No one ever wants to talk about debt, but it’s all that is on my mind this week, so I can’t really write about anything else. There have been a lot of things that have happened over the past two years, and never has it been as my husband and I thought it would be. Having lifted myself out of debt before, I knew all the warning signs as they came, I simply ignored them.
That’s right. I willfully ignored my bad spending habits and put my family into debt.
In my home, I control the finances. I have more experience than my husband, and better credit. I make the budget, and when we break from that budget, I have the final say. Therefore, I could regale you with stories of how the kids really needed gym shoes and I was supposed to get a payment that would take care of that bill before interest was charged, but I didn’t get paid, and I didn’t pay the card off, and now I’ve paid $100 for $60 shoes.
It’s embarrassing and disgraceful, but what would be worse would be if I stuck my head in the sand and did nothing about it. It would take until 2019 to pay off these bills and I put nearly a quarter of my income towards paying debts.
The thought occurred to me to take out a personal loan to get my family finances back on track. But as they say, you can’t cure debt with more debt. Taking this drastic step would require a level of commitment of which I’m not sure we are capable. It is hard to leave behind our devil-may-care attitude behind and head into a more spendthrift place. You see, if we take this loan, and don’t change our ways, we will be in the worst place possible. We cannot afford this loan payment and carry debt on our cards. We wouldn’t even be able to make the monthly minimum payments.
Therefore, the credit cards would need to be shredded. No, I’m not going to stick them in ice, I have very hot water at my house and could have that card out in no time. The cards would have to be destroyed to make sure that we couldn’t slip into our old ways and buy that shiny thing we wanted. We would become a cash only household, and that frightens me. It shouldn’t – but it does.
My first round with debt was in my 20’s. I receive credit offers in college and having access to magic money proved too great a responsibility. I charged up nights out in the bar, dinners with friends, movie tickets – you name it. Anything you weren’t supposed to use credit for, I did, and they didn’t even have cash back rewards back then!
By the time I was 25, I contacted an agency to get myself out of debt. I chose a debt management plan, which closed many of my accounts and I spent the rest of my 20’s building my credit back.
It worked! Then in 2011 I bought my own house, on my own, because my credit was so good. By the time I got married in 2013, I was in about $700 worth of debt. I didn’t like debt, since my experience had shown me how quickly it snowballed. I had a plan to pay it off by January 2014.
As it turned out, my husband was laid-off just after our wedding. (Nice wedding gift boss!) He found small jobs here and there, but he didn’t get back into full-time work before we had a baby in 2014. By then, it seemed like a good plan for him to just stay home and watch the baby while I worked, so we wouldn’t have to pay for daycare.
I love that my husband gets to stay home with my little one, and he loves it too, but it was a mistake. More accurately, our spending like he was days away from finding his next job was a mistake. Not only did I not pay off that $700, it rapidly ballooned to $7000! I took out a loan from my retirement plan to cover the debt, not wanting to go further. But we never changed our spending habits, and the effort was for naught as my credit cards continued to carry a balance from month to month.
Back in the spring, I sat my husband down and let him know how I had mishandled our finances. He had nothing but faith in me that I could turn it around, but as we entered the summer, our spending increased like never before. For the first time we had all the boys staying with us for the month of July and I found myself putting groceries on credit cards.
I knew we were in trouble. I let my husband know that soon, we wouldn’t even be able to cover the minimum payments. We had let it go to far. Continuing in this manner for even one more week could possibly sink us. And just like that, the spending stopped. Mind you it has only been 8 days, but we haven’t spent any money at all.
My husband asked how long it would be this way. Three years. Three years of paying for the follies of the past two. He has taken more hours at work, and I’m up for a promotion that would come with a nice raise. I’m also doing well selling our excess from the basement, of things we no longer use or need. That may help us pay it off sooner. I can’t explain how much more scary the debt is this time around. Last time, I only had myself to worry about. Now, with my whole family looking to me, I don’t want to let them down. If I had only said “No!” more to the things we couldn’t afford. That’s all water under the bridge now, and we have to move forward.
I’ll keep you updated on how this goes for us.