It's Payback Time

Stupid choices can follow you for a long time.

When I went to university, I took out $25,000 in student loans so that I could go to the private university of my choice. It was there that I met my husband, a loveable Canadian who also took out loans to pay tuition. Add some credit card debt and few loans from our family, and by the time we got married, we had over $95,000 in debt. Fresh out of university with one part-time job between the two of us, we started to feel the pressure. We made the mistake of signing up for a credit card to “fill the gaps” and soon maxed it out. Because I was using a credit card, I felt I could “sneak” purchases on there rather than giving myself a limit.

One day, a tire blew out on our car and I went to get an estimate of how much it would cost to replace it. I was given a small number (less than $500), but I knew we couldn’t afford it. I sat in my car in the parking lot and wept as I told my husband the news. We had no cash and a maxed out credit card, so we couldn’t get a new tire. We drove on an extra tire that we had in our trunk for years. Every time I drove our car I felt poor.

I felt trapped and unable to control my money. It was controlling me.

I knew at that moment we were in a mess. We had to get out of it. Enough was enough. We didn’t have all the answers, just the truth that I felt horrible anytime we had to pay for anything, and I was constantly spending more on things than I needed to. I felt trapped and unable to control my money. It was controlling me.

We made the difficult decision to stop using our credit card and went to a cash-based system instead. It was hard, but we starting pay off the card little by little. It took us six months to pay off $1,500, which seemed like a lot at the time. We were slowly crawling out of the hole we had dug for ourselves, and we are still inching towards the finish line. I think about our debt every day and often feel like we will never pay it all off. It has been four years of feeling trapped and putting all of our extra cash towards our debt, and at this moment I can’t imagine being free from the weight of this burden.

If you feel trapped by your finances and you don’t know a way to get out, talk to us. You are not alone. If you want to talk, we are here for you. You don’t have to carry the weight alone.

Photo Credit: Thomas Leuthard