Hi. My name’s Chloé and I am $67,866 in debt.
The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. Right? Right.
$67,866 in debt.
Sixty-seven-thousand-eight-hundred-and-OH GOD I’LL BE PAYING THIS OFF UNTIL I DIE.
No matter which way I look at it, it’s a big number. And I got myself there all by myself.
I did it with an out of state degree and a new car, and not focusing on prioritizing how I spend my income, like so many of us who fell into the consumerist trap of taking out loans that put us into debt so that we have to work in the system for pretty much forever.
But I don’t really want to spend my life paying off debt.
In fact, the idea of never getting out of this debt or paying it off for the next ten or twenty years kind of freaks me out.
So I’ve made a plan.
And I’m going to get out of debt by the time I’m thirty-three.
But why blog about it?
You’re probably wondering:
Clo, this is a blog about mental health, body image, personal growth, relationships, and therapy. Why are you now taking the dive into talking about personal finance?
I’m writing about budgeting and debt and bad spending because this is a part of my growth story.
And in the spirit of Clo Bare– who would I be if I didn’t bare my truth to you, plain and simple? Especially when this topic has been on my mind day in and day out for the last several months, if not longer?
Well, I wouldn’t be Clo Bare. And I want to be honest about the really tough, frustrating and weird parts of my life, even if that means sharing some stuff that makes me uncomfortable.
Like my current financial situation.
Let’s Take it Back: Money Mismanagement
I have never been good at managing my money or managing my spending. Throughout my young adulthood and really from the time that I started to make money at the age of eleven, I never really knew what to do with it.
There have been times in my life where I’ve been able to get excited about an opportunity enough to save as much money as possible for it: studying in Spain, moving to China, traveling to Cambodia (can you sense a theme?), but I’ve never been good at saving, sticking to a budget, and prioritizing my spending on a day to day basis.
Source of Anxiety
I started working as early as 11 years old at any side job I could get: refereeing, concession stands, babysitting, first base umpire-ing (can you tell I’m not a sports person?).
As a high schooler, I got my first “real job” at a local coffeehouse, babysat, and then started my ultimate dream job as a bookseller at Barnes and Noble.
In college I had a host of gigs, working at an advanced studies office as an administrative assistant, and working part time at a grocery store and also running a side hustle to try and sell my art and do commissioned pieces.
Even with all these gigs, I was always strapped for cash because I’d throw it away to things that I can’t even remember now.
Money and Mental Health
Financial stability and mental health go hand in hand.
During my college years, I struggled with depression and anxiety. My last year of school was by far my hardest, and my mental health issues worsened as the school year went on to the point where on a daily basis I’d fantasize about walking in front of a bus or jumping off a bridge just to ease the constant electric anxious energy I felt during the day and the dark blanket of depression I felt alone at night.
Because of that, I was always looking for something that would give be quick relief and most of those things cost money:
- Drinking at the bar with friends– $30
- Ordering in dinner– $20
- Buying decor to make my apartment feel more homey– $80
- Shopping for new clothes that make me feel better about myself– $70
- Adopting a dog, purchasing all his necessities, and paying for vet bills- $1,000
- Realizing the dog was a terrible idea, giving him to a new family and then impulse purchasing a rabbit and all the supplies for said rabbit: $360
While all of these things were putting me into debt and stretched me so thin that I’d have panic attacks, worrying about how I’d pay for rent, I kept doing it because I wanted desperately to find relief.
Therapy Wasn’t Working
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) wasn’t working because I had a hard time getting motivated enough to leave my bed to do the exercises that my therapist assigned me, and my cocktail of medications only seemed to exacerbate my symptoms rather than relieve them.
The truth is, spending money was much easier than facing my demons, collecting the pieces of myself, and putting myself back together.
After graduation, I moved home and things settled down, both in the mental health arena as well as my financial situation. Living with my parents for a year allowed me to regain my footing, and focus on simple things like sleeping well, lowering my stress, going for walks and saving money while I had the opportunity.
I started budgeting and saving up to move to China, and it was easy because my only expense was my student loans. Because of that, even though I was able to save up money, I still didn’t learn how to actually manage money.
2013 to Now
That was 2013. Let’s fast forward.
For the most part, I’ve handled my mental health, physical health, and overall well being– but I still suck with money.
Money continues to be a source of worry and concern and unnecessary anxiety because even though it is technically in my control, my spending habits seem completely and totally out of control.
Recently I decided to find out just how out of control my spending habits actually are. I started writing down in a tiny little notebook literally EVERYTHING I spent my money.
Here’s what I found:
Clo Bare’s Track All the Things I Spent Money On Experiment:
$6, Jamba juice
$52, Birthday dinner with Dad
$60, Drinks with date
$40, Brunch with brother and girlfriend
$30, Two bottles of wine
$50, Food and drinks at Beyoncé concert
$72, Dinner/drinks with date
$69, Hungryroot groceries
$40, Amazon purchase
$15, Bottle of wine
$18, Dinner with friend
$20, Drinks with friend
I spent $759 in two weeks, and that’s not even counting my bills like student loans, rent, cell phone, car payment, insurance, etc.
Of that $759, only $190 of that was considered essential items as in gas, groceries or personal items. That leaves an extra $569. Where the hell did that go?
Let’s break this down.
I spent $364 in two weeks on just eating out.
Of that $360, $85 was spent on food delivery or grabbing lunch at work because I didn’t grocery shop, cook or plan well enough.
I spent $175 on alcohol, and that’s not even including the dollars I spent on alcohol at dinners that I lumped into “eating out”. $175 in TWO weeks just on booze. If we look at the food orders that I placed during hangovers, that total bumps up to a whopping $227 alone on drinking and being hungover.
Dating cost me $197, while hanging out with friends only cost me about $58, and hanging with my family only cost about $92. Those numbers pale in comparison to almost $200 spent on dates with guys that I’m not planning on seeing again.
Eating out and boozing and dating. That’s where my money went.
Where our money goes, reveals our priorities and values.
My spending reveals that I have valued dating over spending time with my friends or family. That makes me uncomfortable.
I blew almost $600 in two weeks on NOTHING.
What’s crazy is, that was a typical couple of weeks for me. Time to rethink things. What also makes me squirm even more is knowing that I blew $600 in two weeks on things that I won’t even remember, like fancy cocktails and meals at expensive restaurants. You know what I could have spent that money on instead?
- $600 could have been a flight to Germany to visit one of my best friends.
- $600 could have paid for an Airbnb for a week in a cabin for some much needed alone time.
- $600 could have been a trip out to visit my grandparents whom I haven’t seen in years.
- $600 could have been a deposit on a trip to Italy that I’ve been trying to plan for three years.
- $600 could have been a weekend getaway with some of my closest gal pals.
To say I was disappointed in myself, barely scratches the surface. It kind of grossed me out to see how little thought I was putting into my spending.
But I am really glad I did it.
It was the wakeup call to realize that I have been living in a way that I do not want to anymore. I don’t want to keep up with the hottest restaurants and bars only to then have to deal with hangovers and the constant uptick of credit card bills.
I want to find a way to be debt free so that I can focus on the things that really matter to me and make me happy in ways that drinking and dating and eating out never will.
So that is why I started my “Debt Free by Thirty-Three” plan.
Because I value independence.
I value spending time with friends and family in more meaningful ways.
Because I value travel and adventure.
And because I value freedom.
My Debt Free by Thirty-Three Plan
I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing, and that’s okay.
That’s how this whole blog was born, not knowing how or even what to do, but doing it anyway. My plan for this “personal finance” section of the blog is to be honest with you all on exactly where my money is going, what my budget is, and what troubles I’m hitting along the way.
I’ll share with you my budget, and I’ll share you my actuals, but in order to get there first, I need to be honest about what my current financial situation.
So here it goes.
- I am 27 years old.
- I am $67,866 in debt.
- $9,899 of that is a car loan.
- $57,967 is a student loan with almost 8% interest
- I have $1,400.11 in savings.
- I have $630.35 in checking.
- I have about $10,242 in a 401K.
- I bring in about $2,200 every two weeks from my full time job and I also do some freelance that brings me in an extra $200-$400 a month.
- I have no credit card debt. (one bright spot!)
I have no assets, no other investments, no property. Just some serious student loans, terrible spending habits, and a car loan. It’s not horrible, but it’s also not great. And more importantly, I want to be free of it.
So, what am I going to do about it?
Well, I’ve written a budget. I’ve been using it for the last four weeks, and I think I’m on the right track. Last Friday was the first time that I put an extra $1,000 down on my car loan as well as an extra $400 in savings.
I want to do my best to stick to that budget, and I’m also going to post my weekly spending reports to keep myself accountable and share the struggles, learnings and total fuckups.
Did I mention that I’m not sure what I’m doing? Doing it anyway. And going to share it all with you as I figure that out.
Bare with me (Ay? See what I did there). Or skip over my personal finance posts. I’ll keep writing about mental health, personal growth, and all that other good stuff– but this has been really important to me lately.
I want to be able to get out of this debt so that if I ever wanted to take a few years off and focus on freelancing or traveling or taking another adventure– I can.
And you know what?
I will. Because this shit amps me up.