Have you ever stopped to look at your life and reflect on how everything’s turned out? I did that recently and I felt a surge of gratitude, nostalgia, and longing. It’s like the life I live now is nothing like I planned…but that’s okay because things worked out exactly how they should.
I want to take it back to how my purpose of becoming a personal finance coach for women came to be. Like most people, I didn’t learn about money and finance until I experienced it for myself. It’s not like they teach this stuff in school! I’ve been running my financial coaching company, City Girl Savings, since 2015. That’s a LONG time, but before that I was on a completely different path with my money.
I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, but knew it was too small for me (at that time, at least—it’s grown so much lately)! When I was 13, I had it in my mind that I’d be moving to Los Angeles, California, when I was done with high school. My ticket to getting there? College.
Like most people, my parents didn’t teach me about money. Sure, there were little anecdotes here and there like “save your money” or “work hard and the money will come”, but there were never any formal discussions around budgeting or money management. I’d worked in high school and saved up a nice chunk of change before college. Sure enough, I got into a school in L.A. and left when I was 18 years old—didn’t know anyone, but I didn’t need to. I was where I wanted to be.
Unfortunately, all my savings was wiped away in my first few months of college. On top of that? I signed up for my first student credit card and maxed it out in no time. I started working during my second year of college, so I was able to pay my credit card bill and continue indulging my desires to spend. Over time, I added more credit cards to my collection (Target, Victoria’s Secret, and other store cards I didn’t need).
By my third and fourth years of college, I was out of control with my spending. I vividly remember getting my tax refund and heading straight to the mall to buy more clothes, shoes, and accessories. I purchased so much that day that I had accidently thrown out a bag without taking the $80 dress out first. You’d think that would be my sign to stop!
When I graduated college in 2010 (with a degree in finance, though you wouldn’t know it), I got my own apartment (using graduation gift money) and my first corporate job. It took 1.5 paychecks to cover rent and bills, then I would spend the rest. Interest was constantly racking up. I would have no money in between paychecks. Yet, I would still find a way to go out to eat.
It wasn’t until I faced eviction that I finally turned things around. Slowly and steadily because I didn’t have enough to go hard. I asked myself what was more important: staying in L.A. or continuing to live this “fake” lifestyle that didn’t leave me with anything to show for it.
I started creating simple budgets for each pay period (I had always done this with what little money I had in the past). Anything left over after bills were paid went to paying down debt. After about a year and a half of grinding, making more, and seeing progress, my dad was unexpectedly killed by a drunk driver.
In August 2013, I moved back to Austin to be closer to my mom and brother. I never thought I’d be back in Austin, but hindsight is 20/20. It was the best thing that could’ve happened to me, and it took the worst thing for it to happen. I was able to keep my job and work from home, so the money kept coming in, but I no longer had nearly as many expenses. I was able to expedite the progress I had started back in L.A. and pay off thousands of dollars in credit card debt, aggressively save, and use cash for my purchases.
After my financial (and personal) life took that 180, I realized that if someone like me—who enjoys nice things, who loves to travel, and who loves new experiences—could turn my life around with budgeting and still feel like I could enjoy myself in moderation, I could help other women do the same.
That’s how I came to find my purpose in life and how City Girl Savings came to be. Have you found your purpose? Are you on that path? I’d love to hear, so please comment below to share! Also, I would love for you to follow along with me on this journey by subscribing to my new weekly podcast, The City Girl Savings Podcast
Raya Reaves (she/her) says
Thank you Mahogany for sharing my story and podcast! <3