A re-habbed spendaholic, The Happy Homeowner began blogging as a way to stay accountable and to chronicle her quest for financial freedom. From paying off credit cards to the tune of over $14,000 in one year to purchasing her own condo in the expensive Boston real estate market (on her own!), she shares her financial ramblings, musings, and fabulously frugal ideas.
For years I found myself living quite the charmed life: fantastic meals in expensive restaurants, trips to exotic locales, new clothes or shoes when I wanted them, etc, etc, etc. I was a veritable spending machine, and I often was peppered with comments such as, “I love that dress!” and “I’ve never seen you wear the same thing twice!” On the surface, I was a well put-together, fun-loving twenty-something who lived life to the fullest.
Except that I wasn’t. I was a slave to VISA, a pawn for MasterCard, a cash pot for Discover. At a certain point, I lived in constant fear of not being able to pay my bills. I effectively shoved my head in the sand when it came to budgeting, tracking my spending, and saving—I shredded credit card statements without reading them, I made minimum payments on thousands of dollars of debt, and I continued to charge my way into oblivion.
One dollar to my name
And then came the day when I literally had $1 to my name. This also happened to be the day when my rent was due. What was I going to do? Where was I going to get the money I needed to pay my landlord? Where did all of my money go? I realized that I had officially hit rock-bottom when I tried to cash one of those cash advance checks from my credit card company and the bank teller laughed in my face while explaining that those checks couldn’t be traded for cash. Ouch.
On my way back home, ready to plead my sorry case to my landlord, I stopped at the mall. Shopping had always been my way of escaping the doldrums of regular life and I certainly seemed to be in a funk. As I handed the clothing to the cashier, I suddenly felt as if a ton of bricks had been dropped on me: WHY was I buying this? I didn’t even really like it! I politely explained that I had changed my mind, turned around, and walked out.
Fast-forward a few years
I found myself beginning graduate work and moving to Boston—with $14K of credit card debt in tow. How in the world could I survive as a grad student in such an expensive city, let alone pay off my debt and build some semblance of a savings account? The reality is that I couldn’t — until I found a part-time job that provided all living expenses (room, utilities, even groceries!).
Drawing on the information and tips I’d picked up through my new-found love of personal finance blogs, I immediately drew up a debt repayment plan. I “paid” myself “rent” in the amount of $1,200/month, and I sent every dime of that to my credit cards. I also found ways to bring in extra cash to throw at my debt beyond the jobs I was already working. Within one year, my entire credit card debt balance was non-existent: I had paid off all of my cards and I now funneled my money into savings and Roth IRA accounts.
Never looking back
While this post is a mere snippet of my journey, it in no way should cloud the fact that what I did was hard. I went cold turkey on my spending habits, and I’m not really quite sure how. I essentially did a financial 180, and I never looked back. I made stability my #1 financial priority, and I fought every urge to slip back into my spendy ways. It was not easy, it was not fun, but it saved me from a lifetime of financial ruin.
Finally, fixing my finances permeated my life in other positive ways and also allowed me to feel balanced for the first time ever. My advice to anyone facing a similar situation, to anyone who may be over-committed, debt-ridden, or down-trodden is to just take a moment to breathe then re-adjust and chart a new course. You are the owner of your financial journey, your happiness, your destiny. Life really is what you make of it and I’m in the camp of making it the best f’in life possible.