My “Secret” and How It Affects My Life Abroad


Image Soure: Josh Kenzer

My name is Estrella and I’m in debt.

There I said it.
Out loud.
On the Internet.(!)

Most people have been raised to accept that debt is not a topic of polite conversation with friends, or even with family. On some level I agree; I would never ask anyone if they had debt or ask how much money they owed. I even hesitated to post this online because a part of me still believes that I shouldn’t be talking about this with anyone.

So why am I writing this post? To empower myself. I want to transform my feelings of shame for past financial mistakes, into positive motivation for becoming and staying debt free. For too long having debt has been my “secret”. People see my travel photos or learn I’ve been living in Europe and they believe that everything is all fiestas and siestas for me. And while life is pretty good right now, dealing with my debt and it’s consequences on my life here, can be emotionally draining.

How did I get into debt in the first place? I’ve actually written a draft on this, but I feel like it’s way too long. I’ll give you the TLDR; version: I was irresponsible with my money for most of my life and am currently in debt. Half the debt is a private loan for school, the rest is all consumer debt. Most of my consumer debt seems to stem out of my love for travel.

Over the past few years I would like to believe that have I matured in terms of finance. I am more proactive about learning about financial issues, and I have been committed to not adding new debt for over a year. Since November I’ve been strongly committed to becoming debt free, and even paid off one of my credit cards. This desire to become debt free affects my life here in Madrid in many ways.

Last summer instead of renting an apartment on my own, I made the decision to live with roommates to reduce my living costs. I found a really good deal-I’ve got my own bathroom, in an apartment 2 minutes from Tribunal for less than 400€/month utilities included-but at times it can be frustrating to live with four other people.

I feel like I have to give classes so I can save a bit and still be able to put in more than the minimum payments on my loans. I know this is the norm here for auxiliares, but it sucks to have to turn down invitations to social events, over and over again, because of the classes I give.

I don’t travel as much as I want because I feel guilty spending money on travel instead of paying it towards my debt. Last week while everyone was travelling through Spain or other parts of Europe, I chose to stay in Madrid. I tried to make the best of it; I occupied my time by exploring parts of the city and worked to improve my blog. Still a part of me was upset that I couldn’t make the most of my time off by traveling to places I’ve always wanted to see.

Right now I am trying to find a middle ground. My time in Madrid is coming to an end, and I want to be able to enjoy it. I am still committed to not adding new debt, but have loosened my intensity on debt repayment and saving. I have accepted that this means that it will take a few months longer than I originally planned to pay it all off, but I’m okay with that.

If you have debt, how does it affect your life? If you are also trying to become debt free, what are some ways you motivate yourself to stay on track?

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