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Why Did It Take So Long to Decide That it Was Time to Pay Off Our Debt?

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about how far we have come. Both in terms of our debt (and more recently with my weight).

Why did it take so long to decide that it was time to pay off our debt? Why did we insist on not tackling our debt and keep on charging things? Why did we just live with our debt? What was stopping us from deciding that today was the day and we didn’t want any more debt?

So many questions, and I think for us the answer revolved around a certain theme…

We thought greener grass was around the corner. In our minds, we were spending more than we made because we thought we would make more money later to pay it off. Live life now…pay later. After all, that’s what most of the credit card companies tell you. We deserved to have a nice camera. We deserved to have a nice computer. Who needs to save up money for purchases like that? We had a nice shiny credit card with available credit. Sure, there’s something called finance charges we’d have to deal with. But they can’t be that bad…right? WRONG!

Looking back, we didn’t need greener grass around the corner. We could have started working to pay off our debt when we were making less money. Even if we were only paying $20 extra a month. We could have been hitting the debt as hard as we could with what we had. I know by looking at our monthly numbers that we could have made it work.

If I had done this exercise some time ago, we could have been debt free right now. So, if you are in debt and haven’t started a debt reduction plan, try going through the questions above. Perhaps it can help you.


25 Comments

  • Reply Emma |

    Hi Tricia,

    I’ve been wondering about the same thing. My credit card debt was accumulated through years of overspending, along with a personal loan. I’ve now paid off the credit card debt and am looking to pay off the loan, but have been wondering why it took me so long to decide to live within my means, pay off debt and start saving. I think in my case, it was like dieting, I’d do it for a while to the extreme, splurge badly and go backwards before giving up. I changed my attitude so that I now I can accept my failures and detours and yet still keep going. I set goals that were specific and had a plan to achieve them.

  • Reply debtinseattle |

    I really think that we each have to hit “rock bottom” before we change how we see debt.

  • Reply Jim |

    I have thought about this too because I used to be debt free before college. In college I spent my life savings to pay for about three semesters of school, and then the credit cards came in as my income. Student loans were also a factor because my scholarships and grants would only cover tuition not living expenses. I know I bought some stupid stuff and figured when I’m done and have to grow up and pay this all off quickly. It wasn’t until the end of last year that I realized something has to change because I’m still paying for yesterday with money I’ll make tomorrow. Live now and pay later seems to be the way people run their lifestyle. My great grandparents were savers, lived on the minimum, and refused to borrow money. The shift seemed to happen somewhere with the baby boomers as credit became so easy to obtain. Today it seems college students get in more debt than they can take on and end up running to file BK to solve the problem.

    I’m glad I took some responsibility in college and at least kept the debt levels reasonable enough to handle the payments with my student job. Friends of mine who went on spring break every year never had the money to go but plenty of credit to do it for them. I spent my last semester setting up job interviews, going to job fairs, and finding an apartment instead of partying with my friends. At least the majority of my credit card debt is related to school expenses and very little to actual crap. If my parents would have helped me with school expenses I might not be in as much debt. I’m not going to blame them for my debt I just think it’s sad they never considered college for my future. I want to get back to the days before college where I didn’t have to make payments to anyone. With some determination and focus, I hope to accomplish this in my 20s.

  • Reply Bourgeois & Broke |

    I was thinking just the same thing today, Tricia! I had such good intentions for so long, but something would come up and I’d think “I’ll pay it off later”. I even remember when I got my first “proper” job out of college and spending about $1,500 in one afternoon on things to wear to work, figuring I’d pay it off later – ignoring the fact that my shiny new job was only paying $350 a week and it was going to take a LONG time to pay that off.

    Better late than never though – I could have a lot of sleepless nights worrying about this otherwise!

  • Reply mapgirl |

    Waking up and smelling the coffee on interest payments is what got me. I’ve lived my life since 16 under student loan debt, so I guess I’ve always paid attention, but felt hopeless about it.

    I guess the biggest thing for me was to tell my folks just how much the stress of having debt was getting to me. Out of the $20K in loans I had, my parents only paid about $4K of it. Most of it was definitely me, but being able to talk to them about my finances and theirs has been good for everybody.

    Don’t ask me about credit card debt. I’m still working on it! 😉

  • Reply boomie |

    I had a mother who died at a very early age. I thought I was going to die young like her also. Thus, I went on a wild spending spree for many, many years thinking my end was near.

    Guess what? I didn’t die young (thank God) and didn’t have anything to show for my daring lifestyle. My father lived till he was 91. So I have a 50% chance that I will too.

    I didn’t come to my senses till I was 50 years old! Thankfully my father left me some money to get me back on track. Now, six years later I am back where I would have been had my mother not died so unexpectedly.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make incorrect choices in life. Live and learn. That’s all we can do.

  • Reply Arduous |

    This is actually an economics principle. To spend money now because you will be making more money later. And in some cases it makes sense. For example, you should spend for college, so that you can reap the rewards of the salary you will get that you couldn’t get with just a high school diploma. Or spending money on one suit so that you can go out on interviews. The problem is when we take it too far. And the bigger problem is that when our salary increases, instead of paying off debt, we just go ahead and up our lifestyle.

  • Reply Maria |

    It hit me when I realized that by constantly living under a mountain of debt, we wouldnt be able to travel or do fun things because we couldnt afford to and still pay our credit card payments.

    I too figured that I would be making “great” money so why worry but there is every reason to worry when you have a child to think of and his future. Not being able to show him the world because I had made foolish mistakes with money in the past.

    It’s also about practicing what you preach. How can I tell my son(when he’s a few years older that is) to live below his means and avoid debt if I’m in debt myself? I wont be that hypocrite!

  • Reply Dasha |

    My credit card debt it low, and while I have plenty of student loans, I plan on getting more by going back to school in a few years, so I’m not too focused on them. I’ve found that what works better for me is to focus on living within my means and not charging anything while making more than minimum payments on my credit card- it will extend the length of time it takes and the amount I spend on interest, but I think in the long term it will be better than paying this all quickly and then gorging on everything I haven’t been able to buy in months.

  • Reply ladydoughgirl |

    I’ve wondered the same question about debt. why didn’t we wake up sooner and start managing this better? is it because we’re only living for the future or could it also be that we don’t want to have to think that hard abour our actions and consequences?

  • Reply lilah |

    they never really teach you about debt in highschool do they? it’s always algebra, english, and science…but IMPORTANT things, like managing a check book…living debt free, that’s stuff left out of the school books. I guess it’s easier to sell kids on the idea of the coolness of credit cards and the ease of obtaining student loans if they aren’t taught basic personal finance. I say learning how to invest and learning how to stay debt free is just as important as learning how to drive.

  • Reply Finding Financial Peace |

    This is such a great question! For us I think we just didn’t pay attention to our finances. Like not watching what you eat or watching the scale you can end up being over weight. By not watching your money you can end up broke!

  • Reply Ellen |

    Whenever I see posts like this, it helps me to remember I am not alone. For me, it has everything to do with immediate gratification. Save, wait and pay from something with cash? It never really seemed necessary until you’re not opening the mail or taking phone calls.

  • Reply thomas |

    I am finally CC debt free after 8 years. My wife just paid off her CC debt that was racked up in college. It really is a great feeling to move that money to investing, or the occasional big night out.

  • Reply Shari |

    Regarding Lilah’s comment about not being taught about debt in high school, they do teach you math which is supposed to help you conceptualize numbers and how it works. Life skills are supposed to be the responsibility of parents, not the schools. Besides, I was taught budgeting in school in a mock living situation.

    The main problem for most people in regards to building up credit card debt is that they act too much on “want” and too little on “need”. The best way to stop spending beyond your means is to re-focus the things in life that gratify you away from material possessions. It’s hard but consumerism isn’t a road to happiness, it’s the path to misery.

  • Reply Rich |

    Go to your local library and check out a book by Dave Ramsey called ‘Total Money Makeover’. It’s easy to read, will motivate you, and show you how to quickly clear your debt. The other big thing you can do is stop using credit cards and use a debit card instead. Credit cards will always screw you up. You don’t need them. I got out of debt and so can you. Good Luck!

  • Reply Ken |

    I think it was when my wife got pregnant that I started to realize our spending. She wanted everything for this new baby. Wow…We finally got to a point where, if we kept on this path, would be bankrupt b4 the baby got here.
    So, one day I got mad about all the huge debt and decided to do something about it.
    The following plan was 3 years of mine and 6 months of Dave Ramsey.
    1.Get a savings account of at least $1000. This will save you from using your credit cards for an emergency.
    2.Get a budget. What I thought I spent and what I saw on paper were different.
    3.List your bills on paper. Pay off the smallest one first. Pay the minimum on all others and use all extra income on this small bill. When its paid go to the second bill and do the same. Do this until all are paid.
    4. Use all the money you were paying in bills to pay off your house early.
    I know this sounds impossible and it will take some effort. But, in three years, I have paid off $32000 in debt. Only $3100 left.
    You just have to get to the point where YOU want thing to change.

  • Reply Awaiting Clarity |

    I think most people wonder this question. “Why didn’t I get a handle on my debt sooner?” Some, like myself have wondered “Why after you know what carrying debt is like and KNOW you need to get rid of it, do you keep not taking charge of things.

    It’s not irresponsibility. Some would call it that, but everytime you get somewhere on your debt…..something occurs and the temptations….always there.

    I know I can get rid of the debt, I just don’t know exactly where to start chiseling out that little niche to get started…..and have the motivation and determination to make it happen.

    My goal is to be rid of all of it in 3.5 to 4 years. It’s not impossible. I have to become dedicated and I can make it happen. It’s just so scary.

So, what do you think ?