Sunday, July 3, 2016

#15: Be debt free

Of all of the goals I set to meet before I turn 30, becoming debt free was arguably the most important. I've saddled tens of thousands of dollars in debt for the past decade (give or take a few years) of my life. This was primarily due to my student loans I had to take out to attend the University of Texas at Austin. Despite earning thousands of dollars in scholarships from my 4.0 high school GPA and extracurricular activities, I still ended up having to take on over $20,000 in loans for tuition, books and board, and my dad took on more than double that. By the time I started this blog, I'd just paid off that debt — in late January of this year, I was able to close out what I owed, and it was like an elephant that had been sitting on my chest finally decided to stand up and move on.

So, I expected that when I paid off the credit card debt I'd accrued (close to $10,000, almost 100% because of my wedding last year), it'd feel like a monster truck driving off of me or something. The freedom! The ability to save money!! I was looking forward to the relief — banking on it, really.

Now, here we are:  I paid my final payment towards my credit card about two weeks ago, a combination of selling some stock and pinching pennies to make it happen even faster than I expected to. I was hoping to be debt-free by 30, but when my husband suddenly showed a more proactive interest in saving for a house, I made it work faster. I found a way to be at 0, and in two more weeks, I'll get to put about $1,000 into savings for the first time in my life.

And yet — I have to be honest. My life doesn't feel drastically changed. I still find myself nervous about money, worried that I'll have to use my credit card for something again soon, bummed because I was hoping to put more in savings before having to buy a car (and this just simply isn't possible, my car has informed me, via its refusal to allow my air conditioner to work for more than 20 minutes at a time in the Texas summer whose heat index makes it feel like 104 every day). It still feels like I'm on the edge of falling into a debt pit again soon.

How it feels in my car when I'm stuck on I-35.

I can't fully figure out why this is. I don't know if I'll just need to save up a few thousand dollars before I can feel like I can totally breathe, or if it's the fact that, despite trying to scrimp and save for a house now, I still allowed myself to make a few "I've had a rough week" purchases this past week from my achilles-heel shops (ModCloth, L'Occitane and VINCA). I'm definitely excited about my upcoming car purchase, even though that'll technically put me back into debt (but since this is a monthly payment, I'm not counting it in my student loan/credit card threshold of debt that this goal was about).

My new favorite wasting-time-in-an-app app.

I know my personality in general is typically pretty impatient, and so I'm thinking that the reason I don't feel completely lighter-than-air jubilant is because I want to suddenly have savings available to buy a house RIGHT NOW, and that's just not the reality. I still love my apartment on 6th street, so I don't know why I'm in such a rush — I'm hoping I can take a deep breath and continue to take each day at a time. And, I'm hoping I can be a little easier on myself since I did just achieve a HUGE accomplishment, and will be saving money starting with my very next paycheck! I'm just hopeful I can find a good balance in my life between saving for important things and being responsible, and occasionally treating myself because all we have is now. It's that humanoid life tug-of-war we all have to deal with, and sometimes a pair of giant donut earrings is OK, if it's balanced with a nice chunk of savings.

1 comment:

  1. Caitlin, this was a really interesting read. I'm in a similar place to you, although I've not paid off my student debt yet (to be honest, I can't imagine ever being in a place where I am able to! But it's sorted automatically here when you start paying taxes). I'm trying to save at the moment for a house - saving, and also building my credit rating! Not easy for us self-employed with confusing tax returns. Congratulations on paying off all your debt - that is a HUGE accomplishment and you should feel super-proud! xx