One thing that I hope my 30s bring for me is an escape from the financial straits that I seem to have inhabited for much of the last five years. In college and after college, I got myself in a lot of horrible credit card debt (we're talking five digits), and paid it all off through a lot of sweat and toil. They've all been paid off for the last four years or so, and now I have decent credit. And I think I've been pretty smart about money for the last few years, too - keeping very little credit card debt (until this summer), cancelling leisure expenses like cable and home phone, not running the heat in the winter unless I could see my breath, paying down my $33,000 in student loans as much as I can, working two jobs and sometimes upwards of 80-90/week to pay off student and car loans, living in non-hip places with cheap rent, etc.
Still, I have a horrible sense that all that work is for nothing, that I'll never really get ahead. Owning a house while single, for example, seems like a pipe dream. Even though I've been a lot better about money over the last few years, I'm still not that great. This year, I saved $200/paycheck (through a program with my horrible credit union to help pay for the summer) to make it through the summer, but a car-related financial emergency (4-digit) in late June eliminated nearly all of it, and I haven't had any money since. I've worked nearly full time this summer, but it just hasn't kept me afloat. I was able to squeak by with July rent with tip money, but still haven't paid my August rent (due Friday). I probably have around $600 in my bank account right now, and have three good money making shifts this weekend, but it's still doesn't feel secure. I'm just flat broke.
Therefore, I've been living on a credit card for much of the summer. The plane ticket to Michigan? Credit card. My textbooks for my classes? Credit card. Wedding present for a friend? Credit card. Luckily, the $1200 limit makes it mostly impossible for me to get into too much trouble with it, but it makes my skin crawl to use credit cards. That, combined with a couple other ones that are out there - all with expenses for classes on them - make me want to just work my ass off in the fall, and pay them all off by December.
I was feeling good about myself, since I'm now back to teaching a summer program (I couldn't teach summer school because I had to take a class) and making some money that hopefully I'll get by the end of the month. But then, today, I got a notice from Towson University, saying that my fall schedule will be cancelled if I don't pay my $3000 bill by August 17 (for summer and fall classes). Obviously, I don't have $3000, nor space on my credit cards to pay for it, so I spent some of the afternoon today applying for credit cards on the internet, so this doesn't happen. Luckily, I get reimbursed about 60% of the tuition (75%, taxed), but not until after I take the course, pay for it, and get at least a B in it, but the upfront money when I have no money coming in just is killing me.
Oh, what I wouldn't give for 12-month pay. If I felt like I was getting my little paycheck every other week even during the summer, then I wouldn't feel so stressed about this all the time. I'm sure of it.
So, my hope for my 30s? That the significant raise I'll get for having a Master's degree will help me not feel like I'm broke all the time, and that I'll figure out more ways to live on the salary that I'm earning.
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