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Birkin bags on a Target budget
This sound like you?
Megan Mason here, a.k.a M&M, or Meggy-Fresh, but you can call me, Meg. I am a multi-hyphenate by nature—a digital “around-the-way girl” with a passion for all things culture, music, authentic, and true. I’m excited to introduce myself as one of the editors here at Carefree Mag and share these amazing musings from Black women while acting as a guide to support their words.
When I’m not free, I am a PR manager at TV One Networks, run my own PR consultancy, and tend to overuse em-dashes ;-).
Before getting to this week’s essay, I am truly reeling from the recent high profile deaths surrounding and happening to our Black Women. Specifically, suicide. I am a product of the School of Hard Knocks and very aware of the woes of this life. However, after hearing of the tragedy of Regina King’s son and, most recently, the death of former Miss USA, Cheslie Kryst, I am through the roof with empathy.
For Black people, the word “depression” used to be something only talked about in close knit circles, but thankfully has become more commonplace to discuss via social media thanks to the self-care movement. Depression is real and I pray their families find peace. The empath in me is desperately looking for ways to connect with these families and find a way to help aid in their healing process. The next time you hear from me, I will have made my move and show of force for this cause. One life is one too many; we must fight to save our people, even if it means saving us from ourselves.
What I’m into right now:
All things fragrance! If scent notes + curation is your thing, please check out/support Maiya Nicole & Black Girls Smell Good!
Lo-Fi Vibes! Soulection, Alex Isley, Emmavie & ROMderful are among the elite.
Defining “luxury”. The quest is on & individual — be sure to cater to the senses (there are 5) and the soul!
Associate Editor of Carefree
This Week's Story
This week’s essay comes from writer Kimberly Barnes who so graciously invited us into her journey with debt and finances. As millennials mature into mid-adulthood, Kim takes us through her perspective on debt and money that we can all identify with. I relate to this story as my upbringing was similar to hers — being raised in an upper middle class family, but never learning how to maintain the wealth acquired. It isn’t that I didn’t want to learn; it just wasn’t taught, and I didn’t know to ask.
This piece is an ode to our collective American experience. Thank you for pinning a part of our story, Kimberly.
What My Debt Taught Me About... Me
by Kimberly Barnes
Even though my family had enough to get by, money was always a contentious topic in our house. Our family was upper-middle class, but I didn't realize it because of the clashing money philosophies in our household. Despite this, I was fortunate I never had to worry about money for any of the things I needed to get ahead in life. Additionally, my mother never let me forget the personal sacrifices that she made so her kids could thrive in a culture that was her husband's, but not her own. I took that immigrant mentality and, quite frankly, pride with me wherever I went.
When I became independent and moved out on my own, I made it a point to project the “public image of success”. I accepted the fact that carrying a credit card balance every so often was OK, so long as I had a plan. With that sort of action plan, you can see where things quickly went wrong—I was overspending to compete with the Joneses’ when I wasn't even earning enough to be in the Joneses' tax bracket. Before I knew it, I had allowed myself to rack up $10 thousand dollars of consumer debt. I kept racking my brain and asking myself, what have I done?
Somehow, that didn’t stop me. I'd come to find that my battle with shame and anxiety peaked when it came to handling the debt. I fought with thoughts like this for a while. However, I didn't connect this to me not being good with money; I associated it with me not earning enough. I was just getting the "ball rolling" in my tech career, so I thought maybe I could avoid the embarrassment of talking to someone about it.
Before I knew it, some unexpected purchases, under-budgeted-for buys, and general living expenses caused my debt to balloon to $20 thousand dollars. I'd eventually find out how common financial anxiety was, and it was a hard pill to swallow. I kept asking myself a series of questions:
I started well in life with no student loans post-grad– — how could I do this?
I am so proud of the work I do, but how can I be so proud while being underpaid?
How can I maintain my lifestyle without digging myself deeper into debt?
Am I even successful?
I had a lot of pride in what I did. It wasn't until I faced the amount of consumer debt staring back at me that I even recognized how much of my self-worth was attached to my job, and how much money I made.
I was too paralyzed by fear to ask for help. I considered myself close to my family, but I didn't dream of telling them the hole I'd put myself in. Every Sunday, I found myself just bursting into tears. I couldn't possibly be successful unless I had enough money in my bank account. I couldn't possibly get to meet the retirement expectations I kept reading about in all the blogs. For too long, I found myself looking for reasons why I couldn't achieve such a huge money goal. My ignorance never brought me bliss—it just paused the inevitable avalanche.
It wasn't until I saw a tweet from a financial enthusiast and tech freelancer, who had shared her financial successes coming from humble beginnings, that I felt like I could regain control of my financial destiny. I'd eventually confide in her, not to solicit financial advice, but to become a partner when I felt lonely and wanted to slip. Admittedly, she was very gracious considering that bearing emotional burdens to another person isn’t fair, but we eventually became friends and I’m grateful for our friendship. Needless to say, I felt so much better finally sharing the shame I felt, even if at first it was hard to do so. I had convinced myself for so long that if I buried my feelings, then things would eventually work out. I was in denial.
After a series of reality checks, I had gained a new money mindset that encouraged me to look inward and recognize that money would continue to control my life. Ignorance was no longer serving me. It was also no longer serving me to not treat myself with self-compassion. "Cold turkey" strategies never worked for me, and my weekly Starbucks coffee trips were not the problem. With some self-control and a lot of planning, I learned how to not only use my energy to become a more productive and responsible adult but also more resilient. How much of my fears were attached to my fear of lacking money?
I thought affirmations and thoughtful walks were a silly solution, but I knew the importance of fighting the "shame monster" and I reminded myself daily that I could do it. I began connecting this new goal of getting debt-free to creativity, and that part of the process reminded me just how creative I was. I am always looking for opportunities to create services for my freelancing businesses and utilize my skills to bring in additional income. I was no longer embarrassed that I took on a second job. That job was now just part of what I did and it no longer made me feel uninspired.
While I've since gotten rid of my debt, my financial journey is not over. Allowing the debt to happen will be one of my biggest regrets in life, but having dealt with the shame, I'm reminded that it's something I did, and not reflective of who I am as a person. If any part of this resonates with you, then recognizing you're not alone is already a first step in managing the anxiety. I encourage everyone to take care of themselves first and get inspired through means that work best for you: whether it be with financial communities online, creating a financial diary, speaking to a trusted friend, or speaking to a therapist (general or financial). I learned that despite thinking about how logistical money was, it can truly be an emotional rollercoaster when it comes to handling it.To my sisters in debt, let my story be a testament—you can do it too!
Kim is a millennial woman living in a big city working as a technical consultant and Salesforce career strategist with Lipstick and Tech. You can find her financial diaries on DGTLBudget.com where she shares blurbs of navigating debt and learning more about how to manage her own money. You can find more on her website, Instagram, and Twitter.
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