July 2, 2014
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have credit card debt. I can remember getting my first card sometime in college. My friends all seemed to have at least one as well. I recall many nights going out to dinners and bars carefree using my credit card as if I had no limit and no obligation to pay. I always thought “I’ll pay for it later…when I have the money”. My parents never talked to me about money. They never taught me any tips or strategies. I never heard the word “budget”. In fact, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized we had grown up poor. I didn’t understand why going to McDonalds was a treat, why my clothes for school were always on layaway, or why my dad would get upset when we asked for money to buy a drink at the school cafeteria. Flash forward to me now in my early 40s, with $25,000 worth of credit card debt; debt I have carried for over 20 years. It has been a heavy weight on my back that never seems to go away. Meanwhile, my parents seemed to have figured things out, owning multiple properties, remodeling their house often, traveling constantly, and having plenty of savings and investments to live a very comfortable life. I still have no idea about any of their financial struggles or victories. My mom is an accountant who has no patience to explain anything, so I guess it will remain a mystery. It sounds like I’m blaming. I’m not. I made the mistakes. Its my responsibility. I just sometimes wonder if I’d be in this hole if the lessons of money were taught to me….ever. But it feels like everyone has figured it out by now. My friends and co-workers don’t seem to struggle. My friends own homes, remodel, go on trips 2-3 times a year, have children, go out regularly, afford babysitters, etc. I….rent….can’t afford to enhance the home I live in, do not go on trips, rarely go out, and barely squeak by taking care of my two dogs. I live pay check to pay check…and often have to resort to credit cards to take care of the groceries during the last couple days before I get paid again. Its an ugly cycle. Its exhausting.
I’ve tried various budgets. I’ve tried the envelope system. I fail every time. I justify way too much in my head. Or I get too busy and stop tracking expenses. Or something out of the ordinary comes up for the month that throws everything off. It will always be something, right?
Then while searching online for things to do for free, I stumbled upon an article about a “Spend Fast” andthenwesaved.com Its about a woman who had over $24,000 in debt and managed to pay it off in 15 months! It was inspiring. The idea was to only spend money on NEEDS, not WANTS. Though it seemed especially challenging, it offered a light at the end of the tunnel. There could be an end point to this madness. Someone had accomplished it. It could be done. It was done. There was a shift in my thinking. I spent the next night researching and found there is actually lots of blogs and support sites offering ideas and tips and strategies.( American Debt Project) All the inside information I had lacked to this point. And I liked the idea of a blog because many said It made them accountable. I needed that. But lets be honest we don’t need to add insult to injury by telling our friends and family about the pit we are in. Just as alcoholics need the support of alcoholics to stay sober, people in debt need the support of people who have been or are also currently struggling with debt. Light bulb.
So July 1 was to be my official start date. The beginning of my road to financial freedom. I was excited. I was hopeful. I left in the morning to go meet up with a friend. On my way, a big rig spit up a good size rock that hit my front car windshield. It immediately spidered out with the longest crack extending about 2 feet long. Like my windshield, day one of my no spend day was shattered. And so were my spirits. The quotes to replace the windshield ranged from $300-600. Later as I was checking my banking, I had a charge appear that i thought was going on my credit card. My account went into overdraft. I was charged $100. I broke down in tears. Is this some kind of test? Day one? Really? Its as if the cosmic forces were fighting me; insisting I stay with the familiar doom and gloom associated with money. Maybe the universe was laughing at my optimism. I don’t know. Today I feel like the only solution is to become a recluse so there is no opportunity for fate to tap at my wallet. But that’s today. I fell off the bike. I know I have no choice but to get back on it again tomorrow. Because I gotta believe that one day, when the unexpected happens, it won’t be added to the already overwhelming pile. One day, I will be debt free and I will have a savings not only to take care of the incidentals, but to also live a life that I dream.