Baby Step Two, DONE!

Celebrate the New Begining | 2009

Success has been achieved!  A mountain has been scaled and a once inconceivable objective is now marked done and DONE!

Debt is largely accepted as normal and we’re so easily swept into that mentality.  Often we’re so numbed to debt as normal that thoughts of getting out of it don’t surface until it’s too late. 

Getting out of debt then becomes an impossible task.  It is overwhelming.  It is climbing a mountain, losing weight, and running a marathon at once.  Who can possibly do it?

Well… I know for a fact that YOU can do it.  And how can I make a declaration so bold?  Well, because the old adage rings true, if I can do it, so can you!

That’s right – sorry if I’m being a little circular in my presentation today – We have just in the last 3 days paid off the very last of our household’s non-mortgage debt! 

Baby Step 2, CHECK!

 

Such an accomplishment deserves a story, so here’s mine.

In so many ways, I am the picture of average.  I went to college and signed up for a couple easy to get credit cards and I was off.  A super cool stereo was my first really big and really unnecessary purchase.

After grad school I had more than a couple grand on cards and a fresh student loan.  When my classmates were walking the stage, I was financing a motorcycle.  Soon thereafter, I had to furnish a new apartment – college digs simply wouldn’t do in the ‘real world’ and so by the day I showed up for work on the very first day of my career… I was roughly $35,000 in the red.  How could that be?  I was fresh out of school and my starting salary was only $34K.

Only my spending didn’t stop.  More furnishings, and more clothes, and more and more and more.  My debt balance soared to nearly $50k – I foolishly bought a new car when my trusty truck with 140k miles was totaled – before it struck me hard and fast.  I was not going to out earn my spending, especially when every raise was accompanied by a new lifestyle enhancement. 

Something had to be done…

That thought quickly passed with my next raise – a pretty good one actually – and I rethought my thesis.  Perhaps I could earn my way out…. But alas, that proved fool hardy for even as my salary increased the weight of my debt continued to crush.

Budgeting was a big help.  I was able to stem the flood of new debt and I stopped bouncing checks at the end of what felt like every month, but freedom was a lifetime away.

So in proper fashion, I bought a house got married and bought a larger house – keeping (and feeding monthly) the first house as a rental.  I was able to make small strides but I felt ridiculously paralyzed and materially aggravated with my situation.  I was failing.  At least that represents how I felt.

Then a completely incidental, totally disposable conversation in passing planted a seed that triggered a series of events that started to turn the tide.  Most will find this silly but those that know me well will say “bingo”.  A co-worker started talking about her husband’s iPod – something I was wholly against until she started speaking magic words…. Her husband downloads radio programs that he would normally miss while at work and listens to them on his drive to work…. Radio programs you say?  Like maybe even sports radio programs?!?! 

Hook baited, dropped, bit, and set.  Apple reeled me in that night as I went straight to Best Buy and put an iPod Nano on my Amex.  How ironic.

One thing led to another and I was quickly obsessed with finding more abbreviated radio programs to download and that’s when I stumbled onto Dave Ramsey and reluctantly added him to my mix.  Several days went by before I listened to the first show.  I was so sure that he’d convict my approach to finances and I didn’t want to hear it.  That is until one night, in a crappy hotel room in Louisville, KY having run out of sports talk shows, I decided to give it a go.  From the start I was relaxed by his manner and humor and damn there are some crazy broke folks out there.  I listened to several shows over the next couple days entertained, but convinced his message was not for me.  Until one day it dawned on me that his message was directed right at me.

I get that it’s hokey and clichéd but it’s the truest of stories.  I was hooked and within a couple months I sold the rental house and plucked some funds from savings and recalibrated my budget and designed a debt snowball tool and was a fanatic. 

A job transition and period of unemployment halted my progress for a spell.  We suspended the elimination process long enough to replace a failing car but once we got back on track, we were full tilt and here we are.

For years as I lugged around, card hopped, and debt consolidated my way in circles a single thought persisted.  Though I had literally paid it off tens of times over, I continued to view my credit card balances as representing that very first stereo purchase.  Every time I would think of my mountain of debt, I’d think of the purchase that really started it all.

So just this week as I signed the check cutting the debt cord do I feel like I FINALLY own that darn stereo.

And so that’s probably more narrative that I had intended – could you tell I got a little caught up?  But I’m excited about the path I’ve carved and the future I’ve now enabled.  I do think there are a few “how to” nuggets buried in the story to assist your cause.  But more than absolutely anything, I hope you take away the knowledge and understanding that YOU can do it too.  Because I have now done this – and I know how I once thought about this target – I’m certain you can too.

Build both your budget and resolve and get to it.  Meanwhile I’m going downstairs to blast some Zeppelin on MY stereo!

Photo By: rAmmoRRison

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Category: Personal Finance

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