Real Life: What Getting Out of Credit Card Debt Feels like
In 2006, I got myself into a pickle.
A $20,000 pickle.
I wrote a check from my credit card.
That was likely the worst financial decision of my entire life.
However, I know many folks who did the “smart” or, “right” thing and bought homes (or townhouses) in 2006. And those people (some I know personally) are underwater to the tune of $100,000, which is so, so very painful, and I really feel for them.
So, in an attempt to make lemon drops (because, really? lemonade?) out of lemons, I count myself fortunate to avoid having toxic real estate in my life.
But the credit card debt was choking me. It made me so uncomfortable. I was paying it off, bit by bit, but wasn’t able to get ANYWHERE on it.
Then I started using mint.com, and realized I was paying something like 25% interest.
Mint does this thing where they make it really easy to visualize how much interest you’ve paid over the life of a loan (whether that’s a credit card or a car loan). I nearly threw up. It was close to five thousand dollars.
That’s when I got serious.
I organized myself, and started taking my finances seriously. Ignorance is not bliss, folks. Not paying attention to the problem does not make it go away.
I stopped using the card, and switched to debit cards, and really restricted my spending.
Then I looked at my bill. There was an $89 monthly charge for some sort of job-loss protection.
What. The. Heck. I was penny wise and dollar foolish. I promptly cancelled that, and discussed my credit card debt with my best friend.
“You know what you should do?” she asked. “Get your mom to sign up for a 0% balance transfer card and pay that off every month.”
Of course that was the solution. How could I have not seen it?
Why did I wait until I’d paid so much interest before talking to my mom?
This was not a road I wanted to go down — good Lord, I’d paid nearly as much interest as I had balance remaining — so I called my mom and asked.
The next day, “we” had opened a Discover card. Zero percent interest for 24 months.
Challenge accepted. I’ll do it even faster. One year! I thought.
Well, I really did this. I eliminated $8,667 in credit card debt in ten months.
I thought my life would be dramatically different after debt than it was when I felt buried.
But it’s not. It’s just like anything else in life. Once the goal is reached, it changes shape.
Now that the credit card debt is gone, I’m on to the next thing.
Has this happened to you? Have you ever been so focused on a goal (saving up for a down payment, paying off credit card debt, finding a life partner) that once it happened you were a little let down?