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Learn How This Millennial Went From Emotional Spender to Homeowner

Learn How This Millennial Went From Emotional Spender to Homeowner

This story is from Dayla Braithwaite, a member of our community and ambassador for Snowball Wealth. Now that she has accomplished some of her financial goals, she shares her story to help others on their financial journey.

I was born in California but raised in Colorado; however, I am currently living in Seattle, Washington, where I purchased my first home. I am a professional nanny, and as a side hustle, I tutor kids in foster care. My salary is $59,000, and I am currently tackling about $55,000 in student loans. I grew up with a single mother who was always in debt and worried about finances, so I didn’t know how to manage my money for a while. I’m still learning how to manage my money, but I am proud of the progress I’ve made so far.

What was your financial situation growing up?

I grew up with a single mom who jumped from job to job, and for most of my life, we were on food stamps. She did her best with what she was equipped to handle, but she was an emotional spender. Because of this, we were never in a position to save. I didn’t even understand what savings were until college.

We didn’t grow up being open about money or finances because it was embarrassing for my mom. She held a lot of guilt surrounding her income and being on food stamps, which translated to me being uneducated and irresponsible with my money once I began making my own.

How have your views on money changed over time?

My views on money have been overhauled over the past three years. I went from being embarrassed for accumulating massive credit card debt (nearly $18k) to confidently saying no to things and friends when I couldn’t afford it. I’m also an emotional spender. When I feel inadequate, sad, or even excited, I want to shop. I have always needed and wanted instant gratification in every aspect of my life; as I’ve gotten older and more emotionally intelligent, I’ve made healthier choices.

Hello, impulse control! I’ve turned my emotional spending towards the stock market. When I have the urge to shop, I invest a little bit (less than $50 usually)-- it’s been really fun seeing the highs and lows of those choices.

What was difficult or confusing at first, and how did you navigate the challenging times?

I think the most difficult thing for me was learning the importance of saving. When you have so much debt and feel out of control, you don’t see the end of the tunnel.
It’s a vicious cycle of feeling your head peep out of the water when your debt is being paid down to then feeling like you’re drowning again because you have to use your credit card when something drastic happens; it feels like a cycle you can’t break free from, and it stops you from saving. However, I learned that saving $25 a week or a month makes all the difference when you’re in those situations.

Can you tell us a bit more about your financial progress and what your goals are?

I’m so shocked at how much progress I’ve made. I still have credit card debt, but it’s at 0% interest, so I’ll have it completely paid off in 3 months. Also, this is the first time in my life I haven’t had a car payment! It’s crazy how much of your money goes to an auto loan.

In 2020 I purchased my first home and began making some massive renovations. Now I’m saving around 25% of my income! This means that by the end of the year, I’ll have my goals complete! I’ll have an emergency fund back up (Renovations took some of it), my HSA and IRA maxed out, and some left for a vacation fund, which is much needed!

Check it our home buying guide

Can you talk a bit about your financial situation when you graduated from college?

College is how I got into so much debt! I had no idea how to manage money, and I was making so little. I shared a one-bedroom apartment with my best friend to save money! Ha! But, I was an emotional spender and shopped all the time. I went on crazy expensive vacations and would take a month off work with no PTO to travel. I was always justifying my spending by telling myself, “Later, Dayla, we’ll deal with this.”

It wasn’t until I found a stable full-time job and a part-time job that I could kick myself into gear and focus. There’s so much freedom in paying debts down and off! Once I saw that impact, I was on a mission.

How did you get started with managing your student loans?

I always paid the minimum amount but never made a dent. It still feels like that some days. Thankfully, my credit has grown as my credit cards have shrunk. I’ve refinanced my 11% private loan through Sallie Mae to a 7% with Earnest. Now, my interest rate is 3.75% with Sofi, thanks to the recommendation and support from Snowball! I’ve paid off nearly $10k in private loans since refinancing from Sallie Mae, where I wasn’t making progress.

What are some budgeting hacks you’ve tried that have worked for you?

True life: budgeting is my WEAKNESS. I cannot do it to save my life. I tried every budget app and method, but I just don’t have the self-control to stick to one. I take a very different approach when it comes to my money. I immediately transfer 25% of my paycheck into a HYSA, so it’s out of sight, out of mind for me.

Besides that, the ONLY thing that has worked for me is an obsessive calculation every week and month of what I can spend total minus bills. I try and keep my spending to $200 or less a week (think food, gas, shopping, entertainment). But because I am who I am, I sometimes go over that amount. If that happens, I recalculate how much I should spend the following week, which gives me less to work with for the next week.

I allow myself a lot of flexibility, but I save first, and that’s made all the difference. It’s a little confusing, but it’s worked well for me, and it’s not so rigid, which gives me anxiety with some of the budgeting methods.

Check out our free budgeting template to get started.

What are some of the strategies you implemented to pay off your debt?

I’ve learned that I do SO much better if I set a goal date to have it paid off completely. I make it reasonable but not too flexible so that I can push myself and stay motivated.

For instance, I wanted to pay off my car by my birthday. Once I saw how close I was to pay it off, it motivated me so much that I ended up paying it off nearly a month earlier than my original goal! About 3.5 years earlier than my loan payoff date!

When I’m close to reaching my money goals, I’m better at reigning in my spending. I tell myself that if I am strict for just a short amount of time (which is more manageable for me), I’ll be able to have even more spending flexibility shortly. I am very open about it with my partner and friends too- I tell them I have a tight budget for X amounts of weeks, and they’re all very supportive when I have to say no to something, or they’ll offer to pay. I think that’s something that I’ve learned is invaluable. Letting people help and support me in my goals! That’s a whole other story, too. But I’m very grateful for the support I have surrounded myself with every day.

When did you start taking your wealth-building journey?

I didn’t get into wealth building until Covid. I have been so focused on managing and paying down my debt it was hard to believe that I could save the way I have. Quarantine sucker-punched me into seeing how much I was spending.

On average, I spent $800-$1000 a month on food and alcohol, not groceries. That’s a lot of money over the years I could have been saving. It hit me hard because I know that my family stresses out about retirement, and I did to an extent. I think I became defeated so early on in my life with debt that saving for retirement was out of the question for me. As of now, I’m on track to comfortably retire at around 62 if I keep my income around what it is and no big curveballs come my way. But I feel more confident and equipped to handle the financial side of life’s iron fist.

What would you tell your younger self?

My biggest advice to my younger self would be to CUT THE CREDIT CARDS. Life will be so much more enjoyable when you’re not tethered to the guilt debt brings. It’s not worth it- true freedom comes from being able to afford the things you want guilt-free.

Money mantra?

Pay yourself first. You are your biggest and most important asset.

3 pieces of advice?

1: it’s important to save while paying off debt.
2: Learn to set boundaries and when to say no.
3: find your support system. You don’t have to go at it alone.

What inspired you in regards to wealth building?

Oh my gosh, so many amazing womxn on social media ignited this unknown passion in me. Social media can be an echo chamber, and knowing that I wanted to seek out and follow a ton of Black womxn and WOC who were on financial freedom/wealth building journeys. There’s disproportionately a gap in wealth amongst womxn vs. men and even more so if those womxn are Black. So I wanted to learn, listen and support.

I didn’t expect to be so inspired by everyone and find myself encouraged to talk about it and learn so much.

I then found and joined two womxn led communities- 1: Snowball Wealth- to talk about student loans, which was my biggest debt. And now, this community grew to be so much more than I could have ever imagined! I feel so close with some of the others in the community, and we are all encouraging and educate and lift each other. It’s truly amazing.

And 2: Herfirst100k- Tori does many workshops and helps women get what they deserve pay-wise. Learning from her and that community, I was able to get myself a $3 raise during Covid. The stories in that community are inspiring and educational when it comes to building wealth- starting with the pay gap!

Dayla is a part of our Snowball Wealth community on slack. You can sign up to join our community of women who are on a mission to build wealth and break bad money habits! Make sure to mention Dayla’s story sent you!

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