When I was growing up we never talked about money.
It just wasn’t a topic of discussion. Even now it is thought to be a taboo subject.
Have you ever talked about money with your friends? Nope, you just don’t go there.
For most people it’s a private thing. And I get it. Nobody wants to admit they’re bad with money.
My parents did everything they could to provide us with the best life possible. They had four daughters. My dad was a school teacher. My mom was also a school teacher but decided to stay home after I was born.
They raised four girls on one teacher’s salary and yet, I never wanted for anything. We usually got what we wanted. I remember shopping at Sears and Venture for clothing and wishing I could have more.
But the truth is I didn’t need more. We all had plenty. Plenty of clothes. Plenty of toys. Even awesome summer vacations! And when it came time for our weddings – we basically pointed at what we wanted and got it.
The Price of Not Being Thankful
Looking back I never truly appreciated how much we were given. I very rarely ever said thank you. I came to expect material objects without doing any hard work. Truth is, I became spoiled and entitled. Two words I despise.
My undergraduate degree was paid for, in full, by my two very hard working parents. That included expensive study abroad trips to Mexico and London. Because of my selfless parents, I left college with no debt.
And then I completely messed up the clear slate they had provided to me.
I got out of college and landed a little job at a non-profit. I made an entry-level salary, but still lived with my parents and thus had no living expenses.
Where did all that money go? I have no idea. I saved very little of it.
Creating Bad Shopping Habits
My husband and I got our first apartment. We paid $500 a month for a nice little one bedroom. I immediately wished it was a two-bedroom. Right off the bat it wasn’t good enough.
I remember going shopping and pulling out a credit card to pay for new clothes and shoes. I never wore the same outfit to work. I remember buying a Louis Vuitton purse on eBay for $400. I hid the fact that I’d done that.
Although my husband and I were not married yet, I was already dishonest about my shopping habits. I would put all the new clothes away before he got home then throw away the bags and receipts. It was a bad combination of irresponsibility and ignorance.
My husband was in nursing school, but he still worked part-time to help pay the bills. I sat down and tried to come up with my first budget.
I distinctly remember breaking down in tears at one point because it seemed like we never had enough. But we were eating out for every meal and I bought new clothes every week. It never even occurred to me that my spending habits were contributing to our lack of finances.
Expecting Money Would Always Be There
I was so out of touch with money. I literally expected it to always be there when I needed it. I never worked in high school. I never learned the value of money. I never learned the value of saving.
I was one of those college graduates you hear about — wracking up debt and still asking their parents for money. I know everyone makes bad choices. But I feel like my husband and I have finally learned our lesson.
It was in August of 2011 that I knew we were on a path to financial destruction. We had just bought our beautiful new house. But in order to sell our old house we had to put thousands on a credit card to fix it up so it could be ready to sell.
It finally hit us that fall. If we kept spending like we had been our finances would quickly crumble around us.
I wasn’t necessarily out buying purses and shoes — we thought new carpet and new windows, and the new stove for the house we were trying to sell, were valid expenses at the time.
But now we know we never should have sold our house. We should actually still be there right now. Hindsight is awesome, isn’t it?
Learning Our Lesson
We’ve made mistakes. Big mistakes. But the point is we’re learning from them. Now we are in our new house and changes, big changes, had to be made to dig ourselves out of the hole we were in.
That’s when we found Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and it changed our lives. We made those new choices quickly. We are taking steps to make sure our consumer debt is gone because it’s like a black cloud raining down on you every day.
Whether it’s brown bagging it at work or saying “no” to new toys for our kids. I know it seems so hard but it’s so worth it.
I participated in a debt movement twitter party the other day. The question was posed, “Do you pay off your credit card each month or do you carry a balance?” One person quipped back “If you can’t pay it off in full then you shouldn’t be spending.”
While I agree, I want to take a stand for all of those people who got sucked into the vicious world of credit card debt. I know I am not the only one to abuse credit.
I know I am not the only one who has had to learn their lesson the hard way. I know I am not the only one having to sacrifice our current desires so that we can pay off our credit cards faster and make a better life for ourselves.
Paying Down Credit Card Debt
We are so close to being credit card debt free. In August of 2011 we had $25,000 worth of credit card debt. Now we’re on our last one with only $4,500 left to pay. But we won’t stop there.
When my husband and I are done paying off our last credit card we will start on our student loans. I gotta tell you, the amount we owe sometimes seems never-ending.
I will be honest and tell you that I still break down sometimes. I still get overwhelmed because it seems like we will always owe someone.
When will our money be ours again? I just wish I had known. I wish I had understood what we were doing at the time. But we are where we are and I guess the good thing is — we’re trying to fix it.
My husband and I are not bad people. We’re not stupid either. At the time we thought we were making the right decisions. But now we know the difference between a good financial decision and a bad one. We’re doing this for our family. I want our kids to know how hard we fought for them to have a better life.
We have paid off $20,500 in debt with hard work and sacrifice. We’re on our way to financial freedom. Our future looks bright. Getting rid of debt is the best decision we’ve ever made together — besides having three cute kids, of course.
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