As the clock ticks down on 2014, it is a natural time for reflection on the wins and losses and ups and downs of the year. It always seems as though the year flew by, and this was no exception.
I started off in 2014 with high hopes of finishing what I started in 2013 – finally killing this infernal credit card debt. In January 2014, I had $22,770 left in credit card debt (of my $30,340 total) and measured optimism. I knew that the single woman with double debt faces certain additional challenges to being able to turn around her finances. I also knew that in my case, the key to getting rid of this credit card debt within the year would hinge on lowering my living expenses.
I was not happy in my living arrangement for most of 2014. I really
wanted still want to have my own place, but that is completely impossible in my high cost of living area. To live in a nice place, and in a nice area, many people spend on rent what I bring home in an entire month.
Sadly I can’t afford that. So, if I must live with roommates then, I knew I needed to make it as financially worthwhile as possible. I couldn’t wait to get out of the onerous lease that I was trapped in.
At work, my awesome direct manager left to work at another employer and…
Yes, she did. And I was afraid of reporting to the senior manager as she was quite intimidating to me. I was afraid that I might lose my job if I displeased her. I am happy to report that the senior manager and I have since worked together on a couple of projects and I no longer find her quite so intimidating at all. She has been quite kind to me, however I do know that I have room for improvement. In other words I’m not shaking every time I get called into an unplanned meeting, but I’m not still naive enough to think that I can get comfortable in my role. The job is challenging and is at the upper range of my skill set, so it will continue to be draining as I develop professionally. I also have a new direct manager who is also great. Things are not perfect, as it is sometimes very stressful at work, but I am grateful to have an income.
By April, I’d paid down half of my credit card debt to $15,000. It was a proud moment for me, as the first half of the journey is the hardest. The balances are at their highest and payments appear to have the smallest impact. By April, I was at the midway point. I was finally gaining momentum. I was starting to see a life beyond this credit card debt. I was starting to dream of doing something that I’ve wanted to do for over a decade — take an international trip — once the credit card debt was gone. While most of the leaders in the personal finance blogosphere warn against such choices, as it could lead to a life of reckless and out of control behavior…
…I got some good words of encouragement from you guys to help me keep things in perspective.
I’ve realized that travel is important to me, and that I don’t want to wait another 10 years before I can see the world. That is a prison sentence. I plan to take a trip in 2015 or 2016, depending on when I have the credit card debt gone for good and have cash saved up for the trip. So daydreaming of exotic locales also keeps me motivated these days.
In June, I found a new room to rent and was over the moon happy to spend $1,000 less on rent every month. Seriously the cost of living here is ridiculous. My new living arrangement with my three Craigslist roommates is far from perfect, but much better than what I had before. I’m having to put up with things that I ordinarily would not put up with, but that’s the price I have to pay for such reasonable rent. With that extra money going toward debt, I was able to pay down my credit card debt to $9000+ by August. Breaking that 4-digit mark was a great psychological boost. Now with 4-digits of debt, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It helped me to renew my resolve. I continued to make my payments. My debt dropped slowly to $6,000+.
In the last few months of 2014, I feel like I’ve been on a debt carousel. I’ve stalled at the $6,000+ mark. Unexpected but necessary medical expenses, along with a poorly controlled food budget have slowed my payoff.
Spending confession: Holiday Hangover
One step forward…two steps back. Is that how the saying goes?
After reaching an all-time low credit card balance of $5,567 at the beginning of December, I now have $7,190.47 in credit card debt. Ugh! I want to strangle myself sometimes. What the hell happened? What did I even spend it on?
I just looked at my statement and did some eyeball calculations. Numbers are approximate.
$285 Groceries & food
$100 Credit card interest (My 0% transfer rate has now ended.)
$300 Holiday Gifts
$333 Handmade Bed Quilt
$100 Books (work-related)
$500 Clothes (Half of which I will likely send back once they arrive.)
With my next paycheck I will pay some of this back down. All in all, however, it’s been a pretty good year financially — down from $22,770 to
$7,190 $5,990 in CC debt.
Woot! I got my last 2014 direct deposit paycheck this morning and promptly put the bulk of it toward the credit card debt.
With only hours remaining in 2014, my ending credit card balance will now be $5,990.00
With more careful planning, it should have been zero, but I’ll take what I can get. Now that interest has kicked in on my credit card again, this really needs to die, and soon.
Thanks guys for reading along and sending kind words my way throughout the few years that I’ve been posting here.
“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)