As I mentioned last week, I’m drowning in credit card debt. It feels surreal to think that, to know that I jumped off the deep end when it comes to finances and ended up here.
All throughout my life, my parents struggled with money. We shouldn’t have struggled with two working adults, but with my dad’s gambling problem, we did. He would gamble away his paycheck and my mom was left to pay all our bills and extra expenses on her daycare teacher’s salary. It wasn’t easy. We were evicted out of many apartments. I learned at an early age the concept of money and the fact that we didn’t have a lot of it. I never told my mom that I wanted to be in Girl’s Scouts or join a baton-twirling team (every year, we would be given information to join a team. Stop laughing.) because of the money issues. As much as I loved going on field trips, I hated letting my mom know she would have to fork over some money to pay for it.
The truth is, we weren’t destitute. We never went hungry, we always had a place to stay, and we always got new clothes at the beginning of school. I just had innate understanding that we were always struggling and didn’t have a lot of extra money laying around. I knew I couldn’t ask my mom for a new outfit every week and I was sixteen before I had my first cell phone.
I promised myself that I would never find myself in debt. I would work hard to make sure I never made the same mistakes as my parents. Credit cards would not even be an option for me. I would be financially stable.But I slowly began accumulating my credit cards. In May 2006, after I opened up a checking account with my bank, they gave me the option of starting a credit card. I talked it over with the financial adviser and my mom and decided to do it, only because it would help my credit. Over the next two years, I was extremely responsible with it. I would use it and then pay it off every month. I was never late on a payment.
In the spring of 2008, I was outside of Old Navy one Sunday with my mom, waiting for it to open. My mom had recently gotten an Old Navy credit card for $300 and gosh darnit, it was warming up outside! I wanted some new, summery clothes! (Probably not the best way to go about applying for a credit card…) I thought I would get a credit card around $300-$500. Never would I expect getting approved for a $2,500 credit card.
Right there, I should’ve put on the brakes. Aside from school loans, I had never been responsible for that amount of money in my life. And not only was it a lot of money, it was a credit card with a lot of money. Even. Worse. Over that spring and summer, I fluctuated between jobs and the job I did have didn’t offer me a lot of hours. (Plus, that was the summer that gas was close to $4.00 a gallon and I was traveling up to Tampa for a class twice a week.) So I was using that credit card like it was going out of style and paying the minimum payment every month.
But I was paying it. Every month.
In August 2008, a few weeks before I was supposed to start my final internship, I applied for a Target credit card to buy some more professional clothes for teaching. Like the Old Navy card, this is also a card decision I made spur of the moment and it wasn’t a good idea. Luckily, I was only approved for $300 but I quickly used that up. The interest rate is ridiculous and I’ve been late quite a few times, giving me $30 extra a month I have to pay.
The only card I’ve paid on time consistently is my bank credit card. The other two have been maxed out repeatedly. I’m working towards paying off my Target credit card as it’s the one with the lowest balance and would be the easiest to pay off. My Old Navy credit card is with a collection agency – something that makes my heart break in two every time I think about that.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve done little to get myself out of credit card debt. From August 2008 – February 2009, I was out of work and that’s when my cards got out of hand. I still managed to pay my Target and bank credit cards every month, since the minimum was $10-$20. But for my Old Navy credit card, with a minimum payment of $80, I couldn’t do it. So I would pay when I could, but it was never consistent. And even when I started working again, I didn’t do the responsible thing and put a lot of money towards my credit cards. Part of it was our finances, we were living above our means and I had to help out. Part of it was school, having to pay for my own books and part of my tuition.
So that’s the past. That’s what I’ve done and how I’ve gotten to where I am now. I’m focused on getting in control of my debt and getting rid of these credit cards. (Well, I am looking to keep my bank credit card since I do still want to have a card for my credit.) Kyla has mentioned considering a consolidation loan a few times. The word loan sounds like a dirty word to me, and the word consolidation sounds too financial for me to contemplate. So I just brushed her off the first time, thinking I don’t really have that much in debt. (That’s always a scary way of thinking. Any debt is too much.)
I talked it over with my mom this weekend and it sounds like a pretty good idea. The way she explained it was that if the bank were to give me a CL, they would pay off my credit cards and then I would owe them the money they paid. It would be taken straight out of my account each month. It really sounds like a great idea because there are times it feels so overwhelming to think of how much debt I have to pay and the fact that I have to deal with a collection agency.
I’m thinking seriously about applying for the loan. I think it would help me get this whole debt mess straightened out and give me a solid plan to paying it off.
Have you ever gotten a consolidation loan? Have you ever been in any kind of debt? How have you gotten out of it?