Young love can be a dangerous thing. When I started dating my now ex-husband at 17, I learned this the hard way. We married after dating for two short years. We were both still in college with a lot to learn about life… and money.
My husband and I grew up with very different financial backgrounds, and we did not discuss money before we got married. As a result, finances were always at the center of our arguments as a couple. We argued about how to spend money and about how little we were saving. We even argued about who was going to pay the bills and when.
My husband handled handled all of our finances. My only financial responsibility was to work as many hours as possible at my part-time job while juggling school and trying not to spend too much money at the grocery store.
When we got divorced 10 months later, I experienced a rude awakening.
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I had gone from being a high school kid living with my parents, to a college kid living in a dorm with roommates, to a wife living with my husband. Since he handled the ins and outs of paying the bills and balancing the checkbook, I had never made financial decisions for myself in my life. Now, I was responsible for paying all of my own bills, including rent for my apartment.
Things were never terrible for me financially. I always had food in the fridge, and electricity and water in my apartment, but I did make a lot of financial mistakes in the year after I got divorced.
After the divorce, I spent more than I made every month. What's worse is that I didn’t slow down when I realized I was in trouble. The biggest problem wasn’t in affording my basic needs, but in my emotional shopping.
I shopped the pain of my divorce away, and I had the credit card statements and bank overdraft fees to prove it.
Instead of crying myself to sleep or staying home in the apartment I used to share with husband, I would go shopping.
After the divorce, It started off innocently enough. I bought a new shirt first. I felt that I deserved it before going out with my girlfriends on a Saturday night. After all, I only owned enough clothes for about a week, so there was no harm in getting one new shirt. But it didn’t stop there.
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The next week, I opened my first credit card – a store card that I promised myself I’d pay off every month. But I didn’t. Soon enough, I was spending money on my card at the mall every weekend. I ordered things online, too, so that the store’s employees wouldn’t notice how often I came in to shop. Every time I got close to the limit – not infrequently, since I was only paying the minimum – the credit card company would give me an increase without my having asked for it.
After eighteen months of reckless spending, opening and maxing out multiple credit cards, and overdrawing my checking account on a regular basis, I couldn’t stand it anymore.
I wasn't sleeping at night because I was so worried about money.
That’s when I turned to personal finance blogs to help me get my finances back on track. One fateful night, a panic-induced Google search led me to read my first personal finance blogs. Since then, I’ve been budgeting and blogging about my own experiences with money.
I’m still not debt-free. But it is comforting to know how much money I’m earning, how much I’m spending, and how much I’m saving each month. I love looking over my numbers after each month and seeing my debt decrease and my savings increase.
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I probably would have gained financial savvy even if I hadn’t gotten married and divorced. But these events that I sometimes consider “mistakes” brought me to where I am today.
In some ways, I’m thankful for all that I learned through the process of marriage, divorce, and emotional spending. I still struggle with emotional spending sometimes. I don’t know if that “urge to splurge” will ever fully go away. But now that I'm aware of it and know how to battle it, I can sleep peacefully at night.