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?