Real Life Spending Faster: Katie

Real Life Spending Faster |

My name is Katie. I’m 25 years old and I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently I work in the vocational field, helping people with disabilities find integrated employment in their communities! I make about $35,000 a year, which is less than my graduate degree actually cost to earn. (Big sigh.) Right now I have about $83,000 of debt — about $73,000 of that is federal school loans, and the other $10,000 is a loan that I took out to purchase a vehicle this past January when my old car was on its last leg. I have no children and live on my own, but I have a long-distance boyfriend. I rent my one-bedroom apartment, which is about $725 a month. My upcoming plans are to move in with my boyfriend, get a job that allows me to advance my professional career, and start the next grown-up chapter in my life!

I started my Spending Fast last summer (August 2014), so I’ve been in it for about a year. After attending graduate school to become a professional counselor, my goal was to find a job that would allow me to work toward my licensure (you have to have so many hours of work in before you can get the state license to practice). I’ve taken a job in the related field of vocational counseling, but without my license, I have been making less money than I will in the future.

With my smaller salary, my own apartment to pay for, and student loans coming due, I was already feeling strapped. I had been reading And Then We Saved here and there for inspiration, and I decided to start the Spending Fast when I was feeling completely overwhelmed, thinking about how I would pay for everything I was responsible for on my big-girl salary. It sounds kind of dumb, but up until that point, I hadn’t really spent any time thinking about just how much I was going to be paying monthly on my loans. My minimum loan payments per month right now are $500, and that’s not taking into account any interest that’s accrued! If I do take that into account, I’m paying more like $800 per month (for my student loans alone).

I started my fast by making a “wants” versus “needs” list — something I saw on the blog (see Anna’s original list half-way through this post). I still have the original tucked in my planner. My “wants” included things like new work clothes, better work shoes, getting my eyebrows waxed and tinted, etc. My “needs” were things like utilities, rent, gas, groceries, car maintenance, etc.

I stopped picking up little things here and there like bottles of wine at the grocery store, a new top for work…and I stopped going to Target just to browse. (Oh Target, you evil genius!) I started actively putting more money toward my loans, and I would track everything, so at the end of the month I could look at how much I had put away and know that I was making a dent. Having my planner, transaction register, and checking my loans and bank account daily helped to keep me focused.

Several times last year my car was acting up, and finally, in December, the outlook wasn’t good. I decided that I really needed to do more to support myself financially, so I got a part-time job. If other people (like my 50-year old-mother) could do it, I definitely could! I began working 10-25 hours a week in the evenings and on weekends at my second job. In January, I purchased a 2012 certified, pre-owned vehicle. My long list of debt grew.

Once I was working more at my part-time job, I was able to get into a regular rhythm of paying toward my debt. I paid a set amount every month toward each of my four student loans and my car loan. I would pay close attention to how my spending fluctuated over the month (gas prices, grocery costs, etc.) and paid extra based on how much I had left. One thing I knew I wouldn’t do during my Spending Fast was sacrifice good, healthy food for processed stuff at the grocery store. I am gluten and dairy free, so letting my nutrition go by the wayside is not an option for me. I still buy more expensive coconut milk yogurts, gluten-free wraps, healthy granola bars, and lots of fresh produce. That’s what I just won’t compromise on to save money.

One thing I have found to be a little tough is going out with friends. Many of my friends are couples who live together so their expenses are shared. To them, dinner out doesn’t seem like a lot, but for me, that’s $30-$50 I could have put toward my debt. Situations like those can be really frustrating, especially in summer when everyone wants to go out and enjoy all of the festivals here in Milwaukee. My boyfriend is totally on board with eliminating our debt. He has school loans as well and a big loan he took out to buy a bass boat this past winter. (He’s a big fisherman.) Together, we try to do more fun, free things for entertainment. I think it’ll be easier on both of us once we live together and share expenses. I can see putting away a lot more money when that happens. Finding balance between wanting to spend a little because we feel like we’ve earned it (say, by going to a Brewers game) and knowing that that money is really better saved has been the toughest during this Spending Fast.

I see the road ahead being really long and probably a bit discouraging (I mean, hey, I’m trying to pay off $83,000 worth of debt here. Over $100k by the time it’s actually all paid off. So sad). It’s hard to envision what life will look like when I’m finally out of it. Will I be out of this debt by the time I’m ready to purchase a home? Will I be out of this debt if and when I decide to start a family?? I don’t know. The end is hard to imagine.

Something I would advise others as they’re thinking of starting a Spending Fast is to not let a slow start stop them. So far, I have paid about $4,000 toward my giant pile of debt — a far cry from the $24k Anna threw at her debt in nearly the same amount of time! ;) My first year has been about experimenting with what it takes to support myself financially; I’ve bought a new car, got my own place, started a new job, and began planning a move to another city all in the past year. I think I’m doing ok! I would just encourage others to look at it that way, too. A slow start can help you manage your finances, take stock of your total debt, evaluate what else you could be doing, and really give everything you can toward eliminating that bigger number. Every effort is a positive one in the end. Just because your start may be slower (like mine!), that doesn’t mean you aren’t well on your way!


*Photo credit: Photograph 001 by Lauren Mancke found on

P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp!


9 thoughts on “Real Life Spending Faster: Katie

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  1. Shelley

    Way to go Katie! You’ve taken the first step and that’s usually the hardest one to take.

    I’ve been reading Anna’s posts for a while now, and have a hard time reading all the money that Anna paid off in such a short amount of time. But at the same time, I have started to really watch what I spend my money on, and am in the process of finding a part-time job to help with my debt.

    Best of luck to you with all the upcoming changes in your life!

  2. ashley

    good for you! when I was your age I wasn’t nearly as responsible to see the writing on the wall and filed for bankruptcy at the ripe old age of 27.

    I have the same weaknesses, though – that errant bottle of wine or trip to Target really adds up. :) Keep up the good work!

  3. Lisa

    Hi Kate,

    I hear you! I am also a counselor and have been working hard to get out of debt. One resource you may look into is the National Health Service Corps. Once you are licensed, if you can get a job in one of their contracted agencies, then apply and get accepted, they will forgive up to $60,000 per year for a 2 year contract at that site. Usually the work can be difficult, but it may be worth if for a couple of years, and it feels good to benefit underserved populations. I got approved but decided to not take it in order to take another job, but it’s a good option.

    Good luck to both of us!!

  4. Heather

    I relate to this so much! Also started off with about $80K in college debt and currently working on my masters in social work so not exactly gonna make millions :) everything here resonated with me, especially how those bottles of wine and trips to target add up! I guess I’m
    commenting to say that you are not alone because that always makes me feel so much better that there are others out there and i’m not the only one! You’ve got this! I’ll be the first to say that i fall off the wagon a lot but since ffinding Anna’s blog over a year ago i’ve made huge strides in my debt and so will you! :)

  5. Katie W

    Your story is so inspiring. You should be so proud of the level of discipline that you’ve shown in the past year!!! I’ve started and stopped so many times and can only imagine all of the things you’ve given up and sacrifices you’ve made. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I hope I’ll be in a position to post a success story like this next year.

  6. Tyler

    Katie, Heather, Lisa, hi! I am also a social worker soon to be counselor! I am finishing up my MSW currently. By the time I finish, I will have about $100,000 in student loans. It gets me down a lot, especially since the national average is about 1/3 of that. Regardless, we are smart, hard-working ladies. We can use our resources, and social support to kill our debt!

    By the way, Katie, I can relate to friends wanting to go out frequently. Are you able to host your friends for dinner? Maybe y’all can cycle through your houses for potlucks? That’s at least cheaper than going out to eat, and less work that having one person host a whole meal.

  7. Katie

    Ashley and Shelley-Thank you both! Every day gets me closer to where I want to be!

    Lisa-I will definitely be keeping this in mind for when I am finished with my 2 years post-grad of supervised work. I am still working on my training license, which is a struggle itself!

    Heather-You are for sure not the only one! I still have setbacks, like when I went to Target (so evil!) last week and treated myself to a Christmas CD for my long car rides when I’m working. $5, but still……not necessary. One thing too that I never stop myself from is giving to my church or other foundations. That can add up as well, but I don’t feel bad about that like I do when I blow money at Target.

    Katie W-Don’t even worry, as I mentioned above ^^^ I still have some things to work on! That’s what’s great about a lifestyle change-it’s fluid and there WILL be those hiccups. As long as we keep going and moving toward our goal, we’ll find things to help us that will stick! ;)

    Tyler-I love your enthusiasm! Grad school is SO freaking expensive! That’s why I mentioned in my post that I really didn’t stop to think about exactly how much I’d be paying off until I saw that number every month. As for spending socially, yes, we often have friends over or switch up who hosts so that it’s not such an extra financial burden. That helps, but since we’ve moved to an area where so many more of our friends are, it’s proved to be a challenge. If I find out a better way to navigate this, I’ll for sure share!

  8. Regina

    you are doing a great job sticking to your plan. I know what it is like to have friends always wanting to go out. I live in California and my friends and family and co-workers always tell me live a little. I enjoyed your post keep up the hard work and you will accomplish this. I started my fast July 1,2016, wish me luck but hope to hear more about how your doing also.

  9. Joyannah Lonnes

    I am inspired to read about your plan and progress! I too am gluten and lactose intolerant and can’t slide by with cheap carbs. I live in a 2 bdrm, 2 bath mobile home which I am renting. In turn, I rent out both bedrooms and sleep on the day bed in the living room. I bring in more money in room rent than I pay out every month in house rent. That way I live virtually rent free. It works great for me! Maybe you could do something similar. I’m wishing you the best as you whittle away at your debt. I too am paying off debt and have a ways to go. Cheers.


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