From Rags to Riches

"A Portrait of Poverty in the Credit Card Age"...There are tears in that martini glass.

I remember vividly the day I signed up for my first credit card. I was a freshman in college and desperately broke and some card company had its reps staked out in a popular quad on campus. Shooting fish in a barrel. And I was one of those fish.

Since that day I have been a slave to the credit card companies. I’ve had ups and downs, of course – I’ve been both very close to clearing my debt and hopelessly drowning in it a number of times over – but I have always owed in varying degrees.

Until now.

You’re looking at (or, emm… reading the words of?) a debt-free woman, mes amis! And damn it feels good.

About a year ago I finally got serious about finding a way to free myself from the chains of my credit cards, and it took sacrifice, teamwork and a bit of creativity to do it, but I’ve finally reached my goal. Little things like not eating out as much, shopping secondhand and ditching Whole Foods for Walmart (shivers) helped, but it was ultimately Jeff and I deciding that we could live with just one car that drove the final nail into my debt’s coffin. We know it will take extra planning (and walking) on our part, but being able to sell my car allowed me to pay off my final credit card even while being unemployed.

Fortunately, I’ve since found work, which will do wonders to keep me out of debt. I now have but one emergency credit card that lives not in my wallet, but locked away where I can only reach for it when it comes time for a big expense I can pay off immediately. I’ve started building up a savings again with the money  I used to blow just trying to pay off my interest.

Above all, I’ve got a fresh start. A chance to rethink all of the idiot moves I made in my twenties and do it right this time. I now know the precise value of living within my means, and that is worth so much more than any pair of shoes, salon visit or vacation purchased on credit. I can’t go back and give that 19-year-old a lecture on how there aren’t enough cute dresses or nights on the town in the world to make up for how shitty and hopeless the weight of debt can feel. I can’t even give her a good shaking, which frankly I’ve wanted to at many points in the past five years or so. But I can change the way I live from this moment on. I can choose to find joy in moments experienced versus items purchased. I can relish in simplicity versus quantity.

I can find bliss in passionately being instead of letting myself fall prey to the sneaky emptiness of merely having.

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