Editor's note: We challenged all of our finalists to write a blog post. "From your own experience, what are the top 3 financial issues facing your generation?"
In my experience, money is the most stressful challenge that comes with living on your own. It seems every time I turn around, I need to drop another couple hundred dollars on some random necessity.
1. My latest, and most common, financial struggle is my CAR! I've successfully sent 2 cars to the junk yard, and this latest one could very well be my third. (Ironically, it died on my way to my Young & Free interview!)
I went to college in Farmington and spent a lot of time on the road between bothFarmington and South Berwick and Farmington and Bangor. During that year I easily broke down at least 5 times, each resulting in hundreds of dollars in repairs. I had the tow truck company's number saved in my phone, and rode with the guy so often I had met his wife and even his dog.
Twice, now, I have run into the vicious circle of needing money to buy a car but needing a car to get a job. And being a young adult just starting out on my own, I don't have the money to afford a new car, so I'm stuck buying junk yard bargains and fixing them every other month. Its incredibly stressful, and I know many others my age are dealing with the same dilemmas ESPECIALLY with gas prices soaring the way they have this year. If only I could afford a hybrid!
2. The double edge sword that is college is a HUGE financial struggle. Its another vicious circle of needing that degree to get a job but needing the money to get a degree. Many students get loans with the help of their parents and guidance counselors right out of high school without knowing much about it. I know I sure didn't. When I withdrew from UMF, I was swimming in debt from all these loans I had never even heard of! Since then, I've made it a point to be more aware of my financial responsibilities.
I also have had a personal battle with paying for college because I'm doing it on my own. After I left UMF, my parents refused to cosign any more loans with me, but unfortunately, according to the legal world, I'm still under my parents financial umbrella until I turn 24. So I have been stuck. The government says my parents can afford to pay for me, but my parents have cut me off. I've been applying for loans and saving up money for months now, hoping to earn enough to finish my degree. And not only is affording tuition nearly impossible, but the books and supplies cost an arm and a leg, making the whole college experience a financial nightmare.
3. "How we gunna pay last years rent?" Living on your own brings one very obvious expense. Rent. No longer do we live under the comfort of our parent's roof. No longer do the cupboards magically fill up with free food. We now have to afford life on our own. Many young adults, including me, are stuck living in less than appealing neighborhoods because that's the only rent we can afford.
I'm lucky. I found a fantastic apartment for a reasonable price. The landlords are super nice, and the neighbors are friendly. I feel really safe in my apartment, but that wasn't always the case.
*When my boyfriend, Mike, and I first moved into our current apartment, we found a spoon on our porch. Mike kicked it off the porch into the dirt and we carried on with our lives. The next night - the spoon was back. I was walking from the parking lot to my house, talking on my cell, when I saw it sitting exactly where it had been the day before. I got really scared and nervous and threw the spoon as hard as I could into the parking lot next door. I ran inside, locked the door, and told Mike what had happened. We spent the next hour or so peeking through the curtains to see if anybody came snooping around our porch, but no such luck. We went to bed, woke up, and carried on the next day, forgetting about the spoon, at least until that night when I came home from work to find it on our porch yet AGAIN! I cried and started yelling at the houses around us, asking them to stop messing with us. I also googled uses for spoons that night and had myself convinced that a drug user was living on our porch. I was petrified to go outside. But the spoon never returned.
Months later, Mike and I befriended one of our neighbors. After talking to her a few times, we finally got our answer. Turns out the spoon had fallen out of a box while we were moving in, and she, being a concerned neighbor, kept placing it on our porch in the hopes that we would find it. She said, "It was a nice spoon! I didn't want you to lose it!" To this day, the scary spoon stills makes us laugh.*
I've found it necessary to budget myself in order to overcome all my financial challenges, and sometimes that can be really hard. My biggest success with saving money? Don't laugh. A piggy bank. Ok, it isn't ACTUALLY a pig. It's really a Buddha bank! But no matter what its shape, that little jar of plastic is a way to stay focused. I deposit all my paychecks and big bills and keep all my coins in my Buddha bank. At the end of the month, I bring it to a coinstar and use the money to buy something frivolous. It keeps me from spending too much on extra items when money is tight, because I know every month I will have an extra 30-50$ to buy myself something special.
So remember, if you're feeling financially overwhelmed, you're not alone. And you're never too old for a piggy bank :)