Real Money Lessons Learned by Real GenYers is a series that highlights financial lessons learned and experienced by our generation. Ranging from entrepreneurs and freelancers, to married couples, to those with a steady bi-weekly paycheck, this series will showcase a variety of financial issues we face and will hopefully show that you’re not alone in your financial journey. Today’s Real Money Lesson comes from Devon Wilson. Devon Leann Wilson is a University of Texas alumnus and currently works as an Informatics Senior Analyst for a national health insurance company. She lives in Houston, Texas where she enjoys vegan cooking, yoga, and spending time with loved ones.

Name: Devon Leann Wilson

Social Media: Twitter: @OrangeMuscateer

Complete this sentence:  As a GenYer one of the biggest financial lessons I’ve learned is that getting out of debt now is the key to building wealth in the future.

Provide details of the problem/situation you faced or experienced:

Like many young adults, I spent my undergraduate years racking up debt. After graduating, I was lucky enough to land a job in my hometown where my parents offered to let stay with them so that I could save money. That was the idea anyway. I woke up a little less than a year later and realized that I needed help. Nothing had changed and in fact, I was worse off financially than I was when I graduated. I still had about $58K of student debt, $11K in credit card debt and I had just added a $25K car loan to the mix because my idea of being able to afford something was being able to make the monthly payment. I knew that I needed to make a change, but the weight of a whopping $94K in debt was crushing my spirit and I didn’t feel like I could do it alone. That’s when I started speaking with a Certified Financial Planner, listening to the Dave Ramsey show, and reading personal finance books for advice and motivation. I think that one of the smartest things I’ve done is find a Certified Financial Planner that understands my struggles and needs. I decided to start budgeting every paycheck, selling anything I could on craigslist and eBay, and tutoring for extra income after work. I built up a lot of momentum, and paying off each account became an exciting success worth celebrating.

How it all turned out:
It has been 20 months since I started my journey and I have paid off $45K in debt. That’s nearly halfway done! I have paid off all my credit card debt, my car, and one of my student loans. Perhaps the most significant part of the last 20 months has been the side effects of ruthless debt repayment. I’ve found that being disciplined with my finances has translated to more discipline in other areas of life. In addition to paying off debt, I have changed jobs, passed a professional exam, began meal planning and cooking most of my meals at home, rode my bike from Houston to Austin in the BP MS150, and I’ve even lost 15 pounds! I finally found a place of my own, which is important to me. I love my parents to pieces and have been grateful for their help and hospitality, but I also felt like I was missing out on a part of adult life that I wanted to experience. My friends and family have been incredibly supportive throughout this process. I’ve learned that painting your nails over a bottle of wine at home with friends is just as fun as going out on the town. I’ve ultimately learned the value of planning for the future, and for me, a life without debt is a life of freedom, of wealth building, and of giving generously to others and charitable causes.

Would you do anything differently? If so, what?
I honestly can’t think of anything that I would do differently.

Going forward, what are 3 things you’ll do to handle situations like this or manage things better?

  1. Make a budget for each pay check and stick to it by tracking daily spending.
  2. Use cash for all spending except for bills that are automatically deducted from your checking account. Doing this will help ensure that you’re sticking to your budget.
  3. Build an emergency fund of at least $1,000 to avoid going in to more debt in an emergency.