I have been thinking a lot about money lately. I don't know why, it's just been on my mind. My relationship with money (that sounds so weird) has changed a lot over my life, and I thought I would share my story with you all. I am NO financial expert, but I have pulled myself out of quite a bit of debt, and I paid for graduate school without a single loan. (Now the undergrad degree, that is a different story...) I realize money is a sensitive subject, but I feel like this story is one that I need to share.
Growing up, we were poor. At the time, I didn't realize it, because I had everything I needed, but looking back, I realize we were struggling financially. I never worried about food, or where we were going to live. I did however, worry about the shoes I was wearing (didn't mom realize I needed Nikes and Adidas?), the jeans I had on (Mom! I cannot buy my jeans at Target, we need to go to GAP!) and even my back pack (Mom! Everyone is carrying Jansport backpacks.) Like I said, I had everything I needed, but not everything I wanted. (To a middle school student there is a big difference between what mom thinks I need, and what I think I need.) In high school, I started working to fill some of the gaps.
In college, I discovered credit cards. At first I was very cautious with them, just like mom had warned me, but then I realized I could get discounts at all these stores at the mall if I just applied for their cards. That's when things got a little out of hand. Then after I graduated and got my first real job, and my first real paycheck, things didn't get better. I would actually have to say that they got worse. I thought back to growing up and how I didn't ever have the nicest things, and I went a little crazy at first. I mean, I had to have new work clothes. Thank goodness I was teaching PE, and I basically wore work out clothes to work everyday, or my total debt would have been much higher. I also was getting a new apartment, and I needed all new kitchen things, decorative pieces, and all sorts of fun new things.
It took a couple more years
of spending after college for me to decide to clean up my act. It was in the summer, and I was watching the Today show and some financial expert was on answering questions. They talked about a website you could go to to check your credit score and the importance of that number in things like buying a house, car etc. I went to the website, paid my $9.95 (or whatever it was) and saw that my credit score was in the low 500's and I had some pretty big dings on it. Ouch. At the time, my credit cards had around $10K on them (total) and it was a little overwhelming. I didn't really know what to do about it. I was paying more than the minimum each month (my mom taught me that) but I just couldn't see an end. And now that I was out of college, my school loans were going to need to be paid back.
Tomorrow, the rest of my story. Plus the two purchases (which were also the two single biggest ticket items on the charge card) that I will never regret.
Did you discover credit cards in college??