Saturday, April 30, 2016

Money (or the absence of).

I am terrible with money. In my adult life I have been in debt, paid off the debt, then fallen into greater debt multiple times. I get a paycheck and 2 days later I have no money and no idea what I have bought. I am an impulse buyer. . .see it, want it, own it, forget about it. Going to Target is a mini-vacation for me. Wandering the aisles scooping up any and everything into my cart, thinking that the cheap clothing and cute kitchen accessories would somehow make my life better. It doesn't.

So now I am 38 years old and am nearly $200,000 in debt. That is some scary shit. Yes, $160,000 of that is my mortgage, but it is still debt. $13,000 in credit cards, $28,000 in student loans and then various other little debts - $300 for my phone, $400 in past medical bills - and it adds up.

I feel like we are raised to believe that being in debt is normal, that we will always have a car payment, a house payment and a wallet full of plastic. We are a society of instant gratification - we want a new shirt, we drive to the mall and buy it. Shopping is a hobby, a form of recreation. We spend and we spend a lot.

And now, you don't even have to leave your house. Buying on-line is way too easy. It doesn't even feel like you are spending money. Sites like Amazon store your credit card information and have one-click shopping. . .you see something you want and you literally only have to move your index finger half a millimeter and 2 days later that item arrives on your doorstep like economic magic.

Even your friends are selling you stuff. You are added to multiple Facebook groups where your friends morph into products and suddenly you are buying cleaning supplies, ugly leggings, a monogrammed yoga mat and essential oils to help with your anxiety over having no money.

About a month ago, I was done. I was tired of having no control and being a slave to my debt. I added up my monthly minimum payments and realized that just paying the MINIMUM amount on all of my debts, NOT INCLUDING MORTGAGE, was over $1,000. Throw in my mortgage and it was over $2,000. That is nearly half of my take home pay.

So, I did it. I cut up the credit cards - EVEN THE TARGET ONE - and I made a budget. A real budget. I eliminated impulse spending - if it isn't on my shopping list, I ain't buyin' it. I put a stop to all extraneous purchasing - I don't need any clothing or "cute things" for my house. If I want something, I save the money for it.

No more restaurants, $11 glasses of wine or $40 bar tabs. No more trips to Toys R Us, just to have fun with Max. No more $5 cinnamon dulce lattes at Starbucks because "I deserve it".  No more garage sale shopping on Saturday morning where those $2 and $3 items add up. NO MORE.

I am taking control over my finances and over my life. In ONE MONTH, I have been able to pay an extra $1,000 of my credit card off. Next month I will pay off my car. My goal is to have all debt, except mortgage, paid off by my 40th birthday next year.

In the process, I have felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I am no longer looking for ways to make myself happy on the shelves of stores. That new dress won't make me thinner and that new saute pan won't make me a better cook. I have let it go.

I have also found a new need to simplify - to declutter my existence and to rid my home and my life of old things I no longer use or love. I went through my house and as I sold and donated stuff and more stuff, felt the weight grow lighter and lighter. Things that I have held onto because of guilt or fear. . .gone.

So now. . .I have more space. More physical space, more mental space. As my debt goes down, I feel more and more free. As I declutter my home, it becomes more and more a space that I love. As I limit my needs and wants, I feel more and more in control. . .and more authentic.

40 and debt free. I can't wait.

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