Millennials and Debt: My $340,000 Story
This is not one of those stories about someone who is $10K in debt, and (wonder of wonders) it all gets paid off in two months. Although, if this you, congrats! This is the story of a mom $340,997.84 in debt who struggles with emotional spending. I buy things when I am happy, when I’m sad, when I’m bored, lonely, overwhelmed…you get the picture. Spending money feels like something I can control when everything else is out of control.
Too Much Financing
Debt is a pretty funny thing, you know. It has a way of impacting every single area of life. Money and financial issues have long been the leading cause of divorce in our country, and it seems that learning how to manage debt (when and how to pay off debt and how to have conversations about debt) may be critical to the success of marriages and families in this generation. As a millennial, I was told repeatedly “Go to college. See these graphs indicating how college degrees will make sure you earn significantly higher wages than those without college education? More education is THE WAY to make sure you earn more.”
Now in my 30’s I have a wall of degrees and mounding debt. I took out student loans. I have financed a house (with my hubby), financed a car, financed a computer, and (if I were being really honest) financed about a dozen cute blazers from Lane Bryant. I have even spent seasons where I financed groceries and gasoline and everything on Target’s shelves. It is just so overwhelming.
About four months ago I really felt like we needed to pursue becoming debt free. With one kid living on the west coast (who we would love to visit) and one kid in college we are supporting financially, we really need to get out from under our debt. However, this was not going to be easy and would definitely not be quick. There is no quick fix for eliminating the amount of debt we have, but there is a fix.
We started small, and we started selling stuff. I found a couple things around the house I didn’t need, and I sold them making enough to pay off one really small credit card, like $230. I really wanted to take that money and shop but I didn’t. I wanted to take that money and my family out to eat or throw a party…basically anything but pay off a credit card.
I paid off that credit card and it freed up the $27 minimum payment I was making and put it toward a second credit card. In four months I will have paid off that second credit card making the extra 27.00 in payments. Once that card is paid off, I will have $54 extra to pay toward a third credit card and by February card three will be paid off. Not exactly a party, but that is exciting. If we get extra money, we pay it toward a credit card. Paying off credit cards feels so amazing, eventually. It may not seem like a big deal, but for me it’s huge.
Free to Celebrate
For Christmas I want to go all out, but this year we chose to be more frugal. I read about an amazing tradition of books and chocolate for Christmas and knew in my family of book-lovers (who know their way around a chocolate bar) it would go over well. Each person received a book they had been wanting to read and their favorite chocolate. We cuddled under new cozy blankets (Thanks, Mom) and read until way past midnight. It was quiet. It was inexpensive, but it felt so much like “us”.
Christmas was only one of many ways we chose to cut back this year and hopefully each year going forward. We eat more meals with beans and rice; we stopped buying paper plates; we go out to eat once a month at the most, and we stopped subscribing to magazines. I stopped going to coffee with friends and started inviting them over to our house instead. I can even leave Target empty-handed if I change my mind about a thing.
Free to Launch
My desire to spend less and eradicate debt was put to a real challenge when I was ready to launch my business in November. It would have been VERY easy to throw a launch party and put it all on the credit card but my husband said this: “You can have this party; I fully support you, but if you want to throw the party you have to do it with a ZERO DOLLAR budget”. Challenge accepted.
Every appetizer, bottle of wine, dessert, plate, cup and bowl was donated – 100%. The event was lacking nothing and in the end I was blessed beyond measure to see those I know and love show up for me in big ways. Business I frequent offered their support as well. Beyond that, people who knew we were paying off debt showed up with cards and money to put toward our debt payoff. Seriously.
So, we still have around $340,000 in debt, for now. We are taking baby steps. I cannot wait to include you all in on this journey and I welcome your feedback, resources and support during this process.