On Monday, we spent some time letting go of our shame and guilt around our money missteps. I have had them, for sure. I’m willing to bet you have, too. It’s okay – we are where we are, we can’t change that. Focus instead on Your Why and where you are going from here.
At one time, I was blowing hundreds of dollars at Victoria’s Secrets Semi Annual Sale because I had “saved” $700! My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, shaking his head “You didn’t save $700, you spent $300”.
Wouldn’t have been such a big deal on today’s income, but at the time I was working 20 hours a week at $7 an hour, so 2 weeks’ pay, 40 hours of telemarketing and hundreds to thousands of sch-peels introducing myself as “Jane Brown of Millward Brown Marketing Research; Your opinions are very important to us” in hopes of completing 45-minute opinion research studies on batteries, cars, or air freshener, that resulted in thousands of dial tones (and some shouting) – all for 2 large shopping bags stuffed full of overpriced, pretty unmentionables that no one could even see.
And it wasn’t just the unmentionables, either. I spent a ton of money on clothes for myself and my daughter back in the day. We lived in an apartment and the money would have made a world of difference in moving forward with our lives. Paying towards my student loans or even saving for the down payment on a house, or upgrading my car that had no air conditioning.
Let’s not even mention that time I bought a cruise from a cold call over the phone because I had “won” it and I just needed to pay for the second passenger to claim my prize. Impulse, much? Let’s just say we never went on that cruise.
Once we bought our house, my shopping habit all but disappeared. We went from having a large walk-in closet in the master bedroom to having a closet akin to a coat closet in our bedroom.
At the time, I had justified the spending on credit cards because I paid it off at the end of every month. But then there was the 0% interest for 6 months or even 12 or 18 months and soon we had several store lines of credit totaling in the $5,000 range.
Plus my student loans of $7,800.
So now we are making about $800 a week and we owe $12,800 on student loans and credit cards, a $10,00 loan for a down payment on a house to my parents, and we’re not even talking about the mortgage yet. We are driving old beater cars so we don’t have car payments, but we also have 3 kids that are in grade school. And that means extracurricular activities, sports fees, day camps, jeans, shoes, and their adorable crooked smiles are hinting at the future cost of orthodontia.
It was time to do something.
List out all of the debts owed.
- SEARS – $560 for a new stove for our new house
- Helzberg Diamonds – $3600 for our wedding bands
- Von Maur – $300 for last month’s clearance rack haul
- Gulliver’s Travels – $4,000 for our Wedding/Honeymoon in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
- My Parents – $10,000 for a down payment on our house
- Student Loans – $7,800 for two semesters at a Technical School after completing my Associate’s degree in Applied Science for Computer Programing with a Grant through the state.
My wake-up call was when I sat down to tally up our debts, listing out our payment plan and seeing how long it would take us to pay off our debts. I was about 23 at the time and I realized I would be 38 by the time I paid just what we had racked up in our first few years together.
Calculate the Grand Total. Let that sink in.
ACTIONABLE STEP: Get out a pen and paper and start scratching down all of your debts. Here’s a list to get you started. Don’t get hung up on outlines for now, just use a piece of notebook paper and pen. Write down the balance and the minimum payment for each.
- Major Credit Cards
- Store Credits/Store Credit Cards
- Car Loans
- Student Loans
- Money owed to Parents
- Money owed to Family/Friends
BONUS POINTS: Send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org to become one of my case studies. If you are chosen, you will receive a free 15 minute personal finance coaching session via skype and your case study will be spelled out for you in the system that I used to walk our family out of the red and into the black.