Posted: 3:07 p.m. Thursday, March 14, 2013
Imagine it: you’re 25 years old with a college degree, a brand new car, a three-bedroom home and salary approaching six figures.
Now picture yourself completely strapped for cash at 26.
How the heck did that happen?
It certainly wasn’t for lack of knowledge. I first started reading about personal finance at 17 while I was living abroad and desperate for something to read in English. It caught my interest and didn’t let go. It’s too bad I couldn’t be bothered to translate that information from knowledge to practical use.
And why would I? I was having far too much fun ignoring it. Eating out, drinking fancy coffee, buying new clothes when I didn’t feel like doing laundry ... responsibility sounded boring. Besides, the money was coming in fast enough that it didn’t matter how I spent it.
Then the money slowed down.
The balance on my credit card eventually went up faster than the money came in, and still I hardly missed a shopping step. I had an idea something was wrong, so I started tracking my bank balance at the end of each month. Every month, the credit balances went up as my savings balances stayed level or went down. Yet still, I didn’t stop.
I shopped out of habit. I shopped because I was bored. I shopped to salve emotional wounds. I shopped to forget the things that were going on in my personal life. I shopped for everything other than need.
Until one day I broke down.
I sat in a Vancouver hotel room, holding a designer coat I couldn’t afford and yet couldn’t return. Not only had I cleaned out my savings for it, I had increased the balance on my maxed out credit card for it. The store was closed, and I had to catch a flight before it was open again in the morning. I was stuck with it. I panicked.
I decided it was time to change.
It took 19 months to pay off almost $28,000 worth of debt, including a month and a half where I was unemployed, but I did it. The balance has waffled back and forth a little, but I’m now trying to build up my safety cushion.
Financial independence is the name of the game. I hope you’ll join me.