I hate debt. I mean I really hate it. It has dogged me for years. During our marriage, my husband and I accumulated quite a bit. I was never one to use credit cards before we got married. They just weren’t a part of my spending habits. If I wanted something I would pay cash, and if I didn’t have the cash I didn’t really need it that much or could wait until I got the money to buy it. Credit cards even scared me a little bit – little plastic goblins.
My husband, however, did not have that problem. He wasn’t afraid of them, nor was he afraid to use them. Long story short … the debt got bigger and bigger. I thought I was helping when I would transfer the balance on his card(s) to my card because my credit rating was better and I had a lower APR on my card. I thought that would help us keep from drowning in interest. WRONG! That just freed up more room on his credit card for more purchases. It became a vicious cycle.
After my husband died (with no life insurance) I had medical bills to pay, and credit card bills (those were a given) and a credit line at the bank to pay off – all with 1/3 of the income we had coming in before he got sick. Total debt = about $50,000.
That was 3 years ago. Today’s debt? $20,000. I hope to be totally out of debt by December 2015.
How did I knock off the debt? Here are three keys that have helped the most:
- The biggest help was a budget. Not very sexy, but it’s the truth. I set a budget and marked out the “have to’s” each month; the electric bill, phone bill, etc. Then I knew what I had to work with for the rest of the expenses that were a little more flexible. And we cut out everything we absolutely didn’t need.
- I used an envelope system for some of my expenses, like groceries. I set an amount to spend each month, and when it was gone – it was gone.
- Snowball debt; by this, I mean I paid off the smallest debt first, then took the payment from that debt and applied it to the next highest balance. Repeat as necessary. Each time you pay off a debt resist the urge to take the money and blow it – use that money to help pay off the next debt.
These are certainly not new ideas, and I can’t take credit for them – you can find out more about them here, Baby Steps at www.daveramsey.com
Stay strong! Keep that belt pulled tight! The sooner you pay off those bills the better you will feel. Practice delayed gratification. Stay the course, and stay focused. You will gain a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Relief. Security. Pride. Optimism about the future, instead of dread.
It’s been a tough climb; along with everything else we’ve had to deal with there has been the added pressure of finances. But I feel the hardest part is over. We still have a journey ahead of us, but we can see the end of the road. And I am proud of what I have accomplished so far. I carry a heavy load, but God is great and He bears my burdens and lightens my load, one day at time. It takes discipline, and I hate saying “no” all the time to myself and my daughter. But it is worth it to gain a more secure financial future for both of us.