After years of struggling on my own, I’ve realized how much my pride has gotten in my way. I’ve had to move back in with my parents when I maxed out my student loans, maxed out credit cards and suffered through high interest debt. Last week I have started to change that by getting a consolidation loan.
But to bring back some examples of how my pride and being afraid of shame have kept me from going places in life.
When is went to college back in 2010, my parents helped me set up bank account with the credit union on campus. Including a credit card with a whopping $1,000 limit. I had saved up a couple grand to put into my checking and savings from my awful summer job. As my parents left me to fend for myself, they told me to save the credit card for emergencies only. I listened at first because I knew how bad credit card debt was.
As I found my group of friends, who all wanted to go to diners at 3am on a week night, I blew apart my budget I tried to set out. I had a job on campus running sound for the Basketball, Soccer, and Volleyball games. That helped me stay afloat for the most part. But slowly as the year dragged on, I started to rack up debt little by little.
I worked my awful, but decent paying summer job in a warehouse, and that crushed my credit card debt pretty quickly. I was able to save up more money to help me survive sophomore year. But lifestyle creep hit me pretty quick and I ran out of money halfway through the second semester. Enter calling the credit card company to bump my limit up and opening my second credit card (both at 20%+)
My junior year I got a bit smarter and took on a couple more on campus jobs and moved off campus where I could (foolishly) live off my student loan refunds. I had everything budgeted for and we packed 6 people into a duplex that overall cost me $125/ month. I ate the poor college kid life with ramen and the cheapest frozen pizzas money could buy.
Here’s where my financial life fell apart the first time. I was maxing out the student loans through my college’s credit union. And joke’s on me, the fine print says max of $40,000 lifetime. well I was at $39,000ish. They denied me for any future loans. I looked into part time jobs, dropping out, and even seeing how I could finance my life. On top of that my housing situation crumbled after some drama only Shakespeare could write. Although I was living (illegally) on campus with a friend when my lease ran up, I was effectively going to be homeless once the people who were actually supposed to be there moved in.
A little while later, my Dad called me. It was my birthday. I’ll never forget how he started that conversation. “Happy birthday son. How’s maxing out your student loans going?” Apparently my sister had this same problem and he probably knew that I wasn’t going to confess to him that I couldn’t make it on my own. He offered to let me move home and keep using the 1998-Manual Transmission-CD blew up inside the radio so you had to listen to the radio stations-Ford Ranger. I was now a commuter and felt like a failure.
Most of my friends looked at the situation in a positive light. Free food, housing, laundry, and utilities. But I felt ashamed that I couldn’t even make it on my own. My parents even offered to pay for gas for my daily 40 minute-19Mpg- 30 mile commute. I refused. I told them that I make enough at my jobs to get by. But because I commuted and worked on theater shows (for free) as a part of my schooling, work was not as often as I needed. At one point, I remember getting done tearing down a show at 2 am and I started my commute home. My gas light came on. My debit card declined, My credit cards declined, all I had left was the $20 bill I leave in my glovebox. I was out of money. I had 3 days of fuel left in my truck before I was literally stuck. I had another full week until the next paycheck came through. I had to go back home with my tail between my legs and ask for help.
From hitting that rock bottom, I was given gift cards to help me finish out the semester and I took on extra gigs to make money, which hurt my grades, but I felt like I had to pick myself up. I didn’t like the handouts. After that I started turning my financial life around.
Since then, I have had my slip ups, over extended myself, but I have never had a card decline or be maxed out. But my pride and shame have slowed me down. I felt that getting a consolidation loan was going to be an awful process and make me feel judged by my bank, or like I failed. But the reality is that after 4 years of trying to pay off cards with over 20% APR, I wasn’t making any progress. I wasted so much money and I don’t even want to see how the math would have worked out. But even from looking forward, dropping the interest rate down, I will be saving well over $1,000 and almost 2 years of payoff time.
We can all look back and say “woulda, shoulda, coulda”, but I won’t make that kind of mistake again. I could be miles ahead of where I am today if I would have put my pride aside and gotten the loan sooner. Maybe I’d be in my own home, or be looking at maxing out retirement accounts and be closer to FI. All I can do now is make good choices going forward and being independent is all the motivation I need.