understand where my money was going and how much I really had leftover (sometimes hard to see on an online statement). I still had fun, but I paid a lot more attention to what I was purchasing and if I could actually afford it or not.

Although I didn’t get rid of all my debt before moving, I’m proud to report I only owe $400 today (besides my student loan, but that’s another story). I’ve learned to treat my credit card as an emergency (no, not fashion emergency) card rather than something to be used on a daily basis. As a result of going through credit card debt, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of having a budget and managing my money each month. I’ve learned that you should never ever spend more than what you make, because it can and WILL catch up with you. And more importantly, I’ve learned that I don’t always need new clothes or shoes and my wardrobe isn’t going to suffer without that amazing dress I saw at the store. Already, with two of my cards completely paid off and the third close to being paid off, I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I know the feeling will only be better when I make that final payment.

Have you struggled with debt in the past? How did you or are you overcoming it now? What did you learn from it? Feel free to comment or inbox me: twentysomethingsteph@gmail.com.

Photo source.

48 thoughts on “The free money concept

  1. mollystillman

    awesome post, girl. thank you for sharing your story! and thank you for linking back to mine – i’m glad i somewhat inspired you to share this. so many people need to hear it! over and over and over again. proud of you, girl!

    Reply
  2. Kristina

    Thanks for sharing your story! I’m trying to convince myself that I need to start keeping track of how much I spend each month, but I’m a little scared about seeing all of those receipts add up.

    Kristina

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      That’s one of the hardest steps to take – looking at your money and realizing where it is all going is not always easy. But doing that WILL help you spend smarter, trust me! Hope you find the courage to do so and start saving, it’s totally worth it! 🙂

      Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Of course, thank you for reading! Saving money is super hard, especially when you’re young and living on your own those first couple of years, but it’s totally possible!

      Reply
  3. lffashionable

    Wow! You did an excellent job taking control of the situation on your own. You should be so proud that you’re nearly paid off! I was very lucky to have parents who instilled a great big fear of debt in me before I even had credit cards. I of course have student loan debt but I’m pretty sure the only people who don’t either have earned full-ride scholarships or are fortunate enough to have parents who can afford to foot the bill. Student loan debt is a fact of life in my mind. Congratulations on being almost done paying off your debt! You’ve worked hard! 🙂

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Thanks! The whole moving thing really was great motivation. I’ve always been an independent gal and the thought of my boyfriend having the help me with my debt (although he was great and offered his help numerous times) made me kick it into gear and start paying my cards down. Student loan debt is it’s own monster, and very hard to avoid like you mentioned, so I don’t really count that (especially since it is a necessary debt, unlike CC debt!) Thanks for reading and I’m glad you avoided the credit card trap!!

      Reply
  4. Megan

    I had my first credit card in college also, and I racked that thing up with clothing debt. So stupid. I eventually paid it off, then refilled it two more times. It’s now full of wedding nonsense, which actually makes me feel better than knowing it’s full from clothing/shoes. Learning how to save money and properly use a credit card takes time and (many) mistakes… 🙂 I’m still learning!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Been there! So many times I’d look at my statement and go wow, I need to cut back. I’d get it paid off or near paid off and just max it out again time after time. It does take time and many many mistakes to learn to manage money properly, I’m still learning too!

      Reply
  5. Juneli from Fashionably Yours

    Thanks for sharing your story, dear, it feels awesome to be debt free! Well, my husband and I do not own any credit card, as we feel, that is the only way we can check our shopping habits and save ourselves from a debt-situation!
    Thanks a bunch for stopping by and commenting, dear! you have an amazing blog and I’m your new follower on Facebook now!
    Love
    Juneli from Fashionably Yours

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      And that’s very smart of you both! I’m glad I have a bank credit card in case of an emergency now, or maybe to use to plan a vacation, but it’s definitely not free money which I understand now. Thanks for the follow, I’m following you with bloglovin!

      Reply
  6. Sharon

    Thanks for sharing your story with us! That’s awesome that you’ve paid off almost all of your debt. I never had any debt until I got married. I’m so frugal and a total saver, but my hubby isn’t and we’ve racked up a bit of debt. I too use my credit card as an emergency fund, but unfortunately we had a bunch of important things (car repairs, vet visits, etc) that I had no choice but to charge. I’m working on it!

    -Sharon
    The Tiny Heart
    Enter my JEWELIQ Giveaway!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      My boyfriend and I are the opposite – I’m the spender, he’s the saver. I’ve learned a LOT from him about finances and managing your money, and I’ve taught him that it’s ok to spend every once in a while. We’ve reached a pretty good balance in our relationship. I think it’s impossible to NOT charge things sometimes like when you mentioned above in the case of emergency…but it’s better to be charging things like that instead of clothes/shoes we don’t need. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  7. thestatestreetedit

    Credit cards honestly terrify me! I just don’t trust my love of cute clothes. I’m really impressed with how you’ve turned your situation around and I’m so glad I read this – I’m in the process of learning to budget and seeing this was a good reminder to be mindful of what I actually have vs. what I wish I had financially. These posts about real life issues always make me think – I hope you keep posting them!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Haha, they are terrifying, I won’t lie to you (especially since I’ve experienced the damage they can cause). Budgeting is never easy to figure out but you’ll have trial and error to figure out what works for you! I will definitely keep posting these types of things…I love writing my opinions on relevant twenty-something topics by telling my own stories/how they relate. I’m glad to hear someone’s enjoying them! 🙂

      Reply
  8. albucco10

    Loved your take on this, Stephanie. I worked in a clothing store as well, and I have to say it was one of the WORST things for me–I was literally spending all the money I was making on clothes I didn’t need! I think it’s so awesome that you’re taking control of your financial future–that you’re even aware of it is more than most people can say. Great post!

    xo,
    Alyssa
    The Glossy Life

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. I think it’s an important story to share because it’s so easy to fall into the credit card trap if you don’t know any better. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Reply
  9. Rachel @ Making Life Fabulous

    That’s so great that you’ve taken control of your debt and are working to make better choices! My parents struggled with debt, but now make wise financial decisions. They’ve been great about teaching me and my siblings how to manage our finances, so I’m very blessed to have received the benefits of their experiences.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Yes, that is great that your parents have turned things around and are obviously such great financial role models! I have learned a lot from my boyfriend too, he is so good at managing money and saving, I find myself starting to follow in his footsteps 🙂

      Reply
  10. thebigbookofdating

    What a great post, because it’s so true how easy the system makes it for you to get into dept. Where I live it’s restricted so you can barely go over your limit, but I’m constantly terrified I will and not manage to make payments.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      It really is so easy. When you have all this apparent “free money” to use at your disposal it’s hard NOT to charge things when you don’t know any better. I’m thankful my credit card limits were pretty low so I was only a couple thousand in debt (still a lot when you are living on your own!), but it was shameful how easy it was for me to spend that money I didn’t have. That’s good that it is restricted in your area, that probably helps a lot!

      Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Thank you Susie, that means so much! I definitely can’t wait to have it paid down once and for all. I know emergencies might come up in the future and I might have to use it, but at least that will be much more worthwhile than clothes and shoes.

      Reply
  11. Jessica Broyles

    Awesome post! We’ve never had credit cards, but are in student loan debt too… it is paaaiiinnful to watch so much money each month go to interest. Definitely wouldn’t have taken student loans if we really didn’t have to.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Oh, I know how you feel! When I first started paying back my student loans I was so sad to see how much interest I already owed. Unfortunately, student loan debt is unavoidable unless you don’t go to school or get a full ride. My interest has gone down a TON since I started making payments, but it is painful to see it! The day where my student loan debt is completely paid off will be the most freeing day of all, even more than these credit cards. Kudos to you for not having any 🙂

      Reply
  12. ani

    This is such a great post about the friviloty of using credit cards. Glad you realised it Steph. I think parents have a huge impact on their children spending habits too. My parents never got into dept and till today they dont even own a credit card. They passed that to mee so I never got into dept either 🙂

    <3 Ani
    http://www.fleurani.blogspot.de

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Thank you Ani! My parents are responsible spenders and have credit cards but are always working to pay them down. I had good role models but I guess I just went a little crazy with the credit cards anyway 🙁 I’m glad you aren’t in any debt, and I can’t wait until I can say the same thing soon. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Yep, definitely an easy trap, especially when you aren’t making a lot of money starting out but still want to have fun with your friends or buy a new wardrobe for your first job…it’s easy to charge things and not think twice about it. I’m glad I’ve learned this lesson, even if it was the hard way!

      Reply
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