Debt is a nasty four-letter word that becomes even worse if you don’t have a plan for how you will take care of it. I didn’t have a plan. My debt started because I was sent off into the world without much financial guidance. When credit card companies come to your college campuses and hand credit cards out like candy, along with free gifts, it is a recipe for disaster.
For years I tried to pay off my first credit card, which I maxed out at $1000. When you are only paying the minimum, if that, it is impossible to get the card paid off. As time went on, I also incurred medical bills I was responsible for, a monthly rent when I moved out of the dorms, utilities, groceries, student loans, car maintenance and everything else that comes along with being in my early twenties. If I thought I had trouble paying the credit card before moving out of the dorms, you can bet I struggled when I was out on my own. This is where things started not being paid at all, and my credit took a nasty hit. But there was really nothing I felt like I could do.
When I was 26, I met my now-husband. He came from a much different background, as far as financial responsibility. I have no idea how my finances came up in conversation so early in our relationship, but he decided to lend me $4000 to pay off some of my debt and get my credit back on track. This was the same amount of money I was going to earn a couple months from then when I donated my eggs to a couple who was dealing with infertility. So I knew, and he knew, that I could pay him back soon after his generous offer. It was important to him that I not wait to get out of debt, while interest was still building and my credit was continuing to nose-dive. We paid off the medical bills, the credit card from the start of college (with a 23% interest rate!) and other bills I had as debt for a long time. It was such an amazing feeling to not have those creditors hounding me anymore.
Six years later, we have been married for several years and my husband continues to teach me financial responsibility. It’s something that is hard to learn after you’ve practiced bad habits for so long, but the impact of making those positive changes is so huge. My credit score has gone from the very low 600s to almost 700 now. And the only debt we have is our mortgage and my student loans. We use a credit card through the month, but we always, with no exception, pay it off at the end of the month so we don’t have to pay for the interest. I am in a much different, and much better, place than I was just 6 years ago. You can bet that our kids will leave our home with the knowledge they need to make good financial choices so they don’t have to go through the pain of debt and bad credit.