Meet Mel the writer behind the blog brokegirlrich.com. She started blogging while paying off a bunch of student loans and traveling with the circus (yup the circus - how fun!). Times have changed a little since then - she's now debt free and still wandering the world but as a touring stage manager. She's sharing her money story with us today! Enjoy! p.s. If you would like to be featured as part of this series please send an email to [email protected], subject line "My Money Story Feature Request".
What was your "enough is enough" moment?
I think I'm pretty lucky that my outlook towards my debt was always to just get rid of it as quickly as possible. The only time I was deep in debt was to go to grad school. However, my "enough is enough" moment regarding getting my money in order and making sure I was financially stable for the future was when I was working at a job I really hated and realized that because of my debt payments, I was trapped there. It made me hate the idea of ever being trapped anywhere again.
"I was working at a job I really hated and realized that because of my debt payments, I was trapped there."
How much debt did you pay off in total?
Well, I went to grad school twice. The first time I graduated, I left with about $4,000 in credit card debt that I used to pay my tuition and final expenses for the last semester. I paid it off in about three months.
The second time I went to grad school, I wound up $29,192.46 in debt as of the day I moved back home. So I suppose I've paid off just under $34,000 in debt during my 20s.
How did you keep yourself motivated?
I really, really struggled with the feeling that other people sort of owned me until that money was paid off, so motivation wasn't too difficult. I wanted that debt gone from the second I took it on. For me, learning frugal tips to cut down on my spending and picking up side hustling skills made the time pass quicker and increased the amounts I could throw at each debt.
"Learning frugal tips to cut down on my spending and picking up side hustling skills made the time pass quicker and increased the amounts I could throw at each debt."
How did you manage the days where you just wanted to go out and spend money?
Sometimes I did. I went on a trip with my cousin to Peru in the middle of paying off all the debt and I turned down going on a trip to Thailand that I still regret. While I am 100% for getting the heck out of debt, you can't just stop living for a few years. You just need to make a plan and stick to it. Once I decided I really wanted to go to Thailand, I set aside a little each month to get there. That meant that I was paying down my balances a little slower, but I was definitely still making more than the minimum payments.
What would be your money advice to your 21 year old self?
Don't go to school every time you don't know what to do with your life!! And learn to budget. I mean, you do only live once, so don't miss out on things because you didn't plan appropriately. If you learn to keep your main expenses low - live with roommates, do without cable - you can do things like have a wild night out on the town with your friends once in a while or go on foreign adventures and still have a decent chunk in your bank account. It's all about learning how to balance. And always live below your means!
" Always live below your means! "
What steps are you taking to ensure your debt freedom is permanent?
I have a very health emergency savings account and keep putting money away for retirement. I also have healthcare coverage (which I did not for a long time), since medical emergencies and the bills that come with them are one of the major reasons people can go into debt. I think the only reason I would consider going into debt would be if I got a PhD because I was certain I wanted to be a college professor, but even if I did have to take on loans, I would pay careful attention to the amount and do everything I could to keep them as low as possible.