I will say I didn’t have the best of home training. My mother’s first piece of financial advice to me was that if you wanted to buy something, instead of paying cash, make a credit card payment so you made your payment on time and then charge the item. I don’t think I have ever heard Suze Orman give that particular tip.
Not that I am making excuses, but I can honestly say I have spent close to 90% of my adult life living beyond my means. I remember going to buy a car one time and warning the credit manager I had a lot of debt. He took one look at my credit report and said, “My, you live well don’t you?”
Yes, I did. Problem was, being a Serial Spender never had too many consequences and I am a firm believer that you never learn hard lessons without consequences.
In my early 20s, after some bad choices with credit cards, I let a couple go to collections. It came back to bite me when I went to buy my first home, but at that time, you wrote a letter detailing what had happened. In most cases, they still gave you a loan, so other than spending a day coming up with something that was really rather creative, I wasn’t put out much.
“Well, obviously you have changed,” I remember the loan officer saying. “You managed to save up for the down payment.”
Yeah. Well, about that down payment. I had never had a savings account in my entire life with more than a three digit figure. My grandfather had left me some money and for once in my life, I didn’t blow it on clothes, shoes, concerts and nights out. I did the right thing and invested in something that had value.
Owning your own home is wonderful. But the downside, is it becomes one more thing to spend money on.
Every time things got a little backed up, I got bailed out by something. A loan from family, a refinance on my house, an income tax return. There were no interventions and I danced on the edge so many times, it became a way of life.
So in 2004, with ample credit, a job at a financial institution and having come off one of the most difficult years of my life, Livin La Vida Loca kicked in
I would share details of how the train got away from me, but to be honest, I don’t really remember. There were vacations, furniture and clothes. Santa would have fainted if he saw my Christmas bills. Other people bought t-shirts when they went on a trip to another town. I bought two investment properties.
Yet, I was making the minimum payments, so it was cool right?
What I failed to notice, was how much the minimum payments were increasing. I remember lying in bed one night, after ordering an expensive television for my mother, having just maxed out one more credit card. And feeling a sick feeling in my stomach, realizing I wasn’t going to be able to make the minimum payments.
When I finally managed to add up everything I owed in credit card debt, I was in shock. It was $80,000. More than I owed on one of my houses.
For most people that would have been an epiphany. Not a Serial Spender, who also happens to be a stubborn Capricorn. It became a challenge.
I would figure out a way to pay it off!
Next up, the denial and insanity of my pre-bankruptcy life.