It seems like you're just running in a hamster wheel, but you are doing better, a lot better. It's really hard to transition from supplementing with credit to spending only what you actually have; as you're noticing, it requires shifting a lot of thought patterns, not just spending habits. I'm in the midst of doing the same thing, and have had a few times in the past couple of months where I've just broken down in frustrated tears, because how could I have so little money? How could I have deluded myself so long into thinking I could afford a lifestyle that I really can't, but dammit, why can't I have it back? But I'm slowly learning, making little adjustments, keeping a closer eye on my bank account; it's getting easier, but it's still a bumpy path. Keep up the good work!
About halfway through last summer, I hit a wall with drinking, and suddenly couldn't drink more than about two drinks without an absolutely horrific hangover the next day. At first it was obnoxious (and still kind of is, I can get accidental hangovers so easily!), but then it ended up saving me a shitload of money. I'm okay with it.
@Leon Tchotchke Yeah, I don't quite understand the issue here - I very, very, very rarely order alcohol with meals, even at nicer places, and I don't think it's ever been an issue. Sure, they give you the wine/beer menu and offer pairing suggestions and such, but I don't think the business will live or die on whether or not you order alcohol. I have never felt any sort of judgment from the waitstaff when I choose a club soda instead. If you came in and were like "HEY EVERYBODY, BOOZE IS TERRIBLE, DON'T ORDER IT" then there'd be a Problem. But just as one couple, who I'm sure is still ordering appetizers/entrees/etc. and tipping generously, I think it's fine.
This is really, really good. When I enrolled in college, honest to god, I didn't understand that the loans were taken out in my name. I consider myself an intelligent and informed person, but I just had no idea; I got a letter that listed the financial parts, I saw that enough had been allocated to cover my costs and went on my way. Seventeen-year olds are just not informed enough to understand grants and loans and repayment, and I think colleges/universities/lenders have taken advantage of that for a long time.
@Sarah H. Also, for the love of god, HIDE THE DEBIT CARD FOR THE BILLS ACCOUNT. Mostly so you don't mix the two up (mine look exactly the same), but also so you aren't tempted to go "oh, I can just put this one thing on it, it won't be that bad..." I actually do keep that card in my purse just in case (for example, to pay the copay at a doctor appointment since I factor those into bills), but it's deep within a zippered compartment.
@stuffisthings I keep trying the cash budget for incidentals thing, but it just never works. I was talking with some friends this weekend, and coined the term "soda tickets" for dollar bills, because that's what they are. If I have a dollar bill, I will put it in a vending machine. Dammit.
Separate accounts! Separate accounts! I just did this about a month ago, and it has been SO helpful for being able to visualize my balance and available money. You don't have to do a bunch of math in your head about what bills come out this week and blah blah, you just look directly at your Life money account and that's your number, period. It was also surprisingly easy to set up, I don't know if it will be for you, too - I called my bank, asked to open another free checking account, and about five minutes later it was done, new debit card in the mail. I think I had to put $25 in it to start out, but they just transferred that over from my other checking account. Can't hurt to try!
@redheaded&crazy Pssh, no! I was much more into staying up all night dicking around on the internet to avoid said studying. I think I both won and lost...
It is so strange how life becomes a competition to see who is the most stressed/sleep-deprived/over-caffeinated/over-worked. I remember in college around finals time, people would actually get in little arguments about who stayed up the longest studying! Life's too short, folks, and no one is impressed. If you're busy, be busy, but don't strive for that goal because you think it will make you seem better or more accomplished.
I think you're making a very good choice, Logan. It's difficult, but you're owning up to it and taking full responsibility for your finances and some not-great decisions you've made in the past. And you're right, it will feel GREAT to have them all paid off and in the past, with the only lingering effect being that your credit score will start to slowly increase.