I have to be honest – shortly after I decided to write about my debt – I had a moment of panic. Was I really cut out for this kind of thing?
I’ve been reading debt reduction and other financial blogs for the past year. I’ve also read books like Dave Ramsey’s “Your Money or Your Life” and Amy Dacyczyn’s “Tightwad Gazette” so I know that I’m doing the “right thing” when it comes to reducing my personal debt: I haven’t used credit cards in the past couple years and I’m strategically and diligently working to clean up the financial mess that I got myself into when I first got out of college.
But while I recognize there are a lot of things I’ve given up in pursuit in paying off of my debt, this blog is going to hold up a really big mirror to my stumbling blocks on this journey.
But first – tidbits about me so you can put all of this in context: I am a 30-year-old Midwesterner and live in Rochester, Minnesota – it’s not the big city, it’s not a huge metropolis – the cost of living is more than my small hometown in Iowa, but the most I’ve ever paid in rent is $580 – I know how lucky I am. I’m engaged, no kids, have an evil cat, $5,500 in credit card debt, $20,000 in student loans and probably about $3,000 left to pay off my car.
Next? The stuff that might make me look good to you all: The Things I Have Given Up to Reduce My Personal Debt (and hopefully become a better, more financially solvent person). I haven’t used a credit card in about two years. I entered a debt management program and in recent months I’ve taken more aggressive measures to pay off my credit card debt. (I started at $10,000 – I’m now at $6,000.) The biggest thing I’ve given up is time – on weekends where I should be helping my future husband do stuff around our house, I’m working my job at the cab company. And even though the 16 hours I spend at the cab company are probably the easiest hours of my week (I sit on my butt and I answer phones. And since mornings are usually quiet around the company, I also get to catch up on email, blog, etc., it’s not like I’m spending time at a loading dock or something like that.), those are 16 hours where I could be doing other things around the house. Or I could be working on stuff for my upcoming wedding. Or I could be spending time with my much-neglected fiance and our evil cat.
But let me blunt – the biggest obstacle I face to paying off my debt is myself. I’m not too concerned with “keeping up with the Jones,” keeping up with ME is the challenge. I could care less about having the latest and greatest gadgets, I’m not a fashionista and I’ve been known to eat nothing but ramen when occasion dictates that as a necessity. But I’ll be honest – I like to have a “nice” life. What does that mean? I eat out too much – Chinese food at lunch is one culprit, sharing the burden of an occasional date night with my honey is another one. I also have my Netflix subscription which is $9.95/month and I suffer from the “dribble” syndrome – my money dribbles here, dribbles there and I’m usually broke by the time my next paycheck is in the bank. (Thank God I have two jobs and get paid every week.)
So what am I going to bring to the table? Well – one thing I have is desire. I’m getting married in April to a wonderful guy who has a perfect credit score, was able to make a significant down payment on our shared home in cash and has no debt. It is very important to me that we start our married life together on the same footing – both of us contributing to our future, instead of my money getting sucked to that black hole of bad debt. Future Husband knows about my situation and has been my biggest cheerleader on my quest to pay off my $6,000 in credit card debt (I’ll broach the topic of my $20,000 student loan and the loan on my “rattling death trap,” er – Saturn – in later posts.) I am very lucky to have my fiance in my corner – that is probably my biggest asset in this battle I wage daily.
The other thing I bring to the table? Work ethic. I am proud to say that my farmer father and entrepreneur mother raised something of a workaholic. I’m employed full time and schlep weekends at the local cab company to pay off my bills. I’m just mirroring the same kind of gumption that my own parents have – working full time jobs and doing other odds and ends to live the lifestyle they enjoy. My parents have worried from time to time that I’ve taken too much on, but if it ever comes up I just have to remind them all the ways they made ends meet while my older brother and I were growing up.
I look forward to sharing this journey with you all … if you ever have any questions or think of some sort of topic that would be interesting to read about, I encourage you to leave me a comment.