Why I care about Personal Finance

What seems like a million years ago, I got my first car. 1988 Suzuki Samurai. I had a part-time job during high school at McDonalds to pay for it. It was great. My first car. I felt so independent. Little did I know that it gave me the freedom to get myself into financial trouble.

You see, I had a car and a job! I could go anywhere I wanted to go, even the mall. I learned that when you open a credit card at the store, they give you a discount. 10% sure sounded like a lot to discount something. (I know better now) I had a Kaufmanns card, Penneys, Lerners, Victoria’s Secret, etc. You name it, I had it. After a while, I started college and they had FREE T-shirts and slinkeys. You know the kind of slinkey, the rainbow plastic one? Well, I had about 4 of those. AT&T Universal Cards, Citibank cards, Discover, you name it, I had it. I got into REAL trouble when I found out that I couldn’t make the minimum payments on them.

Collectors were calling my house, my cell phone, and even my work. My second car got repossessed at my job once. It was humiliating. You’d think I would have learned something. But not really. I still had those cards, and the issuers were raising my limits!

Then one day, I decided it had to stop. Some of them I paid in full as a collection, and others I paid in settlement. Sears was one that I paid partially and they accepted it in full. I got copies of my credit reports and tried to fix the stuff that was bad on there. I didn’t know at the time that paying a collection restarts the reporting clock, but that’s neither here nor there. The worst of my problems was that I owed too much money and I needed a car.

I found a place that would finance me, granted it was at 21% and the payments had to be made twice a month, but they financed me with a repo on my reports. Anyways, I had that car for a while, and I couldn’t make the payments. It may have had something to do with me turning 21 and drinking all of my money away, but I was close to repossession again, and came up with the money to pay the balance owed about 20 minutes before the repo man came again. The repo man came and took the car anyways, and I had to fight with the finance company to keep a repo off my reports. I paid them current and they took the car anyways. Oh well, lesson learned.

I started taking the bus. I had to leave my house and walk the 2 miles to the bus stop at 5am to catch the bus at 7am. It got me to work at about 9am after a transfer. I would do the same thing on the way home, leave the office at 5pm, and get off the bus and walk home. I’d get in the front door about 7pm. I did this for a while until I got my tax refund back. Then I paid cash for a car. 1988 Plymouth Reliant K car with 54K original miles on it. This was in 2000. It was probably the most reliable car I owned.

Moving on, at this point, I found a man that I wanted to marry, and he knew all my financial troubles. We met at an online discussion board about personal finance and credit repair. It was perfect! He still loved me and wanted to be with me. We were married in 2001, and I moved out of state. I had to sell the K-car because even though it was reliable, I didn’t think it would make it from NY to NC. He helped me repair my credit, and I actually got some new cards! I was really trying to be responsible with my money. Pay my bills on time, and keep spending to a minimum.

Then it happened. We broke up and I had to move back to NY. I had no job and no car. I was really sad. He helped me buy a car at a dealership he knew someone at, and I loved that car. 2001 Saturn L200. I thought I was the SHIT, until I couldn’t keep up with the payments on the cards. They went to collections again, and in 2005 I found myself filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Filing for BK had to have been the most embarrassing and humiliating, but one of the BEST experiences and outcomes of my life. I have 4 credit cards now, 3 of them are fully paid off. I have a brand new car and all the payments are current. Ever since the BK I have had perfect credit. Not one late payment. I even have my own apartment.

Yes, it’s been a struggle, but I’ve achieved a goal. Living on my own and being independent. I’m so proud of who I am now, and that I’m much more responsible with money. I don’t think that I would be if I didn’t go through all that before. I’m more open to doing things now, and I’m not afraid to tell someone I can’t afford to do something with them.

What have your personal financial struggles been? Why do you care so much about Personal Finance?

2 Responses to “Why I care about Personal Finance”

  1. Krystal Says:

    That is a very inspirational story. Thank you for sharing it! It’s stories like yours that encourage me to keep on going in my journey of becoming debt-free!

    I care so much about personal finance because I don’t want to have to worry about money later on in life. I am trying to turn my financial situation around so I can have all the things that I’ve been dreaming of – marriage, family, a house, a wonderful (worry-free) retirement, etc.

    I used to be in a lot of debt – sent to collections, denied credit, maxed out cards, living paycheque to paycheque … it was awful! I hated the feeling of helplessness; of never having enough money to cover the expenses. I never want to feel that way again!

  2. Snoop Bloggy Blog Says:

    This is a great story, and somehow I missed it!

    I knew bits and pieces to this, but I never had the full story.

    You should’ve kept the K-car!!!! It would have made it to NC! We got rid of our’s in 2003 with 154,000 miles. Dad bought it used in 1989, and it was the most reliable car he’s ever owned.

    You’ve been through a lot, but you are on the path to financial recovery. Just the little that you and I have talked about (for improving my finances) are making my financial situation much more comfortable and I enjoy being financially sound.

    I’m spoiled.
    My parents had an older car for me to drive when I got my license. My sister and I shared that car through high school, and after my first year in college, I got my own car. This was in 1998, and I got a 1986 Plymouth Reliant wagon. We paid $900 for it. I love that car. I pulled out the stereo and cut holes in the doors for nice speakers. I touched up every little ding or scratch in it. On the weekends I went to junk yards to find missing trim pieces or interior “upgrades” for it.

    I screwed around in college, and ended up back at home. The Reliant left me stranded about 10 miles from home one day after it decided to dump all of its transmission fluid. Then the A/C failed, and Dad decided that he had it, and he donated my car with a promise to get me a better car. I ended up with a 1995 Saturn SW2. Good car, but it did permanent damage to my knee. (I’m 6’5″.)

    Then I made the biggest financial mistake ever. I graduated with my associates degree, and my parents paid 50% toward a brand new car. I paid the other 50% from my Grandpa’s insurance settlement. This was in the fall of 2000, and by 2003, I sold that car for 25% of what I paid for it.

    It was at that point that I realized that money isn’t as easy to come by as I thought it was. I literally wasted thousands of dollars to buy a new car, which becomes used as soon as I drove it away. I’ll never buy another new car. Ever.

    Today, I’m living frugally. My wife and I own three vehicles plus a boat. My truck and her car are fully paid for. The boat has a balance of $2000 remaining, but my car is only half paid for. (It was used, thank you.) I’m saving every penny that I can, putting 10% toward my 401k (and getting 3% match from my employer), and investing money outside my 401k.

    Two years ago, my emergency fund didn’t exist, and I had $2000 of credit card debt. Today, I have no credit card debt and $1400 of emergency fund. I do ALL of my own work on my house and my cars to save money.

    I feel like I’m living the good life now! My wife and I get to take our 11 year old boat to the lake being towed by my 13 year old truck. When I pull up to the ramp, I see many newer trucks and boats. It isn’t uncommon to see $40,000 trucks and $30,000 boats. Maybe those people made financially sound decisions, but I have to smirk to myself thinking that I get to enjoy the lake just like they do, and I do it nearly debt free. (I also take just a little bit of pride in how well my truck and boat run after I get to work on them.)

    Life isn’t about showing off with the newest fashions or the prettiest cars. Happiness can be derived from peace, and peace comes from financial security.

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