Circled and etched in my mind for the past four years has been the 17th of each month. I have it circled on my calendar, I get an email reminder that the date is approaching, and the number to make my payment is programmed on my telephone. Yes, American Express and I have had a long relationship together… a relationship that has went on for far longer than I had ever dreamed.
Sometimes when people talk about their debt, they have a period of “fun spending” where they bought great items for themselves and their homes. They reference their shoe collection or expensive furniture that they just had to have and ended up charging them to a card. My debt had no element of fun in it. There was no rush of fun spending and then a feeling of doom and gloom afterwards- it has been doom and gloom all of the way.
The sad thing was that we were doing everything right. We were excellent at saving our money and had socked away well over the recommended amount needed to fund our emergency account. We both worked hard at our jobs and we lived well, but modestly within our means.
The loss of a job, we figured would be an annoying setback, but nothing more than that. The setback went on for almost a year though and sent our world into a tailspin. The only job that replied during my husband’s search was in the Midwest and they could offer him less than half what he was making at his current job.
I remember sitting on a moving box and crying, as my son crawled at my feet. I remember the feeling of hopelessness and despair. As we packed, my husband suggested giving away stuff or getting rid of our things so it would be easier for us in the move and I remember telling him that we EARNED our items and that we DESERVED to keep what we had. Yes, everything felt like it had been taken away and I was keeping everything that I owned and no one was going to stop me from that. You could take my husband’s job, you could take my car, you could take my house, you could take away my church and my friends- but I was taking EVERYTHING out of that house with me.
As we journeyed to our new home, I peeked at Ethan behind us and looked at my husband’s sad face. I was so angry at God and angry at the world for what was happening to us. We had done everything right and here we were…with everything so wrong. I wish, at the time, that I realized that I had everything I needed sitting in that car with me that day. I didn’t need that moving van of stuff that represented what I was. These two people who rode in the car with me were everything that I could ever want.
As we settled into our new home, we started our life behind on all of our bills and with over $13K of debt. The kicker was that almost $8K of it was the cost to move all of our belongings cross-country. The rest was my husband’s student loans that we had gotten behind on and then the occasional, “Oops, we are overdrawn again” and a frantic writing of checks to ourselves from those convenient checks that they kept sending me.
Finally, one day I decided to not be a victim anymore and decided that I was going to be proactive about tackling our debt. I made a plan for how we would pay everything back and make our financial lives right again. It was a simple technique of snowballing our debts, but just to have a plan made me feel far more liberated and in control then I had felt in years.
We have been working on our financial goals since then, sticking to our plans and meticulously documenting the progress that we have made towards our goals. I am so happy to say that April 17th will be the last date that I have with American Express and I am ending our relationship for good. Our time together was never fun, we never had that great of a relationship- they just always seemed to be at an advantage. Frankly, I am tired of paying for our dates and I am moving on.
In honor of our final payment to the company, I am going to have a wild and crazy party (within our means, of course). I was wondering if anyone had any fun ways to celebrate ridding yourself of credit card debt? I am looking for fun party ideas- cheesy ideas, wild ideas, symbolic ideas for celebrating.
Remember, this is a party that has been four years in the making! I am ready to party like it’s 1999…or um, something like that but a little bit hipper.
I can’t wait to get your feedback and ideas!