According to the United States government, Americans are deep in debt (ed: and so are Canadians according to the Canadian government). The figures are scary! Most of us know that we Americans love our plastic. The report and oftentimes our own debt situation proves it. We go into debt in our quest for the finer things in life only to be so overwhelmed by our financial obligations that we truly aren’t enjoying all those material possessions we’ve aspired to acquire.
Many of you reading this article are deep in and overwhelmed by debt. Most of you want to find a solution to your own personal debt situation and relief from the stress it causes.
I can empathize. When I was in college almost 20 years ago, I was inundated with credit card offers. As a college student with a low-paying work-study job and no other income, the temptation was irresistible. Before long, I had accumulated several major credit cards. That was a start of what would be almost 10 long years of debt hell–a position I recommend to no one, especially other women.
Over the near 10-year period, I married, had a child, and shared with my then husband a significant debt from 11 major credit cards. All were charged to their limits. This was in addition to auto and personal loans. Even though we both worked and had relatively good paying jobs, more had to go out each month toward expenses and bills than was actually coming in.
During our quest to support a family, establish ourselves, build a nice home, keep two vehicles on the road, and manage the basics of life, increasingly we relied on credit to make ends meet. Since I had the burden of managing all household finances, I felt extremely overwhelmed and stressed by the amount of debt we had managed to accumulate. We didn’t have a cent left over for several other expenses, and certainly not the luxury of occasionally splurging on ourselves. Most of our income was being eaten up by debt. It had become a vicious cycle.
Too much debt causes what seems like a never-ending cycle of stress, frustration and depression. You charge in the first place for items you usually cannot afford or choose not to buy outright with cash. Then, your debt becomes so large and the monthly payments so spread out over several credit card bills that they become unaffordable as well. As life goes on, you incur more charges for unexpected items like car repairs or even school clothes for the kids, your bills get behind and your payments seem to double. It doesn’t take long before you feel like you cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel. You feel you will forever be in debt–how can you possibly pay all these bills off? You feel like you will never be able to afford most things and you might as well forget about buying a house because your income-to-debt ratio is atrocious and your credit rating will soon be destroyed. One day you may even have to file bankruptcy!
Not only does high debt take its toll on your overall quality of life and your credit rating, it can cause significant damage to your marriage and family relationships. It can cause you to always be in a state of anger and frustration. You also envy or resent your friends who seem to be living the high life, or are at least able to pay their bills and still afford leisure activities and certain luxuries. When all of this happens, you must recognize that your debt has taken control of your life instead of you taking control of your debt.
When I finally recognized that my debt was controlling my life, I made the unwavering decision to do something about it. That was almost 10 years ago. It took me several years but I managed to pay off all of my debt without having to resort to bankruptcy. I have since rebuilt my credit to the near perfect rating it has now and have stayed on a debt-healthy course for almost 8 years now. I’m a recovered debt-a-holic.
Since reducing my debt, my life has completely changed. I am enjoying a lifestyle that I had always wanted–with more money left over each month than I could have ever imagined. I am saving. I am investing. I am building for my future. And I have been a single mother for all these years of rebuilding. I have no income other than my own to rely on. I make a decent income and live in an expensive community between Baltimore and Washington, DC. I am able to not rely on credit for the things I want or need. If I do charge, it is on my sole major credit card and only for big items I’d prefer not to pay for in cash. I then pay the balance off quickly.
I can walk into a store now without the fear that when I attempt to charge something the transaction will be denied either because I am over my limit, behind in my payments, or the account has been cancelled. These days, I want for nothing–for I have it all. I’ve been able to buy a new $2000 bedroom set, a $1200 dining room set, other pieces of furniture, not to mention new computers, such as the laptop for $2200 I purchased last August–all with cash. Such transactions were absolutely unheard of in my former life! I owe nothing on these items and am not experiencing the stress associated with carrying the debt.
All this on a single mother’s income? You betchya!
Photo by Mikhail Nilov: https://www.pexels.com/photo/couple-calculating-all-their-bills-6964107/