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Getting Out Of Debt: Credit Cards

Getting Out Of Debt: Credit Cards

Welcome to the newest installment of “Getting Out Of Debt,” a new series where I realize just how horrible my financial situation is and figure out how in the world I’m going to rectify it. If you missed the last column, read Getting Out Of Debt: Student Loan Exit Counseling.

If last week’s column where I realized that I had nearly six figures in student loan debt upset you, buckle up, because this week isn’t going to be any better. Like cleaning under your bathroom sink or breaking up with a long-term SO, the phrase “it always gets worse before it gets better” applies to my personal financial situation so much it hurts. Finding out last week that I owed nearly six figures in student debt awakened me to just how bad my financial situation was. But once I confronted this mountain of debt, I knew there was something else I had to come to terms with before I could start digging myself out of this hole: my credit card debt.

Before all of you “holier than thou” CPAs out there start giving me shit, I already know that I fucked up. It all started right when I left undergrad and took an extremely low-paying full-time job in order to make ends meet. I was working my ass off when I decided to get a credit card for the benefits, which was mistake #1. My intentions were good: I’d use the free miles from my airline card to pay for the visits to my long-distance boyfriend to help me save money. However, the execution was flawed – as you can probably expect, I started accumulating more debt than I could pay off at the end of each month, but I told myself that I’d probably be making more money soon and could deal with the balance then.

My denial continued over the next several years as I worked low-paying jobs before going back to graduate school for two years, resulting in 3.5 years of my adult life disappearing without having a positive financial impact on my life. As I maxed out credit card #1, I opened up a couple of additional cards and lines of store credit to keep me going through postgrad life and grad school. Since I’m adding up outstanding debt here, I may as well include the payment for the car I purchased last year when mine bit the dust and an additional personal loan. If your heart rate has accelerated just by reading this, you already know what I was oblivious to until last week: I’m in some really deep shit. Specifically, after totaling, $23,600 of deep shit.

I always knew I had debt, but until I added up my totals, I never knew just how much debt I had. For those of you who want to sweat through your shirt, have an anxiety attack, and potentially vomit, I would highly suggest totaling up your credit card balances because you’ll likely do at least 2 of the 3. Now that I know just how much of a problem my credit card debt is, I have to adjust my debt pay down strategy. After doing a fair amount of research, I’ve come to the following conclusion: during the six months of my grace period, I’m going to be working my ass off to pay down as much of this outstanding debt as possible, which should theoretically free up enough cash flow in my budget so that when I start to make student loan payments in December, my quality of life won’t plummet too terribly much.

Obviously, my finances suck, but to watch myself climb out of debt, I’ll be tying monthly hard figures to my tactics to get through this nightmare. For those of you keeping track, as of June of this year, my net worth is as follows:

Student Debt: $98,944.16
Additional Debt: $23,600
Savings: ($0)

Total Debt: $122,544.16

At least I know that things can only go up from here.

Each month, I’ll give updates on my financial situation as I (hopefully) begin to dig myself out of this hole and encourage you not to screw up your own spending in the process. I’ll be trying a bunch of different things to see what works and what doesn’t, and learn a lot about finances along the way. Keep sounding off in the comments on “Getting Out Of Debt” topics you’d like to see covered, and I’ll be sure to include those in my journey to financial freedom (or at least being able to pick up the group bar tab every once in a while). Obviously I have a long way to go, but with using both your support and Internet bullying as motivation, I know that I can get out of this debt. Until next week, I’ll be spending my time researching just how hard it is to become a stripper for side income if your diet mainly consists of mac and cheese, pizza, and wine.

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Steph W.

Steph W. is a new Master's degree graduate with an intern's salary and six-figure taste. She realizes her expectations far exceed reality, so she spends her days pinning away Loubs she pretends are in her physical closet instead of her virtual one. Her hobbies include attempting to trapping her boyfriend into marriage before he finds out how insane she is and pretending that Black Box wine tastes as good as the kind she could afford when she was gainfully employed. Send her tips for getting out of student debt at recruitchairtsm@gmail.com

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