A Whole New World

Something amazing just happened.

But let me back up. No, a little further, a little further…. Too far. This way just a bit…aaaaaaand stop! That’s good.

You know how when you’re a kid, you think money grows on trees? Well, you don’t, really. I don’t think I’ve ever met one kid who actually thought that, but they do think that money just is. It’s always there, and it’s unlimited, and why are you so worried? It’s just a pony. Let’s get two!

That’s what I thought, anyway, when I was a kid. Slowly, though, I started to learn about concepts like “affordable” and “saving for college” and eventually “debt.” Okay, I thought, So that’s how money works. You spend it, and then you’re stuck in debt for the rest of your life.

Once I got out to college, I got my first bills — my first phone bill was $0.26. I paid in cash. But they weren’t all that low, sadly. As the bills grew and paycheck taxes (They take out HOW MUCH?!?!) sucked up all of my meager student job wages, I practically ran to apply for my first free money (read: credit card), which I quickly maxed out. And I had already set up my free education (read: student loans). By the time I graduated with my Completely Useful Degree (in film criticism), I had $40K in debt to my name.

I know, I know. Some of you are thinking, Pffft! That’s nothing. I have/had WAY more than that. Probably so, and when you pay it all off, you can write your story; this is mine.

Making use of my Completely Useful Degree, I immediately went to work at jobs that paid thiiiiis much more than minimum wage. (Note: in major metropolitan areas, that’s enough for a single girl to pay for either rent OR food.) Thank goodness I had a college degree! So I applied for some more free money, and rigged it so that I would never again be able to save up for anything that cost more than $50 or go anywhere more exotic than the local library. It seemed like every time I got an increase in pay, there would be more Things to pay for. I never could get the damn debt to go down. In fact, even though I was making more money than when I left school, and even though I was paying my bills regularly every month, I owed more than when this whole thing had started. How is that even possible? All I did was buy some shoes, a jacket, a new car, and a huge wedding. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

Fast forward two years, my marriage ended at the same time that my mom died. She left me enough of an inheritance that I could immediately pay off my student loans and my credit card bills, and there was still enough left over for some travel and to live off the grid for a while. It was an AMAZING experience– or it would have been, if not for the whole grieving so many losses thing. But still. It was my first taste of freedom– absolute, unadulterated freedom. I could literally go anywhere in the world and do– or not do– anything I chose. (Thank you, Momma!)

Predictably, the money ran out, and I had to return to the daily grind. So I bought a car to get me from here to there. Then the whole thing with my grandpa happened, and suddenly I went from making just over minimum wage to making about $5 a day. A day. Things got a little hairy there for a while.

When I extricated myself from that situation, I had $1,000 I had saved from my last tax return that was worth anything and a shiny new credit card with 20% interest. Considering I had no income, I suppose that was generous of them. /snark Using those resources, and relying heavily on the kindness of awesome friends, I was once again able to set myself up in Los Angeles. I got a job that paid more than I had ever made in my life, found a dump of an apartment, convinced a room mate to move in with me and help pay the rent (she did the first half anyway) and was once again choosing between rent and food. Well, not really. I still had that credit card– until I maxed it out. Damn, but LA is expensive!

I was so sick of living like that. OMG! It can’t always be like this, can it? Just a daily struggle? I prayed. I begged God, the Universe, and pretty much anyone else who would listen. “Please,” I asked. “Please! I just want to Get Rich so I won’t have to do this anymore.” And then I met my then-future-husband, who came to our budding relationship with a very similar financial background.

To make a long story short–
Too late!
One by one you all arrived.

I can’t tell if he taught me or if I taught him. Maybe we helped each other? But after three years of conscious choices– and some really good luck– we are both debt-free. The cards are paid off, the cars are paid off, all of it. Even the wedding is paid off. (It was MUCH smaller this time.)

All this to say, I used to have another blog, called What Is The Great Experiment. My Great Experiment was to find out whether or not I could change my life from care-taking for Pop for $5/day to something More. The Experiment is over. The answer is a resounding Yes. Just so you know. (But it takes commitment and patience, so if you’re signing up, remember it goes slow at first. REALLY SLOW. But it does get better.)

I was going to make a crack about financing a celebratory cruise around the world, but you know what? I could really use a new computer. I think a more appropriate celebration will be a nice dinner and then launching a savings account for matching iMacs.