Tuesday, November 1, 2016


I've started this post about fifteen times, sure that I want to talk honestly about debt but unsure of how to start. So I started thinking--why do I want to share about my long, arduous journey to get debt free.

And here it is. 
When you start getting serious about clawing your way out of the slime pit of debt, you hear all these stories of people who did "this" or "that" and paid off 100, 000 dollars in eight months. You tune into Dave Ramsey, the debt-free guru, and you get so excited to hear people's success stories and hope that's your testimony too. (I HIGHLY recommend Dave Ramsey. I attended his 13-week class, which was one of the best decisions of my life.) 

And then reality sinks in. You already work three jobs (teacher, coach, babysitter) just to make ends meet, so where are you going to find hundreds of extra dollars each check to tackle this debt mountain? It takes you months just to get the 1,000 emergency fund in savings. You cut everything you can, but you still have exactly 75 dollars a month to add to your debt snowball. 

And so years pass, and you're slowly plugging away, but some months you fail. You use a credit card for a vacation you're desperate to take. You blow your emergency fund on "extras" instead of emergencies. And you think you're never going to be debt free, so you might as well enjoy life.

So that's why I'm sharing. Because surely I'm not alone in that struggle. 

I have so much to say, and I plan to post regularly about different aspects of getting out of debt. But I wanted to start by encouraging people who feel there is no end, the ones who hear those amazing stories of people who got out of debt quickly and then get discouraged. Your story is different. Mine is different. But, there's beauty in the journey. And I want to find it and share it. 

I have this notebook where I've kept track each month of how much debt I have and how much I've paid off. This is my first entry from April 2010 when I started this journey.

I can't believe I'm sharing this. I've only shared this number with a couple people--like literally two people. Feel special. 

I have no clue why I thought I needed a new outfit from Gap every week. I can't tell you what the heck I bought using that Bank of America card. And Target? Who knows. 

Proverbs 22:7 "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." 

But, it's good to see those numbers because they make me mad. Mad enough to want to change. Because I definitely don't want to be Discover's slave. 

What's your debt story? If you've never had the nerve to add up your debt, I encourage you to do it. It will be hard and probably discouraging, but it's the first step. 


YosemiteSyd said...

I remember the time in life when it dawned on my husband and I that if we allowed our credit card debt to get out of control, it would sink us. I got very firm with myself. "We will live on our paycheck and NOT use our credit card." That worked for a week, and then I ran out of tampons. I had no cash to buy more. Lesson learned: Don't give yourself ultimatums that invite failure. Prayer and patience. There is power in good intentions.
Slowly, we paid off our credit card debt and learned used one credit card that we paid off monthly. I look back on the times I went shopping with other moms who were able to buy cute pjs for their kids when I could not and see that was not a disaster. Later, when I didn't have to count pennies, I was grateful that it was a season, not a sentence.
Another lesson learned. Emotion is such a part of this. At a time when we were feeling down and out, my husband had a mentor who advised him to put a $100 bill in his wallet. "It isn't for spending," he cautioned, "It is your emergency money. More than that, knowing it is there will lift your spirits." It was good advice. Praying for patience and perseverance for you. You have set a worthy goal.

Michelle Massaro said...

I used to keep a $20 in my wallet that was not for spending. I called it my "secret $20" LOL. Later it grew up to become a "secret hundy" and has stayed put for years. It's true, it IS empowering. At one point we used a debt consolidation company. Later we used a home equity line to pay off the rest of our debt including the car. We whittled down to one credit card that we didn't often use. Then my husband got a card for work expenses. With a kid in college, and an inadequate cash flow/emergency fund for things like flat tires and major auto repairs, we found our debt figure growing again. But luckily we've headed back in the right direction and once again have a manageable balance. I have a Kohls card but only use it for the reward points, then go home and make my payment. I absolutely HATE seeing debt balances. They make me so mad. I do indeed feel enslaved and I resent the interest charges each month. I feel like I can't rest until it is paid off. It can be discouraging. But don't give up! That snowball is powerful stuff and quite psychologically rewarding. Keep going! :)

Laura Jackson said...

Thank you both for your encouraging words and for sharing your stories! I will read them again next time I need a reminder not to give up.

Mary Hamilton said...

Go, Laura, Go!! You will make it! Thankfully, we've only had house and car payments, but when we got serious about paying off our mortgage, I made a chart, like those thermometer charts. Each little bit extra we sent in, I filled in and that thermometer got redder and redder! It's a great visual motivator.