Browsing Category

#MyMoneyStory

#MyMoneyStory

Money Stories: Breaking Free and Building a Fund

Jacob from Power Over Life stopped by the blog today to share his inspiring story about the power of emergency funds…and what it was like to learn about them the hard way.

 

My money story starts six years ago.  I was 21 and had just returned home from serving a two-year mission for my church.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life.  The only thing that I was certain about was that it was time to start getting serious about school.

On a whim, I paid cash for a cheap car, put all of my belongings into it, and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah.

I had no job, no place to live, but I had been accepted into school there, so I figured everything would work out.

Luckily, it did.  After sleeping in my car for a few days, I was able to find a decent place to live and a few days later I was able to get a job.  The unfortunate part of this story is that, up to this point, I had exhausted nearly all of my savings to get to Utah and start my life.

A few weeks into my stay in Salt Lake City, I had a strange health episode (one that I haven’t had since).

I started having an intense pain in my abdominal area and I lost feeling in my legs and wasn’t able to walk.  I reluctantly went to the ER to get looked at.  Unfortunately, I walked away with a $5,000 hospital bill, with no way to pay for it.

That one decision, to go to the hospital, is what led me on a painful five-year path to get out of debt.

I started making payments on the hospital bill with every penny that I could spare.  I wanted to be out of debt so bad!  Years later, I learned that the biggest problem I faced wasn’t the actual debt, but that I tried to get out of debt too quickly.

It had never occurred to me that I should probably save up a little chunk of money for future emergencies.  Instead, I left my bank account drop down to $0.00.  It stayed there for three weeks straight.

During those three weeks, the timing belt on my car broke, leading to a $3,000 expense to keep my car working. 

In order for me to get to school and my job, I needed to have a working car.  I reluctantly paid for the expense with my credit card and threw the balance on my ongoing debt total.

This trend continued for a few years. Because I had no emergency fund, I wasn’t able to pay for the things that went wrong, which resulted in a swipe of the credit card and me getting further and further into debt.

At the time, it seemed like everything in my life was going wrong, especially financially. Finally, one day something actually went right!  I met my future wife, in the elevator at school.  After one year of dating, we decided to get married.

After a year of being married, my wife and I decided to get pregnant.

Nine months later, we were anxiously waiting for our little girl to come into our lives.  To our surprise, we learned that we would have to deliver our baby by C-Section because she was still breech.  We freaked out…we hadn’t budgeted for the extra surgery expense.

After having an argument about money, we finally decided that we were done playing the debt game. We had had enough!

We agreed then and there that we would work on getting out of debt, until we were debt free.

We put our heads together and came up with a plan of attack.  To make a long story short, we kept with that plan for nearly 8 months. That’s how long it took for us to get out of $16,000 of debt.

The reality is that once we got serious about getting out of debt, we were able to do so relatively quickly.

It was a commitment, but once we had made it…it was easy to stick with it.

My word of advice is that if you feel like you are being crushed by debt, you don’t have to be.  You too can become debt free.  It may take longer than eight months, but if you make a plan and stick with it, you too can have peace of mind.  It will be hard, but I promise…it’s worth it.

 

Do you want to share your #MoneyStory? Email me: taylor@thefreedomfrommoney.com. (You can be anonymous!)

Thank you so much to Jacob for sharing such an inspirational story. And congratulations on becoming debt free! Woohoo!

#MyMoneyStory

Money Stories: Moving Beyond a Life of Things

This week’s #MyMoneyStory comes from Jessica of TheFinanceSpa.com. It’s an incredibly powerful story about the painful process of coming to terms with the lies we’ve been told are true…and the sense of happiness and peace that follows.

 

I’m the first born of four to an immigrant mother and a Canadian born father. We lived in a decent sized home in the suburbs where my three siblings and I had our own bedrooms and it never felt crammed or small.

I think our neighbourhood would be considered upper-middle class, however, it didn’t seem like we were upper-middle class.

Our home was pretty empty. We had one couch in the living room, there was no furniture in our great room or the office, we had a dinning room table we never used, and our basement was unfinished.

We rarely brought friends over and if we did we would stay in our rooms. But it was fun having lots of siblings. We got along most of the time, probably because we all had our own space and a mutual understanding of our strange parents.

My dad worked at a factory his entire life. He is a very smart man, but he couldn’t finish university because he ran out of money. He, too, grew up with three other siblings but in a much smaller home. When General Motors came, it opened up a lot of employment opportunities and he got a job right away. It offered a decent pay and really great benefits, so he never left.

My mom moved to Canada to marry my dad in 1987. She was 26 and she never finished high school. She also had a large family, ten siblings in total! They worked hard in factories to try and support the family while living in Hong Kong, so I think when she found my dad she dreamed of a better life for herself in Canada.

She got a job soon after she moved here but it didn’t last because the factory shut down. She was unemployed for a while and finally got a job at my dad’s work, but was laid off soon after. She’s worked on and off most of her life and so she has never had job security.

I think because both my parents grew up poor they never felt financially secure.

It’s what motivated them to work hard and provide for us so we could live in a good neighbourhood with good schools. Amazingly, they paid for all of our university educations. I can’t thank them enough for that.

My mom always told us as long as we worked hard in school and got a good education we would get good jobs and be happy. She was pretty much right; we did all get good jobs after university, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I was happy. Happiness is not found in what your job is or how much you make.

Although we were extremely privileged to have school paid for, we never felt privileged growing up. If we wanted something my mom would tell us, “No, I don’t have any money”. I would worry we would have to sell our house because she always said we had no money. It scared me. We rarely got gifts.

I remember my brother didn’t even have underwear to wear because my mom said she couldn’t afford it.

But here’s the thing, we were not poor.

My parents pretty much maxed out their retirement savings and our education savings every year (in Canada we have what’s called a Registered Education Savings Plan that parents can contribute tax free until it is used for the child’s education), they always paid off their credit card, we had cable with all the channels and packages, and we were really well off if you looked at their bank statements.

My dad takes care of all the finances and he’s really good at saving. While mom just acted as a bank security guard, she never looked at their statements or paid the bills, but she guarded money. She assumed we never had money because she never had a steady job, no matter how much my dad told her she didn’t need to worry.

So I basically grew up tricked into thinking we were poor. How weird is that? Did that stop me from wanting things? Nope. My friends always had the nicest clothes, they went on family vacations, they had nicely furnished homes, and they always had the best gifts at Christmas.

It was hard to appreciate what we had when everyone around me had so much.

One day in elementary school, a girl asked me if my parents were poor because of the way I dressed. I was so embarrassed! I told myself at that young age as soon as I could start making money I would buy myself nice clothes and nice things and never feel ashamed again. I couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t buy things with their money. They never told me how they managed their money except for telling us that we had none.

Motivated to start working so young, I’ve been employed since I was 12. I had a paper route, then I was a hostess, a gymnastics teacher (I’m not a gymnast, I volunteered there and then somehow got a job), a hostess at three other restaurants, a deli clerk, a gift shop cashier, a cashier at a big box store, worked in more retail, was a server, a brand ambassador, and now I am a Fund Accountant. I would often work  three jobs at once.

I’ve been working for 16 years…but I have nothing to show for it because I spent every dollar and more.

I got a credit card as soon as I turned 18 and maxed it out shopping. Then I got another credit card and did the exact same thing again. I constantly had two maxed out cards all throughout university while my parents paid for my education. It makes me really upset when I think about it. I just never felt like I had enough. It felt like my credit card limits were limiting my ability to have more stuff. I tried to raise it multiple times to go shopping, of course without success (thankfully).

I became an accountant that sucks at money.

I can’t blame my parents for not teaching me how to be smart with money. They honestly did their best at raising four kids with a somewhat unsteady income and saving their money. I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her not to be obsessive with THINGS! There’s so much more to this life than stuff. Listen to your intuition and follow your heart.

Do not look for acceptance from the outside, look for it from within and accept yourself because you are enough.

You are not defined by what you own. You do not need validation from other people. Trust yourself and everything else in life will be just fine. If I only knew that I would become addicted to shopping and trapped by my debt. But I’m glad I know what I know now. I am glad that I am able to learn from my mistakes and now I can see a clearer, healthier financial future for myself. I take it day by day and live more presently by working on my goals one step at a time.

I had all this stuff that other people I looked up to had, that was supposed to make me happy, but I wasn’t. I had an education, I had a great job, I had nice clothes and a condo furnished with nice things. But why wasn’t I happy? Why did I owe so much money? Am I unhappy because of my spending?

Something had to change. I searched for ways to reduce my debt and increase savings which lead me to a community of personal finance bloggers.

Reading other peoples’ financial journeys was so inspiring. I learned about financial independence and financial freedom. I started my own money journal and learned a lot about myself. I learned what truly made me happy by looking from within. What makes me happy are great relationships with friends and family, spending time with loved ones, feeling compassion, love, and good health. These are things that money can’t buy.

My debt tied me down and my stuff was just adding stress to my life. I was setting myself up to be in debt forever, to have to work my entire life because I have to pay creditors, to not be able to spend as much time with people I love, and the uncertainty of what would happen if I lost my job was disturbing.

I was also upset that I was unable to buy a home or start my own family because I wasn’t financially secure.

So I started tracking my spending and created a budget for myself.

I started saving an emergency fund so I didn’t have to rely on my credit cards.

I cut out shopping completely, and I started investing more for retirement.

They were small steps, but they mattered.

I have come a long way since starting this journey to financial freedom and I only started a few months ago (!) I’m so thrilled that I have set myself up for the future and chose to stop living with the debt I created in the past.

I now chose to live in the present, while looking forward to the future and not letting the past tie me down.

I think a lot of people would be happier if they learned to not seek validation from the outside and found acceptance from within. I hope we can all learn from my money mistakes and if you take anything from this, start by finding what really makes you happy and then trust your intuition to guide you there.

 

Do you find happiness in things?

#MyMoneyStory

Money Stories: Moving Beyond the Life You’re Dealt

Today we are kicking off the new #MyMoneyStory series with a powerful personal narrative from Femme of FemmeFrugality.com. Hers is an inspiring story of perseverance and moving beyond the life she was dealt. 

 

I started writing about money over five years ago when I was broke, taking a hiatus from my low-paying job to focus on school, and very much pregnant.

At that point, my partner and I were living below the poverty line, but the pregnancy was a wakeup call.

We could not live on the incomes that high school degrees provided us with children, so I got myself back into the halls of scholarship.

I applied for grants and scholarships like my life depended on it. I found out that there is actually a ton of money out there that goes unclaimed. I was able to fund my education and even bring home a little excess to make up for my lack of a paycheck.

I also kicked myself for not knowing this earlier. I stopped going to college traditionally because I wasn’t willing to take on student loans. Because I didn’t have a degree, my earning capability was hindered. That was going to be a massive hit in the long term, even if my net worth was a lot higher than my peers at that specific moment in time. (It’s pretty easy to beat double digit negatives.)

Because they motivated me to get myself back to school, I really consider my children to be a boon to my financial situation rather than a hindrance.

Without my kids, I don’t know that I would have had the motivation that I needed to get myself back in the game and discover all that “free” college money.

Before they arrived, I really didn’t see a way out of my financial situation. I had lost almost all hope of things ever getting better. I was and always had been very responsible with the money I had. I carried no debt aside from a low-interest car loan that was almost paid off.

But I also had no financial safety net in the way of family support and couldn’t find a way to make a higher income. I couldn’t move back home while I went to get a heavily-financed degree—it just wasn’t an option with my family’s situation. I had to work to live, and had trouble affording my already low living expenses, nonetheless tuition.

With my kids, I was forced to hunker down and figure out a way to make it all work.

Five years later, I’m happy to report that our income has grown significantly, making us solidly middle-class. For a while, I worked in the field I studied. Then there was a regional work shortage. As the newest employee, my hours experienced the largest cut.

In my back pocket, I had this hobby called blogging. I pulled in a little bit of money with it, but once I realized our income was going to experience some major growing pains, I went at it full force. I learned a bunch of ways to make my own site better and started contributing to other sites as a freelance writer. This now makes up the bulk of my income, and my old day job has turned into my side hustle.

Over the years, I’ve learned that your mindset and ability to adapt are paramount to improving your financial life.

Whether you’re ushering a new life into the world or facing job loss, life has a way of throwing you curveballs that you just can’t plan for.

Always be cultivating something on the side, whether it’s a skill or hobby or further education. You never know when it will come in handy.

But most importantly, never give up on yourself.

If I had cared about myself as much as I cared about this new lifeform that was growing inside of me, I would have found the programs, grants and scholarships I needed to turn my money situation around a lot sooner.

And if I hadn’t ever got pregnant?

My pocketbook doesn’t want to think about it.

 

Do you have a money story you want to tell? I’d love to share it! Email me: taylor@thefreedomfrommoney.com (You can be anonymous!)