Though I’ve mentioned them in several other places already, I’d like to mention a couple of things once again.

This past week I did two things: I finished my last library school class and I finished paying off the last of my credit card debt. I am actually much, much prouder of the latter. When your parents have three doctorates (two Phs and an M) between them, it’s a little hard to get excited about a master’s degree, even if it’s a second master’s degree. School has always been easy for me, but money never has been.

I tend to tell people that my credit card debt was the result of unemployment and moving expenses, and while these things are partly to blame, the average $3000-$5000 I’ve carried since I graduated from college was really the result of plain old stupidity. Since a lot of people have problems with debt — some smaller than mine, some greater (and it’s worth knowing that I still have another year of car payments and many more years of student loan payments) — I thought I’d write a little about how I finally got mine paid off.

I will note at the start that it is much, much easier to pay off debts when you have an actual job. The job that I have now is the first full-time job I’ve ever held — I got through my twenties on temp jobs and tutoring and graduate employee stipends and dog-walking. It is also a lot easier to pay off debt if you are a single person with no dependents and live in a place where the rent is cheap.

I was never given much of a financial education. I was told, of course, that I ought to pay off credit card debt in full every month, but I was also lead to believe that actually doing so was optional. I never learned to make a budget, and though I was frugal in many ways, I also had expensive tastes, most notably for travel and food. But the lack of a budget and a plan meant that every time I got the debt paid off, it soon rose again, because something came up — my car broke down, or my cat got sick — and I didn’t have the money budgeted to pay for it.

This year, thanks to the advice of Jessamyn, I started using Pear Budget to track expenses and to make sure that I was putting aside money each month for car repairs and school tuition and visits to the vet and various other exigencies. I used the calculators at to help figure out how much I needed to pay on various debts each month, and I took a lot of the various advice they offer on that site. I also realized that it wasn’t a good idea to deprive myself totally, and so I thought about what kinds of things most improved the quality of my day, and which of those could be substituted or given up. For me, that meant that I stopped buying books and CDs but still got to have goat cheese and good coffee.

In writing about this, I feel like maybe I’m making it sound easy, which it wasn’t — but it also wasn’t as impossible as I once feared. Now I have no credit card debt and I have money in the bank to cover most minor disasters. In a few more months, I should be able to cover at least one major one. In two weeks, I go on vacation with a plane ticket I’ve already paid for. I am, yes, feeling a wee bit chuffed pretty damn proud of myself.

15 thoughts on “accomplishments”

  1. This is my goal, now that I’m settling into the new job. The big push is going to be paying off credit card debt, followed by the car loan. And saving at the same time of course. This should all be somewhat easier now that I have a job that takes me beyond a subsistence level of pay. 🙂

    Congrats on both your accomplishments of the week!

  2. Congrats!

    I sure wish I could pay mine off. Of course, if the young man who I bailed out would pay me back it’d be a lot easier.

  3. Congratulations! That is something to be quite proud of and it will make your life so much easier in the long run.

    I’m glad though that you realize the necessity of still enjoying the things that are really important to you. Just like a diet, it will never last if you totally deny yourself everything you enjoy.

    I’ve always been a really frugal person, and I feel lucky to have also married a frugal person. A friend of mine was very careful with money and married a man who was quite the opposite (and didn’t have a steady job). She spent years paying off the debt he accumulated during their marriage, which only lasted a few years. I think being partnered with someone who has similar ideas about money saves people a lot of arguments in the long run. Money is not something Adam and I fight about and for that, I’m grateful. I wish for you the same.

    Congratulations again! And congrats on finishing your classes. You’re on a roll!

  4. Congratulations here as well. I think my situation is a little like Meredith’s, and I can tell you that in the long run a combination of frugality and occasional splurges really does pay off. Along with, once you’re out of debt, always making sure that when you DO buy something you pay enough once so you don’t have to buy it three times…

  5. Way to go! I’m in my own war on debt and it is always an encouragement to hear about a battle won. Listening to Dave Ramsey has been a great encourager the past several months. Fridays are especially fun because people that have recently gone debt free (excepting the house or including the house) can call up, tell their story, and scream


    I hope to do that before I’m 30.

  6. I have largely frugal habits but, until recently, very poor planning skills. It’s all very well to save money by taking the Greyhound when you travel and making most of your own food (and shopping around for bargains on ingredients), but if you haven’t also saved money to pay for fixing your car, it’s not terribly helpful. That’s the part I’ve tried very hard to remedy.

    Thanks again to all.

  7. Wow! chanced upon the link to your post on the PearBudget blog and I think that Congratulations is in order! 🙂 Keep it up!

  8. Very belated congratulations. I’ve just read your last four months of posting. I have to get caught up.

    My daughter is now at the University of Iowa. We are going for a visit this week. I wish there was a Writer’s Workshop museum. We are going to two music school concerts.

    Continue with your interesting reports. I enjoy reading them and get interesting ideas.

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