Sometimes it’s weird for me to look at my net worth, my account balances, my salary. It was less than 3 years ago when I moved to California, the opposite side of the country from where I had lived my entire life and where most of my family lives. I had about $17,000 in student loan debt (still have most of that, in fact), a credit card with a $5000 limit and a $4000 balance, no car, no savings, and nowhere to live. I did have a sister living about 2 hours away, a decent-paying job with great relocation benefits, and I’d gone to a state school, so my loans weren’t as bad as they could have been.
I made a lot of stupid mistakes. I procrastinated on filing my moving reimbursements, I bought a brand new car (I actually think this was the right decision for me) and got financing through the dealership (definitely the WRONG decision), and I fell in love with an apartment one block from the beach that was a lot more in rent than I should have been spending.
Things got better. My boyfriend was able to find a job in the same city (making more than me… damn that gender wage gap!), which immediately freed up $800/month due to sharing the rent and utilities. We are still living in our tiny shoebox by the beach, even though the cramped space sometimes drives us crazy (especially the tiny closets!). I paid down the balance on my credit card before the interest rate kicked in (it was originally at an introductory 0% interest rate). I paid extra on my car loan, until I realized that the credit union at work could knock 5% off the rate I was paying. I still paid extra, and the car is officially mine as of November 2007 (~2 years after I’d bought it).
My father had lectured me before I’d left about putting money into my 401K, so I was smart enough to set up an automatic 8% deposit, earning the full match and never having a chance to miss the money. He lectured me more about the Roth IRA, so I opened one the next year and stole money from my emergency savings to max it out for both years (this was also pretty stupid, I admit, but there were no emergencies so I guess it worked out!).
I was lucky in my boyfriend selection (as awful as that might sound). He is frugal, like me, and we have more fun walking on the beach or having a catch at the park than going out drinking every night. (Not that we don’t also do our fair share of drinking, but usually at home or at someone else’s apartment.) He has been luckier than me – his parents covered all of his education and gave him a car when he graduated, but he’s always been very good about paying for dinner or drinks when I have no money of my own. He is willing to work extra hours when we carpool, and when his car died a few months ago, he was willing to try life with just 1 car. In spite of the fact that he now has to drive a seafoam green girl car everywhere!
I’m proud that I’m doing so well, especially given how hard I’ve worked for it. I haven’t had all the advantages that others have, but I’m not stupid enough to think that I haven’t had any (probably have had more than most!).
It’s still seems unreal when I look at my account balances.
… Actually, I hope I never lose that.