This post was inspired by Minting Nickels and her post My Money at 20.
This post was featured in Carnival of Personal Finance #285.
Many years ago, on another continent, in another country there was girl who graduated from the state university with a Master’s degree in Library Science. Since there were no library jobs that paid well, the girl got a job at a private wholesale company. In five years the girl was earning a decent salary (let’s not compare it to a dollar equivalent not to get confused). Years later the girl collected all the courage she had, said goodbye to her friends, quit her stable and promising job and moved over the Atlantic ocean to start a new life.
And the new life began, indeed…
My first year in the States was not easy financially. I came to the United States with $200 in my pocket and no debt. I was an international student and my stepfather financed my first year in school. As an international student I could not even get a part time job. The fashion and style in the US was quite different from the fashion in Eastern Europe, and my $200 went pretty fast spent on new clothes.
During my second and third year in the US, my English became much better, I got a part-time job, and most importantly I discovered the pleasures of shopping. Honestly, I became addicted to it. This relationship was based on my past experience. The Soviet Union stores were not glamorous or inviting. I remember dim lights, brown and grey interior colors and the gloomy faces of the sales people. The customer service was non-existent. Clothes and shoes all looked the same: dark colors, shapeless form. Now, imagine a girl who came to the United States and saw all the goods offered to consumers with shiny smiles on the sales people’s faces. Imagine a little kid in Disneyland with free admission and endless possibilities.
It was a very expensive addiction and it needed to be financed. By then I was working a part-time job, so I could apply and get a credit card. In spite of my miserable earning potential, I managed to get a credit card and my life was changed forever. I was able to feed my shopping addiction. I could never have enough clothes, shoes, handbags and so on.
Eventually I ended up having multiple credit cards. The problem with that was that I could not pay for them. I got a second part-time job and the circle was finally complete – I financed my education and my lifestyle with small paychecks and credit cards.
In my fourth and fifth year I got a full-time job and moved out of my parents house. I was able to rent a small ghetto apartment and enjoyed my independence for about six months. My future husband moved in with me later and helped me out with the rent and other expenses.
Meanwhile, I noticed that more money I was making, the more I was spending. Isn’t it a paradox? I never had enough and was living from paycheck to paycheck.
During my sixth and seventh year I was pulling myself through grad school using student loans. My husband and I financed our European honeymoon with credit cards and buried ourselves deeper in debt. Fortunately, I got a full time job and a year later I got a huge promotion. That’s when it hit me. I was making good money and could not afford a lot of things. So, I took a closer look at out finances.
It was (and still is) embarrassing to admit that an accountant who makes a good salary and enjoys working with numbers could not budget and take control of her own finances. That’s when, for the first time in my life, I created a budget. It was a turning point in our financial disaster. Another turning point was when my husband and I made the greatest decision ever – if we cannot afford to pay cash for something, we don’t buy it. We save for it.
All the subsequent years still are devoted to paying off debt. It is not easy. There are a lot of things we are not able to do. We bought a small one bedroom condo instead of a house. We don’t have big international vacations unless we save up for it. Most importantly, I never pull out my credit card when I go shopping. Cash is my best friend now.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow and let’s be grateful for simple things such as being with a family during the holidays, having a job and a paycheck, being healthy and loved, being with someone you love. Lets be grateful for being bloggers, supporting each other and belonging to a blogging community. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
A side note: I changed the name of my blog. Nothing major but now it is called Aloysa’s Kitchen Sink. Also, I opened a Facebook page. You can find me under Aloysa’s Kitchen Sink. Please stop by, say hi and become a friend!
EDIT: This article was featured as an Editor’s Pick in Carnival of Money Stories # 82!