As the Too Thrifty Chicks have been on the Operation Do Better train to financial freedom, we’ve met some really great and inspiring people along the way who are in fact doing better. People like our friend Christina Walker, a self-described 30-something from Detroit, who works for the state of Michigan, and along with her husband David Walker Jr., has her sights on being a millionaire.
Breaking All the Rules
I got into debt early, in college, with credit card offers and a bunch of friends who loved to travel. It was so easy to sign up for a credit card and not worry about payments until later. I would pay the minimums or use a little student loan money to cover payments. I worked while I was in college too, which meant not only was I spending a lot of money, but I wasn’t saving any of it. My mother warned me not to mess up my credit and to stay on campus to save money. But I didn’t listen. I wanted the freedom to stay off campus with no rules; to live like other grownups who had their own piece of the American pie; and the financial leverage to keep up with my own interests and the interests of my peers. To add insult to injury, my first car was ruined by a tropical storm so instead of just saving up for another vehicle, or using public transportation, I financed my first car and paid way too much for it not knowing the proper way to buy a car.
I graduated with not only more student loans than I needed to borrow, but also with a car note and a Discover credit card balance. Off into the world I went with the absolute need of a full time job and no room to discover myself. Nevertheless, I left my college town of Savannah, Ga. determined to purse my dreams and make it work. I moved to Sarasota, Fla. to purse an internship at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, but I couldn’t afford to be an intern and continue do what I loved. The internship only offered a $1,000 stipend for 3-4 months and that stipend had to cover my car note, credit card bill, housing and food. It just wasn’t going to happen and it didn’t. I got behind on payments. The car company was calling my mother because she had co-signed the loan for me. She was so disappointed in me because she had to make up the payments I’d missed and was too ashamed to tell her I had missed.
Once my money matters started to affect my family, I had to make some tough choices. At this point, Discover already had a judgement against me. To make ends meet, I found a job as a telemarketer that I could do while I continued my internship. When I found out the internship was not going to turn into gainful employment, my mother told me to move back home to get things together. I agreed and moved back to Detroit. I got a good paying job and vowed from there on to never make those money mistakes again, but I ended up making more.
Never no more…well maybe a bit more
Once I moved back home, I worked out an arrangement with Discover and got my car note payments under control. The judgment was paid off and the Discover account was closed. But it stayed on my credit report, so I had to do something to repair my credit. Fortunately for me, I had a secured credit card from when I was in Sarasota trying to make ends meet. This card was paid on time and I only had a $200 limit so I couldn’t easily run up the bill and mess things up. That secured credit card helped me establish a good payment history, but overall my newly found resolve to retire a millionaire is what really got me going. I decided early in my job to be financially sound. I was 22 or 23 and despite my early money missteps, I managed to save money in a 401(k). I made sure that 3% of my paycheck went into savings and I had an employer match.
But having that goal still didn’t curb my spending habits. I ended up back sliding and had to close my secured card around 2004/2005. I paid if off and paid off my car note shortly after, but by then I had house fever. A friend had just purchased her first home at age 25 or 26 and I wanted to purchase a home too. So in 2006 I went loft shopping and found a place that I loved at the height of the housing boom. I bought a $141,000 loft with all the bells and whistles with a 6.125% interest rate. At the time, I was working in the arts community and funding non-profit projects with loans from my 401(k), so a house should have been the last thing on my mind. But it was happening again. My spending was getting out of control! I couldn’t believe how fast it happened and ultimately what I had to show for it wasn’t that great. My friendships were so-so; the non-profits I invested in were wearing me out emotionally, physically, and mentally; and I really didn’t want to work my job. It was just a means to pay the bills…
Want to find out the rest of the story on how Christina turned her financial life around? Tune in next week to learn more about why she’s on her way to being the first millionaire we know.