Overdraft was the norm

I was the first lady whose book you signed in Vancouver. I lived for that day! The pressure of being the first on the line was that I had to be considerate of the people behind me even though I was dying to chat with you if only for a minute or two. The pressure won.

I just want to tell you how phenomenal your money advice and shows have been to my life. I immigrated to Canada from Kenya right after high school and had never paid a bill in my life. The culture back home is primarily patriarchal and women are relegated to raising children and tending the home. The man does everything money-related. When I left home, I was told ‘don’t forget about those of us that are here.’ Those of us – the entire extended family of about 16 aunts and uncles and cousins my age. My first two years were tough. As soon as I got employment, I got some reprieve. I know I didn’t spend every single cent with prudence and I liked to treat myself on my days of school and work. It adds up!

Ten years later, in May 2014, I graduated with a student loan of $57, 000 and two degrees. Up to that point, I had a stack of unopened bills and I made only minimum payments to my almost maxed out credit card. Overdraft was the norm. I sat down with a financial planner friend and was HORRIFIED that I owed that much – as if there was anything to be horrified about.

I had watched ‘Til Debt Do Us Part’ about five years before that and I didn’t think then that I could be like ‘those people’. I loved the show and thought that I’d want to have those lessons sometime in the future. The $57, 000 bill accelerated the future preeety fast.

I made a budget ASAP. I put in every detail and also started an account on Mint.com. I wrote everything down explicitly on my calendar and automated every bill and payment. I phoned my phone company to change the billing cycle to fit with my other bills. And I made SMART quarterly goals for how much I should have paid down every four months as well as how much I should have in my emergency fund every four months. I employed the jars. I started opening my online bank account just about daily. My bills never go unopened…EVER! I applied for a credit check. I opened an RRSP investment account and a ‘Just because’ investment account. I calculated how much I’d have to pay monthly to make it out of that $57, 000 murk in three years and under. Since Oct 2014, I have paid down $24, 000, I am never in overdraft, I will be making my last credit card payment in March and I am one excited puppy when I have to top up my jars! Oh my word! You should see me – I look forward to those days! It was hard with the jars at first, but now…pfft! It’s so easy! I waste way less. Even with vegetables being as expensive as they are, I still have quite a bit of money left over and grocery shopping is not a stressful chore.

I empty the jars…leave a $50 bill for the just in case laundry detergent, and take the rest to the bank and put it against my student loans on top of the 48% of my income that I have already designated for my student loan repayment.

When I went home last year, I saved every cent and paid for my ticket in cash. The travel agent was aghast! I was pleased with myself. I took the book ‘It’s Your Money’ with me and MADE my mom and sister sit and read it. I had a discussion with my family and told them that they are all capable individuals and can’t be dependent on me to enable their dependence on myself. I told them that my priorities have shifted and I would rather have a cow that provides milk and give them 50% of the proceedings than walk to Moneygram and send money home. I told them that I have no responsibility to my 16 aunts and my 1, 000 cousins. No way! I told them that if/when I get married, I just want an AG and two witnesses present. I had definitely gotten their attention here and they were mortified. But I had their attention and they listened. I told them that I seek to be independent and to be sustainable in my ways and that if I’m denying myself wants so that I can be comfortable and worry-free, so should they.

Liz who never paid a bill in her life had grown up!

It was such a good feeling. I have hope for whatever lies ahead. I don’t intend to work until the very last year of retirement…that’s dumb! I intend to work until I’m comfortable enough to work for fun and spend time with people that I love and care about as another business venture works for me somewhere out there.

I have a great financial planner…but most of what I have learned and know has been from your shows (I’ve watched every episode of every show about twice now) and from your books. They work so well for me that I can’t imagine any other way. I’m frugal and I’m happy and I’m satisfied.

And so thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

If you happen to have another book tour, I will not be a mouse. 🙂

PS: I read all the Famous Five and Secret Seven books growing up so if/when you publish, I will MAKE my children read your books.

2 Responses to “Overdraft was the norm”

  1. I am so happy for you! I admire your independence! Like you I was single for a while after college – I learned to take care of myself – rent, car, savings – it is as you said – I paid all those bills first. Years later I told my daughter – be able to take care of yourself BEFORE you get married because if you can’t take care of yourself how will take care of a family?

    I wish for you a happy fulfilled life. YOU ARE WONDERFUL!

  2. Congrats on getting the guts to set your family straight. I know in a lot of cultures, the expectation is that once you leave home and go to a country such as Canada or America then you’ve “made it” and you need to work and send money back home. Keep up the good work and I hope you get that student debt paid off soon.

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