I AM CONSUMER DEBT FREE!!!! {Pt. 1}

confessions, Debt Repayment

I did it. I really did it. All of the years of struggling to overcome all of those years of spending mistakes have finally come to fruition. The credit cards are gone, guys. They’re GONE!

I’m feeling somewhere between running through the streets cheering, crying with relief, and singing “ding dong the witch is dead!” Of course, this happened on a Friday, so I’ve also been humming this gem of a song to myself.

I am Consumer Debt Free!!! Read my 12 year journey of how I got into over $35,000 in credit card and car debt, and how I paid it off.

I actually have fewer words about how I feel than I expected. It’s surreal.

Because I haven’t been able to put these emotions into words, I thought I would give you an understanding of why this is such an emotional accomplishment for me, and I took the time to explain my journey. A couple of hours later, my journey was spelled out from start to finish, and it was 4,500 words (exactly 4,500 before editing, which was cool). I’m not crazy enough to publish that long of a post all at once, so don’t worry!

For everyone’s sanity, my story will be in three parts. Part 1: Undergrad. Part 2: Law School and the time I spent practicing in Nevada (coming Tuesday). Part 3: After I moved to Washington (coming Thursday). Let’s get started.

Part 1: Undergrad – Where they sucked me in with free swag and I fell in love

Twelve and a half years ago I was 18 and got my first credit card. This was a good thing. It helped me build my credit and taught me about using credit cards. Credit Card #1‘s limit was $300. Three hundred dollars is a really reasonable limit for an 18 year old, in my opinion. If this ever had a $0 balance after I moved away from home, I don’t remember it. But who cares about a $300 balance? It’s hard to make life altering decisions with $300.

Then, I was one of those people who got sucked in by the free frisbee and trucker hats that credit card companies are now banned from giving out to college kids because those college kids end up to be grownups like me. American Express gave me a pretty card (Literally, it was pretty. That’s why I signed up for it) and some other swag. That seemed cool! Credit Card #2 came with a $1,000 limit too. I guess my first credit card didn’t like that, because they joined a competition of who could raise my credit limit to the highest before chickening out. Credit Card #1 won with a $4,100 limit, while #2 stuck to $4,000.

I am Consumer Debt Free!!! Read my 12 year journey of how I got into over $35,000 in credit card and car debt, and how I paid it off.

If only I could go back in time and tell her “Don’t get the credit cards!” Oh, and “Stop drinking so much Mountain Dew, you’ll end up giving yourself an ulcer studying for the LSAT!” But that’s a story for a different time.

During that time, I switched banks. If you had a credit card with the bank, you got free checking. Well that just seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Of course I’ll sign up! Credit Card #3 had a $2,000 limit. I don’t recall using this card much before I went to law school, but I had it.

While I worked at Target I signed up for their RedCard to meet a goal one night. I think I got a prize or something if we met the goal. When they unilaterally converted Credit Card #4 to a Visa card with a higher limit, I called and cancelled. Even I knew my self control, and unlimited Target money was out of my wheelhouse! Then I started working at a different retailer (I hated it there, so I won’t name names). I made a big purchase one day, and I signed up for the card to get the payment plan. Credit Card #5 had a $1,500 limit.

I Began to Wish I had Taken a Year Off to Save Money

And that was where I stopped in undergrad. Right now even imagining having 5 credit cards gives me the shivers. But at the time I wasn’t too worried about it. I very distinctly remember leaving undergrad with $5,250 in credit card debt. When I saw that number I wished I had taken a year off between undergrad and law school so that I could have worked, saved money and paid off those cards. But at that point my seat deposit was paid, my work transfer request was already in and I had a list of potential apartments in my new city. There was no going back now.

So it was off to law school I went, where I proceeded to sign a bunch of promissory notes for my first ever student loans. That’s one highlight of this story. I graduated from undergrad with $0 in student loan debt. So if you’re wondering what a 20 year old could buy to rack up 5 grand in debt, that was part of it. I was financing some of my living expenses that student loans would have purchased, with credit cards. I received a 80-90% scholarship to my undergrad and I worked full time. I also had some family help with books and tuition. I don’t remember what I spent a lot of that money on, but it was nothing extravagant. And I’d never even been drunk when I started law school, so it wasn’t partying or anything like that.

Yet there I was, with 4 figures of credit card debt, oh and the need to buy a new car that could handle the winters up north. So I purchased my most favorite car ever without haggling at all and paying an absurd interest rate. But she was pretty!

I am Consumer Debt Free!!! Read my 12 year journey of how I got into over $35,000 in credit card and car debt, and how I paid it off.

I lost a lot of money on this deal, but I couldn’t have made it through those winters without her!

Plus, I had to furnish my apartment, of course! I got Credit Card #6 in my name for a furniture store. My boyfriend at the time and I lived together then. He promised to pay for half of it. Spoiler alert: that never happened. But, when we broke up, I got the furniture and he didn’t. So I suppose it all worked out in the wash. I learned after that to always search Craigslist and home/department stores (and now, websites) before buying furniture at a fancy furniture store.

A few months later law school began and it didn’t take long to realize that the cost of living loans weren’t enough to actually pay the cost of living. Eventually, my credit cards were paying cell phone payments and grocery bills. Here’s a tip for you all, if you’re starting grad school, have some money in savings. That’s just good advice.

The rest of my advice will have to wait. Stick around, because coming Tuesday you can read Part 2!

For now, I’m going to continue celebrating that I’M CREDIT CARD FREE!!!!!!

I am Consumer Debt Free!!! Read my 12 year journey of how I got into over $35,000 in credit card and car debt, and how I paid it off.

I can’t believe it’s really true, and I don’t know if it’s even sunk in yet. I am so thankful to all of you who joined me on this journey here at WMSB or in real life on the days that we ate dinner at each other’s houses instead of going out, or when I had to turn down a fun invite because I couldn’t afford it but you stayed friends with me anyway. You guys are amazing and I couldn’t do it without all of you!

I am Consumer Debt Free!!! Read my 12 year journey of how I got into over $35,000 in credit card and car debt, and how I paid it off.

Edited to Add: Part 2 of my journey through debt is now live.

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachael
    August 19, 2016 at 8:32 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey! You are incredibly inspirational! Can’t wait to read parts 2 and 3!

  • Reply
    Bailey
    August 19, 2016 at 11:47 am

    YAY!!!!!! Congrats on being credit card debt free. I got out of credit card debt in December…. and then I charged my wedding on my credit card this June. STUPID MISTAKE!!! But once my husband and I pay that card there is no going back!!!

  • Reply
    Neely
    August 19, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    So proud of you friend!

  • Reply
    Breenah
    August 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I have a JCP card (I use it to get the bonuses and coupons, but pay it off right away) and they just switched over to MasterCard and upped my limit from $1800 to $4000. Um, NO JCP, I will not ever spend $4k there, thank you.

    Provided we can stick to our budget and nothing crazy happens, we’ll be debt free by the end of 2019.
    Breenah recently posted…Who Doesn’t Love a Good Twirl?

  • Reply
    Emilie Burke (@burkedoes)
    August 19, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS BRITTANY!! I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOUUUUUUUU!
    Emilie Burke (@burkedoes) recently posted…August Net Worth

  • Reply
    Katie
    August 20, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Way to go! I’m so happy for you. Thank you for sharing the journey within the reality of life, you give me hope that we to will get there one day.

  • Reply
    stephanie
    August 20, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    I. AM. SO. FREAKING. PROUD. OF. YOU!!!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Trisha
    August 21, 2016 at 3:18 am

    I also graduated undergrad with $0 in debt but I had $2500 in credit card debt. I started medical school and I also regret not having a savings. I don’t know who calculated that cost of living but little things add up quick. Thank you for sharing. As someone who will have lots and lots of school debt (I’m also about to apply to MBA programs in the middle of medical school) I would love to hear about how you tackle that as well. I keep telling myself that my education will pay for itself int he future but I am worried. CONGRATS ON GETTING RID OF CONSUMER DEBT! I hope to be like you some day! :)

    • Reply
      Brittany
      August 21, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Trisha, the cost of living is a joke! The next step of the story will post on Tuesday and guides you through a bit of law school expenses. I added an editor’s note about cost of living loans. I will be spending the next couple of weeks working on my budget to attack my student loans. It’s actually kind of exciting! I will try to write more consistently about that experience than I did credit cards. While I wrote some about credit cards, it was really hard for me (emotionally) to share exact numbers. I was so embarrassed! Student loans feel less embarrassing and I think I can write more candidly through that process. The only thing I’ll say is that you should be prepared to NOT make enough to justify the loans at first. I graduated during the terrible economic downturn. It took 5 years to make a decent salary, and now that I work in non-profit it’s not nearly as much as I COULD make. But the trade off is totally worth it. Good luck in medical school!!

  • Reply
    Paula
    August 22, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Congratulations! That must be an amazing feeling! My husband and I wracked up some debt while our kids were growing up but we’re on track to have all but our mortgage paid off in a little less than two years. Exciting!

  • Reply
    Paige
    August 22, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Congratulations!! :)

  • Reply
    Alisha
    August 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Congrats! How exciting!
    This is what my husband and I are working towards! I can’t wait. :)

  • Reply
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