This guest post is by Dan Meyers of Your Life, Their Life
After I graduated from college, I moved to Dallas with a great new job and dreams of finally making it "big". However, my big dreams and Chevy Lumina weren't the only things I brought with me; I also hauled down about $25,000 in debt! It was from a combination of student loans ($21,000) and credit cards ($4,000).
I found a cheap apartment and a roommate to share the rent. There was only one catch: we were sitting on boxes and sleeping on the floor. For us, the choice was clear. We could live like poor college students or begin our adult lives in a modern, beautifully furnished apartment. Like most young adults, we thought a college degree entitled us to live the high life and opted for the latter.
Instead of being sensible, we went straight for the expensive stuff - searching for items only in big box furniture stores. With the promotions they were running, I thought I was set. After all, I wouldn't make payments for a full year! Little did I know at the time, this "deal" enticed me to buy a lot more than I could afford. For a college student, more than $1,000 dollars for a couch, coffee table and bed was too much.
For a year, the debt loomed over me. I was nearing the end of my "free year", and I hadn't saved any money. Luckily, I scrounged together enough cash to pay it off and narrowly avoided a big penalty - mostly accrued interest.
It was tough for me, but I hope my mistakes give light to something we can all learn.
Should you take advantage of 0% offers from furniture dealers?
No! This is a lesson for all of us, not just college students. Try to avoid buying furniture and decor on a 1-to-2 year 0% interest plan. It encourages you to spend more and allows you to justify taking on debt.
If you can't afford it with cash, you can't afford it all!
If you're jump starting your plan to save, trying to enhance your financial future or are a recent college grad, it's important you take control of your money. To get started, follow the plan on my website. You'll get tips on controlling your spending and learn the importance of building your $1,000 emergency fund before purchasing luxuries like furniture.
If you were like me, you couldn’t wait to buy furniture because sleeping on the floor meant you could longer stand without pain! Instead of spending all of your money, it's time to get creative with furnishing your place. Chet suggests scouring garage sales and flea markets - you can find some great deals (He posts tips to Facebook and Twitter). Also, Craigslist is a wonderful resource for used furniture.
Another tip: think about timing. If you live in a college town like New Orleans the end of the spring semester is a great time to find cheap furniture from students who are trying to clear out their rentals. Just bring a friend a long if you feel uncomfortable making the purchase on your own.
Or, try reaching out to family and friends. Often times, they'll have furniture they aren't using.
I know - buying used furniture or borrowing from family may not sound like what you had in mind, but don't dismiss the idea so quickly. Chet has great tips on how to upcycle your Grandma's 1950's couch, making it look designer and more personalized than the pleather option at a never-ending furniture store.
In the end, be smart with your design decisions. Remember: if you're willing to make a few sacrifices now, you'll begin your climb out of debt - or stay debt free - and set yourself up for success in the future.
Dan Meyers started Your Life, Their Life to help you take control of your money and your life. Read how he paid off $50,000 of debt in two years and how his strategies can help you.