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