I turned 28 yesterday and naturally, all I could think about was that in two years I’ll be turning 30. So much for living in the present, right? I’m not afraid of turning 30 like women in their late 20s a few decades ago might have been: I will be totally fine if I’m not married, don’t have a house, don’t have a kids, am not the CEO of my company by then. But, what I am afraid of is heading into that important decade without feeling financially secure. Compared to many of my peers, I am playing catch up because I quit work to go to school; I lost 2 years of income, 401k contributions and matches, etc. That was a conscious decision and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not done that, so no regrets. But, I’m not going to wait till I turn 30 to become financially secure, just like I’m not going to wait until January 1 to begin a resolution. I view 28 as a two-year jumpstart to becoming financially secure and responsible. To me, that means:
- No credit card debt. Seriously. Not worth it, even for the miles and cash back.
- Significant progress in repaying my student loans. I am not going to torture myself to pay them off by the time I’m 30, but I am aiming for 33, which is five years away. Just the thought of making one less monthly payment (or four years’ less!) makes me salivate.
- Not obsessing about money all the time.
This last one is something I’m already working on. I had a lot of free time at work last week so I spent quite a bit of time reading the usual personal finance blogs but also people’s experiences paying off debt. I think I binged because I developed a headache from all the $$$ thoughts swimming around in my mind. What should I be doing to pay off $23,000 in one year like that woman in Idaho did? Do I need to look for a second job? Do I need to convince Dennis to move somewhere totally inconvenient for the both of us so we can each save $200/month in rent? I think my tipping point was when he came home one day and asked how my day was; I responded with, “I found this blog where this guy paid off $90,000 in 10 months!” Which, by the way, is amazing and good for him and I am definitely envious — but the point is that there is more going on in my life than just how much debt I have to pay off.
After that, I let myself have one more money thought and that was it: I have a game plan and it’s simple. Step 1: pay off credit card debt. Step 2: restore minimum emergency savings. Step 3: start contributing a little more towards my loans. That’s it. I’ve already cut corners where I could (we finally cancelled cable!) and I have become a lot better at evaluating whether I really need vs. want something. I’m only using my debit card now so if I have to wait till the next paycheck to buy something, then I’ll just have to wait. That is the best I can do right now and I’m proud of myself for getting to this point…well before I’m 30.