Friday, December 3, 2010

if I could change one thing ...

When someone asks me if I have any regrets or if there is anything I would change in my past, I have always said no. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, both good and bad. I have faith that I am exactly where I am meant to be at this very moment.

And if we are being honest, I am amazingly content with my life. I have a loving husband, three beautiful daughters and an amazing support system. There really isn't much I can complain about. Sure, some days are stressful and sometimes things don't go my way, but all-in-all, I am blessed. We all are.

But being blessed doesn't prevent you from being stupid. I will admit that I have made some dumb choices in my life. I've focused on the wrong things. I've stressed about things I can not change. I've gotten caught up in commercialism. In having the latest and greatest. The biggest and the best.

And that last one? Well, that's something I am committed to changing.

I remember being 18 years old and getting my first credit card. For the next four years, I was a credit card company's worst nightmare. I made a few small charges each month and paid off the entire balance WEEKS BEFORE the due date. They NEVER made a cent off of me. And in return, I was rewarded with an excellent credit score.

I remember how I used to make purchases. I was a poor college student who only bought what was NECESSARY. I always thought before I swiped. If I didn't have the money in the bank to cover what I was buying, I didn't get it. So, if that meant that I ate cereal or mac and cheese at every meal because that was all I could afford, I was cool with that.

Until yesterday afternoon, I couldn't really pinpoint when that mentality changed. I knew it was sometime after graduation and before Dizzle was born, but the exact moment alluded me. But, in my ongoing purging, I stumbled upon my "wedding portfolio" (the book I used to plan my wedding).

Inside the book was the final bill for our wedding. Not the dress. Or the favors. Or the photography (which was free by the way). Or any of the costs leading up to the event. Just the total price of the wedding and reception.


$6091 that was put entirely on a credit card. $6091 that I am probably still paying for.

As soon as I saw that bill, I remembered that moment. (And it instantly became the moment I would go back and change.) J and I had to pay for the wedding somehow and our credit cards were the only way we could at the time. And I'm pretty sure that when that charge hit, we became "OK" with carrying debt. It almost seemed like a necessary evil. I think I've known all along that it's not, but when you are carrying debt it becomes easier to justify more debt.

I really wish we could go back 6 years and change our spending habits. I wish we could return all of the items we wasted our hard earned money on and get a refund. But, it doesn't work like that. Instead, J and I are actively choosing to break the cycle. We have kicked the credit cards to the curb. We have set a strict budget. And if we can't pay for it in cash, we can't pay for it at all.

I know it's going to be hard to change our habits. And I know the "unexpected" will happen. But, I also know that I am extremely driven and when I set my mind to something, I find a way to make it happen. This will be no different. I refuse to let it be.


No said...

Wow thanks for sharing this with us! I'm sure ALMOST everyone will 'raise their hands' and say the same thing. The best part is, one day a light bulb goes off and we make changes. Mine went off a few months ago :)All the best in your changes :)

MCM Mama said...

I'm extremely fortunate that I never did that. I've carried a balance twice in my life for one month each (due to bill and paycheck hitting badly one time and an unexpected tuition increase the second time).

One of the best things I learned when managing a multi-million $ budget for the feds - a credit card is not payment, it's a method of payment. In other words, we use credit cards because it's convenient and I like the record (I'm horrible with cash), but I don't put anything on it that I don't have the money in the bank to cover and we pay the entire balance every month.

Good for you for getting back on track!

busyrunningmama said...

The lightbulb went off for us too and I can say that we feel so much better living a cash only life! It's like a huge burden gets lifted off your shoulders...stick with the budget and don't get you see your balance go down month my month, I promise it will make you feel soooooo good!!

We even adopted a family for Christmas this year for the first time because we are debt free and were able to handle the extra this year! Yay! I love to pay it forward!!

You are paying it forward too, by being so honest. Maybe it will help just one person out there realize that they need to do the same.....

thanks for the post and the honesty! By the way, 6K for a wedding is impressive..I did mine for about that same amount and some people spend that much or more on just a dress, so it could be much worse:)

Andrea Weber said...

Thanks for sharing -it so liberating (and scary!)to come out into the open about finances. My husband lost his job last year and was out of work for 10 months. We had a hard come-to about our finances. We have been able to payoff $15,000 in debt this year even with him taking a pay cut. Somehow we couldn't manage to save, we accumulated debt and we made more money than ever. We use the Total Money Makeover methodology and its changed the way we look at money and our future.

Congrats to you and J - such a great life lesson to learn and at such a young age!!

Carly said...

Good for you!

Although, I hope you didn't throw your wedding planning book away. My mother saved hers and she gave it to me to look at when we went wedding dress shopping. It was so fun to see the styles and prices then and what she got for gifts at her shower (at least 3 sets of peach sheets, hahaha). So don't purge it! It's totally worth saving for your girls. :-)

Jill@Run for the Hills said...

Tonia, our entire country is full of people that are in the same boat. You are wise to make the decision to stop! I'm proud of you. It takes hard work and dedication, but I know you can do it!

I'm not sure if you've heard of Dave Ramsey. He is a national radio talk-show host that devotes his life to helping people get out of debt. He lists "Baby Steps" in his plan. It's what my husband and I used to pay off $72,693. It is so very liberating. You can change your family tree!

I'm a total nerd about this stuff (as you can tell now I'm sure). GOOD LUCK.

Running Diva Mom said...

Congratulations on making such a great decision, Tonia! It's hard to make good decisions in life. And, running is such a great hobby (something good for yourself), but the race fees, hotels, clothing, expensive shoes etc can really add up (quickly). I've found it hard to try to spend wisely as we're signing up for race after race after race. Have you seen the show "til debt do us part"? It's really a motivating eye-opener. I DVR it all the time.

Anonymous said...

credit cards are addicting and so hard to stop.

my husband and i had a wedding for $60. I regret not having a 'real' wedding but we just couldnt afford a big sha-bang at the time.

Unknown said...

We're Dave Ramsey followers at my house too. With your discipline and organization, you are going to get your spending under control really fast. Then, you get to "live like no one else" and go to all the destination races you want!

A Prelude To... said...

I thought we did good at keeping our wedding at $5000 (including rings!) and not incurring any debt over it, but I see Michelle did her wedding for $60 and now I'm feeling less frugal ;-)

I have to say that one of the things I'm most thankful for in my husband (and also the one that drives me the most nuts) is that he's frugal and likes to pay for things in cash and he likes to save.

Without that aspect of him, we would have been in horrendous trouble this last year when we lost a huge client. BUT...because of his saving, saving, saving... we have been fine. It's been a huge blessing and a huge lesson for me!!
Dave Ramsey Rocks!

Katye said...

okay first can I say I think it's awesome you had your wedding for under $7,000! I mean I know that is still expensive but compared to the sickening amount ppl spend (I saw a girl buy a dress for $20K on Say Yes to the Dress...AHHH) I think that is an accomplishment in itself. But thank you for the reminder. I'm just starting to build credit and I've been trying to do the charge a few things and pay it all off 100% every month and so far it is working...but I'm no where near financially independent yet...

~ Jill said...

It's quite impressive that you were so controlled with spending in college! And i agree it's easier to justify debt when you have debt. College and law school loans are overwhelming us right now but we are doing our best to pay off all credit cards and so far so good. Sounds like you have some great plans in place to get to where you want to be - debt-free!

The Hungry Runner Girl said...

Awesome post and such a great reminder to all of us. It is crazy how easy it is to get into debt and put everything on a credit card. Good for you to take control and break the habit!! You CAN do it!

Anonymous said...

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Kurt @ Becoming An Ironman said...

I admire the way you used the credit card back in college. There are very few people I know (or even hear of) that avoid carrying debt; it certainly seems to have become the norm in our society.

I personally am 24 years old and have thus far avoided having a credit card. Thus far I've never had an issue with the lack of a credit score, but I've watched a number of friends unknowingly bury themselves in debt because they leaned too easily on that little card.

I'm sure you and J will be out from under the rubble in no time. I think it's an awesome decision. Best of luck on keeping up with it!!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

I grew up poor. Well, my mom and dad (only dad worked) had little money so our family was poor but I never knew we were until I was older. Fast forward to a point in my 20s and I was poor myself. Divorced with a baby to take care of and a house to struggle to keep. I lived on just under $9k a year for several years, kept us clothed, feed, heat and a roof over our heads. Why would I tell anyone that because those were the years I became the person I am most proud of being. I worked 4 jobs. I never carried any debt because I only bought what we had to have. I prayed a lot. And God provided a way. I am still living as if I am poor (ask my husband, it drives him crazy!) and I think that many could stand to learn from some time spent actually BEING poor. The lessons I learned about what is actually NEEDED to provide a happy home I pray will never leave me.
Now I have had the benefit of working in a good paying job and having my husband do the same but we save, we plan and when things don't go our way (hubbs is technically unemployed right now) we are okay with removing some of the unneeded things from our lives. I am actually thankful that I learned these lesson at a very young age.
It is wonderful that you are sharing your learning process with everyone! Credit and debt are a choice not a requirement.
Great post!

Katie A. said...

Good for you! I won't tell you what my wedding cost, thankfully my parents paid for it. But you know what? We're debt free except for student loans (and of course 2 mortgages) but nothing on plastic. And like you, if we don't have the cash, we don't buy it. Living like that is very freeing. Good luck, once you start to see the benefits, you'll be rolling to keep it going!
Have a great weekend!

Unknown said...

A new blog for you:

I LOVE IT. It's a huge support system for folks trying to get out of debt. I haven't been in debt since right out of college, but I live in FEAR of losing everything and going into debt because I have no other choice, so I really enjoy reading that site.

Don't get yourself down. What's happened, happened, and you can always learn from your mistakes and change for the better :)

Julie @ HotlegsRunner said...

I hear ya! I'm a pretty disciplined runner, but not sure if I'm a disciplined shopper. Eeek!

"I refuse to let it be. " - love this!

we can do this girl! =)

Emz said...

GREAT post!!

I was a "bankers daughter". I think I could balance a checkbook at 5. I am grateful for it.

loved this.

Marlene said...

Ah yes, been there. You don't want to know what we spent on our wedding without any help. BUT we were each living at home UNTIL we got married (and working full time) AND had a looong engagement (2.5 yrs) to save, so we didn't have to go into a lot of debt, thankfully!!

But yeah... we have done a lot of financially irresponsible things in our time.

Unknown said...

It gets easier and its WORTH IT!! I am so happy with having some money in the bank. Its a freedom that has been worked for but so nice.
Good luck to you and stand firm!

Becka said...

Been there... done that.

I know you can do it! You are one determined lady :D

Terri said...

Definitely need some work in this area myself! Thanks for the post!

momma cobb said...

Yes, give Dave Ramsey a try. Since you are on a budget, go to the library and read some of his books. His program helped us figure out a plan for our money. It sounds like that's all you need, a plan for every cent. You can do it! And probably quicker than you think.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post. I love hearing you talk about other areas of your life.

Hubz and I follow a Dave Ramsey-ish plan. We use credit but always pay the card off, and we only have one card.

It's hard to go against the American debt-ridden grain.

But you can do it! Keep at it :)

Nike Athena said...

You just described my credit history as well. What's especially sickening is the money we spent on things for our wedding that we didn't actually use/need/get to appreciate. I was just telling my dad yesterday that I wish we had the money management skills then that we have now. Good for you for being proactive about getting out of debt and paying in cash!

Unknown said...

Debt SUCKS! Husband and I just went through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace 13 week class and are operating cash only, too. This will be the first Christmas in many years that I will not charge ANYTHING!

Good luck to you and stick with it!

Winks & Smiles,

Jessica said...

Good for you! I found that setting a limit and ONLY using credit cards lets you "check in" on yourself through out the month. If you are getting close to your limit, you know to cool it for a bit. I have done this for the last 5 years and now the only loan we have left is the mortgage. Gone is $30k in CC debt, 2 car payments and $20k in student loans. We haven't paid interest on anything in the last 2 years. The trick is setting a "liveable" limit and then sticking to it!

Ammie @ said...

Oh you are a woman after my own heart. Good for you! We put $17K on credit cards to help pay for our wedding! So don't feel too bad about your $6K! We paid it off with any money we recieved as gifts for the wedding. It was hard to part with it, but we didn't want that crap hanging over our newly married heads. Now we are a family of 4, soon to be 5, and we are on one income. And we are on a TIGHT budget.

Thanks so much for sharing this post, I'm going to reference this in a post I am plannng myself. You rock!