The Disappointment of Debt

In my December Progress Post I mentioned I was disappointed that between new purchases and payments on our credit cards, we’d only managed to pay off a positive amount of $600, especially because that’s basically the minimum payments on our four credit cards. Several of you commented to me that I shouldn’t be disappointed, because $600 is a lot. One person even took the time to calculate that at $600 a month, we’d be debt free in three years!

I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Really, I’d just love to see this debt disappear. To suddenly win the lottery or some other lump sum of money – to pay it all off and raise my net worth from a dismal double negative number to something that at least doesn’t appear in red! (The sale of our previous home will help that, too, of course!)

But would that change the way I interact with money? Probably not. In fact, coming into enough money to pay off our debts may be the worst thing I could have happen to me.

Paying off this debt is a learning process – not a punishment. And the time it takes to pay off this debt may very well be proportionate to the amount of time it takes for me to realize that having the debt paid off is not what will make me content with life.

So part of me is still very disappointed that it will take up to three years to get out from under our credit card debt. To be honest, that part of me was shocked that this couldn’t get done in a year, although it is a rather unrealistic part of me. It’s even harder to think about the fact that my student loans are the same amount as the credit card debt, and our mortgage is 4 times that size! (Can you tell I’ve become accustomed to immediate gratification by the fact I want it done now?)

My practical side is starting to see that this is a great opportunity to be forced into doing something good for me – something I want to do, but would never accomplish on my own without some kind of coercion. Each step we take is one more step along the right path – a path toward financial and material freedom.

Talk about baby steps! Sometimes the fact that I am waiting until I go out to run my weekly errands to get an item I want instead of going out just for that item is an accomplishment (there’s that immediate gratification being nipped in the bud.) Other days it feels great to find a new way to repurpose an item to fill a need, or to know the value of hard work.  Other days, it’s a struggle for me to not be depressed at the hole we’ve dug ourselves.

So I’ll keep on going, because this path is a long one. Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me and reminded me that I am accomplishing quite a bit!

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5 Responses

  1. It’s great to win a lottery or something. But that is wishful thinking. Even if you did win, unless you change your habits you’ll be right back in the boat treading water again within a short while.
    It is a long road to getting out of debt. I’ve been there. For many, many years. I am now debt free except for my home and I LOVE IT.

    I found Dave Ramsey at http://www.daveramsey.com I know, I know I sound like I’m selling something but I’m not. It’s free for the most part unless you wish to attend his classes. He has a show on the Fox Business Channel, a podcast, and he broadcasts on the radio in most major markets as well as Extreme and Sirius.

    Take a listen to the people who call in to the show. You’ll learn alot just from listening.
    Good Luck. Keep to it.
    J

  2. It’s definitely wishful thinking! Like I mentioned, I know it wouldn’t teach me what I need to know in order to get out of debt and stay there, so it’s better I don’t have a windfall.

    (Un?)fortunately, we have nothing but basic cable (because we live so rurally we can’t get a single channel) but I may be able to find Dave Ramsey’s show on the radio out of Cleveland. I’ve got some of his books on my wishlist at paperbackswap.com and I’ve been watching for them at the library (apparently everyone wants to read his books,) so hopefully I’ll be able to see soon what Ramsey is all about! I’ve heard a lot of great stuff about him.

    And thank you for your well wishing!

  3. He is FANTASTIC. Again, I wish you the best of luck. It’s not easy but it is well worth it.
    If you have any questions, or need help feel free to write.
    Godspeed

    J

  4. Thanks for stopping by Frugal Dad. I know exactly how you feel with many months (even years) worth of debt to payoff. My feelings shift between wishing I could rid myself of it instantly, to wishing I could go back in time and not do the things I did to get myself in such a hole. The reality is that neither of these are going to happen, so I must learn to live with the debt and continue to work towards paying it off.

    I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, “The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” Full steam ahead!

  5. @Frugal – I love the quote. It’s a good reminder that we can only change our futures, working in the present, and not forgetting the mistakes we’ve made in the past.

    It’s always nice to visit other blogs and realize that we are part of a group of people working toward the same goals – there’s a strength there. 🙂

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