Living Within My Means By Brittany Sorel comments

By Brittany Sorel | December 14, 2010

I used to be a big spender who could not control my credit card use.  I had a Visa, a Discover, a Dillard’s Card, a Gap Card and a Macy’s Card.  They were all maxed out except for the Visa card, and I had $14,600 in debt at the age of 27.  The worst part was that I felt ashamed and used to bring my shopping bags into our apartment when my roommate could not see me.

Then I got a new job that I really liked a lot and wanted to impress my boss and do well.  About a month after I started the job, my car died.  I needed to buy a reliable new car so that I could get to work on time every day, but I was turned down for financing because my credit had started to suffer.  I was making only minimum payments and was sometimes late or would even skip a month.  I didn’t know how bad this was at the time.  I just thought I’d catch up somehow later.

I had to tell my roommate my situation – leaving out some of the details about my credit problems – and ask her for a ride to work for a few days until I figured out there was a bus stop about a mile and a half from our apartment.  By the time I walked to the bus stop, rode the bus, and walked the rest of the way to work, it took an hour and a half to get to work.  My commute used to be about 25 minutes.

I finally talked to my Dad and asked him to help me.  He was pretty disappointed, but offered to help.  He put me on a plan similar to the one that Wendy writes about in her FinancialRx series on getting out of debt.  He also helped me buy a used car. He paid cash for the car up front and we wrote up a legal contract together, outlining how I would pay him back, and I signed it.  It said that I would pay him 2% interest over 4 years.  It was a great deal.

We also wrote up another contract and we signed it.  But this contract had a bunch of financial challenges in it.  I had to cut up and cancel all of my credit cards but one.  The one I did not cancel, I had to give to him.  He sat next to me while I did this on the phone!  I also had to pack a lunch to take to work at least three times a week.  My mom bought me a beautiful lunch cooler and stainless steel thermos so it would be fun.  Since they live just an hour away, they also made a standing “date” with me every Sunday night so I could have at least one home cooked meal and take leftovers home with me to save money.  The contract I signed with my Dad also said I could only spend $200 a month on “entertainment,” which includes things like eating out, movies makeup and clothes.

At first I thought it would be hard, but now I got my roommate on board and we like to scour the town for cheap happy hour food and drinks together!  I no longer hide my shopping bags from her, but instead show off a great recipe I just made.  Sometimes, to have fun for very little money, we invite our girlfriends over for a Trader Joe’s Wine Tasting night.  It’s a blast!  I’m finally living within my means and loving it!

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