First and foremost, I have a victory to celebrate. I paid off another credit card last week! …and the crowd goes wild… Payment posted on 6/26 which was also 8 months ahead of schedule from what I thought when I started my debt snowball. That’s the power of hitting it with gazelle intensity for ya! Yay! So to Providian/WaMu I can now echo the immortal words of Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, “Eat my rubber!”
Second, I think that going through this whole deal as a single person has some definite perks (e.g. I don’t have to worry about getting and keeping someone else “on board”) but it also has its pitfalls. For one, if I start to falter in my motivation to keep running this race, there’s no one around to keep me from just sitting down on the bench and calling it a day.
Paying off that additional credit card (the first I’ve paid off since February, I might add) helped renew my energy for sure, but now I’m looking at probably 7 or 8 more months before I’m able to check another off. Upon this realization, I felt the vigor induced by my recent win start to fade. So in an effort to keep it alive, I decided to go back and try to figure out how I got to the place where I now have so much to pay off of this one last major card (I think the balance currently stands around $8,600 and was pushing $10,000 when I started). I mean seriously, what on earth did I buy for that much money? I mean, it’s not like I went hog-wild and upgraded my entire living situation. I didn’t revamp my wardrobe. I don’t have any shoes worth more than $80. I didn’t install some super-fab surround-sound home theater system. Nor did I put in the hardwood floors and tile I want so badly. And my backyard still sits patio-less. So honestly, where did all this credit card money I spent last year go?
Just to get some perspective around this, you have to understand that I started out 2008 with a total of almost $27,000 in credit card debt. Yikes. Makes me sick to even type that. This year to-date, I have paid off roughly $17,000 of that, most of which was done when my bonus/tax refund hit in February.
So for kicks, I went back and grabbed all of my credit cards’ year-end statement summaries where they kindly provide all of my transactions for the year and even categorize them for me. Of course I didn’t agree with some of the categorizations, so I consolidated them all into one Excel spreadsheet and then re-categorized them myself so they would fall more inline with the way I categorize my spending today. The sums of which resulted in a major “holy freaking cow” moment.
And so where did all my money for last year go? Apparently I ate a good chunk of it – like $500/month worth. Another decent portion went to travel (no surprise there). And then there were a lot of bits and pieces along the way which by their lonesome weren’t much, but added up over time. Would you believe over $100/month of the charges on the cards collectively were in fees?? Finance charges, balance transfers, cash advances, etc. Total, utter insanity and further evidence of my growing conviction that credit cards are, indeed, pure evil.
My “budget” (and I use that term VERY loosely) for 2007 was a total joke…and a bad joke at that. Granted, I had a lot of fun – one might argue maybe a little too much fun – but in looking back and weighing the cost, I have to admit that it really wasn’t worth it.
This year, I am THRILLED to say, is looking just a tad different. To give you some apples-to-apples, my average food spending so far this year is in the $200/month range (really closer to $150 except for the last two months were I kinda blew it) – that’s 40% of what it was last year. Travel is also averaging at about 0.03% of 2007’s total spending.
2008 is half over which means I’m now a quarter of my way to becoming debt free. Yes, I know when I first started blogging about this I thought I’d be there by next June, but after doing some more careful evaluating of my current debt, I discovered that I have more than I thought I did and so it will really be taking me through 2010 to kill it all
2011 and forward will be fun for sure (I still have an Antarctica trip to reschedule, after all) so it’s that debt-free side of the fence I’m trying to keep my focus on. But – and here’s the rub – in order to get there, I need to remain motivated to live like no one else (beans-and-rice, rice-and-beans) so that later I can live like no one else (wine-and-cheese, cheese-and-wine).
So pass the beans, please.