Student loans, credit cards and overspending

Money Mistakes of a Young Couple - Part 1

by Kasey Steinbrinck

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We all make mistakes when we're younger, right?

My wife and I royally screwed up with money a few times. Thankfully, it didn't completely destroy us. But it wasn't fun to fix either.

If you'd rather figure out things the hard way, you can stop reading now. But if you'd like an excellent example of what not to do in life, please continue.

Life after College - Student Loans

When I left the world of academia, I moved back in with my parents since I didn't land a job in my industry of choice right out of college. Moving back home allowed me to start paying off bigger chunks of student loans and build up a savings. Also, my mom really missed me over the previous four years.

One day, my folks sat me down and said that they were thinking about charging me a bit of rent. Say what?!

Related: 3 Important Objectives to Consider When Moving Back In With Your Parents

My family had moved twice while I was in college. They decided to give me the tiniest room in the new house. Seriously, most walk-in closets are bigger than this thing. Paying rent for such accommodations did not seem reasonable.

I told my parents "Forget you. I'm moving out! I was only living here because Mom missed me anyway!"

That's when I got an apartment, stopped saving, and started paying only the minimum payments on my student loans.

Lesson Learned: Sometimes you have to swallow your pride if it means you're making the best decision for your financial future.

Related: Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt Early or Invest?

Getting Hitched to Credit Card Debt

A few years later, I got engaged to my long-time sweetheart.

As you probably know, weddings can cost a truck-load of money. Our parents did help out with some of it. We also did a lot of things ourselves like homemade invitations and centerpieces, but DIY projects still cost money, and that's where the credit cards entered the picture.

Even though we were trying to be frugal, we still ended up being unable to completely pay off credit card balances for the first time.

It could have been eliminated quickly. But we started hearing things from people that made us lackadaisical. Friends told us, "Everybody has a little credit card debt these days, don't worry about it."

Relatives laughed at our concern. They said, "You think that's a lot of credit card debt? Look at what we have!"

We assumed we had time and kept putting it off. While we were ignoring it, the debt grew.

Lesson Learned: Credit card debt stinks. Get rid of it as soon as you can. Do not procrastinate! And do not think it's alright just because a lot of other people have the same problem.

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Living Large in Little Ways

Other than getting charged all that interest, another reason our credit card debt grew was because we kept using them to pay for little things.

We'd go out to eat all the time. We'd go to the movies almost every weekend and then go out to the bar with friends. We never used credit cards to buy big stuff like new TVs and furniture. It was just small purchases. How much damage could that do?

Video: The Decadent Frugal Lifestyle

You probably think we needed a budget. Oh, we had a budget! The wife and I would sit down and crunch numbers whenever we started getting worried about money. Then we'd just go right back to frivolous spending.

Lesson Learned: Keeping track of your spending and actually following a budget is smart no matter how much money you make. It really does all add up.

Check out part two of "Money Mistakes of a Young Couple" to read about issues involving home ownership, car loans, and unemployment. Plus, find out if there's hope for a happy ending.

Kasey Steinbrinck is a copywriter and personal finance blogger for CheckAdvantage, a Midwest printer offering personal and business checks online.

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