It started as a simple love story:
Boy meets girl.
Boy and girl fall in love and get married.
On September 14th 1993, a young woman wearing cutoff jean shorts, a black tank top and an unbuttoned green and black plaid flannel shirt, walked through the door of my college apartment and into my life.
There was an instant connection, and we knew within days that we had found our “forever”.
We exchanged vows on June 29th 1996.
As the first few years of our marriage went by, our finances began to head in the wrong direction.
Being a software engineer, we have never had an income problem — we had a spending problem.
Without a budget and a big appetite for fun, our spending commonly exceeded our income. I began using credit cards to supplement our income when our funds ran out, always thinking that the next salary increase would allow us to catch up.
For thirteen years our credit card debt grew. As our debt grew out of control, I isolated my wife from the finances until we stopped talking about it altogether. I never hid the fact that we had credit card debt, but I did hide how bad it really was.
I justified shielding her from the reality of our finances by telling myself I didn’t want her to worry. I would tell myself I could handle the stress alone, and that there was no need for the rest of my family to know.
She would ask how we were doing financially, and I would assure her that everything was under control and we were fine. Meanwhile I spent evenings, after everyone had gone to bed, in front of the computer applying for new credit cards or transferring balances just to keep our financial house of cards from collapsing.
I felt that as I husband I needed to be the end-all, be-all, provider of everything. I felt that if I couldn’t be that man I was inadequate. I feared that not being so could mean losing the only romantic relationship I have ever had.
In June of 2009, we received five identical letters from Chase, one for each of the credit cards we had with them. The letters stated that the terms of our accounts were changing, and that the minimum monthly payment calculation was being changed, resulting in our payments more than doubling.
Sitting at the computer desk late at night, I was faced with the reality that there was no way we could make those payments. I had no choice but to reveal everything to my wife.
It was an extremely difficult discussion in which we added up all our debt and had an honest discussion about how in the world we ended up where we were at. She was justifiably upset. Marriage is about trust, and I broke it.
When the yelling and crying was over, we started investigating solutions.
On July 1st, 2009, we enrolled in a debt management plan with CareOne Debt Relief Services with $109,000 of credit card debt. CareOne negotiated a lower interest rate and monthly payments with each of our creditors that would allow for us to pay off our debt completely within 60 months. In return, the creditors closed our accounts to prevent us from accumulating more debt.
We are now three and a half years into our program, and our financial outlook is very different.
Not only have we paid off over $75,000 of our debt, but we’ve worked endlessly to develop our budgeting and communication skills. We’ve even developed the habit of reviewing the state of our checking account most days over breakfast.
Our credit card debt is not yet completely paid off, but we can see the light of the tunnel. I sleep soundly at night instead of staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night trying to figure out what my next credit card juggling act will be.
I wake up refreshed, energized, and looking forward to my day. For the first time in years I am truly comfortable with who I am. I am enjoying life, the people around me, and the experiences I’m having.
Without the weight of increasing debt, I can focus my energy on being the best husband, father and person that I can be.
In March of 2014 when that last payment is made, I don’t want my story to be one of how Vonnie and I racked up and then paid off 109K of credit card debt. I don’t want it to be about credit cards, debt management plans or even money at all.
I want the story to end just as it started – a simple love story.
Boy and girl got their lives back on track.
Boy and girl live happily ever after.
About the Author:
Travis is a customer blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services, and also appears weekly at Enemy of Debt. Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off $109,000 of credit card debt and the tips he’s learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.
Follow him on Twitter @DebtChronicles