On Deciding to Change: Flipping a Switch in the Money Mindset


I recently wrote about my journey into the pits of credit card debt. If you notice, the post is absolutely filled with ignorance. I didn’t know my balances, I didn’t do much more than pay the minimums, and I was simply sticking my head into the sand, time and time again.

I was ignorant, but it wasn’t blissful.

I knew I owed more than I was bringing in, but somehow, it didn’t occur to me that future Kathleen and current Kathleen were the same person. That is to say, I don’t think I realized it would be me who had to clean up all my own mistakes. I slid through, even when I lost my  job in 2009, putting everything on my credit card, and losing traction on all my gains.

Then, one day, I’d had it.

I knew I needed to figure out a way to stand on my own feet financially, to take control of my money instead of continuing to let my debt control me. That was summer of 2011, where, by a series of unfortunate coincidences, I made $200 more than I owed in rent. For the entire month. I could hardly breathe. I finally opened my eyes and took a hard look at my situation. I needed a roommate (mine moved out the previous month) and I needed to start hustling.

The roommate came later that month, and saved my tail. Toward the end of the year, I decided to start blogging.

Flipping a Switch

From the beginning, I decided I’d be forthcoming. I had tracked my balances for a long time in private, figuring out when I could possibly be debt free while remaining underemployed. I’d done a few crazy things to make extra cash (one of which I’m still not sure I’m comfortable telling!) and had gotten my debt down to a somewhat manageable point, but once I went public, and decided that was it for my debt, it was so much more real.

At first, I told people in person. Talking about having debt is a hard thing to do. Smart people don’t have debt!

Yes, they do.

But my friends didn’t have debt, so it was hard to get sympathy. Actually that’s probably not true. They were sympathetic, but since I’m friends with responsible people who don’t spend outside their means, they couldn’t relate.

Thank goodness for the internet. On November 17, 2011, I posted this. It was one of my first posts (at least the ones that survived — I go through purging phases, eliminating posts I don’t like or are off topic). Then, I got to work.

You Never Step in the Same River Twice

Just looking at that, it’s crazy to think the post is only two and a half years old. In the last two and a half years, I’ve done a lot of things:

  • I dated three people and got engaged to the third
  • I paid off all that debt
  • I bought a condo (or a little piece of a condo, the lender still has most of it)
  • I got a dog named Stanley
  • I got comfortable with money
  • I started writing at Babble
  • I made real-life friends with people from the internet
  • I learned a lot about blogging, enough to get me a job as a blog manager
  • I learned how to save money
  • I taught myself about minimalism
  • I lost my mom
  • I strengthened my relationship with my dad and sister
  • I became the person I want to be

My life is very different than it was in November 2011. I am happier, calmer, fatter, wiser, and older. I learned how to take care of myself and my money. I found my voice, and my community. I got out of debt, and realized that’s simply step zero in the game of life. I’m getting married, and I’m ready to take on the adult responsibility of being half of a family.

That post is fun to read, because a) It was written into the ether. I had no followers, no commenters, no friends to say whoa that chart is off the hook kid, better slow down, and b) I learned more in the last 2.5 years about love, life, and loss than I would have in an advanced degree.

Listen, loves. The time will pass anyway. Two years goes by in a blink. Make it good.

If you haven’t seen this clip from Jim Carrey, it really inspired me:


  1. says

    Talk about inspiring…..all that change because you wanted it to happen? That’s inspiring.

    Of course, I get inspired when I put my shoes on the right feet, so what do I know….

    • Mike B says

      She definitely wanted to change, but wanting is just the tip of the iceberg.

      If she hadn’t followed it up with concrete actions, she’d probably still just have a two and a half year old pile of want.

  2. says

    It interesting to look back be able to see a definitive day when you know everything changed – for Vonnie and I that day was July 1st, 2009. That’s the day we were FORCED to flip the switch, but we flipped it. Kicking and screaming we flipped it. So much has happened since that day almost 5 years ago: We’ve paid off $109,000 of debt, and completely changed our relationship on every level. Life is good!

  3. says

    Two years does go by in a blink! You seem to have really done a lot of growing and changing– I imagine it’s surreal to look at the list you wrote. And five years, 2009, even I can look back and think “I’m not nearly the person I was then.” It only goes to show that in a year, or two, or five, I know that future me is going to be astounded at the decisions current me is making. For better or worse.

  4. says

    I love this post! The great thing about blogging is that you are documenting all these changes. Your life has changed so much! Many things for the better. I’m so proud of your success. My life has changed so much too, and it’s inspiring to feel like you are on a journey — you don’t know where you will end up, but you are on the right path.

  5. says

    It is really good to look back and contemplate on these events, which are really valuable to who we are today. I myself most of the time look back and just laugh about it, how silly and crazy I was. I have really learned so much things.

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