Femme Frugality is here to tell us all about how she earned the nickname “debt rockstar” and how she’s successfully avoided the trap of consumer debt. Take it away Femme!
Confession: Aside from a car loan, I’ve never been in debt. No credit card debt, no student loans, no nothing.
But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced debt. A huge part of my fear and therefore aversion to debt came from the environment I grew up in. It was an artificial, middle-class existence that eventually came crumbling down. Interest rates always reign supreme.
My experiences as a child may have informed me on what not to do, but that doesn’t mean my parents didn’t teach me well. I was indoctrinated from a young age on how to properly manage my money, and those lessons led to me being dubbed a “debt rockstar” at the humble age of 16.
It happened in the wee hours of the morning at an Eat’n’Park, the restaurant all Pittsburgh teenagers find themselves at one point or another. I was going through a phase where I didn’t carry a purse. They were a pain to tote around, and I had heard something about them making you more susceptible to getting held-up. I thought everything I learned in those years was doctrine.
We sat down and started looking at the menu. I reached into my hoodie pocket to see how much money I had. Bad news: I had nothing. The waitress came around to ask us what we’d be having, rolling her eyes at the manager as he called out something about Saturday night’s shift. She let us in on her misery for longer than any of us cared to listen, and then started jotting down our orders. “I’ll just have an ice water.” I said.
“You can’t just have an ice water.” My friend said as he looked across the table at me incredulously.
We went back and forth.
“I’m not that hungry.”
“You have to get something.”
“I’m seriously fine.”
Angry waitress was not getting any happier. There’s nothing that says “no tip” like an ice water.
“Okay, listen, I thought I had ten bucks, but I guess I don’t. I’m good with just an ice water.”
The friend sitting next to me in the six person booth chimed in. “I’ll cover you.”
“No, seriously, I don’t like owing people money. I’m not that hungry. I’ll be fine.”
This went on at tedium, until I finally caved and borrowed that $10. The waitress left, in love with us, I’m sure.
“I’ll pay you back. I’m working a shift tomorrow night.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“No. I really will.”
“Come on, so-and-so borrows money from us all the time and never pays up.”
This led to an entire conversation about all of our friends and how it actually did really tick us off when we didn’t get returns on our teenage loans. Most of us were only making minimum wage, around $5.50 an hour, so $20 could really put us out. Especially from repeat offenders.
“Listen, the way I see it, those first two hours I work that money’s not going into my bank account. It’s not mine. I owe you $10, so those first couple hours I’m working for you.”
“Wow.” I got another incredulous look from across the table. “You know when we start getting credit cards and taking out money for college and stuff? You’re going to be a debt rockstar, Femme.”
Little did he know. In my grown-up life, I’ve found keeping that same mindset has helped stop me from swiping plastic, or making bad life decisions like continuing my education at a college that offers virtually zero scholarships or other financial aid. When you think about the hours you’re putting in being worked for Capital One (or whomever you owe a debt to) rather than yourself, making the initial purchase suddenly gets a lot harder.
If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it unless you are willing to sacrifice your time. As adults, the amounts we borrow get bigger, and those two hours I had to work as a teen turn into years as a workhorse for someone else’s profit. If you’re already in debt, don’t get down on yourself. You know what you need to do: work hard, pay it off, and most importantly, don’t accrue any more debt in the process. It’s rough, but you absolutely can do it.
Every time you’re about to make a purchase, whether it’s a latte or a year at a University for a degree that will not end up paying for itself, ask yourself: “Am I okay working the next xxx days/months/years for my lender?”
If the answer is no, walk out that door and get down with your bad self, you debt rockstar, you!