Like a lot of daydreamers, I suffer from a basic inability to take care of myself.
After I moved out on my own at the age of 18, I couldn’t really cook, so I ate out a lot.
I wasn’t sure how to dress myself, so I bought a lot of clothes. I wasn’t sure how to pick out a car so I bought the one I dreamed about.
A child of divorce, I had no idea how to be in a relationship so I bought my partners lots of stuff, because ”things” make people happy, right?
By the time I was 30 I was heavily in debt with nothing to really show for my efforts. I rented a series of crappy Atlanta apartments, I drove a car I still owed $15,000 on, and I no retirement plan to speak of.
I was also making minimum payments on my credit card, so for all I knew, I was still paying off a Gateway desktop computer I’d bought in 1998.
Then my freelance writing/digital marketing business took off and I started making money. And I mean a lot of money compared to what I’d made before in my life. You’d think that would help this whole debt situation, right?
Like that old adage that a goldfish grows to the size his bowl can accommodate, my spending grew to the size that my budget could accommodate.
Which meant eating out more, buying more clothes (hey, at least I was dressing myself a little better) and spoiling more people with more things.
I knew my debt was dragging me down, and I knew something had to be done, but my attitude just wasn’t in the right place until I got divorced.
Instead of moving all of the “stuff” I had, I held an open house and sold everything. What I didn’t sell I gave away or donated. And I never missed any of it.
This shift in attitude helped me emphasize experiences over things. I started cooking more and learned to love it. I traveled. I began using SmartyPig accounts to saves up for the things I wanted and needed rather than buying them with a credit card and paying later.
In the meantime, my debt was still holding steady. I started trying to work the debt snowball plan. I’d have fun making little spreadsheets and planning on how I’d pay off this card in 6 months, then my car in 3 years, etc.
I had success, but then I’d decide I needed a MacBook Air, or a trip to Colombia for 2 months to learn Spanish, and my debt would slide back up.
The plan that finally worked for me was ReadyForZero. It’s essentially like a debt snowball, but instead of having to make my own spreadsheets, it does all the calculations for you.
It sends you weekly emails to let you know if you’re staying on track, and gives you gold medals when you pay things off. It graphs your debt reduction, too, so you actually get a visual of your progress.
I’m not exactly sure why ReadyForZero turned me around, but it did, and I managed to bust through my $37,000 in debt in a little under a year. (That’s not quite as impressive as it sounds – a big part of that was selling my car and buying a cheap one with cash I’d saved up through SmartyPig.)
That isn’t to say my debt situation is perfect. I bought a house last year, so now I’m contending with a mortgage. And I haven’t figured my student loans into this equation, but I now feel much freer to do the things I want to do – like travel, and take risks with my business.
I still turn my laundry pink, but if I do have to replace a white blouse, at least I don’t put it on a credit card anymore.
About the Author:
Jennifer Dunn is a freelance writer and the owner of Atlanta-based digital marketing agency Social Street Media. Her mission in life is to learn something new every day.
Find her on Twitter @JennEscalona.