I moved out of my mom’s house at the end of my junior year with a one-year-old and a part-time job. It wasn’t because I didn’t have a choice, in fact my mom advised me to stay until I graduated, but the rebel in me wanted to prove that I could survive on my own. I waited until my tax refund deposited into my account and off I went into adulthood with no specific plan or budget.
I was in for a huge surprise.
Now I had budgeted (mentally) for my rent and electric bills, but the other expenses? Not so much. It wasn’t until I went to sit down on the toilet that I realized I had no tissue paper, or when it was time to wash dishes that I discovered I had no dishwashing liquid. The little things that I had taken for granted became huge needs and unwanted expenses.
I was out roughly $650 each month simply for living expenses in addition to a $459 car note and a $50 monthly medical bill. Around this time my paychecks were about $530 every 2 weeks so needless to say I racked up a lot of unnecessary debt due to depending on my credit cards to get me through the semesters.
I began taking out subsidized loans during my sophomore year simply to get a larger refund check. I had grant assistance and a scholarship but the amount of money I had in excess was “not enough.”
Yes I know—not smart—but it made sense at the time. Since I only worked part-time I would use my refund checks to pay up my bills so I guess I was not that stupid.
During my pregnancy I dropped down from 6 classes per semester to 2, and when my classes dwindled so did my grant assistance. I went from taking out unnecessary student loans just for the heck of it to actually needing them to help cover tuition costs.
If I was the money-savvy mom I am today I would have taken out just enough to cover the costs of my tuition instead of accepting the full amount.
Sigh. What is done is done.
I wish that I would’ve saved, I mean really saved during college.
I would set funds aside but I would always do a withdrawal for something I thought I needed—like a new dining room table that no one sat at. My savings was like a give-and-take relationship when it should have been more like a give-don’t-take. Any time I had an unexpected expense it was my credit cards that came to the rescue.
When I started college I had no idea what I wanted to do which (surprise) isn’t uncommon. It is typical to change your major at least once or twice as you test the waters and find your strengths, or realize that your middle school dream job is an absolute nightmare. I knew I had a passion for writing but the thought of a writing career did not sound lucrative enough for my liking, and sitting at a cubicle was just not my thing (although I am now).
Quite frankly, I did not know what all I could do with a writing degree so I ran from my writing passion. Blood and body parts sounded more exciting so I opted for a Biology major instead to get me into the medical field.
I hated Biology.
The price of each class was through the roof as most came coupled with a lab, and the amount of information I had to cram in for each test was a no. Literally desperate for some relief, I took a huge leap of faith and changed my major to Professional & Technical Writing.
Although I think changing my major was the best decision I could have made I was still stuck with thousands of dollars from my previous Biology venture. If only I would have taken the time to figure out my interests and what I could do with them before jumping into the lion’s den.
When I go back and think of my college budget I want to take a palm to my forehead and just leave it there.
I had a new ‘budget’ every week which only consisted of my bills and that’s it. I had no idea just how much I would have left over to pay for my other expenses, such as gas, so needless to say when the funds ran dry I would have to depend on my credit card to carry me until next payday.
I would always buy my books from my local Textbook Brokers, and at the end of the semester when I would go to sell the books back they would be worth breadcrumbs when just months before they were the price of a whole pie. I had rented a textbook from Chegg once and the price was significantly lower than what it was in the store, but it took about a week for the textbook to arrive in the mail and I was far too lazy to order all my books in advance. I could have saved a fortune by simply getting the names of my textbooks before the start of the semester but what a task that was.
I’ll just use my refund check, I’d say to myself.
I once bought a brand new textbook series for my computer class for roughly $150, and when I went to sell them back I was told that my version was outdated and would be no longer used. The buyback price? $0.
Imagine the look on my face.
Scholarship money is free money and only a fool wouldn’t want free money. I was a recipient of two scholarships— the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery and the Single Parent Scholarship. I was pretty darn proud of myself for snagging two, but I know I should have applied myself more.
A WHOLE lot more.
I remember my professor invited one of her former students to be a guest speaker in her writing classes, in which she explained how she got through college without a single loan. Searching for scholarships became her full-time job, and she was obviously pretty good at it. I got so inspired that I went home that evening and browsed through a few scholarship websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb. I thought that I was just going to fill out a few simple applications then sit back and watch the money pile up but oh boy was I wrong.
These were no simple applications.
Most required an essay of at least 500 words, which felt more like 1500 at the time, or some sort of presentation. Despite my laziness syndrome, I managed to get in about 20 applications and won $1000 from one of my essays. You would think me winning would have sparked some motivation, and it did, but sadly it was short-lived.
If only I knew what I know now.
I wish I had thrown any extra cash that I had towards my student loans to save myself some heartache. I figured since I was still in school and my loans were not yet accruing any interest that I should just save my money.
My loans were a ‘worry later’ type of thing but now that I’m in that ‘later’ I cannot help but wonder how less frightening my loans would be if I had just prioritized my funds.
I should have been more open to the idea of a roommate, but I wanted my privacy—especially with a baby and a boyfriend. I am a bit of a recluse, and the thought of ‘permanent company’ lead me to swiftly shoot down everyone who made it clear of their intentions to move in.
Thinking back, halving up the bills would have been worth the awkward moments and fights over unmarked food.
You know those people who try to live a Bill Gates lifestyle on a poor man’s salary? That was me.
I was more concerned with how others would perceive me if I lived within my means so I would rather swipe my card for unnecessary purchases than to face the truth.
Denial is an illness folks.
I would even pass up the generic brands at the grocery store out of fear of looking ‘cheap’ at the cash register.
Ridiculous I know.
I suppose if we all came out the womb financially savvy we would not be working towards a debt free life. What are some things you wish you would’ve done in your earlier life to avoid some of your financial pitfalls?
Hello there! My name is Beatrice, and I am a 25-year-old mother of one with an addiction to writing and a desperation to pay off my debt. Join me as I become debt free!