My debt story

TL;DR: I’m sick of my debt and I’m getting rid of it.

This is difficult and embarrassing to write, but it’s time to tell my debt story because I it’s time to be accountable for my past mistakes. Apologies in advance for this bummer of a post, but perhaps exploring this topic will help me come to understand how I got here in the first place, because I honestly have no idea.

My debt story

Ok well I have some idea; I lived beyond my means for too long. But the thing is, I had been scared to go into debt for my whole life. In fact I didn’t even think I would ever go to post secondary school because I couldn’t afford it on my minimum-wedge income and I was so adamant that I would not take out a student loan. Of course everyone told me “student loans are an ok kind of debt” or “everyone has some form of debt.” I finally gave in and took out a student loan to study criminology. I was really interested in the subject and I did love being in school, but none of the potential jobs that come out of an education in Crim were of interest to me except maybe teaching Criminology. Back then I often toyed with the idea of going into education. I’ve learned a few things since then:

  1. I do not want to be a teacher. I think you need to like kids to teach. And have this thing called…patience?
  2. School is way too expensive to commit to before you’re sure what you want to do with your life.
  3. There is no such thing as good debt!

Realizing early on that I didn’t have the stomach for the justice system, I stopped going to school before I could go into any more debt from it. I completed my “Certificate in Criminology” – so basically nothing – and decided to take time off to decide what to do next. I ended up working full time and making minimum payments on my student loan. For a while the student loan was all I had. And that wasn’t so bad! But for my little, debt-averse self, it felt huge, and like I would never pay it off.

Fast forward to 2009. I’m in a relationship with a guy — we’ll call him xBF — who is really eager for us to buy a house together. We had been together less than a year and I was working for a temp agency for which the longest assignment I had received was a week long, other than that I was working a day or two here and there. I was happy usually just I could pay my half of the rent! I was not in a place to commit to a freaking mortgage, so why is it that I found myself at a meeting with the xBF and a realtor?

I had great credit. I only had my student loan and I never missed a payment. I was also really great at making sure all of my other bills were paid on time. He on the other hand, did not have great credit. He brought the downpayment which he took from his RRSPs and together we made the perfect home-buying couple! He made an appointment with a realtor — his “brother’s guy” when I was at work and sent me a text to let me know about it. Back then I guess I was a bit of a pushover, and even though I had protested up to this point, it seemed he was going to plow ahead regardless of what I said.

So when I wasn’t looking for a real job we were looking at houses, and when the realtor was filling out paperwork for us and asked what I did for work, I told him the truth. That I basically wasn’t really working at that time, that I was employed by a temp agency and went on any assignment I could get. I don’t remember exactly what he wrote, but he spun it to make it sound more desirable to the mortgage people and I stupidly ignored the icky feeling that gave me.

At some point xBF started saying that I should look into getting a line of credit since I didn’t have permanent job, “just to have as a safety net”. I ignored more icky feelings and I was approved for a $10,000 line of credit, and somehow a lot of our home purchases ended up on it, like our brand new washer and dryer. Queue icky feels.

I am a smart woman, and I believe I was a smart girl. So how on earth did I end up where I was in July of 2009, moving into this house with xBF on our one year anniversary? Shortly after moving in panic set in. I felt trapped and I slowly slid into a majorly depressive place.

It was time to take control of my life again

Two years later I got the hell outta there. I moved from the suburbs to the city on my own. I literally just walked away because it wasn’t worth my time or sanity to try to get any money out of xBF. It was the first minimalist principle I had ever learned! (Time > Money) I finally found a good job, a good government job, the fog of depression was lifting. I like to think of myself walking away from that old life like Walter White walking away from that explosion in Breaking Bad. I was a badass woman taking her life back. Just picture it!

I’d like to say my debt story ends there, but it does get just a little bit worse first. Don’t get me wrong, before I got my first credit card (in 2013) I was in the worst place and could only go up from there emotionally and physically, but my debt story does get just a teensy bit worse. Again, I’m smart, I’m an adult, don’t ask me how I let this happen.

I got my first credit card with a $3,500 limit because I was planning on taking a solo trip to Paris. This was to be my fist ever overseas trip and I was going alone. I had made plans to save all the money I needed in advance because I was not going to carry a balance on this card. No way, no how. And I stuck to that plan! I paid for my trip from money in the bank as soon as I booked flights and accommodation on my Visa. When I got back I did have a bit of a balance because, well, I didn’t know how much I could actually spend, and I didn’t really budget. But I paid it off with my next paycheque. Easy peasy! So why is it now carrying a balance over three thousand? I think I can pinpoint it back to when I purchased my new MacBook. And I hadn’t exactly saved up for it before I bought it. But I figured I would pay it off in two, three paycheques tops. Instead the balance crept up to what it is today. And that’s my debt story! Kind of horrific, especially because I know I knew better than to let this happen.

I’m not a dummy. I know there is a responsible and smart way to use credit cards. In fact all of this could have been done in a much smarter way. That’s why this is so shameful to write. And it’s why I am finally making a plan to fix it.

The dreaded number

So here it is. The big ugly. I wasn’t sure I was going to publish the total of my debt, but I decided it would help me more to share the whole story.

Total debt: $20,636.15 (which consists of a student loan, a line of credit, and a credit card)

This has been painful enough so I’m going to end it here. I will post another day about my plan of attack to kill this sucker sooner rather than later. And no more downer posts! I can only go up from here.

Have you tackled and made significant progress in your debt repayment? I would love to hear your story!

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