Tears, Fears & Debt

Too many people see the face of prosperity in public and social media when it comes to their peers. Many forget to see that there is a lot more that goes behind the four walls of someone’s home. For example, people may not know that their neighbor, sister, brother or friend are on the verge of eviction, cupboards without food, and living without utilities.

I’ve mentioned before that I dodged homelessness while in graduate school. Well leading up to that point of breaking free from the stress of being homeless, I developed anxiety, stress related illness and hopelessness. For five years, I lived above my means to support myself and a mentally disabled family member. I had no support although employed, I couldn’t sustain my lifestyle. I had difficulties providing for someone else on limited income while trying to better myself. 

I went to graduate school so that I can get a better paying job after upgrading my credentials. In that process, I was doubling on the student loans, credit cards even though I worked a full time job. My first year of grad school, I almost foreclosed on my house and evicted. I dropped out of school to clean up my finances. I couldn’t deal with dropping out of school, I decided to max out my loans. I even opened credit cards after not having any at all. I lived on majority of the borrowed income until I finished school and got a better paying job.

On the outside, people saw tenacity, ambition and self determination. All along, I was putting forth the face of prosperity. People had no idea that all night I was in tears and fear because I didn’t know how to make my next month mortgage payment. I worried my utilities would be turned off. Tears came over my eyes in the classroom when my bank text my phone that my account balance is below $25.00 and I needed gas for the next day. I lived in fear that one day my car would break down in the middle of the street at night after my night classes and I would be in the position to defend my safety. 

I spent more time getting into debt to barely survive than I did on my education. It started to affect my school work to the point of failing classes. I failed a total of 3 graduate courses and was placed on academic probation. One day I broke down in tears in front of my professor expressing my last strike into homelessness. Needless to say, I had dropped out of school four more times before I could complete my master’s degree. 

For five years, I lived in tears, fears and debt. 

What jealous people don’t know about someone’s financial life

“you can’t be jealous of someone who doesn’t sleep.”

Once upon a time, I was the friend that a few people envied. I used to never know why. Most of the time, I didn’t care because I always had a mentality of, “if you don’t pay for my bills or education” who cares if we are not friends. One day a friend asked me, how I paid for things. She wanted to know how I could afford a three bedroom home, utilities, and maintain the home in such immaculate condition. At the time, I was working a lot, a full time student and was managing fine( to everyone’s eyes).  Balancing all meant having the finances to do all.  My friend didn’t know that I was on a hamster wheel of debt.


My friend had no clue that I was going through these 5 things.

1. I was in debt up to my eye balls: I was living way beyond my means taking care of a home was filled with stress. The house was a money pit always draining my bank account. I would ignore house repairs until it got so bad. When I had to fix it, it meant getting a contractor out to see and solve the problem. I had major to minor plumbing issues, pest control, electrical and heating problems.  I was also a student taking on loans and sometimes to supplement the mortgage. I had heavy transportation cost for my four hour commute from school to work and home. My full time job was not enough to do everything at once.

2. Sleeping at night was a problem: I would stay up at night thinking about how I would catch up with bills. I would budget to every dollar I didn’t have. I spent more time thinking about my day to day expenses than I did my education or my job. I would check all my online bank statements. I would avoid checking the mail. Sleeping well was a foreign language for a very long time.

3. I would pay everything late all the time: the late fees caked on and made the bill three times the original bill and it was a nightmare to pay. I once had a utility bill run on half way paid for six months. The only time I was able to catch up was because the electric bills became smaller during the summer; therefore getting it to current was manageable.

4.I never spent frivolously: Everything was budgeted to every dollar I never had. When I did spend, it was to go visit family and I had to save up or work on extra projects to be able to afford it. For example, my regular day job was for bills. If I was going to visit a friend or family in a different state, I would tutor on my college campus for money. I would find something to do to purchase the $200-$300 ticket. Plus I did interstate trips. I never went to Central America or across to the other side of the world. Just the cheap ones.

5. I would avoid events that cost a lot: for example, I never went to concerts or shows. I never went on girls trips abroad. I would decline going to weddings that were not in my state and just send a portion of my airfare funds as the wedding gift. Most of my friends would have online registries.

After drowning in debt for several years trying to maintain everything, I decided I couldn’t live on the hamster wheel, so I decided to lower my standard of living and eliminate debt.

My debt story, how I paid $23k worth in student loans

DebtStory-LIFESURVIVALDIARYDebt can come in many different ways, consumer debt, credit cards, other personal debt and the loathing student loans. My journey to acquiring, accepting and repayment has taken me to places and ideas never thought of.

Like many people who do not have college or saving accounts set at young age, have to borrow to afford an education. Early on in my education, I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire resources from my city, teachers and foundations. I attended college early to cut the cost of college. I’ve worked several part-time jobs to pay fees and books on my own until I maximized on whatever resource I was utilizing at the time. To fast forward through difficult times with managing priorities, I crashed and ended my college tenured with 10k in student loans. The 10k came from losing a major scholarship source in my 3rd year and then I was forced to borrow. At first I was upset with myself, and knew that the repayment of my lost scholarship would be in my future. (Until I appealed to the highest academic administrator with careful planning and decision making. I won the fight and did not repay the financial institution.)

When I began acquiring debt:  My first job out of college gave me a salary of 8k, scholarship and one year federal competitive edge for federal jobs I qualified for. The worst part about this job, it was a contract, but it got my foot in the door somewhere.  After the contract, a government position opened up and I took the job. Three months into the job, the government shut down and my position was consolidated with a senior partner position.  I was laid off, applied for unemployment and was denied because I did not meet the hours required to get paid. After an appeal from my end, I was granted a small weekly payment not enough to cover any of my bills. Mind you through this process my 10k student loans were on forbearance and I never paid, not even the interest.

For a year, I was living in financial hell and dreaded my 6 month job hunt. I used up my pension and regular savings until I started running up debt. I re-enrolled into a graduate program of my choice to save me from financial turmoil. When I received my acceptance letter for graduate studies, I was given stellar scholarship package. After three months of studies, I had to drop out of school because the idea of living beyond my means and making less on student handouts did not cover my cost of living. I found it difficult to keep my scholarship obligations at the school; I accepted my fate and left the university.

After series of job searches, underemployment, dropping out of school several times, I had to get it together. I had dropped out of graduate school three times, “almost” faced homelessness due to underemployment. I quickly learned that financially desperate people are not to be allowed in the financial aid office because many poor decisions are made there. I maxed out on the annual student loans offered, personal campus loans to make ends meet.

Now take note that all through this I wasn’t just carelessly maxing out for no reason, I was working full-time in the non-profit sector to cover for my medical expenses/insurance premiums, transportation and food costs. I was barely covering housing and utilities with my salary. Now six months before I graduated I had to repay back some personal loans through the campus, minus my federal loans. I started delaying the payoff date by taking fewer classes each quarter and apply extra money from my federal student loans to my campus loans. Eventually I completed all my classes and was forced to get a higher paying job. After three months of searching I found better pay, benefits and I was overjoyed. My hard work was finally paying off.

How I paid it off:
My student loan six months grace period went past me and all my loans were on repayment, all seven active accounts. My campus loan had a pending 7k for me to repay. I was a fool to not have read the fine print. For two years, I lived in financial misery and that lead to other problems in my life including my health. My pending campus loan stopped the school registrar from providing access to my records. The school withheld important things such as my degree verification and transcripts. I began working long hours for overtime pay, I worked a second job, I worked 70-80hrs a week for a full year and suffered burn outs and a mini stroke due to chronic stress and high blood pressure. I applied every tax return towards this loan; I requested other federal loan repayment plans and even used my sick status to appeal for hardship forbearance. (Long process: I won the fight and I was granted 4 months of no repayment to catch up on other debt.) All through this, if I had lived on credit cards, I would have filed for bankruptcy. Unfortunately student loans cannot be cleared through bankruptcy.

Road to hard lessons learned:
Through my journey of living beyond my means and in debt, a simple 10k loan ended up being 18K at the time of total repayment. For two years, I learned a painful lesson that almost cost me my life. I learned to live within my means, to not stress and accepted my desperate decisions.  I had to drastically cut my expenses to save me from overworking. All though, I am still not done with loans, I have 57k unpaid student loans waiting. In due time, my own personal home loan will be added.  We all have loans in some shape or form, but we really need to access if the loans are necessary. Did we get them from being responsible, reckless or desperate?

Lessons learned:
1. Live within/below your means at all cost. Especially as a student.
2. Don’t use school loans as your financial lifeline
3. Plan your academic career to every dollar that you don’t have
4. Always be employed at whatever cost
5. Build a saving account enough to last you 3-6 months of joblessness.
6. Appeal any decision you do not like and have documentation to make your claims
7. Save your tax returns
8. Seek professional help when all fails
9. Financial stress is #1 killer and can destroy other parts of your life
10. Always have a plan

HOW I PAID 80k in 6 months scams

Some have husbands to help pay debt, others have themselves.


Ever found yourself in so much debt and you don’t know how? Have you ever googled how to manage debt in your spare time. If so, you are a victim and shackled to your debt in spirit. I’ve searched for articles online for two years on how to reduce debt, manage debt, and live with debt. I always read headlines that say, “How I paid off 80k in 6 months.” In reality no average Joe paying living expenses in a fluctuating economy full of problems can realistically pay off 80k debt in 6 months.  How nerve wrecking it is to live on the edge pay check to pay check with no emergency fund.

For example, their articles start off nicely and then it follows, “my husband and I sat down and budgeted…etc” In my mind, dual income is better than scraping by on top roman and air. I want real solutions for single adults who are struggling to make ends meet with either low wage jobs or stretched salaries. I’m sure the single mother with two kids who has to buy groceries with payday loans and credit cards can relate and learn something from the article.

I’ve struggled with managing unsolicited debt in my life. It wasn’t a matter of choice, but a necessity for me to take them. I learned painful lessons on managing a home, a car, maintenance, my health. I learned a lot from my coworkers at work. Some who prayed for me to get well when worried sick. I had coworkers who served as my surrogate parents and provided me with resources to prosper. For sure I know that having debt without a plan and desperately signing documents can destroy your life. Stories of my mistakes will unfold as I collect my thoughts and the lessons learned.