Hitting rock bottom—and bouncing back

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Growing up, Michelle Garrett was taught the importance of saving by her mother, who saved a portion of every paycheck, clipped coupons diligently and watched for sales. Through these small but vigilant efforts, her mother was able to not only help provide for her family, but also set money aside for twice-a-year vacations and an emergency fund.

And yet, all of those early lessons in spending and saving were forgotten when a teenaged Michelle landed a job and started living outside her means. She bought a car and opened half a dozen credit cards. Her spending spiraled out of control, and financial stress followed.

“I had a job where I was making good money and I got a paycheck every two weeks,” Michelle recalls. “I would get paid but I’d already be in the negative because of my debt.” Instead of feeling relief with each paycheck, she felt nothing but anxiety.

And then things got even worse.

Losing everything 

Michelle’s spending habits finally caught up with her in her mid-twenties. She was evicted from her apartment and had her car repossessed when she couldn’t keep up with the payments. With no place to live and without transportation, Michelle moved back in with her parents. “That was a really humbling moment for me,” she says. “I knew things had to change.”

Michelle lived there rent-free for six months, saving every dollar she could (after paying her credit card bills and the remaining balance she owed her apartment complex). Breaking her old habits—impulse purchases, fancy dinners—was easier than she anticipated as the good money habits she learned from her mother quickly resurfaced while back under her roof. Michelle started putting some of her earnings into savings, which eventually allowed her to buy a modest car outright to avoid taking out a loan.

Fighting back

After years of stress and hardship, Michelle is finally living by her mother's savings mantra and is financially confident in her life. She helps other women succeed in their professional and personal lives through the website she founded (Divas With a Purpose).

And she puts 25 percent of her earnings into three different savings accounts (retirement, vacation and emergency). She has also curbed her spending significantly by only buying items she needs rather than wants. Michelle does have a "splurge" line item for the occasional treat (so long as her budget is perfectly intact).

"I don't stress about money anymore. It does not rule me,” Michelle says. “I’m not losing everything again. I refuse to do that.”

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