Started my morning as I have been since I started this blog about a month ago: by checking on our bank accounts and credit card balances. Color me surprised when I saw a particular payment went through:
I am blown away by this. This is debt number 2 that we have paid off- our first being a store credit card. I did decide to use that $200 in wedding gifts to pay off this card a bit faster than I would have without the incentive. Frankly, I just wanted to go ahead and use some of my personal credit to pay this off.
I know that many out there understand what it feels like to pay off a debt completely. Seeing that zero balance is an awesome, nerdy high that will hopefully help me ride through the next credit cards (our two big dogs with over $3k in debt on each).
However, more than the freedom of not having the load of debt on my back, this card is a symbol of a time in my life that I would rather not have to carry around in my wallet.
I got this card as a sophomore in college on a complete whim. There was some giveaway prize that if you signed up for a credit card, you’d get a free Subway or something. Seriously, I was that stupid. I’m sure that the application lady was basically salivating while I filled out the application.
When I told my mom that I had gotten a new credit card, she casually began mentioning money problems she was having. Being the sucker I am (Seriously. Subway.), I fell for it. I started letting her use it for gas for the car, for lunch at work, for trips to the grocery store… etc. It became less my card and more hers, and I was too stupid to keep track of it. Instead, I let her give me payments of $40 each month to “cover” her bills all the while she was spending more than $100 a month on it.
About a year later, my mom came clean that she had made the first steps to declare bankruptcy. I went straight to my dorm, logged on to my account, and checked the balance for the first time. In under 12 months, she had maxed out my credit card. The $40 payments only covered the minimum payment + $2 (no interest for the first year).
Taking away the “emergency” card from my mom was the hardest thing I ever had to do. It’s worth about 10 blog posts for the future. What was equally hard was getting serious about paying it back. At one point, I paid off about $500 with tax return money and was content with leaving it at that. Like most, I thought that I would eventually come back and pay off the rest. I never did.
Instead, I lost the card. Seriously, I lost it. It wasn’t stolen. It just got jammed under my car seat for a couple years. Yes, you read that right. A couple of years. I kept making the tiny monthly payments until I realized it was missing. The day after the replacement card came in, I went to the ER with a bad case of bronchitis. What did I use to pay my copay? Yep. That new credit card burning through my wallet. I was back at maxed out.
I wised up eventually and decided that I would pay double the minimum + interest on my monthly payments. For this card, it was about $100 each month. I paid it faithfully with the thought that it would eventually get paid off. It really doesn’t work that way, does it? I stopped paying attention to the interest. I started charging more. I forgot about what it was like to have a small balance. I failed at my plan.
So, here I am today. To let go of this debt, it was less about strategy and more about making the conscious effort to just let it go. Debt is often more than just the money we owe or fail to pay back. Debt can be a symbol of what we are too afraid to look back on. For me- it’s a eulogy for my young adult years, my inability to protect myself, and my failure to face reality. It’s time to move on. It’s time to say goodbye to this debt. And it’s time to kick another debt’s ass! On to credit card #3!
I want to hear from you: What was the stupidest “giveaway” you’ve fallen for? Or, are you more of a strategy or instant-fix person when it comes to debt?