Getting Out of Debt – The Long Journey

getting out of debt

Have you been trying to get out of debt too? Here’s my story of how I’m kicking my credit card debt for good. If I can do it, you can too!

In my very early twenties, I began using my very first credit card (Discover) to fund various college purchases. That’s how it all started anyway. I used the, Oh, it’s for school! excuse to justify putting more and more on it (way past what my comfort zone was).  Recently, I came to the realization that there really shouldn’t be a comfort zone when it comes to credit card debt, well.. any debt for that matter.

I would never be in the position I’m in now if I had just paid it off at the end of the month, but that wasn’t the case then and who does that anyway? All the people that are financially savvier and much more disciplined than I was, that’s who.

Before I knew it, after a couple of years,  I was over $5,000 in debt. It may not seem like a lot but as an early twenty something, still in school, with very little income coming in, it was a hefty weight. I felt its pressure, like a noose over my neck tightening ever so slowly. I didn’t realize it then but that’s when the pattern began. The constant pressure of owing something to someone was a state of mind that I just accepted.

Miraculously, at that time, I came into a very small inheritance from a relative. It was just enough to pay off my debt, which I did, gladly. I paid it in its entirety, and just like that it was gone. Poof. The relief was instantaneous. I felt free and happy that my slate was wiped clean. Finally! I told myself, never again. I’d be smarter next time and always pay it off at the end of the month and never get into that position again.

I’m more than sure that credit card companies count on people like me to think those exact words and then fail to follow through, for whatever reason. People like me make them money. It’s a business.

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Even after I told myself it would never happen again, years later, I found myself right back in credit card debt once more. I was newly self employed at the time and embarrassingly under-prepared for a major expense that everyone has every single year. Taxes! Oh.. uhh.. how could I have missed that one? But I already knew the answer. In my mind, it was the equivalent of sweeping up a big pile of dirt and shoving it under a rug. By then, I was much too comfortable with the idea of using my credit card for every single “oops” expense. I was also very much dependent on my credit cards for true emergencies.

I kept pretending that when the looming expense came, I’d be okay and somehow I’d figure it all out (read: Denial) while failing to set aside a single penny for the expense. The day I made the huge payment, my heart dropped into my stomach as I watched my balance climb on my credit card once more. It seemed that me and my debt were just old comfortable friends by then. How was it that I was right back where I said I wouldn’t be? Why was getting out of debt and STAYING out of debt so hard for me?

What
Was
Wrong
With
ME.

I Lied to Myself

In addition to that debt, I thought it was a good idea to keep using my credit cards. My Discover was almost maxed out with the tax payment and other stupid expenses, and so I made minimum payments on it and then moved on to good ‘ol Chase Bank. Hello? Is anyone home?

I’d pay it off in a few months.

I lied to myself, and what’s really irritating and incredibly depressing, is at the time, I really I believed it. I really wanted to believe it. After that point, I vacillated between just living with the debt (Oh Everyone has debt! I’d say to myself to feel better.) and being incredibly inspired and pumped every once in awhile to pay off my debt.

I’m getting out of debt, I’m getting out of debt!, I’m getting out of debt! This was my mantra for so many years.

Those who knew me all too well gave me the sympathetic, tip head to the side looks as if to say, “Here she goes again.” I know now what a broken record I was.

My motivational manic surges came from my love of self help, financial success and law of attraction type articles and books, which I still love to read. After finishing a few particularly inspiring ones I’d get surges of energy and feel more motivated to end my debt for good.

Half My Paychecks!

They usually helped me for a few months and I’d make very large payments consisting of half of my paychecks! I vowed to pay off my debt and told my immediate family all about my plans for success. For a few months, it actually worked too and I made sacrifices and cut corners, but then, something would happen to derail me. I’d lose motivation and then fall back into my negative patterns, start spending again and after not seeing any progress or very little, I’d just give up.

My entire financial future and security were being decimated by my own stupidity, denial and recurring destructive patterns that were hell bent on bringing down my financial house. After reading yet another inspiring and motivational “Get Wealthy” book, it finally hit me.

I wasn’t reaching any of my law of attraction and financial goals or getting any richer because I couldn’t even manage my finances and was spending money I didn’t even have. How could I expect money to “flow to me” via the Law of Attraction or positive thinking when I was so careless and disrespectful of the little money I did have? My “blockage” to financial freedom and happiness was my massive pile of debt that I’d been ignoring like a huge elephant in the room.

By then, I realized that this was a recurrent theme in my life, this was serious, this was something I was inflicting on myself… willingly. I had placed the noose over my neck and tightened it on myself, slowly at first and over the years it got to the point that I’d become accustomed to not being able to breathe. I was sabotaging myself.

Getting Out of Debt- My Own Worst Enemy

Why was I doing this? All those times that I read self help and financial advice books and columns on becoming wealthy, many of them said the same things. Start by getting out of debt. Why couldn’t I do it? What was wrong with me? The day it all hit me was when I realized I was truly ready to be debt free. I knew who my enemy was all those years and I was staring at her in the mirror.

When my big revelation came, I was roughly $17,000 in debt. I did what everyone does when they want to get their finances in order. I reviewed every single consumer debt I had (all credit cards) and tallied them up. Via the Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey and other financial gurus’ methods I began cleaving away at my debt, little by little. The process has been painful and gut wrenching. I picture it now, not as a fast sprint to the finish line, but a slow and steady marathon.

Stop Using the Credit Cards

I’ve stopped using all my credit cards. I cut all of them up except for my first card (Discover). For some odd reason, I’m clinging to this one. Maybe because it was my first one and has significance to me? It’s silly, I know it is. Before it represented freedom, excitement and fun things that I could buy. Now I look at it and I just see something I need to be rid of completely to move on to the next stage of my life, a stage where I’m free of personal debt and able to save my hard earned money for more important things, like a home, savings, and things I really love and enjoy.

Gone is the girl that sweeps the huge pile of dirt under the rug, hoping it’ll just fix itself or magically disappear… in her place is me, a woman that’s (hopefully) a little bit wiser. As the months go by I can slowly feel the noose letting up little by little, and with each payment I can breathe a little more and more each day. Once my last dollar is paid off, I’ll remove the noose I’ve been wearing for almost two decades. In my heart, I know that I’m ready to be free for good.

May 25, 2016, Total Debt Remaining: $6,554.00
Payment as of June 11, 2016 -$850
Remaining Balance for June 11,2016 $5704.70
Note: I made a balance transfer with a 0% APR. I have 12 mos to pay this off, otherwise it goes up to 28%. Yikes.

June 26, 2016
Total Debt Remaining: $5704.70
Payment June 24, 2016 -$400
Remaining Balance 5304.70

September 12, 2016
Total Debt Remaining: $5304.70
Past Payments as of September 12, 2016 -$800
Remaining Balance 4504.70

Sorry about this one. I forgot to update

The countdown begins! Stay tuned for more payments.

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