Middle Class Money

A mostly stay-at-home mom and her husband battle to defeat the debt monster in the face of daily money-hungry dragons.

Monday, October 16, 2006

My single-life debt... before the marraige

My husband and I met back in 1998, when we both worked at a local country club. Once you're surrounded by people for whom money is no issue, you can easily forget it is your issue. Though we didn't get together until 2001, we went about our dreamy world of spend spend on our own.

Me: I had racked up some college debt. I went to a private liberal arts college because it was cheaper than a state school. The first year anyway. The next year, the college found a bond my great-aunt had bought for me, and that was all counted as my money and hurt my financial aid. Lucky for my brother and cousin, they cashed in their bond long before their colleges heard about them, and got themselves nicer cars at 16. The total combined debt for my parents and I after 4 years of school was about $43K. My personal debt from this was $18,209.47.

Then, I decided to go to grad school, because what the heck was I going to do with an English degree but keep waitressing at the country club? I started off at a private college in Boston. Obviously, I did not learn my lesson about college debt. However, after a summer up there, I realized that I was taking out large student loans for EVERYTHING. I couldn't even park my car up there without a loan. So, off to state school I went. Good move. Bad part, not in my state of residence.

Anyway, the grad school thing worked out well. I was able to land a great babysitting job 4 days a week my first year, and the 2nd year, I got an assitantship which paid for a large amount of credits, gave me state tuition rate for the credits it didn't cover, and paid me real money. I kept the babysitting job two days a week, and still managed to have a little fun every now and then. I left grad school after 2 years with an additional $8000 debt and a job.

Once I graduated, I was looking ok with the exception of my student loans. Once you really sit down and look at those numbers, it kinda makes you sick. Everyone was pushing the "consolidate now" spin, so I did. At 5.5%. I think other people waited another year, and their loans are 2-3%. Even though the student loan companies continue to send me refinancing and consolidating stuff, I call and they say I can't consolidate. So, 5.5% it is.

Then, I rushed into getting my own apartment, instead of mooching off my parents and saving a little while, like the financially saavy. I had no savings, but I also had no credit card debt, so I figured I was good to go. But, I did accumulate some debt while furnishing my bachlorette pad... whoops. But, I think the living on my own was a great experience, and since it was only for 9 months (excuses, excuses).

BAM! The importance of an energency fund was thrown in my face. Along with a telephone pole. A woman ran a stop sign 3 blocks from my apartment (it really is true what they say about accidents being within a couple of miles from your home!), and slammed me, and my completely paid off car, into a telephone pole. I got about $3000 for the car and $2000 for time I missed work. So, I had no savings, no car, and about $2000 in credit card debt. I decided this was the time to get off that bad path I was heading down. I used the $2000 to pay off my credit card, and put the $3000 towards my first car with a car payment. Yuck.

Then, the boy and I got together, and the story goes on from there. All and all, I came into the relationship with not a ton of debt, compared to others. I have been lucky (assistantship) and loved (parents taking on some debt for me). I could have a lot more debt. I feel guilty that my parents have college debt for me, but I can't really help with that right now. When we started dating, I have college loans totalling $26,209.47 and a car loan balance of $10,3000. I could have made smarter decisions (cheaper car, cheaper college), but at that point in my life, I have to believe I would have just blown the extra cash anyway. Can't beat myself up over the past now, I guess. What have you wanted to change in hindsight? Are your parents paying college debt for you?

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