The Financial Confessions: “I Ignored My Bills, And It Almost Ruined Me”
“The other day, while talking to a friend about her car, I realized that I hadn’t paid my car loan payment in a few months. Or, if I’m being honest with myself, that I had very intentionally let my car loan payment ‘slip my mind’ for a few months.
I told myself that everything would totally be fine as I dialed my lender, only to learn that unless I paid $600 by Monday, my car would be repossessed. And because I had been late on too many payments, they couldn’t extend the deadline or help me out.
I had to call a family friend and ask for help, which was embarrassing and demoralizing.
I work in politics, and every year after Election Day, I’m unemployed, usually for a month or two. Despite the fact that I knew that I would be out of work and wouldn’t have any income, I put no money aside throughout the year, spent like crazy, and just assumed, as I always have, that things would just somehow…be fine.
This was a rude awakening, to say the least, and I’m lucky that I have friends that have the means and are willing to help me save my car. I’m also lucky — luckier than most — that I was able to line up a job very quickly, and that I qualified for unemployment so I’ll have some help in the interim weeks. But after this — and after reading the Financial Confessions — I started using Ready for Zero and Mint. (Mint showed me that I spent most heavily during months where my income is lowest, interestingly. I wonder if I overspend to try to convince myself that everything is fine.)
I’m trying to learn to think long term. It’s so hard to do when you’re young (I’m turning 25 next month). I had the option to live at home my first year out of college but insisted on moving in with my boyfriend. Surprise, we broke up. And I got stuck with paying $1,200 a month in rent for a nice apartment in a crappy neighborhood in Brooklyn. If you are fortunate enough to have family that can offer you help or financial assistance/support, take it if you need it. I wish I had asked for help. Or that I had even reached out to my dad and asked him for help in writing a budget, or explaining how my credit score is generated, or what credit card bill I should pay off first.
Learn as much as you can about debt, about your credit score, about budgeting, because even if you’re caught in a veritable financial nightmare, you can get your head above water if you can understand what’s holding you under. All of this happened after, last year, I defaulted on my student loans. Because my mom is my cosigner, she wasn’t initially able to cosign a loan for my little brother’s college education.
I called the lender — I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier — and learned that I could retroactively defer payment, and so it was as if I had never missed a payment. Everything wound up working out fine in the end, and my mom was able to cosign my brother’s loan, and he is about to finish his first semester in college.
It was another head in the sand moment for me — ignore the problem and it’ll just resolve itself. That is (clearly) not the case, and I really can’t emphasize enough exactly how lucky I am that none of my financial screwups have done the full damage they potentially could have.
My hope is that this time next year, I will, for the first time in my life, have a savings account, and I hope to make it through the coming year without missing any payments or ignoring my bills.”