Almost exactly a year ago, I was standing in line at Starbucks in the Nashville airport heading home to Washington for a visit. Since Starbucks was so busy, a Barista had already come up to me earlier in the line and asked me what my drink was. “Chai latte, please.” (For some reason I only drink these when I am flying.) When I got up to the register the barista said “That’ll be $3.50”. I handed her debit card #1. Declined. I handed her debit card #2. Declined. I handed her credit card #1. Declined. I handed her credit card #2 (this is not a joke)…Declined. After 5 minutes of trying all 4 (FOUR!!!) of my cards in humiliation, while holding up an entire line of people, the barista finally told me my drink was free. I left the drink on the bar in shame and called my Mom crying.
It was at that moment that I promised myself I would never, ever, get myself in that situation again. After one year, I have kept that promise. I have paid off almost $3,000 in debt, cut up my credit cards, and live on a cash budget.
I’m 23 years old and I feel like school never taught me a thing about how to manage money in the real world. I had to find things out the hard way, like that your parking ticket doubles if you don’t pay it. Forget to open your $10.13 dentist bill that came in the mail? Don’t worry, they’ll send the debt collector after you which will $#% up your credit. Don’t know what 25.5% APR is? You’re screwed! And the list goes on…
I wanted to share this little story because I know that I can’t possibly be the only one at this age who has done a straight up shitty job with their finances. I am absolutely no expert on money, but I have learned some really important things along the way so far that have helped me to get to where I am now (goodbye poor girl in line at Starbucks!)
The following is real-world knowledge told by a non-expert:
1. When you’re in debt, not all of your money is yours anymore.
I thought being “in debt” wasn’t a big deal, until I learned that you’re literally in debt to someone and you’re basically their slave until it’s paid off, which means when you get your paycheck you owe them a chunk of it! Wtf. And you’re like “Well duh Hannah, obviously, you’re an idiot” and yes, yes, I was but I hadn’t grasped the concept that until I freed myself from my debt, all of my money wasn’t mine. I had to give a piece of it up every single paycheck until I settled myself out of the money slavery that I had so willingly signed myself up for.
2. Get on a cash budget.
I had a Barbie cash register when I was little and I remember (conning) my family members into buying candy from me...after they bought it for me at the store. (Smart business skills perhaps? This made no sense.) But my family members were kind enough to support my candy store anyway. Every time they dropped a quarter into my hand I was SO excited to put it into my register!! Now, if they had handed me their debit card, I would have been like WTF? And right now you’re probably like, “WTF, what’s your point Han??” Every time I get cash out for the week, I am way more hesitant to spend it because I literally have my money in my hands. It makes giving it away SO much harder because I can see how much (how little HAH!) I have. My point being, using my debit and credit cards was easy… it’s just swipe, swipe, swipe, all damn day long because all I am doing is handing the person a card, but having my money in my hand and actually seeing where it’s going helps me make WAY better decisions about when, where, and how I spend my money. I don’t wanna let go of my dough.
3. Quit being a $#%&ing idiot.
It takes money to do things and to make memories, so eating at the Turnip Truck everyday for lunch is not necessary because wtf kind of memory is lunch. (Unless it’s with a hot guy or something.) Nor is it necessary to spend money buying everybody a round of drinks because you think you’re cool (eye roll to myself), or buying new bedding at target for $300 (da fuq?). I realized I was addicted to making spur-of-the-moment spending decisions. I also thought that buying things would make me feel better after I had a "bad day". I’d eat a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s ($7 worth of calories WTF) and then go shopping. Like what??? Having a “bad day” is not sad, what’s sad is being in debt. Because when you grow up and decide “Hey, I’d really like to go on a trip this year” you go “Shit, I can’t do anything because I have so much debt rolled up in this new Target bedding that I am suffocating.”
Basically I learned The Three B’s (I just made this up):
1. Bite the Bullet (I made paying off my debt my NUMBER ONE priority NOT buying shit at Target)
2. Budget (I got out cash money at the start of every single week)
3. Behave (I quit being an idiot)
So, I am sorry again to all of my family members who I bought shitty Christmas presents for last year. And I am also sorry that this year you will get shit ones again, because I am still crawling out of my debt hole.
Cheers to Christmas 2017.