This is part 3 of a 4 part series, Becoming Centsible: My Frugal Journey.
My sophomore and junior years flew by. At the end of my junior year, my best friend and I were still living in the dorms, while all our friends were getting apartments near campus. In envy, I made the worst decision and ruined my comfortable lifestyle. We found our own apartment. It was cheap, near campus, and not a horrible decision for a first apartment, but it wasn’t part of my agreement with my Grandparents. The next year, bills piled up around us for utilities and rent. We both worked hard, while going to school, to make ends meet. And while we were doing fine, we didn’t have extra money to go out and have fun. We sat home, eating Ramen noodles, each evening, while our friends shopped, went out to eat, and hit the town.
I stayed strong for a half of the year. Then New Years and my birthday came, I decided I deserved a night out. Just one night, and then, I’d go back to sitting home and being responsible. I reached in and grabbed out one of the credit cards. The one with the lowest available balance. I was going to pay it off as soon as the bill came.
It was so easy. Just a swipe and whatever I wanted was mine. After that night, it got too easy. I kept using the credit card, promising to pay it off as soon as I got the bill. But when that bill came, it was more than I had, but luckily there was a little note that said minimum payment. It was so low, I was shocked. I happily paid off the minimum payment and continued to shop, as the balance grew and grew, until I maxed out the credit card completely.
I wish I could say it made me realize and I smartened up, but I didn’t. I just reached for the next credit card. It got so bad, I kept thinking, it’s too late now, why stop? I even bought a cell phone on credit and ran up a bill too high to pay.
The bills grew and I couldn’t even make the minimum payment. And then, instead of bills rolling in, creditors started calling and I was hiding out, avoiding the phone.
I know so many people struggle at this point for so long, but I got lucky. Just out of college, I got a job at a very small, new company and was making great money. I went back to staying home and being responsible. Though I hadn’t caught on to the full understanding of frugal living, I was good at living on little and actually enjoyed those Ramen noodles. I consolidated my debt, made higher payments than necessary, and after a year, I had was paid off.
And then I bought a car on credit!