Credit cards, Loans

Most of it was little things

…and simply not saving for a tough time. I’ve known since I was in junior high that the ideal is to have 3 months of expenses saved up so that if you get laid off, or injured, you will be fine. My parents have more than that saved. They have never had more than one credit card. And only in the last couple years for online purchases or travel. And yet they managed to make it just fine with a single income and 3 kids. We also had one of my grandmothers live with us for 11 years. And during that same time, my other grandmother lived with us for a year. She chose to go into a nursing home back in her home town, and later her money ran out, so my dad had to pay that too.

Yet, they have never had bad credit.

And then there is me. I got my first credit cards in college, and I used them to buy text books, books for fun, little stuff that I thought I needed. My first computer.

When I realized it was too much, I started paying higher than the minimum to get rid of it. During the summer, I was paying $200 a week to get rid of them, which was pretty good consider my paycheck. It took me about a year, but i got rid of every one of them and I was thrilled.

I went debt free about 2 years. Then I started up my own small business. I couldn’t get a loan, so I got a couple smaller credit cards. I bought some equipment and supplies. A new computer.

Basically, I was over-confident. I was sure that I was going to do well and be able to pay it off fairly quickly. But while I got lots of compliments on my work, people weren’t buying much. Then I heard about a show in Reno. I do horse photography, and this show was the biggest in the country, and featuring the breed that I specialize in. They were saying 15,000 people would be there.

So, I decided to go. I stocked up on supplies for products and worked really hard. Two months before the show, I received an offer for a $3,000 loan. I knew the interest rate was too high, but I was sure I would make at least $7,000 at the show (plenty to pay that back and ALL of my other debts). And I had enough product to sell over $15,000 if it went well. I was really excited, I expected to be debt free after the show. Sales were $800. That was it. That barely covered the cost of my being there – vendor fee, insurance, hotel, gas, food, etc.

I managed to get almost instant financial help from (I recommend this website) to keep paying the minimums until 2 years ago, when I had two expensive vet bills overlap each other. The first was doable. My dog had mange, and she required special medical baths every two weeks for 3 months. Overall, it cost me about $550, but it was spread out. The topper was the cat. He got a bad abcess, and age 16, they wanted to do bloodwork too. So, I had to pay $243 that day, to get him treated and pick him up. My paycheck was only $250. Bills that needed to be paid didn’t get paid on time, and since the cards were already maxed, I had a late fee + overdraft fee. And then of course, the next month, they want the regular amount + anything over the limit + any extra fees. So, a bill that was only $60 is now suddenly $180 and that is impossible to pay. Even if I pay part, some of it is still late, and the fees start over again.

And that is how I came to be where I am. I am not a victim of bad circumstances. I was young and dumb, and I have only myself to blame for this mess. And I know how easily I would do it again. So, I have to change my lifestyle and my *attitude* toward spending and saving. I need to dig myself out of this mess, but also make sure I don’t let it happen again. I already gave up drinking pop (thankfully, I don’t drink coffee or smoke). And I take lunch to work now, which is saving me a ton of money. I can’t believe I wasted so much money before.

And now it kills me to watch my sister keep going down the same path. She is older than me, in far more debt, yet she continues to buy expresso each day. She eats at fast food restaurants each day. She’s been paying for a health club membership for 15 years, yet she doesn’t go. And she won’t cancel it. She has paid over $3,000 into Trendwest and won’t sell it off even though she can’t afford it. She has creditors calling, and certified letters from the IRS for over a year. She had my parents co-sign a debt consolidation loan and has commented she would like to do it again. She gave up her good job to work a more fun job, which paid $4 less per hour and has no benefits.

A year later, she quit that job and was unemployed for awhile. She is now currently working as a nanny/errand person, working 50 hours per week, and only earning $275 a week. So, she works harder than me, earns less, and owes more.

So, my parents have paid $1000 to fix her car, let her live in the rental house for free (she’s supposed to be paying $350 rent + utilities, but she hasn’t paid anything in over 3 months), and they still help with her bills.

And you know what, she hasn’t learned a damned thing. She hasn’t changed her spending in the slightest, and her debt isn’t getting any smaller.

She won’t even use a check register to keep track of her finances. She just calls the banks and assumes that every balance is current, and forgets what automatic payments are yet to come out.

I can’t even go anywhere with her now, because it would mean more shopping for her, and dinner out at a restaurant. I also have to be careful what I cook at home and when. Because she comes to our house to eat. Yes, I live with my parents. I can’t afford my own place, so I rent part of the basement, and I help support my nephew who lives with us. That doesn’t help me pay off my bills any faster, but with all the crap my sister is doing, I have to help somehow.

I really do believe that getting out of debt is financial fitness, just like health fitness. We have to change our lifestyle, our attitude. We can’t just go on a quick fix, get it cleared, and then everything is good again. we have to really change, and keep those changes even after things look good. Or we are doomed to fail again.