by a.b.

She stands slowly, hearing the scrape of the chair sliding back on the tile floor. As she raises her head and looks around the room, she isn’t really comforted by the somber, yet encouraging faces, waiting for her to speak. After taking a deep breath, she says: “My name is a.b., and I have debt.”

I am revisiting this quote, because I want to be upfront regarding the frugal tips and personal finance information I post. This isn’t a hobby for me; this is necessity. Through the years, I, and then dear hubby and I, have acquired student loans, car loan, credit cards, and personal loan. There are so many times we have looked back and thought, “if we’d only known.”

If we’d only known about meal planning and grocery shopping, we would have saved hundreds of dollars a month during our first two years of marriage. Now, we base our meal plans around what’s on sale, and stock up with really good deals. We went out to eat at least five times a week for the first six months we were married (usually fast food). I figure that cost us about $300/month alone.

In hindsight, you never need a car loan. This is where I really feel dumb because I did this twice. When we first got married, our transportation costs were running $750/month for a Dodge Dakota, between payment, insurance, and gas. The real foolishness was we lived within walking distance of work, and would’ve spent less just renting a car when we needed, or selling the Dodge and saving for four months to buy a little beater. It was a relief to get out from under that expense. However, three years later, (also known as enough time to forget), we ended up with a car loan again. (In all fairness we weren’t near our work, and the public transportation was ridiculous.) I ended up getting a larger loan than I wanted to because the bank had a minimum loan amount and minimum year for car loans. If I had started saving earlier, or even taken out a smaller loan (like a personal loan or Prosper loan), I would’ve gotten an older car like I wanted, and spent far less.

Lastly, I wish we’d given more consideration before going to school. We took on excess student loans to the tune of $7000 for university that we did not finish. In the end, we found that vocational school with an occupational skill was a better fit, but the previous tuition had already been paid.

By my calculations, if we’d known better, we wouldn’t have acquired at least $20,000 in debt, and would be greatly ahead in our savings. Frankly, we’re probably hard-headed enough that we had to learn the hard way, but it is much more difficult to make the right decisions from a negative financial position, than even a zero position. At least we know what to do now.