1 Jan 2010

A Very Personal Account

I am 36 years old and until recently I have never lived on a budget, as in  never attempted to comply with any spending plan... ever.
I've tried it on several occasions and failed after a week at most.

I was born and grew up in Russia. 30 years ago none of us had bank accounts or credit cards. When I was 17 my father was sent to West Germany to work for five years. As it was around the perestroika time I ended up staying in Germany, studying and living there together with my parents. The first time I ever opened an account was when I was 23 - and the only reason I did it was because I won a Filofax organizer, sponsored by the Citibank.

My mother was terrified - for her a bank account was somehow equal to being in debt. In my case she was right - I overspent and even though I was working I couldn't pay it off.

One of my most vivid memories about my twenties is being in debt! Feeling upset each time I was to open a bill or a bank statement. I stopped actually opening bank and cards statements for a while. On several occasions I couldn't get any money out of the cash machine as there was nothing left in my account so I had to ask my mother to give me 50 Euros until the end of the month so I could buy food.

Now and than I would have really well paid jobs as an interpreter or market research freelancer. One of my jobs paid about 3000 Euro a month (way about an average German salary) and I worked there for nearly half a year. I didn't pay off my debt, I hired a cleaning lady for my rented studio on the outskirts of D├╝sseldorf which was actually ridiculous in my situation, but I always wanted a cleaning lady...

When I started my first job all I could think of was a car. Because I already was in debt and didn't have any spare funds I couldn't put a down payment for a used car and the only way to get a car for me was to buy a brand new one. So another 10.000 Euro were added to my debt. And than I moved to Berlin into a new flat and spent 2000 Euro in IKEA on furniture. And never managed to pay IKEA store card completely, I actually forgot about having it at all (they were just drawing minimum payment from my bank account each month)

The only way I was able to pay off my bank and car loan was by moving countries. I applied for a job in UK, transferred within my company to the London office. They payed for my relocation, I sold my car, my furniture, paid everything off and went. I spent another two years in the UK receiving creditors letters and paying debts off I was not really aware about or forgot about (like my IKEA card).

I never ever want to be in debt again


Image: federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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