My 'Treat Yourself' Mentality Landed Me With $15,000 of Debt


Debt: $15,000+

Source: Credit cards

Estimated years until debt-free: Unknown

I remember when my relationship to money changed. I was a freshman college student with a little extra money from my grants and scholarships. Before I knew it, I was eating at the fanciest restaurants in town. This was the beginning of my “treat yo’ self” journey. In my freshman year, I spent at least $3,000 just eating out.

I was raised by a single mother who worked three jobs to provide me and my brothers with everything we needed and most of what we wanted. Growing up, there never was a large focus on financial literacy or prepping for my future. Now, I wish there had been.

I didn’t shop that much but eating out and traveling effectively diminished all my extra funds. Through a tough biomedical course load and a few tough semesters, I was forced to pick up more jobs to make up for the money I lost in scholarships. Towards the end of my college career I was working three jobs, seven days a week. I was knee-deep into my senior year. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement.

I was exhausted and began to wonder why I worked so hard when I wasn’t seeing any rewards. Something had to change, and I decided that it would be my lifestyle. The treat yo’ self mindset was intoxicating. It felt like I was having a bubble bath with a nice glass of wine every time I swiped my little piece of plastic. I swore I could feel the release of endorphins every time I purchased something.

Soon, I went from eating out lavishly to shopping. I figured that if I was going to spend the money, I might as well be able to look in my closet and see the fruits of my labor. This is where my love affair with clothing and fashion began. I wanted to change my closet up and I took full advantage. As far as I was concerned, I was just getting an early start to the rest of the way I wanted to live my life.

This was also the time that I got my first credit card. It was a Discover because I had very little credit as a college student. At first it was only used for emergencies, but as money dwindled my credit card became my security blanket – always there to catch my newest purchase.

This brings me to the present day. After a tough last two years and a job transition, I was forced to dip into my 401k just to keep afloat. I’m not alone. African Americans are three times more likely to tap into their 401k or retirement plans to meet immediate financial needs.

Currently, I have six credit cards, three of which were attained in the last two years. They range from my old, faithful Discover to a furniture store card, two additional credit cards and two more store cards. My debt has ballooned from a minuscule few hundred dollars to a staggering $15,000+, not including my student loans. My debt has become my dirty little secret.

Now that I’m 25 and wanting to expand educationally, professionally and personally, I find my debt holding me back. Around 72% of black women are the main breadwinners in their households. That’s why I feel now that it is more crucial than ever to get my financial life right, especially if I want to have a family one day.

My current financial situation is preventing me from pursuing my dream of buying and renovating a house, from investing and preparing from the future and stopping me from traveling. I see more and more every day that financial literacy is not just useful but is critical.

I’ve become a member of various financial literacy programs focused on making knowledge and information about budgeting and saving accessible and mainstream. Still, I struggle daily with making positive choices to ensure my financial future. I know that, because this lifestyle habit took years to develop it will also take years to change.

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