Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our Financial Story: The Abridged Version

I graduated from college in May 2006 with a degree in accounting. I went to a great university in the Washington, DC area on a full academic scholarship and I’m so thankful to not have any student loans. We then moved back to Texas and I quickly found a job. We decided my husband would be a stay-at-home dad to our then four year old daughter. Since I had never worked (outside of the home) before, I took a fairly low starting salary. We then proceeded to buy a shiny, red car (with a $450 monthly payment). Of course, we were upside down on our previous car so we started out with a loan for far more than the car was worth. We also had about $10,000 in credit card debt, but, hey, everyone does, right? Looking back, I think we actually thought that at the time.

Then, I started really looking at our finances in October 2006. I tracked all of our spending for the month (in a spreadsheet) and was shocked to see that we had spent $1,000 more than I brought in. We were just charging everything. We didn’t have internet or cable and our rent was only $485 a month, but we had a hefty car payment and, since I work for a small company, our health insurance was almost $700 a month. Our rent, car payment and health insurance combined were almost $20K a year.

Ahhh, what to do? I became a spreadsheet-maniac, tracking everything, and looking for ways to cut costs and save money (to be detailed in future posts).

Fast forward:
We paid off the credit cards in August 2008.
We bought an affordable house in April 2009 (with a great interest rate).
We will have our car paid off any day now when we receive our first-time homebuyer’s credit.
We have an emergency fund.
My salary has increased almost 50%.

We have made so many mistakes in the past (did I mention we’ve had three leased cars?), but we’ve tried to learn from them and can hopefully help others by sharing our story.

What financial mistakes have you made and how have you recovered from them?

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