My Credit Card Debt Story

Debt Repayment

In November 2014 I started an aggressive debt payoff plan. My goal – to be credit card debt free by 30 (December 2015). I got my first credit card at 18 years old, right before I went to college. Then I got sucked into those swag perks they aren’t allowed to give college kids anymore, and got a couple more. I graduated from college in 2007 with about $5,000 on my credit cards, and then went straight to law school where I made basically 0 progress on paying them off. I graduated from law school in 2007 with an embarrassing amount of debt left + a car payment and student loans that weren’t yet six figures. I spent a little while in a half-attempt to pay things off. After my first year of practice, my two retail credit cards were paid off, and my bank credit card was paid off. These were all lower limit cards so I had a couple higher limit cards left. I was excited to pay them off and keep making progress on my debt.
But then I didn’t. I was 25, and got a new job at a big firm. It wasn’t a BIGlaw salary by any means but it was significantly more than I’d ever made. And I assumed that my salary would never go lower than that job. So I traded in my Jeep and bought a brand new car, and a lot of clothes at the outlet malls in Vegas. I made a little bit of progress on the cards, and did save several thousand dollars, but I could have done so much more.

In actuality, the monthly expense of the new car was lower than owning my Jeep, but the net worth impact wasn't.

In actuality, the monthly expense of the new car was lower than owning my Jeep, but the net worth impact wasn’t.

I ended up leaving that firm after about a year because of some things I disagreed with, and my next job was a major pay cut. MAJOR. It was worth the sanity perk, but it did have a HUGE impact on my long term finances. After that, the credit cards did not get much attention. I left that job with about $8,000 on cards.

As you all know, I ended up making a sudden move to Washington and took the bar exam here. Thanks to my savings I was able to pay cash for the WA BarBri course and the bar exam (a $4,000-$5,000 expense), but ended up getting a new card to pay for my U-Haul shipping box. (Side note: I would not recommend these unless you’re on your very first move, don’t own any furniture, and aren’t in a hurry to get your stuff.)
studying for the bar
Because I used basically all of my savings on the bar, any time I felt like I made progress, something would come up and I’d have to charge it. I never felt like I could get ahead. I was cutting back in all of the ways I knew how, but it was so discouraging to constantly deprive myself and never see any results. So then I’d binge (as much as I could making pennies on the dollar compared to what everyone thinks lawyers make a year). Nothing felt like it was working. By the end I had about $11,000 that I owed on three credit cards.

Finally, I came up with a plan. I couldn’t stand to live under the control of credit cards anymore. The thought of student loans haunting me for 25 years was bad enough, I wasn’t about to give Visa the same excitement.

Lunch planning was very important.

Lunch planning was very important.

The habits I built while I was cutting back have been key to the progress I’ve made now, but there were also some extreme measures I took to tell those cards that I wouldn’t let them control my decision making anymore.

Stephanie told me I should start sharing numbers so that people can see the results, so as scary and vulnerable as this feels, I hope to be brave enough to do that as you all join me in the end of my credit card journey.

Next in the series: How I paid off $5,000 in credit card debt in 6 months (while making a student loan payment, car payment, and saving a tiny bit of money); What resources I used to help encourage me and keep me on track; How to save money and not be bored to death, and more.

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  • Reply
    stephanie (@stephanieamber)
    September 29, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    YAY! i’m so proud of you for doing this and i can’t wait to continue reading it :)
    stephanie (@stephanieamber) recently posted…TWOsday v.4

    • Reply
      October 2, 2015 at 7:32 am

      Thanks, girlfriend!

  • Reply
    February Progress and March Goals - Where My Soul Belongs
    March 6, 2016 at 8:40 am

    […] over the last couple of months. I know I have, but gah! This process makes me never want to have credit card debt again, which I suppose is a great […]

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