My name is Blanca Perdomo-Ramos, I’m 26 years old and I am a broke millennial. Phew! Now that it’s out in the open, let’s discuss how I got here and the steps I’ve taken in order to obtain my financial freedom. Prior to being the quintessential “Broke Millennial”, I actually had money saved up. My parents always spoke about saving and how vital it was to always have money in case of emergencies. From a young age, every dollar I was given, went straight into my savings. I knew that if I wanted to go to college, I needed the funds. By the time college came around, I didn’t have enough money to pay my tuition. So my only option was to attend community college and then transfer into a four-year institution. At the time, it was not an ideal decision, but it was a wise one. While I was attending community college, I was able to apply for financial aid, which paid for everything. Whatever money was left over, I put it right into my savings. In 2013, I graduated community college with a degree in history and soon after started attending Ramapo College wanted to be an interpreter and so I needed to have a Bachelor’s Degree. It was there, I took out my first ever loan. With said loan, financial aid and some help from my parents, I was able to pay for college. I graduated from my alma mater in 2015 with a degree in Spanish Language Studies and minors in International and Latin American Studies. In addition to my wonderful degree, I also graduated with $14,000 of debt. In retrospect, it is not awful, but for someone who was only working part time as a nanny, making the minimum payment was a daunting task.
As every college student who is about to graduate I did apply to a variety of jobs. Out of all of those job applications, only one called me for an interview. Two months after graduation, I received the news that they were offering me the position. I, of course, accepted the job offer to be a foster care Case Manager. It started at $32,000 a year and it had benefits. Score! At the time, I thought it was amazing that I was offered a job position straight out of college with benefits. In hindsight, I should have negotiated the starting salary, but because I was eager to work and move in with my then boyfriend (now husband), I took the job.
So I packed my bags and moved to New York (Long Island to be exact) in the summer of 2015. This is where my financial life took a turn for the worse. In order to work, I needed a reliable car. Sadly, my 1996 Honda Civic was not it and I had to purchase a used car. To do this, I used money from my saving account. As time went on, I quickly realized that making only $32,000 a year was not enough to survive in New York. Especially since rent was eating more than half of my paycheck.
During this period of transition, my husband was switching jobs and our financial situation was not the best. Nonetheless, I continued to spend frivolously and no money went to into my savings account. Of the two of us, he is definitely more financially savvy than I am. Which is why I was reluctant to talk about money with him, because it never ended well. Months had gone by and it was apparent that we needed a bigger apartment. We ended up finding an apartment that we could afford, with enough space for the both of us. In order to give a security deposit, I dipped into my savings. Not only did our rent go up, but now we had to furnish our new place. We had a few items from our old place, but we still needed other items like kitchen appliances, kitchen table, bed frame, a couch etc. Again, I took out money from my savings. Little by little, the nice savings I had built prior and during college, was disappearing right before my eyes. I desperately wanted to save and not continue this pattern of taking out money, but it just seemed impossible.
I stayed at my first job for 11 months before deciding that it was time to find something better. I was not fully happy working there anymore for various reasons, but I felt an obligation to stay with them. Some the reasons as to why I felt this way were: not enough job experience and guilt. I felt that I was obligated to stay with them out of generosity, since they were the only place that offered me a position straight out of college. In the end, I could no longer afford to stay in that position, so I left and moved on to another job with a better pay. In spite of the higher pay, I was still not saving. I was spending more money than ever. During this time, I got engaged and married. Even with forgoing a lot of the expensive stuff that is attached to weddings, we still ended up dishing out close to $10,000. In the mix of the wedding preparations, I ended up purchasing a brand new 2017 CRV. The decision to purchase a brand new car, did not come easy. However, it needed to be done for work purposes (my job requires me to have a car in order to meet my clients at their homes, medical appointments or at Social Services/ Social Security) and for the sole fact that my used car was costing more to repair than to just have a new car. The experience of having clunker cars for the last ten years had left a bitter taste in my mouth so that also played a role in my decision making.
Eventually things started to level out, to the point where my husband and I thought that we could both finally save money in order to have an emergency fund and go on vacations. Unfortunately, we had a family emergency that required us to make a quick trip, and there went the little money we had. It seemed that no matter what we did, there was always something that stalled us. He and I would rarely discuss our financial assets because I didn’t want to face the fact that I was spending money that we didn’t have. I was spending money on makeup, food but mainly on clothes. I thought that by brushing things off, I wouldn’t have to face the numbers. I came to realize that doing this was not a smart move.
So what ended up being the spark that began changing my ways? Believe it or not, becoming pregnant in December of 2017. For two years, I was making horrible financial decisions in my life. Either out of ignorance or just plain stupidity. Now, I could no longer afford to do any of that. I had a baby on the way and I had to put her needs before mine. Around April or May of this year, I stumbled upon The Financial Diet’s YouTube Channel. I was immediately hooked and began digesting every video that talked about getting your finances together. Watching these videos, lead me to the The Financial Diet and Broke Millennial books. It was here, where things started to make sense and seemed possible to achieve. By the time I was done reading both books, I felt prepared to make the proper changes in my life.
I started to look at my bank statements in order to figure out where my money was going. For two years, I avoided doing this because I knew that I would get upset. However, it was the only way to begin the process of my new life. Next, I looked at all of the debt I had accumulated. I have two credit cards that are well beyond the recommended 30% percent utilization, student loans, a car loan, a personal loan and a medical bill. I made a game plan of what I could pay off first. Eventually, I set my eyes on the personal loan and medical bill as they had no interest and were easy to pay off. I paid off the personal loan in May and I just paid off the medical bill this month. Now, I’m focused on paying off the credit cards. While doing this, I’m also paying more than the minimum due to my student loan provider. By sending an extra $40 dollars a month, I’m shaving 3 to 4 years off of my payment plan.
Another method that has been helpful, has been carrying cash. I’ve gotten into the habit of taking out money every two weeks and solely using that money until the next pay period. I will admit, that it is difficult to do at times, but it has made a huge difference in my spending habits. My two biggest financial achievements would have to be, opening up a 401k and putting money into both my savings and my joint bank account. It was a bit of shock when I saw how much was being taken out of my paycheck (5% is taken out bi weekly and my job matches the same amount you take out), but I figured that I would probably be spending that money on something ridiculous. In regards to my savings, I feel proud and accomplished that I’m actually saving instead of taking out. Even though it’s not where it’s supposed to be, the fact that it will eventually be there is satisfying feeling. The only thing that is currently stagnant until further notice is my car note. Until I have no credit card debt, I won’t be able to aggressively pay it off.. In the meantime, I’m making due with the minimum payments.
In starting my financial journey, I’ve also found ways to save money and started a Mommy Blog (What’s the blog?), where I recount my adventures into motherhood and savings. After conducting some research, I was able to find ways, in which we could save on diapers, bottles, wipes, formula and other miscellaneous baby items. There are many ways in which struggling parents can save money on these items. However, not many people know how or where to look. By just creating a baby registry with Target and Buy Buy Baby, you can get a free bag filled with bottles, diaper samples, coupons, wipe samples etc. All you have to do is set up the registry and go into these stores and ask for the bag. For these stores, you don’t have to make any purchases. Other places that offer these services, but take a bit of an effort or requires you to just pay shipping is Amazon and Noobie Box. In addition, I’ve signed up with Similac, Enfamil, Pampers and Huggies to either get rewards points for purchasing their items or have received free formula & coupons. Speaking of coupons, I’ve organized the coupons I’ve received from Target (different brands), Motherhood, Carters, Shutterfly, Babyganics, Seventh Generation etc by their expiration dates. Eventually, my husband and I will start to use them accordingly and will be saving a few dollars. Doing all of this has lead to a lot of savings and more items for our baby.
I’ve come along way in my financial journey. I now monitor my accounts like a hawk, I’ve set realistic financial goals, I make it a priority to always check my credit score & student loans, I’m building up my personal savings, while still putting money into our joint account and I have a 401k, which was never in my plans. Even though we’re still living paycheck to paycheck, it no longer feels like a huge burden on my shoulders. I’m no longer worrying about how I don’t have any money saved or how I will pay my bills. I’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure that I’m doing my best to make my money accounted for in order to be financially free. I owe this, to my unborn child, who unknowingly has been the catalyst of getting my financial life together.
Blanca Perdomo is a Care Coordinator and blogger living in Long Island, NY. She writes about her adventures in pregnancy (now motherhood), money, travel, food, and daily life.
Written by Blanca Perdomo
Photo from Blanca Perdomo
Edited by Bridget Dennin
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