As I prepare for the next stage in my life, I’ve taken this summer to get reinvested in financial literacy. This led me to the blog The Frugal Feminista. I first heard the founder, Kara, speak at the 2014 Blogging While Brown conference. She was an extremely dynamic and engaging presenter. This year, after reading a post on Frugal Feminista about student loan debt, I decided to reach out to Kara about my own experience. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a lot of shame surrounding my debt burden. The fact that Kara has been amazingly receptive and warm when I reach out to her has made me more comfortable as I struggle to shrug off the stigma I’ve in some ways placed on myself. Here are the lessons I’ve learned from my attempts to pay off the debt.
Lesson #1: Get realistic about your finances.
It was clear before I ever signed on any dotted line that I could not afford the undergraduate institution that I attended. Waiting for a windfall to come in whether it’s via a scholarship or a generous relative is not a financial plan, and no financial plan is a plan for potential financial disaster.
A year after moving to the expensive New York City with two suitcases and debt, I lost my job. This forced me to sit down with my $800+ monthly minimum payments and analyze my relationship with money. Money was a dirty word for me that was a source of stress and shame. How could I rack up six figures worth of debt on just an undergraduate degree? Because of the negative feelings I had in regards to money, I would quickly end any conversations about finances just to avoid emotional discomfort.
One tool that helped me confront my debt head on was LearnVest, a financial planning company geared towards women. I found a new teaching job, tracked my expenses using the company’s online software, and attended its very first LearnVest LIVE financial empowerment seminar. I never paid for any of the company’s add-on services, but I did get the free 15 minute phone call from one of its financial planners. In the nicest of terms, this financial planner told me that I wasn’t being realistic concerning how quickly I wanted to pay off my debt, which leads to the second lesson.