I grew up in a modest, Christian home with parents who were very conservative with their money. But in 2003, I found myself $40k in debt, with $20k from credit cards alone.
How did I get to that point with such a decent upbringing?
Before I answer that, allow me to start with a disclaimer:
I learned most of the things I want to share from life experiences and others who were successful with their money. I am not a financial professional, nor do I claim to be. So, please take that into consideration if you choose to heed any advice here.
I am hoping that by writing here I can help a few folks out. If I can cause someone to think or make a change for the better, great. I'm happy.
Money is a bit of a taboo subject to write or speak about in our "Minnesota-nice" culture. And, especially debt. When I was faced with my mountain of debt in '03, I felt like it was a near-impossible climb. I was basically job-less and had no savings. I lived in a cramped house with two other guys and was pretty proud of myself with being able to cough up the $300 rent every month.
So, back to the question: How did I ever get to a point where I was $40k in the hole? Unfortunately, I can't blame anyone but myself. Through some very unwise decisions (buying a car well above my means, spending like there was no tomorrow and taking out cash advances) I was able to amass quite the debt-load. It needed to stop. But it sure took awhile before I wised up. The stubborn-nature running through my genes - while useful in surviving Minnesota winters - didn't help much.
When I finally came around, here's what I did:
- Realized I had a big problem. And, I needed help. (Apply all 12-step program laws right now, if you know 'em.)
- Found cheaper room/board. Fortunately enough, I was living at my $300/month apartment when I came to.
- Cut my expenses everywhere. This is where a budget comes in. If you don't have one at this point, it's a great time to start. You'll be surprised at how much money you spend and where it goes.
- Stopped using the cards. I basically put them away so I couldn't see them anymore.
- Found an accountability partner. I found a friend who also wanted to be debt-free and we went through the journey together. This is crucial in staying motivated.
- Found other ways to make extra income. Fortunately for me, I was able to make some side money doing odd jobs as a designer while working a "full-time" temp job.
If you're facing a insurmountable mountain of debt right now, don't lose hope. You can be free of it if you start a plan today and stick to it.
Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear how you are getting out of debt or have already gotten out.
(I've written more about debt on our website at Three Thrifty Guys).