For the first three months after college, I was working as a catering coordinator at Panera making $10 an hour, plus tips. I also did monthly freelance work that added $600 to my monthly income, but it was untaxed and I had to set aside some of it to pay taxes the following year. Often, I couldn't afford to set any aside. It all went to bills. I constantly felt like I was drowning. I had panic attacks over whether I'd make my next payment. I lost sleep wondering if I'd make enough tips the next day to get the $40 I was short on my bills. Just thinking about how stressed I was makes my stomach tie up in knots, even now.
Then I got a job at Columbus Monthly magazine, making $12 an hour. The drowning feeling didn't really go away, and at one point I had to take on a third job for a few months to save up enough money to cover my impending tax payment and my car's clutch, which was about to give out. For a while I was working 70 to 80 hour weeks and still barely making ends meet. I helped myself a little by transferring my high-interest credit card debt to a low-interest line of credit (more on that here). The lower interest and condensed payment made a huge difference. But I was still drowning.
Then, two things happened. I read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, and then I got my current job, which pays a wage I can actually live on. And not only live on, but have surplus money with for the first time in my life. And for the last two years, I've been putting all of that surplus money toward my debt, per Dave's instructions.
And then this month, something amazing happened.
I paid off the last of my debt.
No joke guys, at one point I had just accepted that I would be struggling under the yoke of debt for the rest of my life. I just assumed I'd never get ahead. I had made peace with it. If, two and a half years ago, you had told me that I'd be where I am today, I would have laughed in your face. And then probably gone home and cried a lot.
It wasn't easy. It required a LOT of discipline, which is not something I had a lot of to begin with. I had to radically alter the way I looked at money, and credit. I had to make a billion tiny lifestyle changes. I had to learn to wait for the things I really wanted. I had to learn to say no. But just this week, I made my final car payment (10 months earlier than my loan repayment schedule, no less) and right this second, I could just about cry with joy. I apologize for all the bragging, but really, no I don't. Because I am fucking proud of myself. And really, I don't think I should have to apologize for that.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I technically have one tiny hurdle left to jump. I make most of my monthly purchases on my rewards credit card (more on that here), and I kind of fell a bit behind last month and this month. It's nothing terrible, and I'll be fully caught up again in just a couple of weeks, so I'm not really counting it in terms of "real" debt. But still. For all intents and purposes, I am free from the chains of overwhelming debt. Can I get a hell to the yes?
That doesn't mean the end of Fiscal Fridays, by the way. Eliminating debt is just the first big step in Dave's Total Money Makeover. So as I take the next steps, I'll continue blogging about my journey.
Okay. Not-so-humble-brag over. #sorryimnotsorry. Stay tuned for my accountability post for the past week's "no-eating-out" vow!
(Sidenote: Image was one of many ubiquitous results of a Google image search. Couldn't find an original source, unfortunately. If this is your image, please let me know so I can credit it appropriately!)