Escaping the Paycheck to Paycheck Life

“My philosophy was that as long as all my bills were paid I could  spend my money on whatever I wanted,” says Talisha White, a 26-year-old Brooklyn, New York, native.

But living that lifestyle led to $4,478 in credit card debt with interest rates ranging from 16% to 19%, and miniscule savings. She has $1,340 between her checking and savings accounts.

“I shouldn’t be struggling,” admits White, who works as an office assistant for the chief of breast surgery at a local hospital earning $45,500 a year.  “I was spending my money within four to five days after getting paid. Any money I set aside would be dipped into, so nothing was ever getting saved because I’d always spend it.”

But White has made some headway. She stopped using her credit cards about eight months ago so that she doesn’t accumulate more debt. “I’ve even cut them up,” she says. She recently paid off a Target department store card in August that had a $400 balance. She is currently paying $250 on her HSBC card, which has a balance of $1,600 at 19.9% APR. She is making the minimum payments on her other two cards ($47 and $20), but plans to increase these amounts once she pays off the first card. Even though White loves to travel, she has postponed travel to focus more on saving. “I want to travel and possibly live abroad one day, but I need to get a hold of my finances before I can even think about that,” she says.

She also started tracking her spending with after getting some guidance from friends and family, financial blogs, and Suze Orman’s book, Young, Fabulous and Broke. They all echoed that she needed to first figure out how much money she had coming in and then figure out what she was spending it on. After tracking her bank and credit card transactions, she identified her biggest culprit–eating out.

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