August 15, 2013

I'M KILLING MY CREDIT CARDS


I received my first credit card when I was 19 years old. It showed up unexpectedly after my grandparents co-signed my first car loan and it was akin to a magical elf that would grant me any wish. I still remember my first transaction - I couldn't believe that the card actually worked. And as is common with these sorts of things, my card was maxed out within weeks.

Historically, the problem that I have had with credit card debt was that it was way too easy. It could sit there forever and as long as I was paying the minimum I was doing 'fine'. Besides, I could pay that minimum and then go spend it again a few days later. Yeah, it was a road to nowhere but it was paved in high interest pizza slices.

The debt, and the quiet nagging thoughts that came with it, became part of everyday life. I just assumed we'd be chilling together forever. Jesse and I had many conversations about paying off our cards. These discussions usually happened just before January 1st. We'd even start the paying-off process every once in a while. Eventually something would come up, some thing would get charged and some people (us) would forget all about the plan.

But something switched this year. I got really tired of the weight of the debt. No, we don't owe all that much but the amount we do owe was never changing. It was frustrating and it somehow made me feel like I would never graduate into adulthood. I know that's ridiculous on so many levels but it was motivation enough for me.

As the new year approached I collected all of our credit card statements. I divided each balance by twelve and that gave me my base monthly payment. Each month when I get a new statement I take my base payment and add any interest/fees and any purchases that have been made with that card. That gives me my payment total for that month. Sometimes that total is devastating. Sometimes it seems like wishful thinking and I just laugh at the number. But some how, some way we've been able to pay that amount each month up until now. If we're very lucky we'll be able to do that until the end of the year.

Paying off debt is a funny process. It's become a game that I refuse to lose. I even have a score sheet. Every monthly payment is recorded and immediately after I find Jesse and tell him the new balance.  Although we are accomplishing a great deal and quickly, it rarely ever feels that way. But I have that moment, when I write down that smaller number, and it is such a winning feeling.  At the end of each month we're not what you would classify as money-rich, but I know that we're learning a good lesson and better habits. Once the year is over we'll be able to actually save the money that we would have been putting on credit cards. That is going to be so very awesome. We'll be just like real grown-ups.*

*That is clearly a statement based on my own beliefs for how I should be living. Don't worry, if you have debt you're not actively try to get rid of I still think of you as an adult. It's a double standard and I'm on the losing end of it.

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