Stacy B. Miller Author
My husband and I made a lot of mistake when it came to college and starting our new lives together and unfortunately there is nothing we can do to help ourselves now but dig in and get busy trying to dig out of this mess. We have two young children and I am currently working 3 jobs, my husband working as much as he can with his job, we have no life, no more fun toys, and no more house….we live with my mother. As much as this is a terrible situation we are in a very positive light has shown from it, we get to teach our kids about money and debt in a way that we were never taught. Our parents never warned us about debt and student loans (mainly because they had no idea) but that stops here, our kids will never know the burden of student loan debt, credit card debt, and consumer debt in general. I hope that for those of you reading this, our mistakes will help you too and to me that is totally worth it 🙂
Here are my 5 tips to help you avoid the same mistake we made.
First, know what you want to be when you grow up! I know it sounds silly but part of my student loan debt problem is that I changed my mind half way through and then STILL didn’t end up wanting to pursue that field. What Travis and I plan to do differently with our kids is really to encourage them to try an apprenticeship/internship/job shadow before they apply to college to really make sure they know what their future career entails. I know that my high school did offer a lot of different types of job shadowing but I never took advantage of those opportunities.
Second, once you figure out what you want to go to school for make sure you can actually get the job you want in the area that you want. One of the biggest mistakes that I made with my degree was location; there are just simply not enough options for entry level positions in my area. Why was this a problem? Well because my future husband and I at the time never discussed if we wanted to move or stay near our family and as it turned out after we had baby #1 we really wanted to stay in our home town and raise our family here. So moral of the story….look way down the road and make sure your future life wants will match where you decide to live to pursue a career.
Third, pick an in state school with a low cost of tuition. Let’s be real here, with the exception of a few rare cases…no one gives a dam where you went to college. Have you ever asked your Dentist, Banker, Doctor, or even your boss, where they went to college? Probably not….and why would you? Who cares?!!! I don’t know about you but I continue to go utilize the services of the same few people because they are good at what they do not because of where they went to school.
Fourth, try as desperately as possible to not take out ANY student loans! I know that it difficult but start saving now and work part time to cash flow you college degree. I can’t stress enough to you what a terrible burden our student loan debt is to us and yes….we too thought we had it all figured out and would get great high paying jobs that would pay it all back too…not the case, most entry level positions now have starting salaries that cannot keep up with the rising cost of education. Do yourself a favor and work, apply for grants, and apply for scholarships….do whatever you can to pay for your degree yourself, trust me you will be way better off in the end and this is the same thing we will teach our children when they are ready for college.
Fifth, while you are in school, if you can, save for your future life. You have to start somewhere right? We made the mistake of starting on our own with nothing literally and figuratively….nothing. So what did we do with all of that nothing? Well we charged it to our shiny new credit cards of course. Oh man we don’t have a sofa, I guess we will have to buy a whole living room set and just charge it….we are college grads we’ll be able to pay it off! I look back now and shake my head thinking of how stupid we were and how much time and money we have lost with stupid decisions. So that’s my last piece of advice to save some money to give yourself a little “starter” fund so you’re not tempted to start charging up those credit cards…in fact, don’t even apply for those credit cards, you don’t need them!
As I sit back and look at the mountain of student loan debt we have ($161,000 between the two of us) and that fact that neither one of us is in a career that utilizes our degree, not to mention doesn’t require a degree, I know we can’t change the past but I hope we can help to change our kids future and give them a more solid foundation to start their lives as adults in our current consumer driven culture. My last piece of advice is simple and ties everything together…have a plan! Ask someone for advice, ask questions, and be informed.
Travis and I sat down and hashed out a budget for April and let me tell you….we sure do have very different opinions of wants vs. needs lol. Since making a budget is so new to us we really wanted to stick with the theme of changing our bad habits, so we were pretty dramatic and slashed our spending by about $1100. One of our goals is to be able to get our spending down to the point where we could live off of one income and throw the other income directly at the debt to get it gone as fast as possible. It’s a pretty powerful feeling to have control over your money and to get to decide what goes and what stays.
I’m not going to lie; it took us a really long time to figure out that we really didn’t “need” certain things…..like cable TV (RIP SyFy channel). Although I have to admit so far it has been really nice without cable! We still have Netflix, Hulu, and of course the internet…but I have found that I am so much more productive now and it saved us $75 per month! Instead of sitting around Saturday morning watching my dvr’d shows from the week, I got up, went for a walk, made breakfast, and cleaned the whole house.
In addition to cutting expenses, budgeting, and paying off debt, we are also really taking a look at the stuff we have and getting rid of all the things we don’t need and that’s just taking up room in our space. It is amazing how much crap we have! I used to think that we needed a bigger house but we really just had to much stuff lol. We are piling all of the things that we don’t need or want into the garage so that we can have a garage sale in June and hopefully make a little more money to throw at the debt. My kids are actually pretty excited and are doing a great job going through their toys and clothes.
So far the second job is going really well! In April I really want to make as much extra cash as possible without severely disconnecting myself from my family. I also just learned that we are down a few staff at my main job so I might try to see if I can sneak some over time there as well 🙂
Additional goals due to unexpected side effects of budgeting
So I went to the doctor on Friday which was 3/31/17 for a follow up visit from the end of February and when I stepped on the scale I had lost 12lbs in a little over one month! The nurse and Doctor where both like “what did you do?” I told them that we changed our diet by cutting out restaurants, fast food, and snacks and eliminating sugar (we did this because it literally bans everything bad that we don’t need). I already knew that my husband had lost weight…an amazing 30lbs! Most of that weight I would suspect came off due to the no sugar or soda and being more active.
So what’s the goal you ask?? Well to keep it up of course lol! In order to spend more quality time with the kids, whilst not spending money needlessly, we are doing family walks at night and going to the park which has been so much fun. I also have been walking to pick my daughter up from school so that we can walk home together and really talk about the day. All this walking and being outside has really lifted my mood and made it a whole lot easier to process this huge mountain of debt we have to climb.
Well here’s to April 2017! I’m pretty excited to keep this ball rollin and paying off this debt! And as always, if you have any tips/tricks/or advice I would love to hear it!
I want to start posting monthly progress reports mainly to keep us accountable but also for something we can look back on and see exactly what steps worked and what steps did not work.
Ok so let’s start with what changes we made this month that worked:
I got a second job. I am a Certified Nursing Assistant so it’s pretty easy for me to find flexible work around my area and the pay is pretty great too! I work full time as a CNA for a local Hospice and picked up a part time gig at an Assisted Living Facility nearby. I pretty grateful for the flexible hours of the new gig because I really hate being away from my kids and this allows me to pick up from 5pm to 9pm so I can still be here when everyone gets home in the afternoon.
We were already living with mom but decided to stay. We had already moved in with my mom a while ago but my husband and I really soul searched and came to the conclusion that we need to be able to pay off this debt fast so, with mom’s ok, we decided to make ourselves comfy and stay with the promise that we will always be moving in the right direction. Truthfully, as embarrassing as it is to live at home with your parents my mom was living alone in this big house and is really enjoying the company and having the grand kids around all the time! I am someone who pretty much grew up without grandparents and it’s really a neat feeling watching them interact with her on a daily basis. Not gonna lie……it’s really nice to not have to call a sitter when Travis and I are both working 🙂
Made the decision to sell the house. I mentioned in a previous post that we came to this decision and ultimately I feel like it is the right one. We are not in a good spot to be landlords and if something major ever happened to the house we would not be able to come up with the money to fix it. This decision actually makes me feel pretty good and we will be getting a hold of a Realtor in April to get it listed.
Cutting back expenses like eating out and making a food budget. Ummmm…….did I mention how much we suck at this??? We definitely have differing opinions of wants vs. needs but hey, at least we are talking about it! We have stopped eating out completely and have given ourselves a grocery budget. We are planning our meals and shopping lists ahead and making the most out of our Costco membership…Yay Costco! We are also meal prepping for the week and are not making meal exceptions if someone decides last minuet that’s not what they want.
Started our debt snowball. There is absolutely no instant gratification in this lol! But it’s so nice to have a plan and figure out where to start we are on our way to paying off credit card number two!
OK and now for what didn’t work….or more accurately what hasn’t worked yet.
Trying to save $1000 for and emergency fund. This is not going well at all. I remember telling Travis the other day that I feel like we were not meant to have a saving account with money in it lol. Every time we get close something comes up like repairs or new bills or my daughter’s surgery that she had in March! The surgery wasn’t unexpected but some of the bills that followed were. That being said, we are sticking to our guns and shooting for $1000 savings in April.
Also, I would like to add being away from my kids… It’s not that it’s “not working” as much as I just hate it. I know that working to get this debt paid off is the best thing we can do for them in the long run but man I sure do hate not being there to tuck them in at night.
Debt Pay Off Progress report
So we paid off Paid off $626.77 in debt in March………… 😦 this is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. We really have paid off somewhere around $2500 in total debt since Dec 2016 and I think I’m going to make a page on this blog with a running total of debt reduction along with the monthly updates.