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June 30th, 2009


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09:20 am - Debt-Free¹
Today, I come to you from a wonderful place: completely debt-free. I dug myself out of the minor hole that I was in in just under six months as a result of a promotion, keeping naked cats in my attic for nearly a year, and being absolutely, downright miserly over the past year.

My dad would be so proud of the way I've handled money and opportunity recently. Actually, I know he is.

No matter what the debt is, it has a way of looking like it's way, way too big to overcome, especially when you're sitting under what looks like a mountain of it. I know the statistics, and I know that I wasn't anywhere close to the "average" debt people carry on their credit cards alone (the mean credit card debt was around $9,000 last I heard, with the median being closer to $2,000; it's probably higher now), but even the small sum I had seemed insurmountable less than a year ago.

Heck, there were times when I thought it was hopeless while I was in the middle of paying the damn thing down. . . even as recently as last month, I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to meet the expectations I had set for myself, that I would be unable to make it to the end of the month, and that I would end up spending even more time in debt than I had originally planned.

I found myself religiously checking my bank balances, my credit card statements, and adding up every penny I spent. I didn't buy anything I didn't need unless I was positive that I could manage to meet the expectations I had of myself, and I went without a lot of things in order to ensure that I was staying within budget.

I'd originally gone into light debt when I bought the house in 2002: there, I was making enough, but didn't have enough cash on hand for repairs, improvements, and painting. It's said that the average home-buyer pours an additional $5,000 into a house in the first year of ownership, and I probably did about that. Then my car finally died, and I had a car payment that was completely unexpected on top of my new mortgage.

There was a time when I figured it up, and I was spending a few dollars more each month than I was actually making at the time.

So things ballooned a bit, no matter how careful I tried to be. Soon, I was finding that even my modest debt was looking entirely uncontrollable. I didn't see any light at the end of the tunnel, and I didn't know that I would ever be able to pay it off. I quickly understood (and understand even better in hindsight) just how frightening debt can be, and how amazingly stupid it can make you feel. I now understand how people carry such balances for so long: there comes a point where you accept debt, and where you feel you will always live with it; and it comes fast and out of nowhere.

It wasn't until the car payments were complete this past December that I was able to start paying the debt down in a significant way. Then I picked up my promotion. Then I scrimped and saved and put everything I had into getting out of debt, buckling down at work and making things happen. And here, with planning and work, I stand now: debt free and finally really proud of myself.

Now I just need to make it to the end of the month without a relapse, and my next paycheck will become a cushion, not a "make ends meet" sort of thing. Given that I'm in better shape this month than I was last month (and have been seeing that trend since January), I think a relapse is very unlikely.

There's a light at the end of the debt tunnel: I'm living proof. While my debt wasn't grossly enormous, it also wasn't actually manageable. I carried it for nearly six years until the cards fell right. I'm not one to say that "anyone can do this if they just work harder. . ." I know, because I did work harder, and sometimes that's not enough. But I am one to say that it can be done, with a little luck, a little faith in yourself, and a lot of work and discipline over a long haul.

To all those who helped me out when I needed it, thank you. I promise to pay it forward.

¹ - except, of course, for the house. But the elimination of other debt makes my mortgage entirely affordable.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant
Current Music: "Spending Money", -JB

(41 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:acousticdryad
Date:June 30th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
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Curious, how do you see our methods of becoming debt-free different? I'm curious to see if you have some methods that might be better for me as well. Since I'm fairly vocal about mine on my blog, and you don't seem to be, I don't really know too many details on the journey of your accomplishment. :)
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:June 30th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
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I have this impression that mine relied greatly on luck and patience rather than skill: I landed a job, the car payments disappeared, and I finally reached a point where I was making more than I was spending in bills. I also found additional sources of income when I truly needed them, selling some crafty things like runes and rune dice and taking in the naked cats.

You actually managed to reduce your spending, while mine was already almost non-existent by early 2007, and you've shown a good run of frugality that I can't even hope to touch. I haven't seen you talk about expanding your income much.

At its heart, my strategy relied almost entirely on timing and an increase in income, and I have the impression that your strategy has been mostly an increase in savings. I admit to jealousy over your ability to manage that :) I consider myself "lucky" and consider you "skilled" :)

Edited at 2009-06-30 05:31 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:acousticdryad
Date:June 30th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
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Well, I did get a second job at the end of May that has brought in an additional $1100 so far, but I don't know if I talked about that much on LJ, mostly twitter and facebook (I'll have to remedy that).

But I consider myself lucky too, ironically enough :) I think you've had more discipline than I have during the process, which I admire very much.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:June 30th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
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Clearly, we need a shouting match over who is actually more disciplined, since we both seem to think the other is.

I think I did miss the additional job being mentioned (then again, I'm not joking when I say my LJ retention rate is about 10%). Good for you!
[User Picture]
From:acousticdryad
Date:June 30th, 2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
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<3

(I win by default)

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