Hey everyone, we have an amazing new dear debt letter from Ellie. Ellie is a grants analyst and technology consultant in Nashville, Tennessee, and is on a 4 year plan to pay off $58,000. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and is a minimalist, living in furnished apartments, airbnbs, and subleases while she figures out where her life is headed. Everything she owns fits in her car. She enjoys reading, going to the gym, and cooking with her boyfriend.
Debt and I decided to sit down for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Here is my monologue to her.
Thank you for agreeing to meet me here. I don’t appreciate that you didn’t bring your wallet and made me pay, again. Rude much? Anyway. I asked you to come because… we need to talk.
I know about you and my parents.
I knew all along. I heard about the way you taunted them, how you wove your threads into the fabric of their lives until the entire garment belonged to you. Looked like you. Was nothing but you. I watched my father go homeless because of you, his marriage crumble because of you. I heard endless, frightful tales of your spite when he filed bankruptcy.
I witnessed the way you mangled his relationship with his parents. I watched as you took my mother’s hand and sold her a life that didn’t, and never would, never could, belong to her. I saw her driving that shiny car of yours and living under the roof that you pretended she deserved. And I could not look away as you took. it. all. back. Foreclosure is your ugly sidekick.
So I swore I would never speak to you for the rest of my life. I had every reason, every single good intention not to give you the time of day.
I proudly marched through Freshman year of college without a single cent of my life given to you and your selfish, cunning ways. Everybody told me you were such a nice girl. My peers warned me I was missing out on all the fun because I was hanging out with all my jobs instead of just letting you into my life, just a little. I was mocked, I was left out, I was looked at like a crazy person because graduating debt-free just wasn’t a thing.
Then I met a man.
I fell in love with him, this man much, much too old for me. And… flinched when a few weeks into this budding, green relationship he told me he knew you. When I found out the history the two of you shared I was sick. I looked at this guy and I thought, “A life with him is a life with debt.” Two hundred thousand dollars. That was what stood between me and him. You.
I told myself I would never marry into debt. But somehow, that man convinced me to take on my first student loan. You were in his head. He couldn’t see the light of day anymore from your blinding, dark cloak over his eyes. He didn’t know what it was like never to owe anybody anything because he’d been there for decades. Still, I was in love and young and foolish.
Before I knew it, I was taking you on joyrides through drive-thrus, hating myself for every secret large fry you watched me eat. Our life together was one step forward and nine steps back.
When the doctor told me I had a lump, months later I stared at the stack of tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills I would never pay and I just gave up.
You were such a monster then. You slipped your hand around my throat and caressed my skin, making me feel something when all I wanted was to surrender and say, no, no, no.
Tires. Dress slacks. Gasoline. Ice cream. School fees.
After my marriage fell apart, three years after you first slipped your unwelcome presence into my life, we had our last hurrah.
Like a bad lover, I embraced you with one final, terrifying dance. In a blaze of maxing out every card application that was not denied, we got massages together, drove across city lines at midnight together, slept on stranger’s couches together. Just to get by. Just to be alive a little while longer while I built my life again.
By the end of it, your name was fifty-eight. Thousand.
The shame was a spiraling, oozing combination of credit cards, my silvery used car, and a pile of loans.
So my dad called.
And he’d heard we’d been fooling around.
Dad wasn’t happy.
After a long talk, he pulled out his debit card and we made some changes.
And the way that you do, you kept your sliming, disgusting fingers around my neck as you transferred the stress of revolving interest to the depression of cyclical familial wounds. My father loaned me money for the first time in my life, and he swore he never would.
And what did you do?
You convinced me to buy a goddamn plane ticket. And another that I didn’t even end up using. We spun around once more, you and I, and we had our fun. And then, I wept when I revealed to my father that I stupid stupid stupidly maxed out one of the cards he’d just. paid. off.
He was so bitter.
He was so disappointed.
I was so ashamed.
So. Debt. Well, first of all, screw you. You’re a sick, conniving monster and I utterly hate you. So, there’s that.
But we’re not going to get anywhere with that kind of negative thinking so here’s what’s going to happen.
I’m going to cut you off. Every credit card is closed and is never getting reopened. Next month? I’m getting my tax return and that last credit card is going to be paid off forever. I’m going to pay back my boyfriend so you can stop influencing anything about our love.
I’m spending my time now with YNAB. Heard of him? Yeah, he HATES you. And Consulting? She said she has some ideas that will get me far, far away from you.
I have to live with your lurid presence a little while longer. But I hope you feel terribly uncomfortable around me. I hope you feel a horrible anxiety every time you hear my key turning in the lock. I hope you start to pack your bags. I hope you know you’re on a very short leash and that your time is running out.
You are not welcome in my life.
You are not welcome in my heart.
And I will do everything in my power to ensure that your influence on my family lineage stops here.
Thank you for teaching me where I was weak. Because now I know how strong I can be.
We have a brand spankin’ new dear debt letter from Dyana. Here is more about her in her own words:
Like many millennials, I’ve acquired a large amount of debt early on in life from student loans, credit cards, personal loans, and a car payment. I graduated from college in 2015 with roughly $30,000 in debt, and have yet to find a job using my Bachelors of Arts degree. Until that moment comes, I work as a Customer Service Rep to support myself and my four-year-old daughter. I’m the main breadwinner in my home so it gets hard trying to juggle bills and paying off my debt. I’ve recently started a blog at adebtfreejourney.com to document my journey to financial freedom.
This secret relationship that we once had is no more. I’m so tired of the back and forth, and the amount of stress you’ve put on my life is no longer worth the temporary rushes you once gave me. I feel as though I eat, sleep, and breathe you, and quite frankly you’re not worth anymore of my precious time.
What’s the big deal you may ask?
Well, let me tell you what you have done to my and my partner’s happiness…it’s nearly gone. The constant bickering about money and what’s owed has replaced all of the laughing and sweet gestures. You’ve maliciously licked your fingers and gently squeezed the flame from our wick. I’m still not quite sure if it will burn again.
I’ll admit that you are entirely my fault. I became addicted to the instant gratification of running up your balance, and I never once thought of the consequences that would await me once the giddiness fizzled out. I wanted to fit in and show the Joneses that they were not the only ones who could have nice things, and I must say that they handle owing masses of cash to everyone but themselves very well—not me however.
I was convinced that I needed you to get me through school, and I foolishly assumed that once my degree was placed into my hands you would just disappear. You were to scram like roaches when faced with Combat, but it appeared that my degree was not potent enough for you.
There were many times when I felt completely hopeless about you. I barely made enough to cover my living expenses, and when my daughter was born, you began growing out of control. I had no idea how I was going to separate myself from you, my income was minuscule, but her little smiling face kept telling me that something had to be done. It was my duty to prepare her for a successful future, and I couldn’t do that with mounds of debt.
At 25-years-old I’m chopping away at this house of debt we’ve built together. It won’t happen overnight, but I WILL be released from your grip. You will no longer have control of me because I am taking the reins to my life back, so I suggest you go find your next victim.
When it comes to personal finance, it feels like everything is about the numbers. And us personal finance bloggers are obsessed with them. Looking at the dirty details of someone’s budget or net worth is like personal finance porn — we get hot for it. It’s sexy to see how much someone saved, or get a peek at their budget. We congratulate people on paying off debt.
While I love consuming the numbers as much as the next person, I’ve come to realize that all the numbers are a lie.
The numbers are simply one-dimensional representations of what someone has done. These numbers work hard at making us feel either incredibly good about our situation or incredibly bad.
Usually, it’s the latter. Maybe you thought you killed it this month, but then someone made twice as much as you. You thought you put a lot toward debt, then realize someone put your entire salary to debt. In these moments, it’s easy to get sucked into feeling like you’re not good enough.
But here’s the thing: the numbers don’t tell a whole story. There is absolutely no context to compare ourselves to others. After all, personal finance is not apples to apples. Yet we get sucked into these numbers thinking that if they can do it, so should we.
I implore you — look at the bigger picture. There are so many things that affect what you can ultimately do with your money. Things like:
I remember when I was paying off debt, I used to get jealous of what others were putting toward their debt. I’ve had people say the same thing about me. But our situations, inevitably, are always wildly different. I cannot compare myself to someone who is married and lives in a low-cost of living area, as that is not my reality. Someone struggling to find work and take care of a baby should under no circumstances compare themselves to me and what I’ve done.
You see, in personal finance context is everything. The numbers mean absolutely nothing without any context. We all have our privileges and setbacks that are uniquely ours. They can either help or hurt us on our financial journeys. Some we can change, others we cannot.
But it’s important to acknowledge they are there. It’s important to look at the big picture and avoid comparing your financial situation to others at all costs. Doing so will be the fastest route to misery and if I can make a guess, could sabotage your own financial well-being.
In your own quest toward financial freedom, it’s important to find inspiration from others who have gone before you and have done what you want to do. But don’t get paralyzed by empty comparisons — focus on what you can do with your own particular situation.
Hey everyone! Today, we have a dear debt letter by Eric Rosenberg, a full-time freelancer and blogger at Personal Profitability. Eric writes about personal finance and entrepreneurship at InvestmentZen, his own blog, and other sites around the web.
We have had an interesting journey together. I was happy to rid myself of you multiple times in the past, but it looks like we will inevitably be back together sometime soon. I’m not upset about it, but I do need to be careful with you this time around. I’m a dad now, after all, and it isn’t just about me anymore.
We first met when I went to graduate school. I was fortunate to earn a full-ride scholarship for undergrad, but wasn’t so lucky with my $90,000 MBA. I worked full-time while earning my MBA full-time to keep you from taking control of my life, but you were certainly a big cloud hanging over my head.
When I graduated from my MBA program in March, 2010, I had taken on $40,000 in student loans and had a net worth around zero, but I wasn’t going down without a fight. I used a combination of automation and aggressive payments to pay down my debt as quickly as possible.
In fact, I started paying off my student loans before I even finished grad school to keep interest from getting the best of me. I put 100% of my bonus from work and 100% of my tax return into getting rid of you. I split my payment into two, paying every payday instead of monthly, and slowly added more and more to each payment until I was paying around $700 per month, well over twice what was required.
And it worked! Two years and six days after graduation, I was debt free. Well, kind of. While my student loans were paid off and I never had credit card debt, a you reared your head in a new form in my life: as a mortgage.
I bought my first condo less than two months before paying off my student loans, so I was never really free of you completely, you just changed forms. But at the same time, I had a roommate and was paying less every month for my living costs while building equity in a home. Now, rather than simply costing me money every month, you were serving a valuable purpose.
It turns out we can get along well, as long as everything goes according to plan. Thanks to my MBA, which I could not have earned without you, my income doubled at my day job. It even led me to be able to leave my job for self-employment! When I owned my first condo, I needed your help, and it turned out well. I sold the condo and made a bundle. This time, I was able to get rid of you completely. When I sold my condo, moved to Portland and became a renter instead of a homeowner, I lived without you for about a year, but we were destined to meet again.
At the end of 2014, we met again. I was now married, so you were not my burden alone. I bought a home and you appeared again in the form of a mortgage. Because things worked out well the first time, I wasn’t too worried about bringing you back into my life. And again, it turned out okay.
Thanks to the booming real estate market in Portland, we made 20% on that house even though we only lived in it for 14 months. And because we moved for work, that entire 20% is tax free! Thanks debt for helping me earn a profit on real estate yet again!
So now I am living without you again, as I have been since selling the house in April, 2016. And I admit, I don’t miss you. I don’t miss looking at my finances and seeing a six figure debt. I don’t miss monthly debt payments, but they have been replaced by something else: rent.
Moving to Southern California gave me plenty of sticker shock on real estate prices, even moving from a hot market like Portland. But my rent here is $400 per month more than my old mortgage payment! It turns out that getting out of debt cost me more than being in debt! Debt, you are so sly!
So, debt, I want you back. I’m ready to take you on for a fourth time, this time for yet another mortgage. But because we’ve worked together to buy a home a couple of times in the past and it worked out well, I’m not too worried about bringing you back into my life. In fact, buying our next home with a big down payment should save us around $900 per month compared to our rent we are paying today!
As with any relationship, I won’t take any crap from you. No teaser interest rates. No balloon payments. Just a boring old 30 year fixed. If we can get back together on those terms, I’m down to give it another shot.
I saw Francesca wrote a dear debt letter and had to share. Enjoy!
I have been wanting to write a letter to you for quite some time, and now that I am nearing the end of our journey together, I think that this is the right moment.
You have made me feel so low, so incredibly sad and melancholy, and very alone. It’s been a frustrating relationship for me, because I know that I am not bad with money. I am, in fact, very good with saving money and being frugal – squeezing every single penny out and never spending any money on myself has become second nature to me now. But with my daughter at home, I felt that I could not earn any more money than I was earning working from home in the evening – a job I have done since she was 1, and which I still do now. I would have her all day with me, and then as soon as she was asleep, I would then work until 11:30pm, if lucky.
The reason for my relationship with you was due to lack of support, and not earning enough money. That may sound like I am passing the buck, but I know that I would not be in this situation if I’d have had the support that I needed – that most people have. Also, I was stupid then and bought some things for my daughter on my credit card, because I was feeling like a terrible mum in not being able to buy anything for her. When I say I was not able to buy anything for her, that it exactly what I mean. Nothing. It was incredibly hard for me, because she is an amazing girl, with a fierce imagination and a love for new experiences and places. It wasn’t so much the materialistic side that I struggled with (the endless stream of toys), but not being able to take her anywhere, as I did not have a car, or any spare money to pay for entry into somewhere.
Social media played a big part in the money that I put on my card because of a few things I bought for my daughter, because I was so exposed to images of people who decorated their child’s room that made it a magical play area, with toys that were colour coordinated, with these children dressed in the prettiest frilly dresses…and it made me think, why shouldn’t my daughter get that? Although I admit I am incredibly biased, there is no doubt in that she is a beautiful girl, with a huge heart and strong personality. She is everything to me, and I want to give everything to her.
Once I had begun this relationship with you – a short one, by a lot of standards – I felt incredibly trapped. There I was, with a little girl, and a tiny income. How on earth was I going to pay off this debt? I didn’t know what to do, and you had a hold over me. My minimum payments were still more than I wanted to pay; I didn’t want to pay anything!
To be fair to you debt, you made me wrack my brains and come up with some ways that I could earn more money. I had looked into earning more before, but I couldn’t find anything that I could do around my daughter, and that didn’t require any upfront costs. With studying part time at the University too, I was strapped for time, and wanted to spend every waking moment with my daughter – the most amazing little person of all.
Being aware that debt is not a good thing, I had a fire under me and was determined to do the best that I could to get rid of you as fast as I possibly could, without needing to pay for childcare, or tie myself down to something that would eat up all of my time and energy.
The best thing that you made me do, is begin this blog. I honestly don’t think that I would have started this blog if I hadn’t have been in debt. The reason that I say that is because although I had been living on a very small income with a child, it wasn’t until I got into debt that I began to feel true despair in my situation – I felt as though it would be impossible for me to escape.
So I thank you debt, for pushing me into starting this blog, where I have been welcomed with open arms by the personal finance community, and have discovered so many blogs that I may not have found without starting one of my own. The other blogs have provided me with endless support, encouragement and inspiration, which have been a true blessing. So whilst I may make out that our relationship has been wholly bad, I do appreciate the lessons that I have learned from being with you. I am brimming with optimism, it pours out from me and makes me feel a mixture of happy and tearful. I am indescribably excited for what is to come, because I know that it will be the best feeling to finally be free. You only wanted to give me what I thought that I wanted, and you did that so well. However, I was not aware of the effects that this would have, and know now that I need to get out of this unhealthy relationship.
As I have mentioned in my first sentence, we are now coming to the end of our relationship, and I could not be happier. I am obsessed with writing down every single scrap of money that I have, and have figured out when I can become debt free. I can become debt free in March 2017. I feel very nervous writing that down! But I have worked it out based on the extra money that is guaranteed from now until then, which falls under: pay from my new part time job, rent from lodger, earnings from dog boarding that I have booked in, and blog money that is due in. These are all guaranteed amounts of money that I will be getting from now until then (some of which I already have in my account), so I know without a doubt that my debt can be paid off by then.
Unfortunately in my main job, my pay is done per project, which means I have no idea how much I will be paid every month! Over the winter, my work becomes much slower, so I need to put any extra money to the side to cover the bills just in case I am not paid enough for these. I have put some to the side already from things like overtime, dog boarding, matched betting, eBay selling. If I knew how much I would be getting paid, I could put extra money into paying off my debt earlier, but for now I am keeping it to the side in case I need it for my bills.
The thing that I hate the most about you is that you are preventing me from doing the things that I really want to do. If you are wondering what these things are, I can give you some examples! I really want to take my daughter on holiday next year. She is 5 years old now and her absolute favourite place to go is to the beach. She loves the sand, the sea, the ice-cream, the games – all of it. However, as we live in England, the weather is not always desirable for heading down to the beach. We are lucky in that we are about 45 minutes away from a great beach, but I wouldn’t let her swim in the sea (it’s brown!). Taking her abroad to somewhere that is hot, would be high on my goals. I can just see her face now, lit up in happiness and excitement. When I take her to the beach near us, she squeals with joy for the whole day. As a parent, there is nothing more that you could want.
So my first goal after getting rid of you may sound like an easy one – but nevertheless it is one that so far I have not managed to achieve for her. I have many other things that I wish to do such as: buy a different house (love the house, hate the area), start saving, start investing, and become more financially secure. I want to feel more relaxed about my money, because right now, it stresses me out. Now that’s not to say that you haven’t tempted me to climb back into your clutches…I can fully see your charm and appeal. And that’s the beauty of it – I have woken up to the techniques that you use to keep me and win me over, and I see through them. Once I am free from your clutches, I will not ever return. I am so excited to be free, and be the true me. Not the person who is feeling down about being stuck with you, but the person who makes big plans for the future, and will work as hard to achieve them as I have worked to get you out of my life.
When we have broken up once and for all, look out for me – I will be the person with the biggest smile on her face that you’ll ever see.
See you on the other side. – F.
A year ago, after paying off all my debt I was looking for a way to give back. After all, my blog was just the fuel I needed to pay off debt and helped me launch a new career. To say I’m grateful for my readers and this community is an understatement.
So I started donating $50 per month toward my readers to help them pay off debt. Many of my readers email me desperate, scared, and sometimes suicidal. The weight of debt can be so heavy. I knew that small amount wouldn’t pay off all of their debt, but I knew that this small gesture could mean a lot.
Throughout 2016, J and I brainstormed how we could do something even bigger and better. We enjoyed helping someone in need once a month, but we kept thinking about making it more impactful.
Based on many conversations, we decided to launch #DebtDrop and get more people involved. Our goal is to amplify what we’ve already been doing in a more official capacity.
You see, J. recently launched the Rockstar Community Fund, a philanthropic initiative aimed at helping others directly with financial contributions.
#DebtDrop is one of its signature projects that I am leading. Our goal is to help people pay off debt and feel less alone. To gather the strength of the community to make real financial change in people’s lives.
To me, the whole goal of the Rockstar Community Fund is to show that a small financial contribution can have a big impact. Through the community fund and #DebtDrop, we can help others directly.
There are many ways to get involved in the Rockstar Community Fund. I love the #GivingCards project and think the Just-In-Time giving initiative is SO needed in the community. For #DebtDrop, we’re looking to harness the power of community and pay off some debt!
Being in debt can take a major toll on your life and we want to help people who may be on their last thread of hope.
If you want to get involved, you can:
Match $50. You can give directly to the Rockstar Community Fund and ask to earmark your gift for #DebtDrop. If you’re a blogger, you can also give directly to one of your readers – it doesn’t have to go through the RCF. But please let us know about your contribution so we can keep track. We’d love to share your story and know how this is making an impact.
Nominate someone who needs us. If you know someone who could use a little help, specifically to pay off debt, let us know. You can email me and we will take it into consideration. (Bloggers – keep an eye out on the comments/emails you get from readers. You may have someone who reads your blog who could benefit from this!)
Once a month, we will be helping someone pay off debt — and hope to do it bigger and better than before. The best part is that the recipients aren’t expecting help at all. They don’t ask for it. We surprise them and many of them are shocked, moved and inspired to keep going. The feedback I’ve gotten in the past year has inspired me so much to give back. You really never know how a small amount of money can help someone who feels hopeless about their debt. I know that we can make a difference.
There are other ways to get involved with the Rockstar Community Fund as a whole, too.
Share the project and spread the love! 🙂
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.
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,
One year later.
365 days since I made my last payment on my student loans.
Two degrees. $81,000 in student loans. Nine years of repayment. Nine years of having my money pay for my past, rather than my future.
I paid the minimum on my debt for the first five years, but after graduating from NYU and taking on a lot more debt, I knew I had to get serious. I ended up paying off $68,000 in 4.5 years.
My journey into debt was easy. Getting out of debt? It was the hardest thing I’ve done (aside from building a business).
There were moments when I felt so overwhelmed by my debt. When I realized I had taken on so much debt, but no full-time job was in sight. I felt consumed by debt and felt that every choice I made was predetermined by what I owed.
The lack of choice felt so limiting, so constricting. Finding myself on food stamps shortly after moving to Portland was a personal low. The master’s degree from a fancy private school — which I thought would be the key to career success — suddenly seemed meaningless.
I couldn’t help but think that everything I had done up to that point was a mistake. I was stupid for quitting my job and going to New York. I was an idiot for getting a performing arts degree from a private school and taking on more debt than I ever made in any previous annual salaries.
I carried the shame, guilt, depression and anxiety with me. The burden was heavy and the financial cost, very real. At my highest, I paid over $300 a month in interest.
When I found myself feeling hopeless and alone — after trying therapy and dealing with daily bouts of tears and anxiety fits — I turned to writing. I started this blog on January 3, 2013.
In many ways, this blog saved my life. I don’t say that lightly or with a hint of a hyperbole. It helped me climb out of the deep, dark place I found myself in.
It helped me acknowledge the feelings I had and made me realize I was not alone. I found cheerleaders, a community, and a creative outlet.
Through this blog, I created a new career as a freelance writer and event planner. How everything changed.
Making that last payment a year ago was such a surreal experience. I was in debt my entire adult life and for the first time, I was free.
Once I saw my balance at zero, I started to hyperventilate. It was not the reaction I was expecting.
But it felt like the last straw, the final “goodbye” in a love affair that was both exhilarating and tumultuous. Though I started a blog about breaking up with debt, actually breaking up with debt turned out to be far more emotional than I thought.
Who was I without debt? What would life be like without monthly payments? The fear of the unknown scared me. After about ten minutes of freaking out, I started to move toward excitement. I screamed and jumped up and down like a child on Christmas day. In twenty minutes, I went through all the emotions. Then, a breakthrough.
A feeling of lightness. A burden lifted. A breath of fresh air. I will never forget that feeling.
Over the past year, I have been able to keep that lightness and actually live the life I dreamed of. No longer was debt my master. I was in control of my choices.
This year, I finally got to act on what I wanted — I moved back to Los Angeles to be near family and be in a big city again. I celebrated and finally got to take my mom abroad to Italy. I traveled more than I ever have, both for business and pleasure. It was everything I wanted and everything I dreamed of. The guilt of spending money on things I wanted or needed was magically gone. I could use money for things I wanted. I started investing and saving for my future. My money belonged to me.
Though all my debt-free dreams did come true, it has still been a tough year in many ways. I had to start a new relationship with money. I had to figure out who I was without debt.
I increased my income even more and hadn’t realized I went into another tax bracket. After dealing with the expenses of moving and going to Italy, I then found out I owed the tax man everything I saved up. My savings went back to zero and I had to start over. It felt like a financial setback, though I was grateful to at least have the money in my account and not go back into debt.
I also found myself as the sole income earner. We knew moving to LA was a risk, but it was worth it. Luckily, I have a job I can do from anywhere, but my partner has struggled to find consistent work. Things are starting to change, but as you can imagine this affected my finances.
On top of the financial stress of taxes and making sure bills are paid, I experienced so many business growing pains this year. The more successful I got, the harder things got. I’ve dealt with some setbacks that have made me rethink everything. Some things that have deeply affected me. All of this affected my mental and physical health, too. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sick in my whole life as I was this year.
I am starting to make changes so that I can stay well and continue to thrive in my career and continue to be debt-free. There’s no doubt, though, that my first year being debt-free had the highest highs but also the lowest lows.
In the end, it was all worth it. To be here. With this blog, this book, this community that changed my life.
For everyone still fighting the good fight out of debt, I want you to know that it is possible. Life is much sweeter after debt and choices open up for you. Getting out of debt is so hard, but once you do, your whole life is waiting for you.
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.