My story is simple and fairly common: I graduated with just over $25K in loans in 2011. I worked as a waitress for a year while living at home and saving money for a move to Austin, Texas. Once I got to Austin, I started working as a waitress while I had a pretty cool web series internship. It was also the first time I had lived truly independently and I was in a new city- I spent a lot of time eating out, at bars, traveling and going to see Austin’s many music shows and performances.
It was so much fun! I don’t regret that time (mostly). I got to do some traveling in and out of the country, I ate some amazing meals, saw some of the best music of my life and had wonderful experiences with my best friend and roommate. Without that time, I don’t think I could be in the place I’m in now. I don’t mind giving up things like meals out and open tabs at my favorite bars. It matters much more for me to get out of debt and secure that first step towards financial freedom. It matters more to me to pay off my loans so as to not feel guilt over spending money elsewhere. I want to travel again, save for retirement, enjoy a night out- and do so without the specter of debt over my head.
I am real broke. I am living paycheck to paycheck right now, as almost all my ‘extra’ money goes to paying off loans. I do have my trusty emergency fund and a little breathing room in my savings but trust me when I say it’s one shallow-ass breath.
I hate sending money to my debt each month. And I hate being so broke all the time. I feel burdened by my debt, held back by it. So this year, as I fight inch by inch to eliminate my debt, I think of all the changes I made in 2014.
-I opened a Roth IRA
-I paid off two loans completely
-I have a healthy emergency fund and a separate savings account
-I reduced my spending on food/bars by around 75%
-I have designed a financial plan for the next year and financial hopes for the next five years
-I have a great credit score of 740 and no credit card debt
I’ve totally refocused my financial self. I don’t regret not coming to this mindset sooner- all the cool things I did in the previous years will keep me motivated. I’m young enough to still be able to make a major impact later in my life by saving now. I have been lucky in certain ways and challenged in others. Moving forward, I want to take everything I’ve learned and apply it continuously to my life. I want to learn more and take bigger steps towards financial freedom. I’ve spent enough time chained to debt. This is the year I end it!
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.