From Broke Single Mom to Financial Educator

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When we share our money stories and experiences, we provide an opportunity for others to recognize that their finances can be improved. There is hope.

Here is my story. In 2014, I found myself in a tough spot. I was a single mom finishing up college and struggling to make ends meet. I wasn’t making much money, and my debt was looming in the form of student loans and a high-interest car loan.

I reached what I call my "epiphany moment" when I gathered my clothes to do laundry and realized I didn’t even have spare change to put into the machine. I was flat broke and pretty upset about it.

I worked hard, and I knew I deserved better. I didn’t want to struggle financially. I didn’t want my son to grow up knowing that we could barely get to the next payday. So, in that moment of epiphany, I made a conscious decision to become "great at money," even though I knew nothing at the time about proper money management.

A few months after this humbling experience, I landed an entry-level job and found myself hooked to my computer throughout my lunch break. I was addicted to reading about personal finance and stories about people overcoming debt and under-earning. That's when I decided to start blogging about my journey out of debt.

Taking that first step can be difficult, but being able to share my money story as it was happening helped me to stay encouraged and accountable. I realized that, even though money was never talked about when I was growing up, I couldn’t look in the past and worry about things I had no control over.

Luckily, there were plenty of things that were in my control, such as:

  • Creating a budget, even though I didn’t feel like I earned enough at the time. Knowing what’s coming in and what’s going out each month is the first step to regaining control over your finances. Don’t let anyone talk you out of developing your own spending plan.
  • Cutting expenses to save more money.

I said goodbye to cable, limited dining out, shopped around for cheaper insurance, and made sure I had the most affordable prepaid cell phone plan.

  • Building my first mini emergency fund of $2,000.

Even if you don’t think you can afford to save, start setting aside small automatic transfers each time you get paid to develop a strong savings habit.

  • Learning how to cook amazing meals at home.

Dining out less and bringing my lunch to work each day easily saved me $1,000+ per year.

  • Finding affordable ways to have fun and enjoy the present.

This was super important as I didn’t want to stop enjoying my life despite having to make some sacrifices.

  • Earning more money.

My starting salary of $28,000 could only cover so much. Whenever I felt like my budget was too tight, I explored side-hustle options and assessed which marketable skills I could offer in the workplace to increase my income.

As I paid down my debt with speed and rewrote my money story to reflect the life I truly wanted, a passion was uncovered. My goal became to not only help myself manage my finances better, but to help other people do the same. I read books like The Latte Factor and The One Page Financial Plan, and I decided to become a Certified Financial Education Instructor.

I believe that debt does not define you, but it can strip away some of your opportunities and choices. We all have the power to learn from each other’s stories and regain control of our finances.

Tags: Self Confidence, Career, Personal Growth

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Written By

Chonce Maddox

Choncé is a CFEI and freelance writer from the Midwest who loves to encourage open discussions about personal finance with her writing. See Full Bio

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