In 2013, I completed my English degree. Up to this point, I had been living in the typical fairyland of student loans and credit card debt that I never bothered to check. As my years in school rolled on, I became the queen of “If my credit card is letting me buy this, I must be fine.” I didn’t even consider my financial predicament until I was about to walk across the stage and pick up my $30K piece of paper.
I told myself I would handle my finances ASAP, but I got caught up in job searching and avoided it. One day, the bank called ME. It turned out they had upgraded their online banking system months ago. When they did that, all my automatic payments were cancelled and I was supposed to reset them. The bank had duly warned all its customers, but I hadn’t checked my emails or answered calls from the bank for a while. Long story short, I hadn’t put any money toward my ballooning credit card balance for a good long while. The card was delinquent and my mom had to bail me out.
This was, to say the least, a blow to me. Not only did I have an arts degree and no job, I had student loans and a terrible credit score to boot. I finally sat down with a bottle of cheap Merlot and got all the numbers on paper. I had around $25K of debt. I had been working at a bank before I started university (I know, ironic), and applied for some jobs there. I got a position as a data entry clerk.
I felt like a victim that year. I was bitter because I was too good for my job, because I wasn’t making enough money, and because education is too expensive, darn it. I was stressed out and blamed everyone else. For some reason, my boyfriend didn’t leave me, bless his heart. Then, a magical thing happened. Just to warn you, it doesn’t sound all that magical at face value.
I was transferred to the loans department (see, I told you). Basically, I made sure numbers matched up. And there I saw it. Person after person in so much debt it hurt my brain. On a normal day, I would see couples making a combined $80K a year who had bought a $700K house the year before with 5% down. They might also have loans for a couple of fancy vehicles, personal lines of credit, two or three maxed-out credit cards, and now they were here at my desk again, buying a boat or camper. I don’t want this, I thought.
Around this time, I stumbled across “And Then We Saved”. I was so inspired by Anna’s story that I almost immediately went on a Spending Fast. I paid off all that debt in two years. I demanded that my phone provider lower my rate. I canceled my cable TV. I moved. I sold a bunch of stuff. I made some really ugly presents. I turned down a lot of fun stuff. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t perfect. Sometimes I just wanted to buy something, ANYTHING. I wasn’t all that fun to be around (it’s important to note that my boyfriend STILL didn’t leave me). But it happened.
Something even better happened. I read an article on Anna’s blog about how to make more cash, and freelance writing was at the top of the list. I was like, hey, I’m a writer! I had forgotten. I had completed a technical writing certificate program and landed a technical writing job. It wasn’t all that inspiring, so I got some side clients, quit my job, and now I’m a full-time freelance writer and editor. I couldn’t have made this crazy decision if I had been in debt. Period.
This was my most important lesson: I thought that being on the Spending Fast meant saying “No” to a lot of things I wanted to say “Yes” to. However, I discovered that when you say “No” to a silly impulse, you’re really saying “Yes” to something far more important. When I said “No” to the latte and “No” to the pair of jeans, I simultaneously said “YES” to trusting myself; “YES” to having control; “YES” to freedom; “YES” to a full night’s sleep; and “YES” to an empowering life.
To all the people in debt who are mulling over a Spending Fast: Envision the person you want to be and the life you want to live. What are you doing in this vision? Where are you? Hold this vision close in your mind, and dare to revel in it. You can have it if you want it. Focus on what you’re saying “Yes” to, and you will be downright tickled every time you get to say “No.”
Now that I’m running a business in its infancy, I am going on another Spending Fast. But this time, I don’t have debt. Instead, I’ve outlined the amount of money I need to be secure, since I don’t have much of a safety net. Instead of paying down $10K of debt, my goal is to save $10K! Onwards and upwards.
Brittany is a (newly-minted) freelance writer and editor from Calgary “Cowtown” Alberta, Canada. She spends her time drinking a lot of coffee, exploring the nearby mountains, cooking delicious cheap meals, and finding humor in all her crazy life pursuits.