This post was written by one of the coolest Debt Management bloggers I’ve met, Jessica. I had the pleasure of meeting her in real life at Bloggy Conference, and I know you all will enjoy, and learn from, her story.
My all time favorite story is Cinderella. I love all types of Cinderella movies (my favorite by far is Ever After with Drew Barrymore!). I love hearing stories of the poor girl who grows up to be a princess.
It isn’t hard to figure out what my dreams were as a child. We were really poor. We LITERALLY lived on the other side of the tracks as they were across the street. We didn’t have a nice house or new cars. We didn’t have much and for as long as I can remember, I wanted more.
I use to dream of my “real” family finding me and telling me I was rich or even better, a princess. I just knew that once they found me, I would have all the new stuff that I could ever want.
Apparently this feeling never left and in 1994 at the ripe young age of 19, I began to feed that feeling.
I received my first credit card as a sophomore in college. Shortly after that, I had a few more. I started off thinking, “I’ll just buy these few things I need and then that’s it.” When I saw the first bill and my amount due was only $10, my need to buy things took off.
Credit cards were a part of my life all through college. My girlfriends and I went shopping, a lot! We use to brag about how many cards we had in our wallets. If we didn’t have one for a particular store, we’d sign up for it. We didn’t think anything of it.
My line of thinking was always that I could pay it off after graduation. I thought a first year teacher’s salary was bound to be enough to pay my bills. Boy was I delusional, right?
Eventually I realized that I couldn’t pay for my bills and in 1999, I filed bankruptcy.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done this. It wasn’t an amount of debt that I couldn’t have handled if I had buckled down and really learned about money. However, I chose the only route that I was told to take. I got rid of my debt, wiped my slate clean and moved on.
Except I didn’t. I didn’t change my way of thinking.
Ten years later, recently divorced, unemployed, living at home with my mom and carrying debt that I couldn’t pay for, I realized what I had done.
The Debt Princess began at the lowest moment of my life. Not only did I have all those issues that I just mentioned but my car had just died and I was without a way to get anywhere. I lived in a town with no industry whatsoever and I was stuck.
I realized that the princess mentality got me into this mess. And if I didn’t make some serious changes, the only thing I’d ever be a princess to was my debt!
I’ve been fighting to make changes in my life. I’ve recently moved out of my mother’s home, returned to the city that I love and begun working as a freelance writer while also going to graduate school.
I will be returning to the classroom as a special ed teacher next fall (I had to get a few grad classes out of the way to get my teaching license back after it expired.). I still struggle with paying on my debt but things are improving.
I now know that I can never have a credit card. I am not good with them. It’s far too easy for me to give into temptation. I am addicted to instant gratification.
These are lessons that I needed to learn and the only way for me to learn them was to go through this really stressful process. I’ll come out of this a better person, but it took me far too long.
My goal in writing The Debt Princess is to show people how bad debt can be. Parents, show your teenagers my blog. Talk to them about everything I did wrong and then teach them the right way to manage their money.
Teach them about having an emergency fund. Teach them how to use a budget. Teach them how to put wants before needs. Most of all, teach them that credit cards are not the answer to getting things you want. If you don’t have the money in the bank, you DON’T get to buy anything.
Take my story and use it to have conversations about debt, credit cards and financial literacy. This isn’t something anyone should learn the hard way.
Start when they are young. Talk about money frequently. Start those conversations today!
Jessica Streit is the author of The Debt Princess, a freelance writer, a mother of 2 and a grad student. She takes her financial mistakes and uses the stories behind them to teach others what NOT to do with their money. Her hope is to someday talk to high school students before they graduate and remind them what a good financial plan should look like. And then she plans to take over the world!