I feel like I say this every week, but I have to because it’s true: we have yet ANOTHER great contributor this week for Gettin’ Guesty!
Feelin’ pretty lucky up in here.
Please help me welcome:
He’s the very first gent to share his story here on And Then She Saved and I’m so happy he’s joined us. Hey, I’m all about equal opportunity and man, woman, girl, boy, don’t matter, money and financial issues abound for us all, am I right!?
Money issues don’t discriminate one bit.
Michael tells us all about his financial struggles, and how he’s overcome them.
And to that I have to shout out, “Bravo! Bravo!”
(Also, I hear that it’s his birthday tomorrow! Happy Early B-day!)
My story is familiar to many: I have a lot of debt. At my peak, I had $140,000 in student loans and $9000 in credit card debt. In the last six months, I’ve cut my credit card debt in half. Although I will still have my student loans for many years, it feels good to know that by this fall, I will have no more credit card debt.
The most significant way I have paid down my debt was to change the way I spent. I had to do more than simply say, “I’m not going to buy these things.” I had to permanently change my spending habits. It’s like going on a diet to lose weight. Eat nothing but grapefruits and you will lose weight. But is this sustainable? What should I do if I craved a hamburger and fries? What could I do to make sure the weight-loss was permanent? I would have to adopt a different way of thinking with regards to how I spent.
There are things I want and there are things I need. I need to pay off my credit card so as I started making larger monthly payments. Then I pay all my essential bills and I cling on to my money and make sure that I don’t use my credit card at all until my next paycheck.
And I want so many things. I could easily spend hundreds of dollars at the comic store. I want an iPad and a cable TV subscription with all the fixings. I want an expensive gym membership, a personal trainer, and large amounts of protein so I can become a huge man. I want to be able to follow any whim like, “I want a deluxe cheeseburger and three beers,” and then go out and get it. For awhile, I was indulging in many of these things, but I couldn’t do them all without using my credit card. Some things had to be cut. And for some things, I would find other ways to do them.
Now I cook at home and bring my lunch to work. I carry snacks with me so I won’t buy food on impulse. My girlfriend and I often make dinner or we’ll take turns if we order out. I eat more things like plain oatmeal, rice, beans, fresh fruits, and vegetables; these are very nutritious and are not expensive (especially at a grocery store like Trader Joe’s). I used to drink a lot of Diet Coke, but not so much anymore. If I drink coffee, I make it at home or drink the free coffee at work. I don’t buy coffee at coffee shops (unless I have a desire to be tweaked, but for the most part, I rein in my tweak desires). When I reached my goal weight, I ended my gym membership. I plan on finding other ways of working out; for example, I just got a deal on a month of Bikram yoga, which was cheaper than a month of my gym membership. I go to the library for books and music. I haven’t bought new clothes in a while. A few months ago, my black shoes fell apart and I thought about getting new shoes. Then I thought, “Let me alternate between the four pairs of shoes I have and when they all konk out, I will get new shoes.” I have seen a few shows, been out to eat with my girlfriend, and had occasional nights out, but I have been able to do so without being broke before my next paycheck.
These little changes in how I spend aren’t revolutionary. They take some getting used to, but they haven’t been that difficult. It takes awareness and a different frame of mind. I realize someone could say, “Hey, is that all?!” or “Hey, I can’t live like that! I need X and Y!” For me, it’s simple accounting: this is how much I make, this is how much I can give to my debt, and this is how much I have at the end of the month. What compromises can I make so I don’t add to my debt, but that I’m still satisfied, healthy, and happy? I can exist with sacrifices, but deprivation can be draining. Every day is a little struggle, but I breathe a little easier.
Michael Newman ● THANK YOU ● for being a part of And Then We Saved!
P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp! SpendingFastBootcamp.com
Hi Michael and Anna!
Michael – Congratulations on changing your mindset when it comes to money and spending. When we think of the changes as part of our lifestyle rather than a quick fix, they have much more sticking power.
I've been doing many of the same things as you (Trader Joe's is my favorite!). Now that I'm used to being hyper-conscious about my spending, I can't image going back to the days when I would carry a credit card balance.
Awesome job, Michael! It's a difficult road but it sounds like you've made a ton of progress in only 6 months!
I bet that since we're all working so hard to pay hard to pay down debt, when that time actually comes, our spending habits will be permanently altered for the better. Like, bringing lunches to work and purchasing healthier groceries can save a lot of money and it's good for you too! When you don't buy a lot of clothes and gadgets and other pricey things, you realize that you don't really need those things to have a good time. :) So keep up the good work!
Thank you for this post. Even if these tips aren’t “revolutionary” it is still so inspiring to hear about others who are re-prioritizing their finances and beginning a healthier relationship with money. Your analogy to dieting is right on – it really is all about making small, daily changes that add up to a huge outcome.
I too am working to pay off credit card debt and (eventually) a large student loan. After graduating college this past May, and struggling for months to make even the minimum payments on my part-time salary, I was lucky enough to secure a steady job with great benefits and a decent salary. About the same time, I was able to combine my high interest credit cards onto a single card with 0% interest for one year. It feels amazing to finally be in control of my finances again and on-track to pay off this portion of my debt in the next year. For me, my love of fashion and new clothing was a constant source of struggle. I was always either overspending and feeling guilty, or left feeling deprived. The best thing I ever did for my budget (and personal style) was to start reading fashion blogs. They showed me how to remix my closet and make my existing wardrobe more versatile, and also sparked my love of thrifting. Now I can visit my local thrift stores, spend 30 dollars, and come home with quite a few new pieces to work into dozens of new looks.
I also scored that great Groupon deal for Bikram – hoo-ray for hot yoga at half price!
Great story Michael. It IS all a mindset. That's why I think that part of achieving your financial goals is to sit down and figure out what your goals and values are. If you are tempted to spend out of alignment with said goals or values, then it's an easy no.
Also, sleep on purchases. If you really want something, tell yourself to sleep on it. Chances are, the next day you'll realize you didn't really need or want that thing anyway. Or the guilt that comes with it!