Hey everyone! We have a moving dear debt letter from Heather today. She is proof that so much can change when serious illness hits…and also is proof that you can overcome so much. Heather Von St. James is a mesothelioma advocate living in Roseville, Minnesota with her husband, Cam, and daughter, Lily Rose. Heather loves gardening, Starbucks and working on behalf of mesothelioma awareness. To reach Heather, email her at email@example.com.
We’ve had a long and tenuous relationship, you and I. You seduced me way back in the day of “Columbia House Records.” I could get all those CDs for just a penny, but only being a teenager I didn’t read the fine print. I didn’t realize I was on the hook for more. See, my parents never discussed money with me. I was never taught how to budget, how not to use credit, or for that fact, how TO use credit. My parents had their own financial struggles, and all I knew was that sometimes there wasn’t much food in the house and my mom cried a lot.
Now, a lifetime later, I understand all too well how you destroy lives. Oh, you are a temptress, though. All the possibilities, the promise of more than you can deliver. And you are so easy to get! Student loans, credit cards, store cards, places just willing to give you a chance because of a number.
I learned the hard way. I almost lost everything I had to realize that you were no good. See, I got sick with a cancer called mesothelioma. That is all it took. I lost my job, and my health, and faced the very real possibility of losing my home, my marriage, and my life. On top of everything, the medical bills started piling up. I have never been so afraid in my life.
There are so many things I wish I could go back and tell my younger self. Things like “get disability insurance,” “those shoes aren’t worth it,” “a purse can’t pay the bills.” But I don’t know if I would have listened. I was lucky though. My family helped out. My parents, who had made so many mistakes in their youth, learned their lessons and were able to help us through a tough time. They paid off our debt, and I was able to defer my student loans due to financial hardship, but all this did was postpone the debt for later.
I fought for my life, through surgery, chemo and radiation, and while I could, I paid you down. I did everything I could to get rid of you. I’m still learning all these years later. You are still tempting. Seductive. You say things like “C’mon, everyone’s doing it, everyone has debt, it’s not a big deal… “ but as I get older and am planning for my daughter’s future, I know that it’s all lies.
No amount of credit feels as good as money in the bank. So as each month goes by and my balances get smaller, and I celebrate paying you off, I’ve vowed to break up with you forever. I’m done with the one-sided abusive relationship and have gotten into a secure and loving one. Goodbye forever debt, I am not going to miss you.
Heather Von St. James
Hey debt fighters! Today we have a lovely dear debt letter from E. E is a personal finance blogger at Joyfully Frugal where she blogs about aggressively paying off nearly $70,000 in debt while working to live a more minimalist, simple, and fruitful life. She has sought inspiration in all corners of the internet for this journey and would love to connect with you to find common ground and hear your story.
Thank you. Have I said that yet? I know I’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning your presence in my life (like, A LOT of time), but really I owe you some gratitude. Every month when I see your little payment notification pop up I feel no small measure of dread and stuck-ness. Like we’ll be together ’til death do us part. I don’t want that. In fact, I’m aggressively trying to get rid of you. But that doesn’t mean I’m not thankful.
Kate Northrup talks about bills as invoices for blessings already received. I love that concept and the reframe it implies. In fact, I love it so much that it has shifted my entire way of thinking about you, Debt. You see, your presence in my life is really just an indicator of some pretty major blessings that I’ve received – chief among them a high-quality education, a new nesting place with my partner, and a jump on some professional development for my future business.
So yes, I’d like you gone. I’d like to not be indentured to anyone or anything. That’s a fact. AND I’m also, simultaneously, grateful – grateful that I had the opportunity to take you on so that I could afford myself numerous other opportunities. Weird how one little switch of perspective can take you from shame and blame and sadness to lightness and appreciation and even (dare I say it) joy.
So, while you’re still in my life, I’d like the opportunity to thank you. You deserve that. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to reduce you to a zero balance.
With appreciation for blessings already received,
Hey everyone! I’m so happy to introduce you to Jennifer, who’s a new blogger and share her dear debt letter with you all. Say hello! Jennifer Dane is a personal finance blogger at Debt Free Utopia and has a passion for inspiring and educating others through blogging about her journey to overcoming $78,000 worth of debt. Her philosophy is that being debt free will lead to being a fulfilled person and community member.
We are not friends. You came into my life like a slimy, smug boyfriend in my teenage years. I did not know the damage you caused until I couldn’t pursue my passions. My parents never warned me about the dangers of you, and after they had known I was with you, they never even said a word.
You have followed me with every move I have made and have grown more unmanageable every year. We’ve even yo-yo money dieted with no avail, and I think it is the time we part ways. You are constantly on my mind, and I want to be able to live my life without your restrictions.
When you are in my life, I cannot fulfill my dreams. So, I am done. I know it will take me years to move on, and it will be a challenge, but it is over. I want you to be completely out of my life by the end of 2022 (hopefully sooner). Farewell, debt. You are not welcome here anymore.
Hey everyone! We have a moving dear debt letter from Kelly. Kelly has been in an abusive relationship with debt since her teenage years, when her father introduced her to credit cards and other debt. She had allowed debt to control her life, leading her down the paths of consumer credit consolidation, bankruptcy, and financial ruin. For some time, she has been trying to break free and leave debt behind for good. She has been unable to do so until now. Kelly likens her situation to having had an addiction that she is realizing for the first time. Today, she is releasing herself from the fierce grip debt has had on her for all these years. With over $30k in debt still weighing on her, she welcomes the freedom of becoming debt-free, climbing onward and upward.
I don’t recall exactly how old I was when we were first introduced. However, I do recall feeling immediately enamored by your wit, charm and seductive ways. You told me the world was my oyster, and all I had to do was pay the minimum balance each month. Brilliant, I thought. We began to get to know each other and I fell in lust immediately.
However, your sweetness quickly faded, and you began controlling and manipulating me with false promises. I began to feel shame that you were in my life. I was embarrassed by my lack of self-control around you. Yet, your tentacles were in deep, and each time I tried pulling them from my flesh, I would bleed and cry. You just laughed knowing the power you had over me. You snarled and snickered in delight knowing I didn’t have the strength, determination or confidence to rip free from your grasp.
And so I stayed. Again and again, I tried to leave, making a little progress each time, but always falling back, scared to really leave you for good. You convinced me I was nothing without you, and I believed you. Fuck! I BELIEVED you. I believed I needed you to succeed, to enjoy life, to really LIVE. Oh the lies! How did I believe so many lies? You have caused me financial ruin, and I have allowed it. I have been addicted to you like someone on crack, always awaiting their next fix.
What an “a ha”! I never realized I was addicted to you until now. What an incredible epiphany realized. It’s like the light switch has been in a perpetually off position. It was taped down and all I needed to do was remove the tape, flip the switch and see the light eradicating darkness of the lies within. All this time I thought I had issues with money. You were deceiving me all along.
Today, November 6, 2016- I take my power back. The truth has been revealed. You can deceive me no longer. I am complete without you. No more seductive games shall you win. I free myself from your bondage and walk away never to return, never to look back.
I hear you mumbling that it’s not over and that I will come back to you. I hear you and acknowledge that this has been my pattern. You are right. I had many lessons to learn, and I thank you for what you taught me. We made this agreement a long time ago, I realize this now and today is the day we say goodbye. I bless you for the lessons.
I release myself in grace and gratitude knowing that I am free, completely free from this moment forward and forever more. It is my time to amass wealth beyond my wildest imaginations. I am a money magnet. Thank you again for all the lessons.
In Self Love and Freedom,
Hey everyone! We have a fantastic dear debt letter from Brittney. Brittney took out student loans to get her undergraduate degree, then promptly did everything wrong. She spent years in denial before finally coming to terms with, then learning how to manage, her debt. She now works as a writer and editor for BadCredit.org, where she uses her personal financial journey as inspiration to help others overcome their own mistakes, and make better financial decisions.
I owe you an apology.
I hate to admit it, but for the longest time, I hated you. I couldn’t even stand the thought of you — except to pass blame.
Every time I made a financial stumble, you were my go-to excuse. For years I blamed you. Each silly, ignorant, or downright stupid mistake became entirely your fault. I was so sure that without you, everything would have been exactly as I wanted it to be. I convinced myself that you were the source of my troubles — and you had done it all on purpose.
But none of it was your fault. It was mine.
It took a while, I’m ashamed to say, but I finally accepted the truth. I realized that you weren’t out to get me. You didn’t try to ruin my credit, or put me behind in my financial goals. You couldn’t have known that I would make so many poor decisions, and get into so much trouble.
You just wanted to help me go to school — and you did.
You helped me venture away from home for the first time, to cross the country to the big city, where I could see my academic dreams unfold. You helped pay for classes, books, and even the roof over my head. You gave me the education for which I had been pining, and all I gave you was grief.
So, I’m sorry.
You weren’t the bad guy in our relationship; I was. I’m sorry I blamed you for all these years, when I should have taken responsibility for my own mistakes. I’m sorry I spent so long hating you, instead of fixing me. (Oh, and I’m sorry for all the horrible things I said about you to my friends.)
I’ve learned a lot since we first met. I’m done blaming you, and I’m done hiding from you. In fact, I’d even like us to be friends. I think we could accomplish some really amazing things, working together.
Here’s to the future.
Hey everyone! We have a great dear debt letter from Monica. Monica took on student loans for college, but didn’t find the career job that she had hoped for afterward. Instead, she flipped burgers for minimum wage, while living with her parents and taking care of her baby. Eventually, she would find the job she had been waiting for as an accounting clerk, and is now living with her fiancé and their daughter. While they both work in their fields, they are struggling with car payments, credit card debt, and student loan payments in order to move out into a home of their own. But today, she is taking a stand against debt.
When I imagined my life at 30, I expected living in my own place, married, maybe a kid or two. I did not imagine living with my mother in law who is NOT my biggest fan because I couldn’t buy a house. I did not imagine dreading payday because all it means to me is sitting at my dining room table writing checks.
I did not imagine having to decide between buying that yogurt my daughter loves like most women love chocolate, and buying an extra loaf of bread so I could make enough sandwiches for my work lunches.
I never wanted to be that mom that says “I can’t take you to the zoo because I don’t have the money,” but here we are. I pay my bills, but it always feels like a pinch, and with vision therapy starting, it’s only going to get tighter.
I knew that going in, but how do you tell your child, “you’re going to have to have a lazy eye forever because we can’t afford to pay for the therapy that could fix it”? You don’t. You grit your teeth, cut your spending wherever you can, and you make it work.
I’ve grown tired of you over a long period of time, but this is the last straw. I’ve cried myself to sleep too many nights. I’ve fought with the love of my life more times than I care to admit over you. I’ve found myself wishing I’d have a heart attack and die so my life insurance could pay you off and give my family a fresh start. Nothing in life is worth me wanting to die just to get rid of it, and that includes you.
I’ve been through unemployment, abuse, and being a single parent. I’ve been though anorexia and suicidal tendencies. If I’ve survived all of that, I can survive you. I will survive you. I guess I just needed to hear myself say it.
I’m taking a crazy step to make this happen. It won’t be be today or tomorrow, but one day I’m finally going to give you the swift kick in the butt you deserve. And I’m not coming back. I’m going to have my off days when I’m not sure of myself. I’m going to have days when I’ll scream into my pillow. But I will not quit. I will survive you.
Packing my emotional bags,
Hey everyone! Today, we have a great dear debt letter from W. Like many millennials who set their sights on graduating from college, the monetary cost of that milestone was not lost on W*. In total, she accumulated $65k in student loan debt. However, even as a quintessential product of the lower-middle class X-Generation, W* figured out soon after graduation that the typical path was not for her, and she is now well on her way to financial freedom and extremely early retirement. W and their marital partner K blog about their journey at Financially Free Millennials.
Dear Student Loan #1,
This may be a little blunt, but WOW! It’s unapologetically GREAT to see you go!
For the past 7 years, you have – frankly – been a huge burden. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but seriously…
Like, at first, having you around was amazing. I’ll never forget the day I met you. You were a big, fat check made out to ME…in the amount of $25,600. I had never felt so…worthy (or wealthy). I felt like it was the beginning of something great.
And it was great…for a while. You helped me pay for a year of college, my apartment, food that wasn’t Top Ramen or yogurt. You bought me a DSLR, which helped me progress my passion for photography. You even helped my parents pay off their car!
But then something changed.
See, when we first met, I still had my rose colored glasses on. I had a lust for you…for what you could buy me (and others)…for getting me out of jobs…for getting me through school.
What I didn’t realize, is that it all came with a price. And the moment I realized that, it was like a light turned on, and it was the beginning of the end for you.
For the next five years or so, you hung around like an awkward friend. I admit, I should have been upfront with you from the beginning. But part of me wanted to hang on, to relish in what we once had. I was being selfish.
But today is the day. There’s really no reason to keep you around any longer. You have put me through enough frustration, anger, sadness, and resentment to last a lifetime. You’ve also hindered me financially.
I won’t discredit you entirely, though. A lot of good came out of this relationship. You taught me to become accountable and responsible. You taught me dedication. The best take-away, however, was how my mind was widened enough to see through the bullshit game that “money” really is. You’ve given me the motivation to beat the system, to become my own boss, to reclaim 100% of my time, and to become location independent. And for that lesson, I am eternally grateful!
So let’s leave this on a high note. Thank you for the experiences and lessons, Student Loan #1.
Hello everyone! Today, we have a great dear debt letter from Sam. Sam graduated in May of 2013 from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with roughly $25000 of debt. Living at home for a year allowed her to nearly cut that amount in half, but once she moved out, Sam developed a few bad habits and managed to rack up a grand total of $35,000 between her student loans, credit card debt, a car loan, and a personal loan from her parents. She was able to get the total down to $23,800 at the start of 2016, and is trying to knock out the last $10700 before the beginning of 2017. Follow Sam and her experiences on her blog.
I like to think I’ve handled you better than most, but I know that our relationship is more one-sided than I’d like it to be. Though now I can’t wait to get rid of you, I still remember the times when I was so grateful for you and your help. I know that without you I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Because of you, Debt, I was able to continue my education when my parents had to give me some tough love my freshman year of college. You allowed me to realize that I hadn’t ruined my life, just learned a lesson the hard way, and because of that, I was able to forgive myself. After my first year back at school, though, I forgot a bit about the price I had to pay to be in your favor, and so I kept our abusive friendship.
Debt, even though I had three jobs in college, I used YOU to fund my drinking, my wants AND my needs, thinking that it was enough to use my income from my jobs for schooling. I was being mostly good — that counted, right? I knew that there was a (literal) price to pay to being friendly with you, Debt, but at the same time, that was FUTURE Sam’s problem, not present Sam’s, and so I ignored the negatives and only enjoyed your positives.
I know I am luckier than most people who graduated with me. I only had about $25,000 of debt, which, compared to others, is not much. The first year out of college, I had a job where I earned commission and I did very well. Couple that with living with my parents, and I was ready to start attacking you.
My parents always taught me to save a chunk of my paycheck, spend a small amount, and use the rest to pay off my loan. Sure I could pay it off in 20 years, but why accrue the interest? They told me that the sooner I paid you off, the better my life would be. So I did. I was putting over $1000 towards you every month. I had the idea that I would pay you off in less than two years.
But I didn’t, obviously. I was commuting over an hour and a half one way to work, and you knew the drive was killing me AND my car. So you helped me come up with a plan to move closer to work. My best friend had a similar idea, and we ended up moving in together in a nicer neighborhood, closer to both of our jobs.
Splitting the costs of housing and cutting down on transportation should make it cheaper, shouldn’t it? Technically yes, but it was around this time that I started developing bad habits. Bad habits like drinking more out of college than I did in college. Bad habits like getting drunk and buying lots of things off of Amazon (I both love and hate you, Prime). Bad habits like eating out for lunch EVERY DAY (Gasp! Such a no-no). You funded all of this, Debt. You allowed me to live above my means and yet hide the truth from everyone.
So even tho I had reduced you originally, Debt, before moving out of my parents by almost half, I managed to get seduced by you in a worse way – high interest credit card debt. Originally, I was racking up my credit card balance, but still paying it off in full every month. Eventually, it caught up to me and went to the point where I was carrying a balance. Instead of trying to pay off the balance, I started ignoring it. Long story short, I ended up with over $8000 of credit card debt. Couple this with my 2003 Dodge Neon dying randomly (RIP Thundercat), I had to find a way to get a new car.
Having stupidly assumed that my old car would die after I had saved enough for a new car (and without actually saving anything for a new car), I was in a bad position. I made sure to always have at least $1000 in both my checking and savings account, but I wasn’t trying to drain all of my accounts. So I had to awkwardly ask my parents to help me. Which, since they are amazing, they did. But that left me with $5000 that I owed them on top of the $14500 on my car.
This was my wake up call, Debt. I realized that you were controlling me, not the other way around. You had grown too much for me to handle on my own. I was so embarrassed, Debt. I was living like a fraud, making more than I thought I would two years out of college, and yet it wasn’t enough.
I started taking action to paying you down, never once telling my roommate, boyfriend, or even my parents how bad you have gotten. I think if I did, they might have helped, but at the same time, I didn’t want their judgement. I got myself into this mess, and I knew I could get myself out. And it’s that belief in myself that has gotten me this far.
At the beginning of 2016, I owed $23500ish between my student loan, credit card debt, car loan, and the loan from my parents. As of today, both the student loan and credit card debt are gone, and I have about $9000 left on my car and about $3000 to my parents.
I’m not as far as I wanted to be at this point in the year, but I’m determined to end our relationship, Debt. You keep trying to draw me back, but I’m smarter this time. I have a plan. I know how much I need to dedicate to you per paycheck to be rid of you. I don’t need you anymore, and I don’t intend on seeing you again once 2017 starts.
Hey everyone, we have an awesome dear debt letter from Taberah Joy, aka Pixie. Pixie wears many hats and is a self-proclaimed slasher – a lawyer/writer/energy healer/tutor/actor/director. She is working to pay off $50,000 and hopes that all those slashes can one day build a bridge to her financial freedom.
I don’t know where to begin. I am thankful for you in so many ways. As I am thankful to all my creditors who gave me housing and food, very essential things in life. I am thankful that you allowed me to live my life my way. I am thankful that I didn’t stay in any relationship because I was dependent on the other person’s money. You know who I am talking about.
You have been so very good to me. I am amazed at how I can now talk about us without shame, without fear, and without too much judgment. I come from a “cash on the barrel head” culture. A culture where my parents paid cash for all of their cars, and my grandparents paid cash for their house.
So getting involved with you was a risk, a taboo. And you know what a rebel I am. If someone tells me not to do something, the teenage me just goes ahead and does it.
You were there for me when I wasn’t sure of myself, when I didn’t know if I could do this thing called life by myself. You said I could. And I believe you. I believe you now.
Debt my darling I believe it’s time that we part. You have been such an integral part of my life. It is difficult to leave you. It’s difficult to do this thing on my own. But because you supported me, I know that I will make it. I know that I am resourceful. I know that the universe provides.
Thank you for everything. I know you will get along without me just fine. There are others who need you more than I do now. Go be with them. Comfort them. Instill them with confidence, with reassurance that life works out if you show up.
With much love and many thanks,
Hey everyone! We have an awesome new dear debt letter from Alaya. Alaya blogs at Hope+Cents, and is on a mission to provide help and show others hope in their financial situations. After conquering her $74,000 of consumer debt in two years, she now coaches others as they dump their debt and take control of their finances.
It’s been almost five years since we broke up, and I must say I do think of you from time-to-time.
Now, don’t get excited — it’s not in the way you think. I’m not pining after you or considering going back to you. What I think about is all the things you used to say to me and the promises you made. What I think about is how I just don’t understand you (or them) anymore.
In the fifteen years we were together, you convinced me that life was not possible without you — that if I wanted to do anything at all, it had to be done with you by my side. Somehow, I believed you. I gave you so many precious years of my life without ever challenging whether or not you were good for me. I bought into your lie that I couldn’t survive without you.
Looking back, I can see how you were able to deceive me so easily. I was naive. It never occurred to me that life without you was feasible. I didn’t realize that I could challenge that myth, nor did I have the patience or discipline at the time to do so. Even my parents, who introduced me to you before I was even old enough to have a relationship with you, believed your lies. I cannot blame them or be too upset with them — they thought you could offer me a better life than they could.
Now that I’m on the other side of our relationship, I cannot comprehend your promises. My older and wiser self knows what you offer is attainable without you. It may not come instantly or as quickly as it does with you, but that’s okay. My brain no longer can compute the benefits of cozying up with you.
You reached out to me a couple of years ago, and somehow, you managed to get under my husband’s skin. He suggested I think about contacting you “just this once.” Traitor! I couldn’t believe that after everything we did to rid our lives of you, he would suggest seeing you again. He tried to explain the benefits of reaching out to you, but I just couldn’t process what he was saying. He was speaking gibberish, and I didn’t understand it. I just don’t understand you anymore.
You are cunning, debt. You convince people that you are as essential as oxygen. You consistently reach out to my friends and family, and despite my warnings, some of them have started relationships with you. They are where I once was — captivated by your promises and unaware that they don’t need you. My hope for them is that they too will soon reach a point of not understanding you.
So, goodbye again debt. I would say I have missed you, but I haven’t. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get you anymore.
Take Care of Yourself,