Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Life after college is often full of surprises. For those of us lucky enough to have a good childhood and college experience, we were often protected from the hard knocks of life. It really isn’t until you get your first apartment on your own and start accruing a pile of monthly bills that the reality of life on your own starts to set in.

Even those of us who have a smooth college-to-career transition can sometimes be thrown off-guard by unexpected circumstances, like author and recent grad Jenna White, who shares her story below.

Because we are young and unsuspecting, we sometimes have to learn tough lessons the hard way. Fortunately, Jenna’s story is a great reminder that even when things are going great, we need to stay focused and prioritize wisely.

Thanks for sharing your story, Jenna!


My Financial Disaster After Graduation

I graduated college a short six months ago, and I thought I was set. I had a great GPA, graduated with distinction, and I was getting married. I thought my financial situation would be set, especially since I didn’t have to worry about paying student loans, but I didn’t take into account how much starting my life after college would cost.

After I got married, my husband and I moved to a new state, where we had trouble finding an apartment because of our lack of credit and because of the fact that I didn’t have a job yet. As much as I tried, I could not find a job in the area where my husband was employed.

The job search was brutal. I sent out hundreds of resumes and only got interviews with two places in that month. I didn’t get one of those jobs and the other one was not for me because it would have required me to drive almost two hours to get to work every day.

I started to get discouraged when my husband suggested that I try Craigslist. I really thought that was a crazy idea, and I wasn’t sure if I trusted many of those postings, but I was desperate. I applied to a few jobs and finally got a response. After that interview, I knew that was the job for me, and I was really excited when they gave me the offer. I absolutely love my job, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life right now.

After I got the job, my husband and I started to pay off some of the debt we had incurred during the first few months of our marriage, and I really thought we were going to be okay. In fact, our paychecks were so much larger than our monthly expenses that we decided we would be able to afford a dog, so we went to our local animal shelter and found our new pet. That’s where everything went south.

The day after we got our puppy, we took her to the vet for a checkup because we wanted to make sure our cute little canine was in good health, but we found out she was not. She had a virus the vet called “Parvo” and they gave her a 50% chance of survival. I was absolutely devastated, but I decided then and there that I would do anything possible to save her.

We ended up going $3,000 more into debt by the time they said she was in the clear. I thought it might not be too bad now that we were getting steady paychecks and we could pay off this credit card debt pretty quickly, but then she threw us another illness.

A few weeks after her battle with Parvo, she started to act lethargic again, and we had to take her back in to the vet. This time they told us that she had another virus called Distemper, which could also be fatal. We had to go through another round of vet visits, overnight emergencies, and medications, which ended up costing us about another $4,000.

I was completely overwhelmed, and I was so afraid that all of this credit card debt would hurt our credit and our future. That was when I made the decision to start following a strict budget.

Everyone knows that emergencies happen, which is why so many financial advisers say that you should have at least six months of expenses saved up in an emergency fund. I wish I would have known that before I decided to get a dog. However, I know in my heart that I did the right thing by saving this puppy.

She brings me so much joy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know now that we will be fine, even with the debt that we have built up, and in time all of that debt will be paid off. I have made a plan and I intend to stick to it until I am completely debt free.

Article contributed by Jenna White

1 thought on “Lessons Learned the Hard Way”

  1. College definitely does not prepare you for all the upcoming challenges that are waiting for you down the road. I’ve been through my share of hard experiences and I wish I was more prepared when I faced them…

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