Thursday, August 13, 2009


Oy, I am on post two of the day.
That is weird, since after daily posts I usually take a road trip to two-week hiatus-ville.

So, just a wee update - I edited my Hillary Clinton in the Congo post, because new sh*t has come to light. Not to start any sort of war or fight (LOL)...but it does seem like the translation was correct after all. Until I speak French and can listen to the transcript, I won't know for sure, but a few enlightened souls at the NY Times have seemed to sort it out. And for some reason the suggestion that this was an "empowering" question - well. I can't buy it. Remember though, I am at times a royal pessimist that loses faith in humanity.


Now when I was in college I worked for 7.25/hr at the performing arts library, 10 hours a week. Let me tell you, that, was a gold mine. I felt effing RICH to have a bimonthly paycheck burning up my mailbox. I worked hard in the summers and guestimated that about $2500 could hold me throughout the school year: books for two semesters, food here and there, a bit of yarn here and there, a trip to Faces, etc.

Then senior year happened.

Suddenly I had a car on campus, I could DRINK whenever I felt like it. My friend Melu and I discovered that not only way Stop and Shop open 24 hours, but so was Dunkin' Donuts on King Street. We also discovered that the best fast food meal EVER was a Wendy's Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger with McDonald's fries, both attainable into the wee hours on the same strip as Dunkin' and Stop and Shop AND Liquors 44, also open fairly late, til midnight on weekends. Needless to say I got FAT (Captain Morgan spare tire WHAT?!) but I also started spending money like it was my job. As we made our way toward graduation, the expenses started piling up. Cap and gown, unpaid library fines and parking tickets, LIQUOR, about 18 million "final" events: final dinner at Packard's, final ladies night at Packards, "last time" to shop in Northampton, Senior Ball, Senior Banquet, Senior Willing, blah blah BLLLAH. There was also random sh*t like "tank of gas to get to job interview" "tire patch for flat tire" "new shoes and dress for commencement" "dry cleaning ($25 x 2)) for Ivy Day dress." What is a girl on a budget to do?

I introduce you to: Ye Olde Credit Card.

The first one I got was from Defenders of Wildlife. It has wolves on it. It had a great APR and I even got points. Yes POINTS! for spending money! Then I would get stuff for FREE! I started with a low limit, which I thought would mean double protection: now I would not be able to spend beyond my means, the credit card company would keep me on a tight leash. Little did I know that the tight leash would lengthen with time and punctual payments. As I spent and paid, the limit went up up up until.
I maxed it out.

Luckily National Geographic thought I had good enough credit for one of their cards. Woohoo! Even lower interest than my first, plus 10% at the positively fantastic National Geographic store! WOWEE! As I paid off the first one, I charged away on "Nat Geo," as I lovingly referred to my lion-bedecked 3 1/2 X 2 evil piece of plastic. By then, I had graduated and even had a decent job. A little bit of spending never hurt, eh?

Then....oh then, there was Amazon. Beloved Amazon, whose website boasts the best selection at the cheapest prices. I initially said "NO" to Amazon's solicitations, but the promise of a $25 gift certificate for every 2500 points accrued on the card proved to be the irresistable siren song. I thought of how I'd buy stuff, pay it off, and still reap the benefits of the pointage/gift certificate system. I charged away....

Now when I started pushing about $10,000 in credit card debt I was downright embarrassed I had let my spending get sooo out of control. I had 3 major credit cards with significant debt, a nearly-maxed Ann Taylor card, the shame of my semi-employment days at Ann Taylor Loft, Victoria's Secret, Dell (new laptop), JCrew, Old Navy AND New York and Company. WTF? I was out of control. And I was going to nip it in the bud, dammit.

So I began to pay them off. The store ones were the first to go. VS, Dell, JCrew, Old Navy, NY&Co all have zero balances. ZERO! ATL carries a small balance that I usually pay off in full, though if I am very bad I will split the payments over two months. Since I don't buy clothes on any sort of regular basis and usually have a binge about 2-3 times a year, I don't feel guilty about this. I was a VICTOR in the store credit card battle! HURRAH!

OH WAIT. I still had about $8,000 lingering. UGH.

I immediately put myself on a credit diet. No using the cards. I wrapped each in hot pink post-it paper, taped it on and wrote "NO" on them. It sooo worked. I used Amazon for purchases which I immediately paid off. I started to pay down the balances. I was triumphant.

But then, just as easily as I started, I quit. I thought "I have this so under control." I quit my regimented paying schedule. I was lax. I missed a few payments here and there simply from being totally disorganized, so I'd pay double the next month to compensate. I was using my debit card to buy stuff though - that was good, right? The problem was, I was buying sh*t at my usual rate, except paying cash. Fantastic in the sense that I could feel the money being spent, but horrible in the sense that after my little buying sprees, there was sh*t left over to pay the bills. Then I got a promotion and 40% raise - and thought "see ya LATAH debt!"


I contined in my pattern of slackerness.

I am back to being about $7,000 in the hole right now. Ew.
I hate it. It stresses me out for so many reasons, one being that I have a $400 a month loan payment. Another being that I'm saving $200 a week for the wedding (ha ha figured out how much I make yet?) Then I have cell bill, insurance, storage. After all the money is set aside for that, plus savings, I've got a bit of cash left over. And Jamaal wants me to move in with him and help with rent? With what?

I read recently that one of the five wedding money blunders you DON'T want to make is entering into a marriage carrying unnecessary debt (mortgages and student loans are excused/deemed as "necessary). All I could think was "I don't want to be the deadweight in our marriage!!" and "I want to help pay for the rent and stuff!"

So I went to CNNmoney and used their debt down calculator. I wrote that I wanted to be debt free in 14 months. The ugly truth is that's gonna cost me $574 a month. Combined with the $800 I'm saving for weddings and the $400 I pay for loans, the other calculations I made for other bills, savings, etc there goes my salary pretty much. I really really want to give it a try though. I'm tired of having this craptastic ball and chain around my ankle. I realized it while taking a leak today at work: if it weren't for my credit card debt, I could've afforded to replace my car this year. I was so effing depressed at that thought. So yeah. I'm sick of it, I don't want to be a slave to my plastic anymore, and I'm sharing it with the blogosphere to make it official: I am le done.

Here's my plan (to keep all three of you readers in the know). Feel free to hound me about it when you see me in person! Guilt me into it! I've got to do this!


Elizabeth said...

Allison, I completely applaud and support your efforts, and when we go out I promise not to be that oh-so-unhelpful voice saying, "But it's so prettttty! You've got a card and a job! You should gettttt it!" I too am massively overwhelmed by credit card debt. I'm looking at $12,500 on two cards. It does not overwhelm me nearly as much as it should, mainly because I feel I have no choice. I've had to put my Brain Integration courses entirely on my cards, along with groceries, and anything that wasn't rent -- my loans are deferred. I just have no cash flow. I make no money.

This is, of course, completely unsustainable. The cards are nearly maxed and I don't know how I'm going to pay for my next BIT course the second week of Sept. It's $1,000 plus airfare, plus expenses while I'm there. At the same time, this is my career. This is what is going to allow me to make the money to eventually pay off the debt. (Am I rationalizing? I don't think so. Is it still scary as hell? To my mother. I'm doing ok. :)

Recently, well, yesterday, the universe dropped a bomb of opportunity and responsibility in my lap. I have the opportunity to make a salary. And pay taxes. And have paid vacation. I haven't had that in over a year. I've been off the grid, and now people want to get me the F back on. I have a few things to say about this.

#1. I did not go looking for this job. A friend found it, referred me, and after I deigned to call a week later, I interviewed and got it. Just like that.
#2. I fully admit that I have been completely lax about looking for work. I don't know what I thought would happen when all the money ran out, but I couldn't seem to bring myself to care.
#3. I'm really ashamed to admit that. How lucky am I that others were willing to do the work on my behalf? And then to get hired *during the interview*? Who does that? And then I dare to think about the CONS of this situation? What cons could there possibly be? I need money - they want to pay me. I need a job - they want to hire me.

So today, I feel foolish. Foolish for taking my sweet time finding my way into a living. Foolish for relying on others to create opportunities I was too busy to create for myself. Foolish for racking up so much debt in the process that even once I have a job, I'm going to have to keep living like I don't. I want to be credit card debt-free too.

Want to start a debt support group? Seriously?

Al said...

1. Thank you EE. You are so sweet :)
2. YOU ARE TRYING TO START A BUSINESS. This is way more legit than me just buying CRAP.
3. Job? What? DETAILS
4. Do not feel foolish
5. Support group -any time :)