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Changes I've Made So Far

June 22nd, 2006 at 06:17 am

I didn't have too many struggles with money until I finished graduate school and entered the working world. My first year out, I had a postdoctoral fellowship, and I managed to spend almost twice what I earned and when I got a "real job" the next year, I started my career over $13,000 in debt. For the first 3 or 4 years, I just paid the minimum balance due, and then it hit me that my debt wasn't going down. I started reading about personal finance, including Your Money or Your Life, got a consolidation loan and started paying my debt down. It took a couple of years, but by the time I'd left my first job, I'd not only gotten rid of the debt but started saving 10% of my salary in a retirement fund.

At my next job, I also managed to save up a significant amount towards a downpayment for a house. However, I had a bout with an illness that landed me in the hospital for two months, cost me two surgeries and six months of unemployment, and led me to make the decision to get off the "fast track" towards my career and worry more about my life as a whole. The experience also ended up eating up the downpayment fund.

Successes I've had so far in changing habits:
--I spend much less on books than I used to and frequent the library much more often
--I eat out less than I used to, but I still could make a lot more progress
--I pretty regularly save 10% or more of my salary (which varies tremendously year to year depending on my job situation...I've saved up to 27% of my salary in flush years but have had a couple of years where I've lived close to the bone and eaten into the emergency fund instead of adding to it).
--I've put most of my bill-paying on auto-pilot, so I don't get hit with the late fees I used to incur about once a year in the past.
--I finally was able to buy a house this past year, due to the generosity of my mother, who gifted me the downpayment money. This brings the total housing expenses up a bit from what they were, but now I have equity, plus the rents in this area are rising rapidly and it won't be long before my expenses as a homeowner will be less than what they were as a renter.

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