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On December 10, 2016, I graduated from Arkansas State University, and on November 4, 2019, I sent in my final student loan payment. Some people spend a significant portion of their lives paying off student loans, so I realize I’m incredibly blessed to already have this burden off of my back. But now that I’ve overcome one of the biggest roadblocks to financial freedom, what’s next? Do I save or do I splurge?

If I’m being honest, over the last several weeks I’ve done a little bit of both. Between Black Friday and Christmas, the end-of-year deals have really been catching my eye. But thanks to budgeting I’ve been able to buy gifts for others and myself without creating debt or guilt. My 2019 budget had a line for Christmas, so every month I put away a little money so I wouldn’t have to use credit cards for my holiday purchases.

Pro Tip: If Christmas shopping typically puts you in the red, start saving for the most wonderful and expensive time of year in January. You can open a Southern Bancorp Christmas Club Account today for as little as $5! Ask your personal banker for more details.

Despite treating myself to a new gadget or a weekend trip, the majority of the money that had been allocated to my student loan is now going into my long term savings. To ensure this continues, I am going to significantly increase the portion of my paycheck that is deposited into my savings account because as we’ve discussed previously, automatic saving is consistent saving.

My main savings goal is to be able to move out of my parents’ home and into my own apartment in early to mid-2020. However, life happens, so it is important to have emergency savings as well as long term savings. A couple of months ago I moved $500 into a separate emergency savings account. In 2020, I will begin having a small portion of my paycheck automatically deposited into that account as well.

2019 was a very financially successful year for me and it’s not because I made a lot of money. It’s because I made good use of my money. I paid off two credit cards as well as my student loan. I also better managed my spending habits and significantly increased my savings.

Net Worth Update

When I first shared my savings journey with you, my net worth (assets minus liabilities) was $ -5,000 (yes, that’s negative $5K). By the end of the year I’d hoped to just break even at $0. Today, I am proud to say that my current net worth is more than $4,500. While I know that’s nothing to retire on, it’s leaps and bounds from where I started at the beginning of the year.

I have many more financial goals to achieve in the years to come, but I’m so glad I started now rather than later. I hope that you will continue to follow me on my wealth building journey and build upon your own, when the Dollar Scholar: A Millennial’s Guide to Wealth Building returns in 2020.