Real Minter #EmpowerMint Story: Yalonda

At Mint, we believe every step forward is a step worth celebrating. With a little empowerment, any day can be your big day. So we asked real Minters like you to share your stories. From the challenges to the big wins, we are so impressed with your dedication and motivation to achieve your financial dreams. 

One story specifically stood out to us from our Minter Yalonda. Take a read through to be inspired by her amazing and powerful #EmpowerMint story. 

“I’m going to be 100% real with you. I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck 95% of my adult life. 

I’d get paid on Friday and would not have one red cent to my name come Monday. I was literally living on a prayer Monday – Thursday, stressed out and scared I wouldn’t find a way to make it through the week. There were many times the money would run out before my next payday so I’d often max out my bank account in overdraft fees, only digging myself deeper into the hole. I’d even “floated” a few checks just to put gas in my car so I could get to work until payday.

In case you’ve never heard the term, floating a check is essentially writing a check to pay for something and praying every second of every day it doesn’t get cashed until you actually have the money in the bank to cover it. Thankfully, I never had a check bounce, but only by the grace of God.

When you’re broke, you often have to be creative with your cash flow (or lack thereof) to make ends meet but all of this creativity was dangerous and left me stuck on that paycheck to paycheck merry-go-round.

One time after work, I stopped at Sonic before my 3-hour night class to get a cup of water. I just so happened to be on the phone with my Momma when I realized I didn’t even have the $0.56 to pay for it. I’d searched every nook and cranny in that car, but still, I was left empty-handed, ashamed, and incredibly embarrassed. She knew I was struggling, but I never once let her know how bad it had gotten. I will NEVER forget the pain in her voice when I told her I didn’t have $0.56 for a cup of water.

Fifty. Six. Cents.

I had a steady job in the finance world of education, but after healthcare and taxes, I was only bringing home about $1,200 a month and as a fairly new mom, the pressure and stress this brought on were insurmountable.

I can’t tell you HOW many times I promised God I’d get it together if he’d let me make it just one more time. I must have prayed that prayer a thousand times over. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s this: if you don’t learn the lesson life is trying to teach you, the lesson will repeat until you do.

And that’s exactly what it did.

The lesson looked a little different each time, but still, it was always the same.

Throughout the next few years, I graduated with my BBA in Accounting and landed a position in my career field, more than doubling my salary. But while my career was expanding, my pockets were not.

Every time my income increased, so did my expenses. Right before landing the job, my mom passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 49. She was living with me at the time she passed away so as soon as my lease was up, I moved into a new apartment taking on all of the once shared expenses. In December of the same year, I “rewarded” myself by financing a used Ram 1500 with a HEMI, Midnight Express edition. Delivered right before Christmas, red bow and all, the truck was absolutely stunning but the price tag was anything but. After-tax, title, license, and interest, I paid about $38,000 for that truck. I was only making about $45,000 a year, yet somehow I convinced the bank and myself that I could afford the $535 payment each month for the next six years. With more expenses, I was right back where I started – living paycheck to paycheck and hanging on a prayer.

It wasn’t until I was on the verge of homelessness (for the second time) that I finally learned the lesson life was trying to teach me all those years.

No one was coming to save me. No one. Not my friends, not my family, and certainly not the government. 

If I wanted to save, I had to save myself.

And that’s exactly what I did.

The first thing I did was create a budget and it literally changed my life. 

Being new to personal budgeting, I had no idea where to start. I tried creating a spreadsheet to track my income and expenses but that soon became too cumbersome and I stopped using it. When I stopped using it, all attempts of budgeting went out of the window and I found myself overdrawing my bank account once again. Although I’d failed the first time, I tried creating another budget using spreadsheets but that one failed too. It quickly became clear to me I needed something easy and foolproof or I’d be forever stuck in the paycheck to paycheck cycle.

Although I was getting used to failure, I was determined to master this budgeting thing so I did a quick search online for budgeting apps and came across Mint.

It was a free app and I’d already failed several times before on my own, so I felt like I had nothing to lose. After adding my budgeted income, an estimate of my expenses, and connecting my bank account to the app, it became crystal clear income wasn’t the issue, my spending habits were. I was in awe of the amount of money I was spending on fast food, “quick trips” to Walmart, and the not-so-occasional work lunch.

I knew I had to get serious about my money if I ever wanted out of the trap I’d put myself in. So I buckled down. I began by focusing on my needs and less on my wants, started cooking more, bringing my lunch to work, and tracking every single expense in the Mint app. I’d also begun using the word “No.” I told myself “no” more times than not but I’d also gotten into the habit of telling my friends, family, and co-workers “no” as well. Within a couple of months, I’d finally saved my first $1,000.

That $1,000 was my saving grace. I’d never once in my life had savings. I had usually kept a savings account open but each month any money I had transferred in, would get transferred right back out. For the first time in my life, I had a cushion I could fall back on in case of a real-life emergency. For the first time in my life, I was finally able to break free of living paycheck to paycheck. Simply put, a budget saved my life.

I will be forever grateful for what Mint taught me about budgeting, my finances, and about myself. Now, I teach my family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers on the internet about budgeting and how it can change their lives too.”

 

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