Tuesday, November 4, 2008

6 months 20 days PART ONE

There it is.. the time it took my husband and I to pay off $30,000 in debt.. and actually if I go back and look I think it was actually a bit less than 6 months but I started counting the day that we started our 2nd jobs to the day we paid it off. Here is the story...

Tim and I found ourselves in some major $30,000 worth of credit card debt.. something that for both of us was difficult. Both of us were raised CASH ON THE BARREL style where if you didn't have the cash you didn't get said item.. no matter what it was. Of course, in true American keep up with the Joneses style, we had to have certain things and have them now.. looking back at all of our debt we've paid off it was all for expenses I can't even account for.

$1,000 of that last $30,000 was actually a vacation, a debt vacation. We took it at the beginning of October 2007 because we knew once we got back we were both getting 2nd jobs and digging in our heels. We knew the next days, months, possibly years were not going to be easy and I wanted us to be connected, rested, clear minded for that journey. We found an Apple Vacation for $524 each to Punta Cana (Dominican Republic). It was an all inclusive package so all food, beverages, water sports were all included and the airfare and transfers were included as well. We did upgrade our package for $70 each so get a bigger, right on the Caribbean sea room that included a whirlpool tub. It was worth it.

Going back in time to the beginning of our marriage even though we made WAYY less we did better with what money we did have. We bought a gigantic American Four Square just a month after we got married, moved in and basically only went out to work. We rarely went to see friends except to maybe rent a movie together. We didn't eat out, I shopped at Aldi and with cash because you couldn't use a debit card there. I loved that because I had the cash we had left for the week/month and if I didn't have enough I had to take things off my order. This helped me from buying the cookies, the chocolate, the ice cream, the chips. Just things we didn't need.

Around a year into our marriage things started to change drastically. I was working in the mortgage industry and things began to get busy again... I was making an INSANE amount of money and of course working a ton of hours. Most days were 7am-11pm bringing home 3 hours of work a night plus time over weekends. My husband was also very busy at his work. He worked a great amount of overtime because the work was there, overtime was available, and I wasn't home anyway.

There was no rest ever, there was always something to be done.. but those paychecks.. ughh I paid for brand new things for our old 100+ year old house like new water heaters, new fences, new windows, etc. I could easily pay in cash. I bought a new car and made $2,000 car payments just because I had the money in the checking account not doing anything. We ate out any meal we had together and most of my meals were paid for by my work because whomever needed a favor meaning I had to stay late was buying my dinner or lunch or whatever I needed just so I could stay planted in my seat and get their loan done.

Eventually my husband got sick of our old home that needed so many repairs. It was on a very busy intersection and having a drunk driver hit one of our trees or electrical poles was a weekly occurrence. We went without electricity for an entire Easter Sunday because of a drunk driver. My husband found some town homes that were going to be built in a town just North of us. A closer drive to where he worked at the time and the same distance from my work. We decided to build, put our house on the market, and moved into my parents Chicago home until our new house was done.

About the time we moved in March 2003 things started to slow down in the mortgage industry. IT was still busy but the long days grew shorter, no more overtime, no more bonuses. My husbands work decided to move everything to Mexico, the writing was on the wall and eventually he found a new job. We settled into our new subdivision which was filled with people around our age and we had a great time getting to know them. Our new subdivision was like college dorms, people milled about day in and day out.. someone was always grilling and inviting over all the neighbors.. most dinners wound up being a pot luck at someones house.. "ohh you are making burgers, I have this great salad I can make really quick I'll be right over" nights got longer, sleep became less, but we were having so much fun...

Unfortunately, our party time never gave time to make us think about pulling in those reigns on our budget. We spent THOUSANDS on peoples weddings who only spent less than $100 on ours (yes thousands), we ate out all the time with friends who didn't live in our neighborhood, we just spent and spent and spent as if the money was there like it had been. We had moved into the new town home with NO debt, 10 days later Tim went out and bought a new truck.. so now we had a $400/mo truck payment but no debt. Almost 3 years into living in the new town home I found us in a hole for $8,000. I decided to refi to pay off the debt. Because we decided to do save some of our earnings from the sale of our first home to help pay the down payment on our truck we had a 2nd mortgage so we could skip paying mortgage insurance. The refi paid off the 2nd mortgage and a PORTION of our debt but not all of it.

My broker (a good friend at the time) figured out with our tax refund we could easily pay off the remainder. Of course, that isn't how it worked out and I found us back at $8,000 in debt within MONTHS which sickened me. That amount just grew from there and no matter what I did I couldn't get it to stop growing. I would go to work and a co-worker of mine and I would laugh at each other and say "how much did your CC debt go up this month" and it was almost the same for each other each month.. between $1,000-$2,000. I was paying our BASIC bills ie mortgage, association, electric, car payment, gas, cable, cell phones (no house phone ever), credit card bills but there was NOTHING left over for the money I needed to pay for groceries or gas. So everything extra was put on our credit cards.

I take care of all the finances in our house. My husband wants very little or NOTHING to do with them. In fact, it's a running joke that he doesn't know if we have $5 or $5,000 in our checking account on any given day.. he doesn't. seriously. He's always trusted me to take care of it, never wanted anything to do with it. My way of making him have some responsibility was paying all the bills but making him file them. I figured this way he would at least see how much they were, that they were being paid on time, and if he filed our bank statements he could at least see a run down of what was what. Yeah that idea backfired on me all the time when he would leave stacks of paper to be filed for months and would just take a few hours to stack everything together and file them. He never looked at the bills.. just filed them.

The stress of this responsibility took it's toll and I would fight with my husband that he needed to be part of this, he needed to see, he needed to help! He would always say that once I got everything back on track he would take over, yeah right!! Finally in June of 2007 I decided to consolidate all of our credit card debt and get a home equity loan. I know, against all advice this is what I had to do. I cut up the credit cards, cancelled all but one, and lowered that one down to a max of $1,000 (again against all the advice because this was going to hurt our credit score). I had to do something drastic otherwise we would never see the light of day again.

Sorry.. I'll have to come back and finish this another day.


Anonymous said...

OMG...Thank you for sharing. I feel like I am you right now in your story. Please finish so I can see there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


Melissa said...

sorry I didn't realize this story was going to be as long as it's grown!

Precious said...


It is so nice to know tht you learned young about debt and how to get it all paid off and that CASH is KING! Congrats!

Phoebe said...

Wow..you weren't kidding, our debt stories are so similiar!

Thank you for sharing!