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In 2011, Kara from Bravely graduated college with a degree in English. She also graduated with $25,302 in student loan debt. She was scared, sad and angry all at once. “I grew up lower-middle class, and $25,302 was more money than even seemed real,” says Kara.
She couldn’t find full-time work, so she started working as a waitress. But the long hours and hard work didn’t help with her student loans. What made matters worse, her friends were busy traveling and working at jobs they loved for low wages because they didn’t have any debt.
“Beyond feeling paralyzed, my debt affected my sense of self-worth. Not being able to find work outside of waitressing made me question my value,” says Kara. “The real kicker was that these feelings were never far from my mind.”
When she paid her bills each month, she cried. When she thought about her income level, she cried. Kara says, “The vicious cycle I was trapped in was weighing on me. It was ruining my life.” After two-and-a-half years, Kara reached her breaking point.
Time for a change
Kara grew tired of obsessing about her debt. She took charge and made some radical lifestyle changes. “I stopped buying everything,” says Kara. “No date nights, no new clothes. I stopped buying chicken because meat was too expensive. I walked and biked more, I even sewed up a hole in a pair of Forever 21 leggings.”
She became hardcore frugal. She also took on multiple side hustles. At her peak during this time, Kara worked five jobs. A fun fact about Kara is she never worked a traditional 9–5 job. She says:
“I’ve worked as a social media manager, a caterer, a gym receptionist, a waitress, a nanny, a high school lacrosse coach, a van driver, a content research manager, a non-profit Development Director and a freelancer writer.”
Kara understood that she needed more money — which meant more work and more hours. “I regularly worked seven days a week, and I was exhausted all the time. But my income had risen dramatically. I had months where I paid off $4,000 in student loan debt.”
In less than a year, after what Kara called “the lowest point in my life”, she paid off her student loans. An amazing feat. But Kara didn’t stop working, “I kept working four jobs through the end of 2015 and was able to save $5,500 in my IRA account.”
She still caters and works multiple jobs. And as of 2016, Kara started her blog Bravely.
Helping women become better money managers
During that time, Kara busied herself binge-reading stories about women entrepreneurs. And she noticed something:
“None of them spoke to the financials of how these women funded their lives while starting a business. Where did they get the money to pay rent while they ran their clothing empire out of their bedroom? Where did the cash come from to start a business? How did they meet investors? And who pays the bills while they spend 18 hours a day on their passion project?”
Kara wanted to create a platform where women could learn from other women in business — a place where women could find the hard numbers on starting a company, as well as tools to pay down their student loans.
“I wanted to see actionable advice for women to get their money right,” says Kara. “I felt like it didn’t exist anywhere and so I figured: I can do that.” And she did.
Kara not only provides solid, actionable advice on her blog, she “curates pop up events that focus on financial literacy, and provides an online platform for you to tell your story and learn from other people who are getting their money right.”
Kara told me about her hopes for the future.
“I want to do events across the country, and I want to see Bravely grow. I love what I do and I want to do it for a long time! Financial literacy is still a huge need for most Americans, so there’s a lot of work to be done.”
And Kara knows about hard work.
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Originally published at www.debt.com on May 23, 2018.