Apr 09 2008
Here’s the second part of my reflections on my money experiences. You can see the first part here.
Freshman year of college — I couldn’t believe that I spent $350 on my first semester’s textbooks, plus $100 for a new graphing calculator. After paying the ‘freshman tax’ of not knowing any better, I vowed never to spend that much on school supplies again. And, I didn’t.
Around tax time, I discovered I owed the government about $300 in income taxes, thanks to my Price is Right winnings. But, I didn’t have the money, and it brought me to tears. My parents bailed me out.
I didn’t work during my first semester, but took a summer job that began in April. I biked the 1.5 miles to work, until my bike was stolen (lock cut off and everything!). Then, I walked.
I moved out of the overpriced dorms and shared an apartment for the summer, paying about $225/month in rent. I took 15-credit hours of classes over the summer, reasoning that tuition would continue to go up the longer I was in school, and it might be cheaper and easier to take summer classes. It was a good move.
Sophomore year — I started working at my campus newspaper during the second semester and made a few bucks. Around this time, I got my first credit card. I got it intending to establish a credit history, since I was unable to get my own cell phone. I charged little things at first, and paid it in full.
That summer, I found another job and worked 30-hours per week, and took a few classes. I saved money by walking to work (two miles each way!) and brought my lunches. I decided it would be fun to go on vacation at the end of the summer, so I saved up and went to Orlando. I paid cash for everything and had a blast, but it would have been a better idea to put that $700 or so toward school. I reasoned that $700 could pay for 20 percent of tuition for a semester, or I could use it for a fun vacation. I chose vacation.
During book buy-back time, my then-boyfriend (and now husband!) found ourselves in a unique money-making opportunity. At one bookstore, they’d evaluate each book and tell you how much they’d pay you for them. Some, they wouldn’t buy. Students would put those ‘worthless’ books in a bin outside the bookstore for recycling. Shane and I saw them and thought, “These have to be worth something on Amazon.” So, we took uh, all of them, and came back for more over the next few days. We sold them on Amazon, and earned $1,000.
Junior year — I got really involved with my campus newspaper, which unfortunately didn’t pay much. I had an internship that earned a $1,000 scholarship and 3 credit hours. I slowly started to accumulate credit card debt by this point. I ate most of my meals on campus or ordered take out because I didn’t make time to go to the grocery. I could have saved a lot of money in this area, but missed out.
I took on a ‘leadership’ role in my campus apartment building, which reduced my monthly rent by $200 per month. Gotta love rent reductions, as those are tax-free!
Senior year — My parents helped me get my first car, which I needed for my summer internship. That fall, my job with the campus newspaper paid a third of my tuition, and I earned a small amount of money each week. Still, things were tight, and I spent too much money on food, once again. I was ridiculous and often bought 40-ounce Cokes from the soda fountain. Good grief.
By that point, I’m pretty certain I wasn’t paying my credit card in full, but I was still paying more than the minimum.
I got engaged December of senior year, and made plans for a May wedding. Spring semester, I continued to work 40+ hours per week at the campus newspaper as the editor in chief. I only took one class, but I was insanely busy. I spent most of my paycheck on wedding expenses and food, at about $5 to $10 per day on fast food junk.
The credit card debt started to really accumulate, and I added an absurd $1,500 by booking our honeymoon (a cruise to Alaska) and putting it on a credit card that I got for that purpose. I know. Dumb. But lemme tell ya, Alaska is amazing, and cruises are out of this world!
Post graduation, 2007 — My husband and I moved to Pittsburgh last June, and for the first month, we lived on wedding gift money and credit cards. I earned one or two modest paychecks that month, but since my husband gets paid monthly, it took awhile to get a substantial paycheck.
We didn’t establish a monthly budget. We decided we could afford our $750 rent simply because it sounded doable. Uh, what? Luckily, it is doable, but what if it wasn’t? That could have been a stinky mess.
We had dug ourselves into a bit of a hole, accumulating several thousand in credit card debt between the two of us.
I had a full-time internship that lasted for 13 weeks, and I earned about $350 per week. However, I was exhausted, and my husband and I ate expensive convenience foods or got fast food for lunches and dinners. We were spending quite a bit on food and gasoline, as well as other assorted expenses associated with moving. It was miserable.
Age 22, September 2007— We finally started to see the light. We made a conscious decision to pay off our credit card debt superfast and reduce our living expenses. I started my blog, and from then on, we started trying to live a more frugal lifestyle.
Now — If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m making progress, but I still have a ton to learn, and still make mistakes. I hope to continue forward, paying off our last debt (car loan), finishing our emergency fund and saving for a down payment on a house.
It’s going to take awhile to realize those goals, but when I look back on my financial journey thus far, I realize how far I’ve come. The possibilities for our future keep me motivated to keep it up.