Hey debt fighters! We have a different kind of letter today from new blogger The Lady in the Black. LITB, aka Erica is a 40-something single mom, freelance writer, and published author. She was inspired to start her blog based on her ongoing struggles to manage her personal finances.
I have been thinking about writing you for a while but I really wasn’t sure where to begin. All I do know is that I’ve wronged you and you deserve an apology. However, I’ll admit that the apology is not completely altruistic. Forgiveness would help me move on and my hope is that we could, one day, grow closer and have a more mutually beneficial relationship.
Truth is we have hurt each other a lot.
Looking far back into my childhood, I can see you and I got off to an extremely rocky start. You presented yourself to me first as shiny silver dollars. You were cherished little glittery gifts that I stashed safely away in my little miniature mailbox coin bank. I was infatuated with you. Not because of what you could get me but because you were beautiful and you were mine. That is, until the day you ran away with my sister to the video arcade. You traded yourself into dirty little quarters which granted my little sister hours of Asteroids and Ms. PacMan! How could you!?!? I was so hurt. I felt betrayed by you and my sister. Now, in hindsight, my sister was just a little girl who wanted to play and took something that wasn’t hers. That’s what little sisters do. And you? Well, I suppose you weren’t responsible. You didn’t abandon me. The child in me only remembers the loss. The child in me didn’t appreciate my parents attempt to give me an allowance in such a special way to teach me of your value. I FORGIVE YOU, MY SISTER. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
As I grew, I felt ashamed how you seemed to avoid me and my family. You really weren’t making yourself available to us. It was embarrassing to have to shop at the bargain stores when my girlfriends all gossiped about their weekends at the cool CrossGates mall. They sported their Jordache jeans and Sony Walkmans while I hiked up my no-name leg warmers and feathered my hair with the generic comb, tucked safely in the back pocket of my jeans from Caldor. Our family was “middle class” with a working dad, stay-at-home mom, and 3 kids (staggered 4 years apart.) Where were you? The child in me remembers the government chunks of Velveeta cheese and special reduced-priced lunch tickets. I remember wearing “high-water” jeans and scruffy sneakers. The child in me remembers feeling like “having money” wasn’t something attainable for us. The child in me didn’t appreciate how hard it must have been to budget a single-income and feed a family of 5, especially during dad’s 18-month long union strike. I truly wonder how they did it. We were well-fed, well-mannered, well-educated children living the American dream. I FORGIVE YOU, MY PARENTS. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
When I was in college, reveling in the new-found independence of my first apartment and my first true love, you bailed on me with him-that-shall-be-not-named, when he dumped me and took off for Florida. I had nothing! You both broke my fucking heart and I was literally starving. I’d scrounge up $10 and buy a pizza from down the street. That pizza was my breakfast, lunch and dinner until it ran out. I had no phone (the old kind), no friends, tons of difficult schoolwork, and a broken heart. I binged watched China Beach on TBS and cried my eyes out for months. The victim in me put everyone to blame, especially you, Money. The victim in me didn’t acknowledge that I was successfully scraping my way through college. I was tough and building up my resiliency. Most importantly, I didn’t acknowledge it was temporary. I FORGIVE YOU, MY FIRST LOVE. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
And while I could continue on, elaborate the times in my marriage when you were such a hot topic, I really want to focus on what I feel like was the most profound disappointment you ever gave me. You know what a trial my divorce and custody battle was. You saw me fight with every fiber of my being to build a new life for me and my child. You saw me move 3,000 miles away to reclaim the person I believed I was but never felt comfortable being. You watched as I started a new job and suffered one of the greatest tragedies of my life. I’ll admit you did support me a bit when I had to tuck my tail between my legs, admit defeat, and once again uproot my life for the benefit of my child. You knew it nearly broke me. And yet, when I was in exile in a desert land, miserable, lonely and afraid, you left. I got fired because I was miserable. I got dumped by the love of my life because I was miserable. And you were no where to be found. The victim in me felt punished for trying to be independent and doing the right thing. The victim in me didn’t acknowledge that I put myself in that absurdly vulnerable position with no safety net or plan B. The amazing truth is that you did come back for me. You returned when I was at rock bottom. First, you were gifts from the man who loved me but couldn’t “save” me. Then, you were a comfortable and loving place to stay while I got on my feet again. You were the great-paying freelance contract I landed straight out of the gate. You have spent the last year surrounding me, comforting me, rebuilding my life and my dreams. You’ve given me the strength to live life on my terms. I FORGIVE MYSELF. I FORGIVE MYSELF. AND I THANK YOU, MY MONEY.
Since I’m now quite literally in tears, I suppose I’ll just sum it up by saying that it was me that chose to remember you in a negative light. It was me who cast you as the evil villain and myself as the damsel in distress. You are just you, Money. I see that now. And now that I’ve pulled up my big girl panties and committed to truly taking care of myself in every possible way, I hope that you and I will have a very positive future together.
And even if you try to take off one day, I won’t let you. You aren’t everything to me, Money, but you are important and I plan on keeping you around.
Your Repentant Friend,
The Lady in the Black
We first met when I was in undergrad. Tuition at a private prestigious university for 4 years was well over $100,000! Then one day as I was strolling through campus, I came across a booth of kids who were smiling, handing out free gifts, drinks, and…gasp…credit cards.
You mean I could apply for a credit card, get instantly approved, and get a free Nerf ball all in the same? Sign me up!
I remember my friends and I having a ball for the next few weeks as we racked up thousands in credit card debt over beer, pizza, electronics…you name it. Hell, it was free money in our eyes!
Fast forward 4 years and I was debt free. See, I got a pretty good job coming out of college working for Fannie Mae (this was before the financial crisis). I also was fortunate enough to get grants and help from my parents to pay for undergrad. My debt, including the credit cards, was gone.
Now I bounced around from job to job for awhile, and became disillusioned with my work so of course I went back to school to get my MBA. I was fortunate enough to get accepted to a great school, and figured that the $110,000 price tag was worth it because I would make so much more money upon graduation.
Yeah, didn’t happen. I graduated and actually ended up making LESS than what I made prior to grad school. My old friend had returned with a vengeance!
But, I must say, I greatly expanded my network, and more importantly, I started my own business. The fundamentals I learned in business school gave me the courage to start my own personal finance website Sobredinero.com, and I now am well on my way to paying down my student loans.
To be fair, it will still be a long journey, but I suspect that you won’t be around much longer because I have increased discipline and knowledge through my blogging about saving, credit, debt, investing etc…
I am no longer afraid of you for I have learned the difference between good vs bad debt. I am not afraid of you anymore Sallie Mae, Navient…whatever you’re calling yourself these days. Bring it on!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the CO-OP THINK conference in New York City. The conference was all about credit unions and this year’s theme was “digital transformation.”
In many of the sessions, we talked about digital disruption and what companies need to do to stay relevant.
Time and time again we heard about how companies like Uber and AirBnB are taking over and disrupting industries. In fact, one staggering statistic from one of the sessions noted that many of the business models in place today will not be around in five years — or will be something else completely.
Talk about disruption.
The same thing is happening in financial services. Why? Because the old model no longer works. Millennials have an inherent distrust for traditional financial services, especially in a post-Great Recession world.
We want convenience, accessibility, and transparency. Luckily, there are several financial technology companies out there that are bridging the gap and turning financial services on its head.
Here are 5 FinTech apps disrupting financial services right now. (Please note, this post contains affiliate links but all of my opinions are my own.)
Have you ever struggled with budgeting or tracking your money? Tiller budget spreadsheets might be the answer for you. Named 2017 Best Budgeting Service by FinTech Breakthrough, the service easily syncs your bank transactions into a Google Sheet (where my spreadsheet nerds at?) You can use one of their templates or create your own. The cool part is you also get daily emails about your transactions as well as your balances, so you can easily stay on top of your money.
The cost is $5 per month — or one latte per month. There’s no risk though as you can try it free for 30 days. Interested? Sign up here.
You’re in need of a new car and you want to know your financing options. The last thing you want to do is walk into a bank or a dealership, running around town trying to find the best rate.
What if you could know your financing options before ever setting foot into a dealership? Using AutoGravity, you can. AutoGravity was one of the Best of Show winners at Finovate Fall 16 and helps consumers get transparent information about their financing options.
Do you want the convenience and security of a credit card — but want to stay out of debt? Debitize can help. Debitize deducts the amount of your credit card purchases from your checking account each day and pays the credit card bill at the end of the month. Essentially, you can still use your credit card but have it act like a debit card by deducting purchases from your account. The best part? It’s absolutely free.
There is almost nothing I hate more in life than paying unnecessary fees. Just, why?! That’s why I’m flummoxed why some people pay banking fees. Again, why?
If you want to avoid banking fees, I’d say look for a credit union or an online bank. One of the best online banks making a splash is Chime. There are no monthly fees or minimums, no overdraft fees and more. I also really dig their Automatic Savings program, too. They round up each purchase you make with your Chime card and put it in your savings account. Bonus: You get a 10 percent weekly bonus on the roundups. Using Chime, you can also get daily balance updates so you know where you’re at with your money.
If you sign-up before June 30, you’ll get a $5 deposit upon opening an account.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all of your financial accounts and trying to keep track of it all? Using Empower, a new money management app, you can keep tabs on your spending, categorize your expenses, set savings and spending targets, and transfer your money.
The beauty of Empower is it’s all on mobile, making managing your money a breeze. Currently, it’s only available for iOS users but they’re working on an Android app too. Also, it’s free!
As a personal finance writer, I have to say I’m excited to see this shift in financial services. There are more apps and services that cater to consumers’ needs and offer convenient and accessible products.
Have you tried any of these apps? If not, which ones are you excited to try? Any other favorite apps you want to share?
May is Mental Health Awareness month, so I wanted to post something near and dear to my heart while there are a few days left. I’m modifying my signature dear debt letters and writing one to depression. Some of you may know that I’m a mental health advocate who is passionate about helping others. I’m passionate about mental health because I’ve suffered on and off from depression for half of my life and know the pain that this invisible illness can inflict. Lately, I’ve been dealing with another spell, and though I’m high-functioning, it still affects my day-to-day life. If you’ve ever experienced depression, you are not alone. If you have not experienced it, become an ally for friends and family that are dealing with depression. They need your support and most of all, your understanding.
I thought you were gone and we said our goodbyes, but you came running back to me. You came with all your baggage and said, “I’m here to stay.”
You made yourself at home, nice and comfortable. I tried to tell you I didn’t want you here, but I could barely open my mouth to say the words.
I tried to pretend that you weren’t there and go on with my life until you threatened to ruin everything. I found it hard to work because all my energy was going to you. My relationship suffered because you would get in the way. I stopped taking care of myself because you tried to tell me “What’s the point?”
As soon as you came back, everything changed. I started questioning myself. My confidence was shot. You clouded all of my interactions and made a mountain out of a molehill. Joy was a long lost friend, replaced by your best bud, Anxiety.
You brought an impending sense of doom that is hard to shake. And I hate you every day for making me feel this way. I wish more than anything I could “just snap out of it” or “just be happy” or think “positive thoughts.”
But it’s not that easy. Though it’s difficult, I am committed to defeating you, Depression. Why? Because I did not work this hard to get here to have you fuck up everything.
So, yes, I’m spending money on therapy. I’m even considering medication.
I’ll do whatever it takes. I know I can’t “cure” you. I can’t wish you away. I have to manage you, day in and day out. But this fight is not over. I am on to you, Depression.
I know that you are a liar. You’re irrational, illogical, and conniving.
And most of all, you are not welcome here.
P.S. If you’re struggling with depression or any other mental health issues, there is NO shame in getting help. I have found affordable therapy sessions through OpenPathCollective.org. You can also go to your local graduate school to get affordable counseling sessions. Your health insurance may cover some assistance as well. If you’re considering suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741.
Hello debt fighters! I’m super pumped to announce I’ll be joining my girl Kara Perez from Bravely Go this Friday for a webinar on how to pay off student loans.
It’s going to be awesome! We both have some stories to share as well as some actionable advice.
Hope you can make it! It’s this Friday, May 5th at 11:30am PT. If you can’t make it, register and you’ll get the replay.
This blog post is part of the Pay Down My Debt (PDMD) blog tour, sponsored by US Equity Advantage. PDMD is a solution that accelerates debt payoff and helps consumers monitor their credit and make smarter purchasing decisions. If you’re looking to pay off debt, find out how they can help. This post contains affiliate links.
In theory, paying off debt should be simple right? Cut expenses, increase earnings and put more toward debt. Though these concepts are relatively simple, putting them into play is much more difficult.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Paying off debt is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Why? Because the process is so emotional.
You have to give up certain beliefs that may have gotten you into debt — or kept you there. You have to change your lifestyle and go against the status quo. It can be a very isolating experience.
Because of that, it’s very easy to let your debt fall to the wayside and get back into old beliefs and bad habits.
Everyone’s in debt.
You only live once!
I can pay off debt later!
What really worked for me was not going through the process alone. If you want to pay off debt, it’s crucial to have accountability systems in place.
When I published my first post on January 3, 2013 I felt alone, scared and overwhelmed. I had tried to pay off debt on my own while barely getting by.
I didn’t know what would happen when I published that first post, but I can confidently say it changed my whole life. Through my blog I created a community of other debt fighters who were going through the same things I was.
I had people I didn’t know cheering me on — rooting for me. They wanted me to succeed. Having that positive external reinforcement really made the difference.
Every month, I published my debt updates and I felt accountable to all my readers. I didn’t want to fail. In many ways, it was what kept me going.
If you don’t want to start a blog, find a friend who is also paying off debt. Set weekly meetings where you talk about your progress and setbacks.
One of the best things I did to pay off my debt was make multiple payments toward debt each month. This helped me lower my interest and put more toward debt.
I’m not going to lie — sometimes I made excuses. It’s very easy to lie to yourself when paying off debt. Being consistent is a skill you have to master, but our will and temptation can get in the way of our best intentions.
If you want to stay accountable and make multiple payments toward debt, consider using a service like Pay Down My Debt.
Pay Down My Debt helps users automate their debt by making automatic payments that are deducted from your account biweekly or bimonthly.
According to their website, “Our system makes the equivalent of an extra monthly payment on each loan every year. This also reduces your balance faster, again with less interest going forward. It’s a win-win!”
While the service isn’t free, it is only $9.99 per month for managing up to three loans. But you don’t just get the benefit of accountability and biweekly payments, you also get access to your credit score and credit monitoring. They’ll also send you reminders and payment alerts.
For the price of two lattes you are essentially paying for the accountability to propel your debt forward. No excuses.
Sure you can do this stuff for free, but sometimes you need a little extra help. You can work out on your own, but sometimes you need a trainer to kick you into shape.
Sometimes, putting a little money upfront can go a long way and help you battle your own doubts and demons. Like I said, there were some months I made excuses and only paid once a month. If I had a foolproof, automatic way to make biweekly payments without thinking about it, I could have gotten out of debt earlier.
In order to pay off debt, you need to change your financial habits. To do that, you need to actually track where things are going.
I created a daily habit of checking my bank account. I signed up for Mint and stuck with it — I enjoyed seeing their weekly spending reports and seeing my net worth (if you read my book, you know that I initially deleted my Mint account because I was seriously in denial!).
I signed up for text and email alerts from my student loan servicer. All of these things kept me accountable and got me out of denial. If you want to pay off debt successfully, it’s crucial that you get out of denial and take action.
It’s tough but putting systems into place can help!
Paying off debt is tough. Doing it alone? Even harder. Don’t leave your debt repayment up to chance and put accountability systems into place so that you can finally get out of debt.
The other day I woke up from a bad dream.
In the dream, I was in graduate school (again) pursuing a different degree — this time on a full scholarship (yay).
As it turns out though, there was a fluke and my scholarship didn’t go through, and somehow I had $100,000 in debt.
In my dream, I was so panicked.
“Nooo!” I thought.
“I just paid off nearly $100,000! I have to do this again?”
I felt demoralized, scared, and daunted by the task of having to go through that experience once again.
I woke up looking around, blinking twice to make sure this was my reality. Living debt-free in Los Angeles, living the life I want.
Yes, yes, it was. A wave of relief crashed over me as I tried to forget the pain of being in debt.
It’s been over a year since I paid off my student loan debt, but I was in student loan debt for my whole adult life. I am just now coming to terms with what life without debt looks like. In many ways, it’s very sweet.
I have less guilt, less anxiety, and more freedom. I have more choices or access to them at least.
But in the year or so since becoming debt-free, I haven’t completely shaken the pain of debt. I’m still worried that something will happen and I’ll be back in debt.
Having medical issues this year stirred up that worry. Taking on a project like Lola has me concerned about managing my business finances.
I realize I think about things differently because of my experience with debt. I am cautious.
It’s like I got burned and I’m a little too scared to get close to the fire again. Though I am doing everything in my power to rock the debt-free journey by saving money, investing, and paying off my credit card in full every month, I still have these lingering worries.
Ultimately, I don’t ever want to be in debt again. I don’t ever want to feel like everything I earn belongs to someone else and can be taken away from me.
After paying off close to $100,000 in student loans and interest, I know that paying off debt can be trying on your finances, your health, and your relationships.
Though I have my freedom now, I want to keep it. So I acknowledge these feelings and where they are coming from, and try not to let them rule my life.
As a blogger, I’ve always tried to be honest about the emotions related to debt. It turns out that some of those feelings don’t go away — at least not right away — even when you are debt free.
Let me guess. At the beginning of this year, you set all of these financial goals. You were going to finally pay off debt. Start investing. Get your spending under control. And now? You’ve made some progress, but you’re not where you want to be.
Don’t worry, I’ve been there. Making financial changes in your life is tough. That’s why having accountability and a coach to get you through can make all the difference. But what options are really out there for regular folks? Financial planners can cost a fortune. Not only that, most of them won’t look at you twice unless you have a certain amount of assets. It sucks.
The good news is there is a new financial initiative in town that can help: The Financial Gym.
The Financial Gym is a brick and mortar gym based in New York City. The gym has financial trainers to help their clients get their finances in shape. It’s a brilliant idea and so amazing. I had the pleasure of helping plan the opening and being there to witness it in all its glory.
The Financial Gym is the brainchild of my good friend Shannon McLay. If you listen to Martinis and Your Money, where I’m a regular guest, you probably know her. She is fun, passionate, hilarious and hard working. She is a mom, a good friend, and a financial services veteran working hard to turn the financial industry on its head…and actually help people.
At the Financial Gym, financial trainers work with you one-on-one to help you create a financial roadmap. Shannon always talks about how saving for retirement is like planning a roadtrip. You know you want to go from New York to California, but how will you get there? What pit stops will be along the way? Shannon and The Financial Gym team can help you get there.
Their clients have seen positive results, too. In fact, 90 percent of their clients have reached their financial goals, and their clients’ assets improved 50 percent over the course of two years. They’ve paid down a bunch of debt and boosted their credit scores. Not only that, but their relationship with money has shifted from one of stress to one of empowerment.
Though The Financial Gym is located in NYC and you can see their kick-ass space if you’re in the area, they also take clients over the phone or Skype. In other words, anyone can take advantage of their services.
Currently, as part of a March Madness promotion (so good for only a few more days!), they are offering a kickstarter package for 50 percent off the standard price. The typical price is already a steal at $250, but for the month of March, they are offering this package at $125.
I will say that if you sign-up with my link, I will get a referral bonus. But let me assure you that I would not recommend this if I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in what they’re doing. You see, I’m a blogger and financial writer. I can give advice and suggestions, but I’m not a “professional” or an “expert”.
Shannon is a former financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and quit her job so she could work with people like you and me who don’t have a lot of assets, but who could use the help. She’s the real deal, and I’ve seen firsthand how she has impacted others.
If you’re ready for a little more accountability and assistance on your financial journey, then I recommend this as a great investment in your financial future.
Hey everyone, let’s kick off the week with a dear debt letter from Katie. She is a Case Worker in a Treatment Center for drug & alcohol abuse, and absolutely loves her work and patients. With a Bachelors Degree but in Communications, Katie wants to use her money for experiences, not acquiring things — a big change in her perception on money.
Katie is currently dealing with the heavy burden that debt can weigh on us. Please take a moment to reach out with some words of encouragement. We could all use them sometimes.
I lost everything to you… my house, my savings, foreclosure, bankruptcy.
I bought 9 couches in one year, furniture, clothes, meals, haircuts, shoes, cars…
The list is endless. My Dad died, and I went to town spending instead of grieving. I have discovered you cannot mask grief with spending or with anything for that matter. Because when all the stuff is gone, except the debt… the grief is waiting, waiting, waiting. The hole in my soul still needed filling with something healthy and healing.
I am 6 years from my first and, God willing, last bankruptcy. But I am now again $8500.00 in debt. Now, some might think (erroneously) that that amount isn’t irretrievable, but remember… it was only 6 years ago I was $50,000 in credit card debt and lost the $325,000 house I bought. Bankrupt, broke. 6 short years ago.
Have I not learned anything? Maybe I did, but clearly I have since forgotten.
But now I have found DearDebt and I am no longer in denial or alone, and I can join all you courageous folks working and living in the solution.
Goodbye Credit Cards. Good riddance. You want to derail my prosperous future. No, you cannot and you will not steal my future. You played way to big a part in my past. It is OVER.
First step…I need help, 2nd step…restore me to sanity;
“…with God all things are possible…”
Please God help me.
Hello debt fighters! We’re back with another killer dear debt letter from Monique. Enjoy!
I would introduce myself to you, but you already know me. Unfortunately, we still haven’t broken up, YET…. but, don’t get too comfortable, though because “you’s gots t’go,” my unwanted friend!
We were introduced when I was in college and we began courting each other shortly after when I got approved for my first credit card.
Back then, I was young and dumb. I took myself out of the cool kids’ “Debt Free” club and fell for your shiny, plastic authority with very little knowledge of this lasting relationship you longed for.
God blessed me with a free, all expenses paid vacation through my full ride scholarship to school, but I neglected my blessing when I opened the door to your charming, yet deceiving face. Free of all student loans, all loans for that matter, I was stuck on stupid when I activated my card with the first purchase. Understanding and learning little to nothing about you, I made decisions that bit me in the butt later and I refuse to continue this ongoing, daunting relationship. The buck stops here!
I’ve heard of your horror stories and I will not be another one of your victims you tally in your little black book. Erase my name from your list because I’m leaving you. You may have had your long-lasting relationship with my parents and their parents, but I break the generational curse and bondage of debt upon me and my generations to come in the name of Jesus.
Debt, you have no authority to rule over me, my daughter and the rest of our prosperous lineage coming forth.
In the beginning, you and I were attached at the hip, but now, I’m cutting you off. You have extended your stay and I’ve learned a whole lot more about you. I only have a couple hundred dollars tying us together, but I’m leaving you for good once that gets washed away!
Your brother from another mother, MORTGAGE, is excited to meet me this week. Little does he know, I’m not the same naive and irresponsible young lady I was when we met. The bank’s already approved me for your buddy there, but mark my words: YOU ARE PAID IN FULL in the name of Jesus! Paying you and your brother off glorifies the God I serve and I know that your brother will be sad just like you when I leave him prematurely and unexpectedly.
You see, Debt, you were finally exposed and now, I can punch you in the face and kindly demand you to get the hell out of my life. Thank God for Soul’d Out Christian Center International Las Vegas because this ministry helped me reveal your true colors. After all these years, I will be saying goodbye for good!
Debt, just like my exes from the past, you are no longer welcome in my life. Have a seat on the sidelines and watch as God blesses me to combat your evil ways. There is nothing good about you in my life, so do just like my girl Beyoncé instructed and move ‘to the left, to the left.’
Consider this your eviction notice, Debt! Get your crap and scurry on down the road, far, far, far away! Debt, you’re going down ….and you’re never inserting yourself back into this family or our prosperous generations to come!
Thanks for being a good sport in your efforts to break me, but they didn’t work. I serve a BIG GOD and my BIG GOD loves to do BIG THINGS; therefore, grab a snack, pull up a chair and watch the PROSPEROUS LIFE God has for me! Save one of those seats for your boy, Mortgage because you both are going to be enjoying the sidelines in my life for a long time.
I don’t blame you completely because I know you, SOMETIMES, have good intentions, but I am calling this quits because I will no longer be needing your services, Debt and I definitely will not miss you.
Consider yourself warned, Debt! Start packing because your über driver has been contacted and is on his way!
The 27 year-young widowed, single mommy YOU THOUGHT you had.. You know? The same one who will be putting you to shame …SOON AND REAL SOON
M O N I Q U E