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Friday inspiration: Making it work and getting ahead despite difficult circumstances

Friday inspiration: Making it work and getting ahead despite difficult circumstances

This is the third in a series of interviews with people who are either working to improve their financial situation or who have already reached their goals. This week’s interview is with Kymm, who is working on getting out of debt, and improving her education and work prospects while making ends meet in a difficult situation.

Could you tell us something about yourself?
I am 24, a single mom to a 5 year old boy. I have a disabled mother I live with and take care of. I have a roommate who pays half the rent and has just started to give me money for utilities. My boyfriend stays over on most weekends and sometimes during the week, but he writes me a check monthly and also helps me out by buying stuff if we need it. I attend community college part time, I’m currently working toward my paralegal degree, which is an associates of applied business. I have 4 more years of school left. I do receive child support for my son (from a previous relationship), and that covers his daycare costs and sometimes some wants or needs that need to be met. Other than my financial life, I love to hang out with my son, I mostly spend my time watching movies or playing go fish with him. We are currently working on teaching him to ride a 2-wheeler, free next to the band aids!

In what way have you turned your financial life around? (Or what are you working on changing?)
I have changed many of my spending habits. I used to just buy buy buy; now I have learned the importance of an emergency fund. I have gone through 2 emergency funds this year. My roommate was laid off from her job for about 4 months and since my mom has stopped receiving her short term disability checks and is now waiting for a decision from the Social Security office, I’ve gone through most of my savings. I still try to save and I learned to budget. I of course will blow my budget some months, but I’ve learned to cope and to be more frugal.

Can you give a little bit of background on your story? What were things like for you pre-change?
I had about $5,000 in credit card debt, no savings, was working two jobs to make ends meet, had little education (diploma and 1 certificate of completion for a medical program), was throwing money away at every possible opportunity, and was buying friendship with money.

How much progress have you made?
I’ve gotten rid of some of my credit card debt. I still have some but am currently working on that. I quit my second job to go back to school. I currently ache for that salary but my home life has also changed since I quit. I’ve read and currently read many financial blogs and articles to learn more about personal finance and of course to broaden my horizons. I still owe about $500 in past due medical bills. I’m slowly getting those the way of the dinosaurs. I have $3,000 in credit card debt, but I’m still working at it.

How do you feel about your financial situation right now? (Or how did you feel after reaching your goal?)
I feel like I’m still floundering at times but I also feel better about my situation in general. I know I’m making progress and I’m smarter about my money than I was before. I keep track of my money in a book, and I budget accordingly which I think is very hard to do. I feel accomplished when I do stay within budget for something. I sometimes feel defeated, like if I give into an impulse purchase or if something blows up in my face, but it really does make me work harder. It might take a day or two for me to take action but I always feel better once I rework the numbers and I have to be more creative with my finances. Oh and I contribute 3% of my gross income to my retirement!

What was the catalyst that caused you to take action?
I believe it was when I kept bouncing checks when I was paying my bills. I had never bounced a check before and was completely embarrassed. I also had to call and beg for an increase in my credit line to buy diapers for my son. Mortifying to me to know I couldn’t provide what my son needed because I was spending frivolously.

Did you have any setbacks? If so, how did you deal with them?
I have setbacks all the time. I underestimate the light bill. Currently I underestimated my water and sewer bill. Big whoops. I’m waiting for my head to cool before I actually deal with them.

I was making wonderful headway earlier this year. Then my roommate (friend since i was 8) got laid off for 4 months, I had to cover bills and food. My mom stopped receiving income, and I had to start paying ALL utilities and her $70 of rent she had covered. I sat down and cried. I told my mom how bad my financial situation had gotten. I couldn’t handle the stress anymore and was dreaming of drowning my sorrows in a bottle of vodka (I couldn’t afford it, therefore dreaming about it was all I had) and I finally told my household what I could and could not afford.

My mom asked for help from other avenues, my roommate is just my roommate, and we’re not very good friends anymore. I have learned what’s important and what’s not in my life. I mean how important is a new pair of shoes when i have to tell my mom no she can’t have shampoo this week? I’ve also learned that the best things in life are free. I love teaching my son how to ride his bike. The bike was free to me (it was a gift) and the time spent with him is priceless. I do get tired and frustrated as does he but we just call it a day or take a break and enjoy juice and a snack together. I am teaching my son money management so he doesn’t end up like me. I pay what I can and beg for help when I have to. It’s day to day with me now, but I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, which is about November.

What has been the hardest part of the process?
Learning from my mistakes. No one wants to admit they’ve screwed up the past 6 years of their life. Learning that my parents aren’t the most financially smart individuals. Telling them I have to ignore their advice and knowledge because they don’t understand what I want (which is to be debt free and to purchase a house in the next 6 years.)

The easiest?
Learning I have to teach my son young about money management.

How long has it taken?
I guess I officially started last year, so I’m at about 20 months. It feels like years and years.

What will be your next step?
Building another emergency fund while saving for my move in with my boyfriend next year. I then plan on paying off more debt after I’ve saved another $500. After I’ve paid off my credit cards I will save another $500 and start repaying my student loans, just a small monthly payment since I’m still in school. While I pay my student loans I will continue to save and allocate money for vacations, my wedding, a house down payment etc.

What’s the best financial advice you’ve received?
Spend less than you earn. It’s the easiest and hardest piece of advice to follow. Also don’t lease or buy a car that you can’t afford. I leased a car while still working 2 jobs and I’m wishing I never had.

What inspiration could you give to someone in a similar situation?
“Just keep swimming Just keep swimming” -Dory from Finding Nemo.

Would you like to share your story? If you would like to be interviewed via email for a future article, please email me at c o m m e n t s (without the spaces.)

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  • I love, love, love that you have included these interviews in your blog. Kymm’s story is so common, yet we rarely hear these stories or if we do, it’s just some statistic instead of a real human having a real experience. Thank you and Kymm for sharing! (The line from “Finding Nemo” is perfect. Oy!)

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