January 5, 2017 / Jon Dulin
Are you struggling to get out of credit card debt? Are you scared to open the mail, fearing the credit card statement is in there? Do you close your eyes and take a deep breath before you look at your outstanding balance when you do get the statement?
I can relate as I was in your shoes. I was in $10,000 worth of credit card debt.
I tried multiple times to overcome my debt only to quickly add onto my growing balance each month. But one day, I had my ah-ha moment. It all became clear to me and from that moment forward, I made progress towards paying off my credit cards.
And since then, I haven’t been in credit card debt. Now, I do use credit cards on a regular basis. In fact, I use them for most of my shopping. But I am much more disciplined with them and pay them off in full each month.
How was I able to overcome my credit card debt? What was my secret method? At the end of the day, it all came down to being real with myself. But before we talk about that, you need to understand what got me into debt and my struggles along the way.
How I Got Myself Into $10,000 Worth of Credit Card Debt
It all started back in 2001 when I graduated college. I had my finance degree and was expecting to take the world by storm. I thought I’d land a job quickly and within a few years, be clearing six figures. But life didn’t work out that way.
The economy was in the beginning of a recession and that meant most companies weren’t hiring. My plans for life were put on hold and I was miserable. To improve my spirits, I turned to shopping.
I enjoyed buying nice clothes and electronics. I didn’t have the money for these things, but I lied to myself by living the life of someone with a well paying job.
I quickly found myself in credit card debt. Being a finance person, I knew what to do in order to save some money. I would open up a second credit card with a 0% balance transfer and transfer my balance to the new card. Then I could take my time paying off that card and I would stop spending on the first card.
It sounded great in theory. But in reality what happened was I kept spending on that first card. Now I was in even more debt.
It wasn’t until one day at the mall when I had my realization. I was shopping for a new jacket. As I was about to walk up to the counter to pay for it, I asked myself why I was buying it. I already had a few jackets and I didn’t even wear some of them.
I put the jacket back and drove home. On the drive I did a lot of soul searching. I finally admitted to myself that I was depressed. I was depressed that I couldn’t find a job. I was depressed that my life was going nowhere.
When I got home, I took all the clothes and most of the electronics I bought and piled them onto my bed. I then took a picture and kept that picture in my wallet as a reminder what I had gotten myself into.
I then went and started to see a therapist to help me get over being depressed. It took a while but seeing and talking to someone about it really was helpful.
In time I was able to land a part time job. I slowly began to pay down my debt. I also did a few side hustles to help me earn some more money to put towards my debt.
A couple months after landing the part time job, I was able to find a full time job. I ended up keeping my part time job too, just to help me pay off my debt.
Lessons You Can Learn from My Experience
So what can you learn from my experience in the hopes you don’t follow in my footsteps?
The first lesson is the biggest one. You have to get real with yourself. If you want to get out of debt, you have to dig deep inside and figure out what the real issue is. Odds are you don’t just have a spending problem. The real problem is much deeper than that.
It is only when you address this issue that you can finally break free from your debt. I thought I had a spending problem. I thought I could just stop spending once I made the balance transfer. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because I didn’t have a spending problem. I was depressed.
Chances are a recent breakup or unhappiness with where you are in life is what is driving you to spend money you don’t have. It’s not that you just like to shop. Shopping and buying things is your outlet for what the real issue is.
Shopping and having new things makes you feel better so you keep doing it. You have to figure out why they make you feel better in order to overcome your debt.
The next step is to realize that getting out of debt takes time. I know you want out of debt tomorrow, just like I did. But it isn’t going to happen. The more time you waste trying to find that magic solution, the longer you will be in debt.
Accept the fact that it will take time to pay off your debt. Remember, you didn’t get into debt overnight, so you won’t get out overnight either.
You can work a second job or do odd jobs on the side to bring in more money to get out of debt quicker, but you will never be debt free overnight.
At my peak, I was in $10,000 of credit card debt. It took me around 1 year to get out of debt. I wish I could have been debt free much sooner, but the reality was it was going to take some time.
I even made mistakes along the way here too. At first, I tried to put every cent I had towards my debt. I was a hermit, only leaving the house for work. I began to resent my debt. I knew if I didn’t make changes, I would spiral back into debt.
So I found a healthy balance. I put as much as I could towards my debt while still enjoying life a little. Find your balance for getting out of debt as fast as possible while still enjoying your life.
Finally, the last step is that you have to accept what has happened. Looking back, I hate the fact that I had to use $10,000 to pay off my debt. If I had invested that money instead, I would be much farther ahead financially.
But I don’t regret what happened. I don’t regret that I never wore 50% of the clothes I bought. I don’t regret that the majority of the electronics I bought are junk now. I learned a lot from this experience and I am a better and wiser person because of it.
I now question myself before I buy things. Do I really need it? Will I be better off with it? Would I rather keep the cash and save it or buy the item in question?
I also understand how easily our emotions and thoughts can sidetrack us and take us down a path we never thought we would go down. I was always a happy person. I never thought I would be depressed.
But because I had big plans for my life and they weren’t playing out as I had hoped, I became depressed. I still have big plans for my life. The only difference now is that I keep them more reasonable in nature. And when I don’t achieve the goal I set out for, I re-examine why and what I can do differently next time.
In the end, if you are battling credit card debt or are stuck in the cycle where you pay off your debt only to find yourself stuck back in debt, you need to sit down and look within. Get real with yourself. I’ll admit it isn’t the most fun thing to do, but it is necessary if you ever want to get out of debt for good. And you will be thankful you did it. Trust me.
Author Bio: Jon blogs at Money Smart Guides, a personal finance site that helps readers get out of debt and start investing for their future.