This is part of our Debt Stories series where we share personal accounts of real people overcoming debt. If they did, you can, too.
Why do you think it was so easy to fall into the debt trap?
My parents gave me very little financially accountability (in part because they were relying on debt to weather tough times when I was a teenager). So as soon as I earned my own, I spent it. Then in college, I got a credit card, then two, then three, and I used them. When I got into the real world, I was already in the habit of spending rather than saving, which is what I did. Then, living in New York on an entry level journalist’s salary, it was far too easy to get in deep.
What was the defining moment that made you realize that you needed to get out of debt?
“I was 26 and my debt had crested at about $80,000. I was reluctant to live with my parents, but I could scarcely afford anything else, so I was renting a tiny room with a bunch of roommates and working a full-time job plus 25 hours a week at a Starbucks just to get by. I was stressed out just really depressed that my twenties were going to be consumed by this cycle of overspending and then overworking to stay afloat. ”
What obstacles did you have to overcome in paying off your debt?
My own habits of spending — even gambling. It was hard for me to shake the habit of buying anything I wanted, because I had grown so used to it. To make matters worse, I had begun to play casino blackjack in a deluded attempts to win my way out of debt. Fortunately I never borrowed to gamble, but as long as I was playing I was wasting money (and time) that could’ve been used to unravel myself from debt.
How much total debt did you have?
How long did it take to pay off your debt? (If still paying on it, list how much you’ve paid in what time)
Just over 3 years
What’s your best tip for someone finally want to get out of debt?
It’s not enough just to want to do it. Nobody “wants” to stay in debt! You need to change your habits, and that’s hard. You basically have to trick your brain. You have to create cues for the things that will help you get out of debt (working extra shifts, avoiding the mall, etc.) and rewards for doing them (planning small indulgences when you hit certain goals, for example). If you can, you can also change your environments. Avoid people who spend a lot. Spend time (in person) with other people working their way out of debt.
Check out Some of David’s Awesome Posts on Debt