It was already hot and sunny.
Even though it was only 9 a.m., August summer mornings in the Chicagoland area can be quite muggy!
After breakfast with a buddy, I headed to the campus. I was excited for my first day of college.
I walked into the student center, and the halls were buzzing with excitement.
Tables were lined up and down the main corridor with various campus groups, fraternities and even credit card companies vying for the attention of college freshmen.
That’s When I Saw It…
A T-shirt with a globe on it that read, “The World, In Your Hands“. The table skirt proudly displayed the credit card company’s logo and a young man offered up a nice hello as I approached.
“Sign up for a credit card today and walk away with this FREE t-shirt!”, he explained as I got closer.
“After you get approved, you’ll have your card in about a week or so.”
“Sweet!”, I thought to myself – a credit card AND a FREE t-shirt!!
The world really was in my hands!
Or, so I thought.
I was 18, naive and ready to prove to the world that I could handle anything – even a credit card.
But I Wasn’t Ready…
The next week I received my card in the mail and couldn’t wait to use it! Although I don’t remember the first purchase exactly, I can only imagine it was a CD. (Yes, this was before anything like an iPod or MP3 player came out!).
Over the next year, I spent money on food, clothes, music - just about anything and everything.
I had a part-time job during college, so I figured I’d just pay it off in full the next month.
But I Didn’t Pay It Off…
The monthly statement came, and to my shock and horror, the balance was HUGE!!
“How did that happen?”, I asked myself! “This can’t be right!”.
I looked over the charges, and sure enough they were all on there. What a waste. I paid a little more than the minimum, and felt horrible.
So I curbed my use a bit.
But That Didn’t Last Long…
Soon, the temptation to spend and splurge was too great, and I gave in regularly, using my card for everyday purchases.
I started down a crazy cycle of spending, feeling horrible when I received the statement, and paying just a little more than the minimum payment.
And, of course, that created more and more debt!
Over the next couple years, I wiped out a mutual fund that I had saved into in order to pay off my card, but I went right back to spending and racking up more debt.
Although now, it was worse. I had no mutual fund – and I had more debt.
I Needed to Change…
Over the course of the next several years I managed to rack up $10,000 worth of credit card debt, which included an engagement ring I bought for my girlfriend.
She was a master with money and had been saving for a while. So, I brought my liabilities to the marriage and she brought all the assets. Some would say that summarizes our marriage today – She’s the asset and I’m the liability!
Marriage, poor health, and a struggling business forced me to make some pretty big sacrifices and cut out all frivolous spending!
So We Came Up With a Plan…
My wife was very gracious about the debt and was willing to help knock this out. We decided we would do whatever it took to pay off this ridiculous debt!
We Got Part Time Work
We ended up getting part-time jobs cleaning two office buildings.
My wife and I would go in after hours on a weekly basis to clean these buildings and earn some extra cash.
I ended up taking on the bathrooms and my wife would clean much of the open space.
I hated those jobs.
I don’t know of anyone who likes to clean their own bathroom, let alone bathrooms for other people!
But we sucked it up!
We got dirty week after week and did what we had to do to pay down our credit card debt (or rather, MY credit card debt).
We Sold Our Junk
We started selling our old clothes, cell phones, and other junk on eBay. I ended up making several thousand dollars from selling unwanted items that year.
It became a game for me to try to sell anything and everything on eBay! I actually had family and friends asking me to sell items for them on there as well! My best sale was an old pair of Air Jordan shoes that sold for $428!!
We Started a Side Business
My wife also took on a side business selling jewelry, which was lucrative enough to generate a couple thousand dollars!
We took almost every extra dollar we could find and put it toward our credit card debt.
Debt Free Within Two Years…
God blessed our efforts, and within two years we had all of our credit card debt paid off!
I couldn’t wait to quit cleaning those bathrooms!
Since then, we have never carried a balance on our credit cards.
Here’s The Point…
- Debt is stupid!
- And really, Your money does not define you.
- But the main thing is you must spend less than you make, and yes…
- You can erase your debt quickly, but…
- You must be willing to get a second job and do some dirty work, and also…
- Try hard to find ways to make extra money. And remember…
- Declare war on your debt and…
- Stay motivated! It’s worth it!
This post was included in:
- The Carnival of Money Stories hosted by The Canadian Finance Blog.
- The Best of Money Carnival as Editor’s Choice hosted by ChristianPF
This post was chosen as the winner of the $1,000 Charitable Contribution for the Best Post of 2010 out of all Best of Money Carnival winners!