Less then ten years ago, saving money was honestly pretty boring to me. Yes, I saved to pay off the credit card debt that I wracked up in college, and that felt great. Once I paid off that debt, I figured that I was entitled (yes, entitled) to have some fun.
Why not? I was working full-time, making good money, and I split rent three-ways with a couple of girlfriends. I went to school and graduated with good grades, so I owed myself, right?
I survived a horrible breakup with someone and found myself alone in a new city. Retail therapy, any one? I deserved it! What exactly did I deserve? $400 Chanel sunglasses.
This sense of entitlement led me down the path of no return- buying a condo in a southern California city with a ’boutique’ mortgage loan, financing an insanely ridiculous sports car, and living the life of a high-roller, even though I was just in my mid-20s. Hey, I was keeping up with the Jones’… the Smiths’… the guy in the BMW next to me on I-5… and our feelings of never ending entitlement.
I worked in the mortgage industry during the real estate boom of the early 2000′s. I would sit in my corner office (hey, I busted my hump. I earned my way up the ladder pretty damned quickly), and I thought back to my professors in college and their insight to our futures, the college class of 2003: “where you begin in your career is just the beginning. Your income will grow from where you start; your opportunities will only increase. The future is yours as long as you work hard.”
Wow. I would do anything be the gullible girl who believed those words again. For a few years, that was all true- my professional future appeared to be all unicorns and glitter. Then that shiny-happy bubble broke, the housing market fell like a deck of cards, and unemployment became a new career in itself.
Flashforward to today- I am fortunate. I am darned-right lucky. I have a roof over my head, which is mortgaged- with a little equity, in fact! My son is healthy. My marriage is strong. We always have food on the table. Our pets are fed and loved. Our heater keeps our living room comfortable for our friends and family to gather.
We are damned lucky.
We bought our home a year ago, and we have pumped a ton of blood, sweat, and tears into updating it, which came with debt..We bought a little bit of a fixer-upper because we refused to overleverage ourselves and buy a house we couldn’t afford on one income (just in case). There are no crystal chandaliers, no butler named Jeeves, and no $1,000 coffee machine, but it is ours.
Now, we had to fix up our money pit… But, our savings went into our downpayment? What to do?
(Queue sounds of angels singing… “ahhhhhhh, ahhh, ahhh”):
0% financing for 12-months! No interest for 18-months!
It’s funny how quickly a year… or a year and a half… can fly by, and how quickly those introductory APRs go away.
What a difference less than a decade can make to those who learn from their mistakes!
We planned ahead and paid our credit cards each month, fully intending to pay the balances off before the interest rates skyrocketed. Even after I found myself on the unemployment line in late 2010, our goals did not falter.
Our tax returns went straight to debt. We sold items we no longer used on Craigslist to knick away at those debts.
And guess what – as of June 1st, 2011, our retail credit cards will be killed!
The girl from 2003 would be shaking her head right now, probably even rolling her eyes. She would be in Las Vegas, buying ridiculously overpriced dresses, partying like there was no tomorrow. I have learned from my younger years and I realize there IS a tomorrow for us fortunate ones. We have to plan for it accordingly and prioritize what matters in life.
Moral of the story: health, happiness, family and friends matter.
Couture, square footage, and car models with just numbers as their name… do not. They are nice, but they’re not defining.
From here on out, let’s discuss ways that we have changed our ways throughout the years. If some of us have not changed but want to, let’s expand our horizons and explore ideas on achieving financial happiness and success.
Reverting back to the words of that undergraduate professor – the future is ours.
Let’s OWN IT!