Here’s the Video Transcript:
I think the fact that we don’t talk about money and we don’t talk about our struggles and we don’t talk about our successes is actually detrimental to us and our self-care when it comes to money. Hey, everyone. Heather here with The Inner Fire. I am a self-care and personal empowerment coach, and today we are talking about money. I wanted to share my personal money story with you. I have talked in the past about the power of owning your money story and how money is connected to self-care… and I’m just going to shift on this couch. Hang on. That’s better. Okay. So, I’ve talked about how getting clear on your money story, getting clear about your finances is a form of self-care and I truly, truly believe this, and I believe it because I’ve seen it in my own life, and I’m wanting to give you a little bit of history about my story with debt and how that journey unfolded and how I made the journey to being debt-free.
When I graduated college, I moved to Chicago, and the first job I had in Chicago was a temp job and I earned about $20,000 a year. I was living in Chicago. I had a roommate, and the flat we were living in, the apartment we were living in, actually had a hole in the floor where you could look down into the laundry room that was underneath us. Yeah, awesome digs. I had never had a credit card before and I remember going to buy some furniture for the apartment. I needed a bed, I needed a mattress and I didn’t have enough money to pay for it. And the woman at the counter was like, “Oh, you can apply for a credit card.” And so I did. I don’t know how many credit cards I acquired over the years. I had a lot of credit cards. Add to that, I had student loan debt from my undergrad education and then I went for a master’s degree while I was living in Chicago. I had over, I can easily say, $120,000 in debt, 80,000 of which was credit card debt.
Now, how does one acquire that amount of debt? Well, really bad choices. Over the years, I made really poor choices when it came to supporting people in relationships. I made really bad financial decisions for myself. I lived a life of, “If I want it, I’ll get it,” versus, “Do I need it? If not, I’m not buying it.” I did not know how to budget.
I did not know how manage my money. And as a result of that, I made really, really poor decisions, and I own that. When I met my now husband, I walked into our marriage with $70,000 in debt. That was the credit card debt that did not include the school loans, which was a whole other story, right? Now, some people will say that there’s good debt and bad debt. In my book, debt is debt is debt. I don’t care if it’s a mortgage, I don’t care if it’s student loan, I don’t care if it’s a credit card.
In my mind, debt is debt. And when I was living in Chicago, I had developed this mindset that I would always be in debt, that I would always live in a crappy apartment, that I would always be living paycheck to paycheck, and that debt was going to be something that I lived with my entire life. When I was single, I did not see a path out, and this is where having people around you who can show you that a different way is possible is an essential component to taking care of yourself. When I married my husband, he was very clear that he was not interested in being in a relationship where there was debt and he’s an incredibly thoughtful human.
He’s incredibly smart when it comes to finances, and so we started the process of trying to budget together and trying to pay down our debt together. I will tell you the beginning of this process was… challenging is putting it lightly. He had put together this spreadsheet. We were trying to budget together. I would get defensive and resentful. He would get frustrated. Communication would break down. It was a real struggle, and I want to be clear, my husband and I are very transparent about our financial journey. We tell pretty much everybody about our financial journey because we think it’s important that people understand that you can make changes to live a debt free lifestyle, but that it’s also really hard and that it’s a struggle and that you have to be committed.
And so, after about three or four months of just really challenging money conversations and not being able to get on the same page and not being able to rally around a common cause or even have a similar approach to our finances, we decided to try out a new online tool called why YNAB. Y-N-A-B, You Need A Budget. And I’m not an affiliate. This is just the tool that worked for us. Other people use Mint, other people use Dave Ramsey. There’s a variety of things that you can use out there, but YNAB is the thing that worked for us. It gave us a platform that neither one of us had created and that was really important because he had created that spreadsheet.
I felt like he owned it and that we weren’t doing it together. So YNAB was kind of this neutral territory where we could budget, so we signed up for YNAB, we started using that budgeting tool. The way that they lay it out made a lot of sense for us. We did take some techniques from other places, like we put an emergency fund in place, but YNAB really helped transform how we saw each dollar having a place and each one of those dollars working for us.
The other thing we did, and this might not be for everybody, but it worked really well for us, is that we had what we called our debt thermometer and it was taped to the side of our refrigerator and it was big. It was this giant thermometer that we printed out and we had 10,000 increments that… Or 5,000 increments that we would pay off. And when we would hit certain milestones, I think they were 10,000 pay off milestones. We would treat ourselves to a really nice bottle of wine. A bottle of wine might not be your thing. Maybe your thing is something else. With this debt thermometer on the side of our refrigerator, we every day had a visual reminder of the journey we were on and how much we had paid off.
And every time we would pay off $1,000, we would put it in red. We’d mark that off the thermometer. The other thing that it did having it on the refrigerator is, not only were we held accountable because we could see it every day, but people would ask us about it when they would come to visit. Whenever we would have somebody over for a visit or a dinner, they could look at our refrigerator and see where we were on our debt journey. The nice thing about that is that people being able to see it also made them understand why we would say no to certain things. “No, I’m sorry, we’re not coming to that,” or “No, I can’t pay for that.” Or, “We’re not doing this thing.” Because in order to pay off that amount of debt, we had to get really strict around need versus want. We had to be really clear about this is a need, this is a want. What is the motivation behind us getting it? And for, I would say about two years, we were on a need diet. We were on a need budget.
It was, “Do we need it? Yes. Get it. Do we not need it? No, forget it. We’re not getting it.” And that included things like trips, dates, groceries, coffee, anything like that. We were on a very, very strict budget. As a result of that, we were able to pay off that debt very quickly. That left the student loan debt and that took a bit longer to pay off. In fact, we didn’t pay off the last of the student loan debt until 2016, so it’s been… yeah, it’s been about three years since we paid that off. And we don’t have a mortgage because we are currently renting. Our car is paid for. We have rent that we pay. But outside of that, we have no debt. We don’t have credit card debt, we don’t have student loan debt. We paid off my husband’s student loan debt as well, and so we now live debt-free.
And what that means is, we don’t make financial decisions based off of owing somebody something, if that makes sense. We have a lot more control over where the dollars go and how our dollars are spent. Money ebbs and flows for people. It’s one of those things that people don’t like to talk about. They don’t want to talk about how much they make, they don’t want to talk about the amount of debt they have.
They don’t want to share their financial journeys. And I think the fact that we don’t talk about money and we don’t talk about our struggles and we don’t talk about our successes is actually detrimental to us and our self-care when it comes to money. I came from a mindset where I was never going to be able to do anything because I had a staggering amount of debt, and I know people have more and I know people have less. But we have a choice about how we talk about money, and money is fraught.
Money is layered. There are spaces of intersectionality when it comes to money in relation to geographic location, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, immigration status, all of that. And I understand that that impacts people’s money stories, but it’s important that we talk about that. It’s important that we talk about intersectionality. It’s important that we talk about our personal journeys. It’s important that we talk about the impact that stress is having on our mental health and our emotional wellbeing because money can be a source of stress or it can be a source of empowerment. And for those of us where money has been a source of stress, we know the impact that has.
We know it impacts what we see as available to us in terms of opportunity, in terms of resources. We know that sometimes it’s difference between… And I’m not kidding, my roommate and I at one point when I got laid off from a job because the company was shutting down, we looked in our pantry and we had rice and stale marshmallows and an egg. We also had an egg. And I’ve been in that place, and my husband has also been in a place of not having enough money to see any path forward, and we chose to look at money differently. We chose to make our money work for us instead of us working for our money. And I don’t care who you are, you have a money story that is working for you or working against you. I have worked with clients on their money story.
I have worked with people to help them feel empowered around their finances. I have worked with clients on budgeting and getting control of their spending, and if you want that type of support, sign up for a free empowerment session with me. I’m happy to talk about it with you. I’m happy to be transparent about my own journey.
And money is part of our self-care and it’s important that we see it as that. That money doesn’t have to be an evil force out there. It can actually be a force for good, and so I hope you found this helpful. I hope that you found my journey interesting. If you have any questions, pop them into the space below. I will be sure to answer them, and if there’s anything that you would like to share about your own money story or your personal finance journey, please be sure to share it in the comments below as well. Take good care out there.
Stay ignited out there. I will see you soon. Bye..
Read More: How To STAY Out of Credit Card Debt!