(Guest post by Natalie of the blog, Debt And The Girl)
Do you ever feel like something is hovering over your shoulder? Like something is looming behind you that you cannot explain? I certainly have.
It is not a menacing presence but more of a reminder of financial “demons of my past” as I like to call it. (Editor’s Note: Anyone watch Dexter? :)) We all have things that may haunt us, whether it’s decisions we have made or something else. The silly choices I have made still influence me because I don’t want to make those same mistakes again.
I used to be bad with money to say the least. I used to go to the mall in my college years and blow a couple of hundred dollars on handbags and clothes. Then I would do the stupid thing of not paying off my credit card, except for maybe the minimum payment. I would then feel guilty about it and head to the mall where the cycle would repeat again.
You see the problem?
It wasn’t long before I had over $5,000 in credit card debt. At the time, it seemed like an enormous amount of money that I would never be able to pay back. It made me feel anxious and embarrassed that I had let the debt demon get that bad.
How did I get to that point? To say that I shopped all my negative feelings away is a cliché, but unfortunately it is true in my case. I just didn’t have a good grasp on how to handle my feelings, and I would choose bad ways to cope with the stress. It was the pressure from being on my own for the first time and handling my pile of college classes. To deal with this, I used to love going out to eat with several of my friends and pick up the tab for all of them. I just felt so happy that I could put things on my shiny new credit card, even if it was an illusion.
I don’t want to be the person that sits and complains about how they got this way because of their parents, but I will say that I didn’t get much financial education as a kid. My mom did go with me to open my first savings account but did little to teach me what savings were for and how to go about saving for the proverbial rainy day. I remember doing an assignment on investments in middle school, but that was the extent of my financial education in school.
I saw a lot of people spending their hearts out and generally took that as the norm.
Overcoming These “Demons of the Past”
After being depressed for a while, I decided to take action. My boyfriend and I cut corners, lived frugally, and even lived with our parents for a little while to save money. I would not recommend living with the folks if you can help it, but it did get us to our goal.
About 6 months ago we were finally able to pay it all off and become credit card debt free! We paid off over $5,000 in about 7 months.
I have since taken a completely different approach to spending, now that that awful debt has been removed from our shoulders. I have adopted a minimalist lifestyle and currently only use about 5 pairs of shoes for my entire wardrobe. I literally have shirts that I wear with small holes in them. If you can’t notice them, then its okay, right? My boyfriend and I have also continued our habits on frugal living and even have a decent amount in savings right now – which is a blessing.
Staying On Track
I use these financial demons of my past to help me stay on track. No more mindless spending for me!
I wanted to tell this story because there are people who are in debt and are feeling drowned by it. I know that’s how I felt, but you can persevere with a little hard work. I felt like throwing in the towel more than once when discouraged, but you can’t lose hope. The feeling you get with paying off that demon is more awesome than just about anything!
I am so glad that we were able to do it, and are continuing to pay off debt. We want to be financially independent so that we can live the lives that we want and not be beholden to anyone — even our nasty demons of the past.
How are you fighting your financial demons?
Natalie is writer, instructor, marketer and a full time debt destroyer at her PF blog. Read more about her story at debtandthegirl.com!
EDITOR’S NOTE: I love hearing stories like this, thanks so much Natalie :) I had to kick my own mall shopping habits to the curb a handful of years ago too (I pretty much shopped whenever I was bored!), so it’s always nice hearing others overcoming this as well. If anyone else has a debt-slaying story they’d like to share with us, please let me know! We can never have too much motivation!
[Photo by ark]