In April 2010 I added up everything I owed and I got scared. It wasn't the first time I had thought about my debts--the credit card, the student loans, the car payment. Since my first job out of college I had been wanting to pay it off, but just seemed to slip deeper into debt. In 2010 I also had an attorney bill and an out-of-control daycare tuition bill that I never had enough extra money to pay for at the end of the month. This time was different, too, because it was just me. Any mistakes I made were mine alone, but I was also totally in charge in a way I had never been before.
My mom recommended Dave Ramsey and a good friend sent me a copy of his book The Total Money Makeover. I felt so hopeless I still didn't do anything for a bit longer. If you are not familiar with Dave Ramsey, I suggest you visit his website and start listening to his show, which airs everyday at 2 p.m. or you can listen to archived episodes via the website.
That's what I started to do and I got "gazelle intense" at some point--perhaps it was after I got a collection call from the attorney a few days before Christmas. I changed the way I thought about spending and began to snowball one debt after another. I figured out ways to save and to not spend that would be sustainable over the long term.
I stopped using credit cards, made a deal with my dad to pay off the stupid lawyer, and chipped away at everything. I paid off the daycare first. In September 2011, I wrote them a check for $2,300 out of the overage from my escrow account (yes, my mortgage company had been waaaayyyy overcharging me). My dad and I had agreed that I would pay the "dad loan" off in $75 installments over the course of a year. I paid him off at Christmas last year, a little early, but in the wrong amount. He wasn't going to say anything but I caught on and paid the rest.
Those two successes were the momentum I needed! This spring, a few weeks early, I paid off my auto loan. I transferred part of my credit card balance to one with a promotional zero percent interest rate, then worked on the one that I had had since my sophomore year of college. All the while paying $96.80 per month since the year Griffin was born in student loans.
Today I made the very last payment on what totaled nearly $30,000 in April 2010. I am debt-free!!!!
It's a great feeling and I'm glad I'm finally in a position where I can think about building wealth instead of paying off debt. To be a giver rather than a taker. And like anyone who has seen something really really bad and come out the other side, I never want to go down the path of debt again!
|January 2010. Walt Disney World Family Trip.|
Now I have the contentment of knowing that we could go again, on our own terms, not when some outer force or whim strikes.
I also have to give the largest share of the credit to my lovey, who was so encouraging and supportive through it all. He reminded me of what I wanted to do, kept me accountable, and rewarded me along the way, as well as being a great example of living debt-free.