Taking Responsibility For Irresponsibility
It's no secret that I am horrible with money. I do not know why, but as soon as I receive money I feel the need to spend it, like it's physically impossible for me to hold on to cash. I really don't have a good excuse for my financial predicament. Like many in my generation, I was never really taught financial responsibility, or how to budget. Growing up we were comfortably middle class, my mother stayed home with us, and took my dad's paycheck to pay bills and gave him an allowance. This is because, like me, my father is horrible with money. The one time my father was allowed to do the grocery shopping he spent over $200, came home with 3 different types of oreo's, and when my infuriated mother inquired about coupons my father's response was "what coupons"?. So yeah financial A.D.D. is apparently genetic.
Like many kids, I got every store credit card I could when I turned 18, and a capitol one card, bc they'll give anyone a card, well at least they did 8 years ago. So by the time I was 20 yrs old I had racked up $10,000 worth of credit card debt on everything from victoria's secret, clothes, gas, you name it. With the help of my mom who co signed, I took out a personal loan from Rockland trust and paid off my credit card debt. So at 20 I had a loan payment of almost $300 a month and a brand new car payment along with car insurance. I had a good job as an EMT with overtime from time to time, so I wasn't overly stressed at that point.
I met michael not long after, we became engaged and he moved in with me at my parents house when I was 21. While planning our wedding, I became pregnant with Michael Jr when I was 22, and not only was I scared shitless of my parents, but there physically was no room for the 2 of us and a baby. So we had to move, which costs $$. I was staying a float financially until then, but between moving costs and having to live off of credit cards when I got hurt at work while I was pregnant and could not work, my credit card debt that was once paid off sky rocketed to $15,000. I was so incredibly lucky to have the family support I did because we would've never survived. My mother & uncle would take turns helping with the nearly $400 a month car payment on the gas guzzler blazer and accompanying insurance, and we were always given things for MJ. Maybe that was part of the problem looking back.
So after moving back to the cape, I (once again) got a loan to pay off the new credit card debt. I felt ashamed and defeated. My parents were gracious enough to get a home equity loan in order for me to get the new loan, for I have no assets for colladeral. So then I had 2 loan payments, a truck payment, and insurance. Credit Card debt free for a second time.
But of course, due to my 2 loans and bills, I had no money for anything. I buried my head in the sand, and then like an *** started charging again. I had promised my parents I wouldn't charge again after they had taken out the loan for me. I think that the big problem is that the debt wasn't something tangeble for me, it was surreal. My family had always bailed me out, and I had never ever really had a "want" for something, so I've never (until now) gone without. Growing up I was never taught how to budget, and when I got credit cards in my own name my mother just took money from me and paid the bills. In school they don't teach you how to budget, or how real world expenses work, they teach you (or atleast try to) how to balance a check book. That's it.
Now $32,000 in credit card debt alone I have nothing to show for it. My friends are buying their own homes, have their own apartments, and I have to live with my grandfather bc we cannot afford to live on our own due to my debt. It's embarassing and infuriating bc it took me this long to get a grip. We owe my grandfather almost $800 in utilities, and it kills me. I hate owing money I feel like such an ***. It scares me to know that we are dependant on him right now bc we have no where to go.
I finally buckeled down and stopped crying, and got honest with myself and my husband. I briefy entertained the idea of settling my debt, but after tlaking with a company and doing research, I know that I would not be able to sleep at night and be even more stressed not paying my creditors. Michael had found American Consumer Credit Counseling (http://www.consumercredit.com)which not only sets up a debt management plan with you but teaches you the skills you need for budgeting. I joined the program and the counciler helped me set up a household budget that works for me, and I will send them a set amount every month that they will disperse the payments to the credit cards as agreed. The counciler was able to get my apr's down to almost nothing, in once instance getting my sears MC from 20.40 % down to 2 %. With this debt managment plan I will be debt free in 4 1/2 years or less, with my credit intact. As apposed to the debt settlement where I don't pay the creditors, and while I may be debt free in 3-4 years, I will have ruined my credit and run the risk of being sued, not to mention the collection calls.As part of the agreement I have to cancel my credit cards. It is empowering and terrifying at the same time. My crutch is being taken away from me, cold turkey. I find it disheartening that people are more sympathetic when addressing drug or alcohol addiction as apposed to shopping or credit card addictions, maybe people see shopping as something that is more easily controlled, and when you start to drown in debt often the response is "well its your own damn fault, no one MADE you go shopping". No one made alcoholics pick up the bottle, but they did. I'm not making excuses for my behaviors or addictions, I'm just facing the facts and trying to understand the problem in order to manage it and get my life back.
It breaks my heart to know that my kids miss out on things because of my debt, we couldn't afford MJ's preschool bc of my debt, but now I'm determined to fix this. I also am going to get help, bc I've come to the realization that I am addicted to charging/shopping just like a drug addict is addicted to drugs. When I go shopping, and I go up to the register, its instant buyer's remorse, but at the same time I was getting the euphoric feeling of getting whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, regardless of if I could actually afford it or not. I would just pull things off the shelves, and have a instant sick feeling in the pit of my stomache, I would make up some kind of lie in my head to justify it "Well I already have a balance anyways". Even the physical feeling of swiping the credit card is addicting to me. I come from a line of alcoholic lineage, I briefly had a drinking binge the summer I was 19, but never really became addicted, and I never got into the drug scene. Shopping and charging my credit cards is my drug of choice. I have nothing to show for all my debt. I don't have a closet full of clothes, or a box full of jewlery. I had entered the endless cycle of working to pay the bills, not having enough money for necessities because of the credit card debt, and then bc of that having to use the credit cards in order to put gas in my car. I'm not living like this anymore, I'm not hiding my debt anymore, I'm taking responsiblity and making damn sure I teach my kids what I never learned.