To say that I’m excited to write this post is a gross understatement. Its subject matter is deeply personal and something I’ve shared with only a very select few family members and friends, but with the journey now behind me I felt it was too powerful and inspiring not to share. Here’s what the hoopla’s about: I paid off my credit card debt this morning. From start to finish, it’s a battle I’ve waged against myself for the last 15 years, and today I finally won. Below is an email I sent to my family this morning, a lighthearted way to share the good news they’d been anticipating right alongside me. I intended for it to be silly, but while writing it I realized how appropriate it felt. The debt that dogged me for so many years had taken on the form of a dependent who needed my constant attention and who factored into so many facets of my life. That final payment felt like a sort of death. And with it, I am reborn. I am, finally, free.
Credit Card Debt (1999-2014). Credit Card Debt departed my life this morning after sustaining prolonged and substantial payments, which had intensified over the past 18 months. Credit Card Debt was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1999. It entered the world as an HSBC Overdraft Protection account with a credit limit of $500. Born to a naive, single mother (me), Credit Card Debt developed and thrived in its university environment. In 2003, Credit Card Debt moved to Boynton Beach, Florida, where it grew from a spritely $500 to a robust four-digit figure as it supported a mother who worked in the country’s wealthiest ZIP code while earning a net annual income of $19,000. Credit Card Debt blossomed into a strapping five digits over the course of the next four years, gaining in size (and interest) as it tried to support a high-gloss, low-pay lifestyle in New York City. In 2008, Credit Card Debt’s health began to show signs of instability when it made yet another relocation, this time to Boston. Its weight fluctuated briefly, but its full health was restored in 2009 and 2010 under a course of treatments that included online shopping sprees, meals out, year-end tax payments, and an unexpected move. At its peak, the unruly Debt reached $13,000. Little did Credit Card Debt know, however, that its period of free reign would begin its end in 2011, when its mother finally earned a livable salary, grew tired of treading water, and put a plan in place to pummel it with cash. Under attack of 0% APR promotional balance transfers; freelance paychecks; consignment-shop earnings; and an accelerated payment schedule made possible by a move to an affordable Boston suburb, Credit Card Debt ultimately succumbed. It is survived by its ecstatic mother and grieving lenders, will be missed by absolutely no one, and has taught many a valuable lesson. Its mother is deeply grateful to four people in particular who offered support, financial assistance, advice, strategy, and encouragement throughout the course of its life without ever stopping to pass judgment. She couldn’t have done it without them.
Have you ever struggled—or had success—with debt? I’d love to hear your story. If you’ve crushed your own credit card debt, congrats! And if you’re still working, know that you’ll get there. It’s never too late.