Another title for this blog post could have been: How I got into debt and why I don’t regret it.
Telling people you are on a budget it hard. Even if it is all student debt, you always feel like they are not so secretly evaluating your intelligence. We all learned the basics of debt in high school. Debt is bad. Don’t get into it. However, debt shaming is one of the reasons people stay in debt. Not only does it stop you from confronting just how much you owe, but it stops you from telling people “No, I don’t have the money right now. I’m on a budget.” What happens when you don’t tell people you are on a budget? You submit to peer pressure, and overspend, thus perpetuating the cycle. In order to pay back your debt you have to own it, or it will own you.
Second, as long as you are capable and willing to get yourself out of it, going into debt and paying it back doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Every story I have read about getting into debt has been a cautionary tale: I was young and dumb, don’t do what I did! I want to change that narrative. The way I see it, life is full of pluses and minuses. As long as you are finding a way to gain in knowledge, happiness, and altruism, you are having a POSITIVE and WORTHWHILE experience. With that in mind, it should also be considered that I didn’t end up digging myself a hole that I couldn’t get out of. How I did that, and why/when I decided to hunker down and pay everything back, will be talked about next week.
So without further ado, to follow my own advice and make it easier to pay back my own debt, I am going to be honest about how much I owe, and not ashamed about what I used it for. Here is how I got into debt and why I don’t regret it.
It has been hard to me to admit to people that not all of my debt is student related. At the beginning of my budgeting plans last march, my student debt about $20,000. My calculated personal credit card and loan debt almost matched this, at $15,000.
Student loans: $2,563.28 + $3800+$6800+$7400=$20,563.28
Personal Loans: $3000 + $4500+$7500=$15,000
The student loans are easy enough to explain. I believe in the value of a good education, and I would hate my life if I had to stay forever at a job that did not require one. I am in the military now, yes, but my education is very much used, and will be used even more later on. I don’t do well in large classes, so I chose a smaller more elite school. The price tag was $45,000/year, but with scholarships and a little parental help, I left with under $30,000 in debt. My monthly payments were $300, and I would have happily paid that in tribute to my alma mater for the rest of my life.
Being a young, well educated, white youth with a full time job, the credit card debt is harder to explain. It too, originates from my college years. Going to college and having no budget, I vowed to make good purchases when I finally had a paycheck. No more of this mall shopping stuff, and I kept my word. I shopped upscale consignment and made in the usa products online. I learned about local and organic foods, and I began to cook. I made second vow coming out of college that I would experience more of the world around me. Instead of shutting myself up in my dorm room with my homework and study buddies, I ran marathons and mud races, and learned how to swing around two stories high on an aerial silk. I got my first massage, pedicure, and facial. I got seriously drunk, which I had neglected to do in college, and THAT, if nothing else, tells you how much I did not do while getting my degrees! I really had FUN, and more importantly, I felt good about myself and what I was doing.
I also learned a lot. The coast guard does not cover all tuition for masters degrees, and when it does, it can take a few years to get reimbursed for the extra. I completed half my masters program. I then decided (for funnsies) to get my personal trainer cert, and found an undiscovered love of learning new ways to be healthy and stronger. I read the New York Times cover to cover, Monday-Friday. I bought Rosetta stone and started to learn Russian. I learned to love a good glass of red wine with chocolate cake.
My family fell on some hard times, and I did what I felt was right by them. I flew to see people and funerals sometimes when I didn’t have the funds, and bought computers and equipment that I thought they needed. I went the extra mile to provide support in person when I could, and I did, and I felt GOOD about it. I started donating about $75/month to various charity causes, a donation schedule I have continued to this day.
In short, yes I am in debt. But in many ways I am very proud of who I became by spending that money. I felt like all through college, I cloistered myself in my room and my books. I was an hour from Philadelphia, and I went once. For one hour. It made me a shallow person of little experience, who didn’t know why life was so precious in the first place. On top of that, with all the financial aid I was given, I felt like a parasite on the US tax payers. All I did was take and take, when I really wanted to give. In the last three years, I learned how to give more of my money and my life to this big, beautiful world around me.
The dark side is, I gave so much that now I have to pull back. But I knew when to pull back, and if you’re on a budget too, so did you! And if you want to stick to that budget, you need to make sure you know how much you owe, and you are honest about it to yourself and to others. What you did is what you did. You can be either ashamed or you can own it. You can take charge of your own life and your own narrative.
In summary, I don’t regret my debt. It made me who I am and what I am today. It is why I have this blog. It is why I became more involved in sustainable foods/industry, and why I discovered many simple joys like baking food from scratch and going to the beach. It has made my relationship with Jesse deeper, and my relationship with my family closer. How can your regret time spent with people you care about? How can you regret something that made you think, and realize what things are truly the most important to you?
I guess there is a connection between money and happiness after all.
This Week in Updates: Jesse and I do crazy stuff together
First off, I have to cover the week in grocery shopping. A hard week as I needed a lot of small incidentals, but especially because I can buy in bulk, I got it all done! When you only have so much money, it is incredibly nice to buy a week’s worth of olive oil, or a week’s worth of honey, instead of having to buy a whole bottle all at once. You can buy smaller units of things, and not be upset because you loose the discount that bigger containers provide. In terms of produce, because I had a nice tomato harvest, I splurged on the last of the local, organic strawberries.
The Jesse visit went wonderfully. We somehow managed to co-exist peacefully in my small little space, no dinner table included. Furthermore, we baked! We came up with this beauty together, though the kiwi was both not local and we agreed rather superfluous. This is a paleo banana cake topped with chocolate avocado mousse, toasted almonds, and sliced kiwi. On top of that we added paleo coconut milk praline ice cream. It was good, but I think the recipe would need to be tweaked a little bit before being posted here!
The Recipe: Pancake Mix Sweet Potato Biscuits and Baked Beet Root Paleo Pancake with Strawberries and Honey
Pancake Mix Sweet Potato Biscuits
So, one of the things I often have laying around is pancake mix. I know, I know, it it really just flour and sugar and baking powder, but my grandma sends it to me and I like baking it for the troops at work. It is also easy, and great in a pinch, because I don’t always have flour on hand (I tend to use it). Pancake mix is more of an emergency provision. So in this particular case, I wanted sweet potato biscuits, and all I had was pancake mix, sweet potato, eggs, and baking powder. Could it be done? With a little inspiration from Homemade Mamas, I jumped in, and it worked! Quick, easy, and not too bad for you. Pancake mixes have roughly the same properties. Substituting brands will be no problem.
1 Table spoon baking powder
3 cups pancake mix
1 cup sweet potato puree
Mix all the ingredients together. Batter should be moist. Grease a baking pan, and put a little of the grease on your hands. The batter will be sticky. Make into six large biscuits and bake at 435 for 8-10 minutes. Then enjoy!
Paleo Beet Root Pancake with Strawberries and Honey
Though this has absolutely no carbs, I was amazed at the bready fluffy texture. I was inspired by Real Simple’s baked pear pancake, and now I am super excited to experiment more! This was delicious, with the powdered beet root giving it a rosy hue and a unique tasty flavor. If you really like beets, I suggest doubling the powdered beet root in the below ingredients list!
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon powdered beet
1/4 cup powdered flax seed
Put eggs, flax seed, baking powder, and beet powder in a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into a well greased pie pan, and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and fork comes out clean. Plate the pancake, fill it with strawberries, top with honey, and enjoy!