Multiple studies show that we are more likely to talk about the loss of a loved one or our own mortality than about our personal finances. However, avoiding the topic prevents us from taking control of our finances. To highlight National Financial Capability Month, we created a blog series that feature personal stories and experiences that we hope will help eliminate the stigma of talking about our personal finances.
By Laura Newell, Founder, Self-Advocates of Mecklenberg County
What is your worst financial decision/choice and what was the lesson learned?
The worst financial mistakes I made was getting into credit card debt of $13,000. I had a boyfriend who was on disability benefits, so he did not have a lot of money. I bought things for him and put the down payment on a car for him on the credit card. He died before he had a chance to make a payment on it and his dad had to help me return the car. I had a cat that got sick and her surgery was $1,600 that I put on the credit card. She was not in good health even though it extended her life by a couple of years. We still ended up having to put her down, but we are still paying for her surgery five years later. I also wrote a book that I paid $1,500 to get self-published, but it did not make enough money to pay myself back.
The lesson learned? I took out a loan to pay off the credit cards. I now only use the credit cards if I know that I can pay it off when the bill comes due. I have two savings, one for vacation and one for emergency. I only have two credit cards now instead of six. I will finally be out of credit card debt in October 2019.
What would you tell your younger self about managing money?
Be careful with credit cards. Only use them if you can pay them off right away. Sometimes you must find a cheaper option. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
What is the best money tip you have received?
Make a budget and don’t go to the grocery store hungry. Use coupons and compare prices and use gift cards. Sometimes you may have to make difficult decisions like you may not be able to afford to do everything you want to do.
Who set you up on your path to learn positive money habits?
Some friends from church. We took the Dave Ramsey course and the Crown Financial Class. Don’t spend more than you can afford to spend!
Laura Newell is an author. She wrote a book named Lindsay published in 2010. She is the founder of Self-Advocates of Mecklenberg County in Charlotte, N.C. She is the office assistant and peer mentor at InReach where she has been working for 26 years.
Laura had encephalitis from a fever on the brain from a bad case of the chicken pox when she was three which caused some problems learning and problems with coordination and balance.