I was talking with a friend recently about being massively in debt. We are both in debt to the tune of $100k plus, which is a mind-boggling and super intimidating number.
My friend was feeling frustrated because she has been trying to chip away at her debt for a while and just doesn't feel like she is making progress. The truth is, just making the minimum payments - or even a little extra - on your credit cards is not going to get you anywhere. It's just not.
Of course, that's not the kind of thing you want to hear, right? I know, that wasn't what I wanted to hear when I started on my journey to debt freedom and that's not what my friend wanted to hear either.
Let's be honest: drastic times call for drastic measures.
If you want to get out of debt, you need to start making real changes. Now.
1) Cut them up
You must stop using your credit cards, I know it's hard - and scary - but you're never going to get out of debt unless you stop accumulating debt.
The best way to do this? Cut them up. All of them. If that makes you begin to hyperventilate, break out in hives and reach for the vodka, then put one on ice. No, not a cocktail, a card. Take the one with the lowest APR (Annual Percentage Rate) and put it in a ziplock. Fill the ziplock with water and stick it in the freezer. That way you have it, but can't access it that easily. (If your doubtful, think about how hard it is to get up from the couch to get your card when you are shopping online!)
2) Cut it out
Awesome, you've cut up the cards so you can't use them anymore. But there's more...you have to eliminate the credit card option everywhere. Look, I know the tricks. I know I can cut up my Target card, but if I shop online it pre-fills my card info in my shopping cart. If I go to Macy's all I need is my ID and social security number and I can "charge it!" Same thing with other online retailers...if I've used a card, mostly likely it's saved. SO yeah, sorry, I know the tricks and you've got to cut it out.
It's easy to Google the steps you need to remove your credit card information from your browser. For example, to remove mine from Safari I go to Safari > Preferences > Autofill and from there I can remove any stored credit card information. You will also need to check with each online store you use and remove your credit card info.
If you still plan to shop online (within the budget you will be setting in a future step) then leave your debit card info there or use PayPal or Venmo. But no credit cards, you must break the infinite loop!
3) Make a list...of every debt
The next step is to create a list of all your debt: credit cards; student loans; car loans; private loans; mortgage, etc. All of it. I know it may not be pretty, and you may feel worse for the wear after listing it all, but it is necessary to face the beast fully, so you know what you are dealing with.
I use an excel spreadsheet or you can search for a debt spreadsheet online. Shoot, if this is the sticking point for you we can create one in real time in Google Sheets! (just send me an email and we can set up a time to do it!)
It doesn't have to be complicated - start with a list of your debts, your current balance, the interest rate for each one, minimum payments, payment dates, etc. It's important to include everything. I found that I made the list and then, for a day or so after, I kept thinking of other debts to add to it. It wore me out and, I'll be honest, depressed me for a while. But now I am about 4 months into the process and it feels really good to have a solid understanding of my situation and a plan to get out from under the weight of all this debt.
There's more to the process, to be sure, but this is a good starting place - for me, for you, and for my friend who just doesn't know where to begin.
Start here, with these 3 steps. Then take a deep breath and get some fresh air...I'll be back next week with what's next!
You got this!
The poet Mary Oliver passed died yesterday.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if Mary Oliver’s passing yesterday and the renewed interest in her life-saving poetry inspired more people to change their lives? To stop confusing excess with success? To let go of accumulating things in an effort to feel secure and valued and important? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this simple question gave you the courage to change your course and head toward peace and simplicity ? Toward love and true connection as the trappings of a life well lived rather than more and bigger houses, jobs, bank accounts, schedules? It could happen. It may happen.
these are my sweet, little, simple victories from the week:
- spent $118 at Grocery Outlet which included 5 bottles of their already inexpensive wine at 20% off. I am set for the rest of the year! Also bought a 13# turkey for $2 after using a coupon. We aren’t cooking one at Thanksgiving this year, but we have it in the freezer and I can get about 4 meals and broth out of it! Also bought beans and lentils for slow cooker meals...we can shop the pantry for the next 4-6 weeks at least!
- didn’t buy any coffee out or junk food - brought fruit and nuts in the car. I did buy ONE snack item today - a bag of chips at the Dollar Tree. #foradollar #noduh
- did go out to breakfast with friends, but only ate half the meal and had the rest the next morning. Only had black coffee and water - no $8 mimosa or $6 latte. #didntmissit
- took a box of clothes to the consignment shop and took the cash instead of the credit. They didn’t take much, but it covered my trip to the Dollar Tree for garbage bags, and freezer bags for the meal prep I’m planning (and the chips) :)
- the rest went into the change jar.
- walked through Goodwill and even though I held on to a few things I put them all back and walked out without spending a dime!
- bought some pants for my daughter but we went with the less expensive ones. I bought them through eBates and they were also on sale. #bonus
- I got an unexpected check for $150 in the mail which offset the unexpected tax bill I also received, but I didn't have to dip into the "emergency" fund to pay it, so it's a small victory that I will gladly take.
Right now I am baking some banana bread to share with my dad and auntie who I am having breakfast with in the morning - something sweet (literally and figuratively) to give them made on a whim with ingredients I have on hand. #lovethis
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May your weekend be filled with simple pleasures...
As I write this I am $135,000 in debt.
I am 50 years old. Divorced twice. Two kids.
College is just around the corner, times 2, minus child support for one.
Like many rebellions this one is both personal and born of desperation.
On Monday I was on a national television show talking about my massive debt. It should go without saying that I am trying to figure out a way out of it - I mean look at that number!
A definition of success that requires the accumulation of material goods.
Can I scratch my travel bug by taking a few long weekend trips? Can I house swap with friends who live elsewhere but want to visit here? I do live in an amazing spot, just a few minutes' walk to the beach and less than 2 hours from San Francisco, Oakland and Monterey/Carmel.
What are the times I feel most happy and what’s going on then?
Sure enjoy shopping. I enjoy the dopamine hit when I get something new and shiny and fancy and fashionable, but that wears off like over time. Like any other addiction the addiction to stuff requires constant feeding.
I’m addicted to reading. I buy books.
I am addicted to learning. I take classes. I sign up for courses. I sign up for workshops. I sign up for seminars. For coaching.
The truth is this: My addictions have gotten me into profound debt.
Today is the day I begin to tackle this $135,000.00 of debt I am in by taking these 3 steps first:
1) Creating an accurate accounting of where my money goes.
2) Creating a budget (with the help of Dr. Lynn Richardson).
3) Define what is truly "enough" for me.
Care to join me? The rebellion is free!
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a s i m p l e r e b e l
When I was younger I would go to my friends' houses and be amazed by their walk-in pantries.
I guess you would say I was "poor" as a child - my mom was a teenager when I was born and I remember her paying for groceries with food stamps pulled out of little booklets - no debit card in those days, you had to pull that booklet out in front of everyone and select the correct page to tear out while everyone waited.
My mom made yogurt and bread at home.
My step-dad saved our glass and cans and took them to the recycling center each month for cash.
Growing up, I assumed they did those things because they were "hippies". We had a VW van and each summer we camped - instead of going to hotels, like my friends did on their vacations.
Looking back now, as an adult, I realize their choices had a lot to do with us being cash poor.
By the time my junior high and high school friends were coming back from winter break tanned from their trips to Hawaii (to homes their parents owned, not rented) and their first cars arrived on their 16th birthdays, I had a deep understanding of how different our economic stations in life were.
One of the things that I always equated with wealth (or what I perceived as "wealth") was a full pantry. If you had a walk-in pantry and an extra freezer, well, you were one of the 1% for sure!
Since then I’ve always equated a full pantry with the kind wealth and security that I didn’t experience as a child. But the truth of the matter is the more food I have squirreled away and stored, the more I end up throwing away.
You may know how it goes (especially if you are a parent) - the bananas I bought on Wednesday that everyone ate in one day are replenished only to languish until they are brown.
The bagels I was asked to buy turn rock hard or grow green patches of mold.
The creamer I bring home isn't the "right" one and sits on the shelf until months past it's "best buy" date.
I hate food waste, but it seems unavoidable much of the time.
Last night, when I was tired from the week and planning dinner, I had every intention of going to the store to get a couple of nice pieces of salmon. And then I thought - "Wait, I bet there's something in the freezer I can cook instead."
Are you like me? Do you have a freezer full of half-full boxes and open bags of freezer-burned green beans?
Sure enough, there was a bag of tilapia filets in there, under the naan and mochi.
I broiled those up and sautéed some zucchini ribbons I had in the fridge that were a day past their "use by" date and dinner was served - without a trip to the grocery store to buy expensive salmon!
Plus, I got to use something out of the freezer and saved something from the garbage.
By the way, I found at least two more meals as I dug through the freezer, so don't be surprised to find chicken thighs on the menu soon!
Last night, after I made my super simple and yummy frittata with squash I grew in my garden, I was putting away the leftovers and encountered this drawer - not too shabby and not too bad for a food storage drawer (I have been merciless about cleaning stuff out...) but it still needed help.
The bin on the right had twice as many lids as there are containers and those 3 tall jars in the back? I also have 3 empty ones in a cabinet.
So I decided to strike while the iron is hot .
When I come across something like this - a drawer that won't close because it's full of crap, or I pull a pen out of the "junk drawer" and it's dry, or a pencil with broken lead, or an eraser that is so old it's hard and just smears the paper...I take advantage of my frustration and clean it out.
In this case, I took out all the lids and matched them to what was in the drawer and tossed what didn't have a mate. I also recycled the glass jars (after confirming I had the 3 in the cabinet...I'll get to that mess soon enough!)
This is what I was left with:
A little bit better, and it only took a couple of minutes!
Next time you open a cabinet or drawer and think to yourself, "What is all this crap? I gotta go through this one day!" Take a minute or two and jettison what you can! Go for the low-hanging fruit!
Small steps, Sister Rebel, small steps!
These are some of the things I have too many of (in no particular order):
....and lists, lots and lots of lists, not unlike this one.
There is just too. much. stuff. in my life.
It feels mildly overwhelming almost every day and some days it sends me into a panic attack.
My pulse quickens, I get short-tempered, and begin to rant about all the piles and stacks of shit I have. On a "good day" the neighbors with good hearing are my only audience, but more often than I like to admit, my family gets to listen to my raving tirade.
It's not a good look.
Neither are the bills I have to pay - the ones that, frankly, have provided this over abundance of material goods I find myself with.
This must stop.
There is SO MUCH STUFF in the world. So many opinions. So many news outlets and entertainment options, and must read books and real news stories and trends to follow and foods to try diets to be on and places to be and things to do and boxes to check and bucket list items to discover, write down, do, document, share....
It's too much and I'm not going to do it anymore.
I know it's not going to happen overnight and I know it will be tough, because I love much of my stuff and I have some good ideas and I like to be distracted and imagine I can have it all. But I am going to try to break away from the materialistic masses (where I am pretty entrenched) and stop the madness.
Care to join me?