Here’s the story on how this drawing cost me $4,000 and 2 years of my life.
You could be next!
The beginning of an addiction:
I started my first job at age 14 selling sodas at Neyland Stadium during the University of Tennessee home football games. This meant strapping a rack of 45 sodas around my neck and carrying them up/down a stadium that holds 102,000 people. Fun right?
Looking back, I averaged around $6.25 per hour (minimum wage was $5.15 when I started working. Yikes dude!), so it wasn’t an awful gig… but fourteen year old Adrian was 5’6” and 100lbs, so I carried a quarter of my body weight in sodas for two whole football games before I quit that job.
The first job that I “claim” was a year later at age 15 where I scooped ice cream for Baskin Robbins. Since then, I’ve worked nonstop for the last 12 years in restaurants, retail, call centers, real estate offices, and at a car dealership before I eventually got a job with a local credit union… exactly 7 years after I sold my first soda.
The credit union wasn’t my first job as an adult, but it was the first one that was different from my other employers: My coworkers had money.
When I started at the credit union, I was renting a one bedroom apartment with my boyfriend and we had only been able to afford a second car (that we paid $1,700 for) four months earlier. We weren’t financially strong, but we ended every month with a $600 surplus and had no real debt.
However, I quickly noticed that I was surrounded by coworkers who were distinctly in the middle class. They drove late model cars, wore department-store brands, went on annual vacations, and did everything else you see successful people do on TV.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but a desire to live like my coworkers gave me my first hit of the drug called “debt.”
My profession didn’t help, either. My career has been spent in financial institutions that earn the majority of their revenue by making loans. This means that my literal job was to encourage people to apply for loans. Once they applied, we did everything in our legal and ethical power to approve them. My job loaned money to people in order to get the things they needed: A car for their family. A home. A safety net.
Debt was a good thing in my world, and twenty-one year old Adrian wanted a piece of the action. Without realizing it, I was psychologically craving to be the one sitting on the other side of that desk with the elusive “approved” check in my hand.
Fool Me Once:
Let’s fast forward a bit. In the four years I worked there before joining my current employer, and starting Man Vs Cash, here’s all the debt that I racked up:
- Nov 2012: $500 credit card. I increased it to $1,500 in 2013 and increased again to $5,000 in 2016.
- Dec 2012: Bought a car after my paid-off Toyota that my husband was driving died. RIP.
- May 2013: Refinanced our other car to fix the transmission.
- September 2013: Bought a house.
- September 2014: Bought a brand new car (Read all about this money mistake HERE)
- –February 2015: Refinanced the brand new car to pay for dental work.
- May 2015: $4,000 loan for new living room furniture.
- June 2015: Bought my husband’s current car and sold his to my sister.
- August 2016: $2,500 credit card. “Just in case of emergencies (code for: I had no money in savings)”
Here are all the loans, in that same time-frame that I paid off with my cold-hard cash:
- The $500 and $1500 credit card…almost: This was maxed out and paid off three times, but was never paid off again (through present day) after the limit increased to 5k.
…in other words, nothing!
I went from $7,000 in debt to $185,000 in debt in four years and made absolutely no headway financially. I had no savings, no safety net, and was using debt to buy my way out of problems. The scary part is that my husband and I went into MORE debt per year during this time than we were earning with our own individual salaries.
Little did I realize, I got exactly what I wished for. Many of these coworkers and people whom I was idolizing because they seemed to be living a great life were all thousands of dollars in debt. Now, I was too.
Fool Me Nine Times:
Of course, I didn’t realize the debt cycle I was in just yet. Let’s rewind back to 2015.
A year after we bought our house, we decided to redecorate our entire living room. The room is a peculiar shape, I never felt relaxed in there, and we were entertaining quite often—so seating was always cramped…even though we had a pretty large space.
I designed a new living room online, sold our old furniture, picked out new furniture, and made my design a reality.
I went to the furniture store and bought a new living room set on a “same as cash” promotion (even though I was burned by those schemes before… Read about it HERE).
To complete the design, the two of us:
- Painted walls
- Updated trim
- De-bronzed the fireplace
- Picked out a new rug
- New lamps
- New curtains
- New wall art
We lived in an empty living room for a week while we waited for delivery day…
In the meantime, here’s what we financed…
- A brand new sectional. Appx: $900
- Two brand new recliners. Appx: $500 each.
- Two brand arm chairs. Appx: $600 each.
= $3,300 financed, after taxes and delivery.
Plus all the costs of the other items to pull the room together. 20% cash, 80% credit cards.
Delivery day… Before & After.
When everything was delivered, I was in LOVE. Heck, I still love my living room two years later.
Our space went from “first apartment chic” to the centerpiece of my entire house. It’s my favorite place in the entire house, and I love seeing others enjoy it with us.
A Fool & His Money:
Just because something is justifiable doesn’t make it smart.
Did we NEED this new furniture? Nope. But we bought it anyway, because we justified its benefits and didn’t want to wait until we had the cash to own it outright.
We’ve had this furniture for over two years now. A year after we bought it, we stopped frequently entertaining. One of the recliners is getting a bit worn and needs to be tightened, and our area rug is toast (we bought it at a bargain store, so I can’t pretend I’m surprised).
The biggest salt to my wounds came two months ago when I visited my local thrift store and found one of our $500 recliners on sale for $40. And I still owed $1,000+ on my furniture at that time. Ouch.
A Bittersweet Victory:
This week, I made some financial headway. I came across an extra $700, so we decided to make a lump sum payment on our furniture loan and paid it off. That frees up $105 per month that can be used towards other things.
This loan also marks an important milestone. We have officially broken the “halfway point” in our journey. We started with 9 loans. I’ve got 5 paid off, and 4 more to go until I’m debt free.
Debt is an addiction:
Not to make light of addictions, but I feel that debt shares something in common with addictions.
It’s easy to say that you’re going to quit, but it’s extremely challenging and mentally taxing to actually do it. Debt is going to be all around constantly reminding you that it’s easier than ever.
Friends will pressure you into debt. TV will tell you about all the things you want, and how they can make it simple with flexible debt terms. Debt will sneak up suddenly and attack when you’re most vulnerable (family emergency, stressed out).
Debt will make you believe that you’ll be happier, problem free, and life will be better.
But it’s all a LIE.
Cash is your hero. Not loans. Not debt.
Going forward, I need to shift my mindset and rethink how I spend money. If I’m working to get debt free, I’ll eventually find myself with a ton of cash, excellent credit score, and little knowledge on how to live without debt…because my entire adult life has been spent with it.
Be aware: the more debt you pay down, the more your credit improves, and the BETTER the credit offers will get. You’ve proven that you are good for paying back loans, so you will become a more marketable customer. Suddenly that 25% credit card offer turns into an 8% offer and might sound like it’s a reward. But, it’s just a DEBT lifestyle in a slightly different package.
One lapse of judgement and I will end up in the exact same shoes I’m working so hard to get out of.
Live Addiction Free:
Borrowing money today is agreeing to kick yourself in the stomach tomorrow.
The Adrian of 2015 did not spend a dime for his furniture, but the Adrian of 2016 and 2017 had to spend $4,000 to make up for it. If I didn’t kick myself in the stomach in 2015, I’d have an unexpected $700 to do whatever I want this month. Instead, it left my account as quickly as it came in.
Since starting my journey last year, I have not taken out any loans …but I have considered all the different ways that I could get the things I want a little quicker by simply getting a loan for it.
I still want that Lexus, that new house, and that fence in my yard. But I have to learn how to pay cash and not rely on my ability to get approved for more debt.
Paying off my furniture loan a HUGE victory and I’m going to celebrate loudly, but it’s a bittersweet reminder that the Adrian of today needs to do better for Adrian of tomorrow.
Getting out of debt is the battle.
Staying out of debt is the war.
This is a war I’m never planning to lose again, because I don’t have the patience to fight this battle twice.
Other’s successes are not your failures. You can only win your own race.