Paying Down Debt: How (and Why) I Got Rid of over $50,000 in Bad Choices
As a young person, I made some bad choices. I was an approval addict (something I still struggle with), which is, in part, how I ended up married at 20 with a baby on the way. I knew the relationship was doomed, but I wanted to make others happy.
Fast forward to 2 years later, I was leaving that same "sort-of" marriage and trying to put together the shambles that was my financial life. I had accumulated, through a series of purchases that were designed to make others happy and reduce friction in my sham marriage, $20,000+ in credit card debt and an additional $30,000 in personal loans.
I was upset at myself for the debt, both because the amount was ridiculous, but also because I couldn't tell you what all the debt was for. (Part of avoiding conflict required me to turn a blind eye to all the charges on my credit card accounts during the shotgun marriage -- a good part of me didn't even want to know what they were from.)
After setting up an aggressive repayment schedule for the personal loan and doing my best as a single mom working full time and paying a staggering daycare bill, I knew that things would have to change. Meeting the love of my life forced me to come clean to him and myself about my debt situation, but it also provided me with answers to my questions.
My soon-to-be husband immediately set me up with a reputable debt counseling company. Not all of them are created equal, and because he had conquered the debt monster after a failed business in his younger years, he knew how to spot a winner. I was set up with payments we could afford, understanding that there would be no "extras" for many years.
I am proud to say that we no longer have ANY of that debt. Both the credit cards and personal loan were paid in full in under 6 years, and my credit stayed in tact for the duration of the time. Because I didn't fall behind on anything, and I followed the rules for repayment, I enjoy the benefits of a sparkling score in the 780's and higher most months.
I'm not perfect; I still get a bit crazy with a few too many natural supplements in my Amazon shopping cart or ignore my self-imposed "cooling off period" when I hear that there's a new must-have small business book on the market. For the most part, however, my mistakes are correctable, within my credit card's grace period, and with a lesson attached.
I would highly recommend that you consider debt to be what it is --- a purchase made that still needs to be paid for. While we can often get very emotional about debt, and want to run and hide from the shame of our mistakes, we can easily indulge our fears to the point of doing nothing. In my case, I can honestly say that I benefited from only about 15% of the credit card debt; I left the first marriage with nothing more than a card table, an old Dell PC, and a twin bed I shared with my 3-year-old daughter. I did not, however, let my bitterness and the shame I had for allowing my financial boundaries to be breached to dictate what I did moving forward.
Paying off the debt has been freeing for me. It has given me stories to share with others. It has helped me prioritize the morals I pass on to my kids. Despite the stupidity I have labeled myself with for the actions leading up to the debt, I'm proud that I tackled it head on (and with the love and approval of my husband.) Debt repayment is something to be proud of, and I am so glad I made the choice to do it for me --- not to please others.