My 20s (and some of my 30s) were spent going along and doing whatever and not worrying too much about it. I went out, bought clothes, took trips, etc etc, and had lots of great times. I did stress from time to time about the balances I saw creeping up every month and I worked to pay things off, but there was this little devil voice telling me it'd all be ok, I didn't have to make it a priority, eventually somehow it would just go away. Or maybe that was denial talking. I had no plan for myself, no real grasp of the future, and no concept of how trapped I was by all the money I owed. Then I decided I needed a $30,000 SUV. Ugh. I was naive and trying to make my life something it wasn't. I told myself it was my future family car, because soon after buying it the plan was to be married and have babies. Well that plan didn't work out. The car was so awesome and I loved every second of owning it, but now that I'm older and wiser I really wish I had that $30,000. Or even the SUV. Now, I have my old Honda and it works and has given me minimal problems and that's pretty ok with me. I think getting into a mortgage, doing all the planning and research on it, and REALLY seeing how much it costs and how much credit, debt, and financial planning REALLY matter, was a giant wake up call. I'm almost 38, and I've got a lot of work to do to get where I'm really secure. But at least now I know where I'm going. For so long I was just placating myself with things, drinks, eating out, traveling, what have you, and trying not to think about having to actually pay for any of it. Likely symptoms of having no clue who I really was or what I wanted and looking to the wrong things to fill that void. It's crazy how emotional money can be. I definitely got a little too free with the credit card consoling myself after ending a long relationship and moving back out on my own when I was 31.
I'm still a little behind now, but over the last two years I have made good progress. I paid off my car and I will drive it till it won't go anymore. Or until the A/C goes out. It's too hot for no A/C in Texas. I managed to figure out how to get a great deal on an old but still good house and I'm investing in that now instead of blowing money on rent. I actually get more space for less money and lower utility bills being in my house than I would in a nice two bedroom apartment if you can believe that. I was surprised. And also probably lucky to be living where I do. My debt is shrinking due to diligent payments, planning, and budgeting, and staying home most weekends instead of going out to brunch or fancy drink places to see and be seen. Sometimes I get a real bad case of FOMO, but I try to suck it up and remind myself how much better things will be when I'm debt free. I don't even really have that long to go...provided the universe is nice to me and doesn't drop any disasters in my lap...*fingers/toes crossed* I still sometimes feel like it's pretty sad to get down to the last seven dollars and eighty six cents in my checking account. I use almost every cent I make every month, but I also save a bit in my emergency fund and some in my 401K, pay all my bills in full, I don't go hungry, and I can buy a nice bottle of wine every now and then. I think I'll call that a win for now.