My Biggest Financial Mistake

We left off on my last post in 2005, driving a gas guzzling 2001 Dodge Durango while commuting an hour and gas being $4 a gallon. 😬 Go back and read Part 1 if you haven’t, because there’s lots of entertainment there that I can look back on now and say..what the?! πŸ˜‚

Back to the Durango part of the story..I had just started Financial Peace University and had also just started dating my now husband in 2007. I really wanted to do the debt snowball and keep the Durango and pay it off. But I was young and stubborn..and well..still financially irresponsible and just flat out stupid. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

Sooo..long story short..in 2008 I traded that ole Durango in for a gently used 2007 Nissan Altima. I couldn’t qualify for a car loan with under a 16% interest rate on my own, so my boyfriend (now husband) co-signed. Why are y’all out here enabling my bad decisions by co-signing..can we say enablers?! While I am absolutely grateful for the help on the loans, the now wiser older version of me is like..well..that was a sign I shouldn’t be getting a loan..period!!! If I wouldn’t have had that option, then maybe I would have figured out a different solution that didn’t involve another loan and $300 car payment. πŸ™…β€β™€οΈ

With marriage, my husband brought a 2002 Nissan Maxima that was paid for. We ended up deciding in 2015 to trade it in for a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder SUV that we “needed”. So we did make that Maxima last a minute, and we even kept the Altima after we paid it off. (and my husband is still driving it today with over 200k miles) It smells weird and has different sounds, but it runs and that’s what our requirements list looks like for a car these days. 😜

We ended up selling the Pathfinder because it had transmission issues and pissed me off at the wrong time on the wrong day. The Altima was also causing some troubles, so I decided it was no longer safe to commute in. We ended up doing some minor repairs and my little brother used the car for a year or so. Fast forward to 2017 and impulse buying my 2015 Infiniti Q50..cause I need a luxury car that my kids can spill their drinks and empty snacks all over in, and slam the doors into anything that is there when they open them. It’s also important to have premium gas for a commuter like myself. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Happy ending though..sold the Infiniti and replaced with a paid for in cash 2013 Nissan Altima with 124k miles on it. So we now have NO car payments and two Nissan Altimas to get around in.

I think it’s time to analyze the overall effect this financial mistake of having a car payment for 18 years had on my overall financial wellness. Hopefully this will help prevent it from happening to others in the future. If you take an average of $350 a month over that 18 years, that’s $75,600.

πŸ™„πŸ˜¬πŸ˜­πŸ€’πŸ˜³πŸ€¬πŸ€”πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

I could have easily had one or two cars last me through that timeframe for under $10,000. What would life be like had I taken that money and invested it or saved it and used it for down payments on 4-5 rental properties? I could have used the cash flow to pay for a car of my choosing. Also, did having to ensure I could cover that $350 every month make me less of a risk taker on chasing dreams and playing it safe for a steady paycheck? Deep thoughts and questions we will never know the answer to.

What I do know is that I drove myself down a road paved with bad decisions for 18 years, but better late than never to realize it’s time to take a different road. πŸ˜‰

I’m curious..what is your biggest financial mistake and what did you learn from it?

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$113,108.34 The true cost of our education

In the above picture from eleven years ago, I see a couple of crazy kids having fun at Mardi Gras without a care in the world. This was pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre debt-free lifestyle and pre-multiple bad hairstyles, including a year with bangs. 😬

The crazy kids above had been in the job force for several years, although I’m not really sure what Matt did then or what he does now even, but I had begun down the insurance career path. Along with entering the job force, I had adopted a lifestyle of debt and had been led to believe that’s just what people do, and student loans are just something you pay back for the rest of your life. So we had around $50k combined student loans and our “almost degrees” to show for it, meaning we each had enough credits to qualify for a bachelors, but didn’t actually have a bachelors degree to show for it. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Matt had been at least paying the minimum on his loans..I was too busy saying I couldn’t afford my monthly payments, yet I could eat out and go party all the time wearing new clothes and driving a new car. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Things changed shortly after the above pic when we found out we were pregnant with our daughter. We both made the choice to go back to school and get those degrees wrapped up. We paid cash for my last few classes, which I finished up online, while working full time and having a baby at home. It was tough with Matt also working full time and taking night classes three days a week. 😴 πŸ‘Ά 🍼

We weren’t paying on our loans during this time, or the interest that was just stacking up on those already high principal balances. To top it off, Matt’s new career change into a Computer Science degree from a for profit university added another $40k to our already giant mountain of student loan debt. πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈ

Fast forward to about six years ago, when we finally started paying the minimum monthly amount on our loans (only because we had to get them out of forbearance). So if your name was Sallie Mae, Mohela, Nelnet, Fedloans, etc., you were on our payroll for the past six years. The amount we were paying in minimums was around $1500 a month, which was more than our mortgage at the time. πŸ˜¬πŸ’ΈπŸ’ΈπŸ’Έ

I often wonder what else that money could have been doing..for us, for investing, for our kids, for donating, for the economy, etc. It would probably make me sick to run any actual math on what we missed out on not investing the money, and how much total we paid in interest. 🀒

We decided to get serious and use the debt snowball method, and continued throwing every extra penny we had towards them. I skipped eating out, meal prepped, bought used clothes, and budgeted like a badass. It felt like the slowest process, and that we would NEVER pay them off. Some of these loans had 6% interest, so a lot of times I was barely even touching the balance when I made a payment. πŸ™„

We set a goal of being debt free by August 2019, because that’s when my son would be starting Kindergarten. It was always a big goal, and even through each of the setbacks, I knew we would just have to adjust and keep going. I would like to say there was some big secret program we used, but we literally just made a goal and made the necessary sacrifices on a consistent basis to crush it. I can’t even say how good it feels to finally write this post, and even ahead of our goal. πŸŽ‰πŸ˜Ž πŸ‘©πŸΌβ€πŸŽ“ πŸ‘¨β€πŸŽ“

Teach Them Instead

I always hear people and have even said myself that “I want to give my kids everything I didn’t have” or “they deserve the world” and obviously that doesn’t mean buying a bunch of crap and “spoiling” them. But let’s be honest..it kind of starts to look like that no matter how much you try not to spoil them.

We make sure they have all of the latest and greatest name brand clothes, hot toys or electronics “because their friends have them” or “because we just couldn’t resist the clothes sale and went a little overboard”. We make sure they are attending all of the activities and getting them top of the line sports gear and paying a little extra for that personal pitching coach (or whatever your sport is). We’ve all been there, and even though they are persuasive, I don’t think they really care about any of those “things” they get.

I decided to change the game this year while I still have the chance. Instead of spending money on them, I’m more interested in spending time with them. My kids both still want to hang out with me, and the older one could change her mind tomorrow (she’s turning ten soon and really into herself and her friends these days, so my window is getting narrower by the day).

So why wouldn’t I use this opportunity to spend as much time with them as I can and start teaching them the things I wished I would have known instead of buying them what I didn’t have? We had both kids help with painting and cleaning up at our rental house, and we explained all the details and why we bought it. I also recently read The Latte Factor with my oldest and we talked about it as we went along, and how the little things add up financially. We’ve also been doing a lot of walks and pool time and there’s so many options that don’t cost money.

So why not save that money you were going to spend on junk, invest it in some real estate or other retirement account and instead invest your time with your kids. I have a feeling the kids will hold on to the memories with you for a lifetime and forget all about that new outfit or toy before they even outgrow it.

Flirting with Fear

I remember in high school and college becoming physically sick about public speaking. To the point where I would accept lower grades just to get back to my comfort zone..which was not being in front of people. I went for perfection in the areas that I knew, and didn’t feel comfortable trying anything different.

I promised myself I would NEVER get in front of crowds after graduating. I would occasionally have to speak to small groups early in my career, and every time it would cause me to lose sleep and have an upset stomach.

I got to a point in my career about five years ago, where there were new promotions I could go after, but part of that would require me to get in front of mid-sized groups. I almost stayed where I was, because it was comfortable and easy and I almost gave up on ever getting over my fear. But instead, I went for it, scared as hell of failure, very anxious and certain I wouldn’t be β€œperfect” at it.

It was outside of my comfort zone, but I continued to practice, visibly shaking the first few times I had to present, lost a lot of sleep, practiced some more, but watched as the groups slowly started growing in size, so did my confidence and I found that it’s something I actually enjoy.

I have also found some deep breathing and yoga routines that help get me in the right mindset if I am feeling nervous or anxious. I currently present frequently to small to mid-sized groups, and it gets easier every time I do it.

Today, 5 years after making a professional and personal development goal of getting more comfortable with one of my biggest fears, something happened. I had my largest stage and largest audience to date. And I wasn’t nervous or anxious at all, but rather felt EXCITED and GRATEFUL for the opportunity. I didn’t even use the notes that I made for myself.

Making a long story longer. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

I definitely think this book had some impact on my mindset shift and highly recommend reading this, along with listening to Reshma Saujani’s TedTalk. Be brave, not perfect!!

What fear do you have that you’ve been able to overcome or that’s still holding you back today?

No more Preschool Payments!!

It may just be May 1st to most people, but today is the end of a chapter of our lives in the Templeton house. It’s a bittersweet moment. We got to write our LAST PRESCHOOL CHECK EVER!!!

While I am sad about my little man growing up, I am not sad about no longer having that expense. We are fortunate that we have only been paying for Part Time daycare, and Grandma watched both kids two days a week. We paid her by sending her articles about how we are helping her stay young by letting her watch the grandkids. 🀣

When I go back and add up our total for two kids, we have paid over $71,280 total. 😳 And that was just for part time. While it is a lot when you add it all up, both of our kids attended Montessori school and I do believe that a great preschool experience is a foundation for a lifelong love of learning. We moved a few years back, and wanted to ensure we lived in a great school district, so they will continue to have access to a great education as they go K-12. We also are fortunate that Matt works from home, so we have saved big on before/after care.

If you’re keeping track of my #debtfreejourney you will remember that a few weeks ago I also sold my car. Between no more daycare, no more car payment, and no more premium gas, we are saving around $1,150 a month!!! πŸŽ‰

That money can go towards our #realestateinvesting goals or towards paying off the last of our student loan debt.

Anyone else celebrating a major money win right now?! Let’s celebrate together. πŸŽ‰