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Ashley’s Credit Card Debts

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I know I’ve been promising a full debt update for awhile now. It’s been harder for me to put together than I had imagined it would be (in terms of psychological distress), so I’ve come up with a “compromise” offer. I’m presenting here today my current list of Credit Card Debts. No, it’s not my full list of debts. But adding in the student loans and IRS – ugh! It just feels too overwhelming right now. I need some “easy” wins.

Unfortunately, our list of credit card debt has grown ridiculously long.

It started early in the year when I got a credit card to do a balance transfer for a student loan (Citibank). This was back when we had $0 credit card debt. I had successfully used balance transfer offers from credit cards in the past for previous student loans and it worked fine. I didn’t think this transfer would be any different. So I transferred $4460 in January 2017 to Citibank. I got a 0% APR offer for 21 months. Since the transfer initiated January 2017, it will be due by October 2018. I don’t want to miss that date, otherwise the interest rate soars!

Summer 2017 Happened

I’ve talked many times about the perfect storm of issues occurring in summer of 2017. I stopped my part-time job; hubs’ business shut down, I was weathering some tough personal issues, etc. A mixture of a much lower income than that to which we’d become accustomed, lifestyle creep that had become unsustainable, and sloppy or nonexistent budgeting. Basically just a whole falling-off-the-wagon thing going on in terms of personal finances. I turned to my credit cards that had long been tucked away in a filing cabinet. First it was Target, then Wells Fargo, Capital One, a Home Depot up in the mix. Things just snowballed out-of-control and before August hit, we were swimming in credit card debt up to our eyeballs. This is also when I fell off the blogging train HARD (if you go back and read old posts, you’ll notice posts from me were few and far-between at this point).

Time to Get A Grip

Things still aren’t where they need to be. Hubs has finished his personal training course and has been applying for jobs. Luckily, it’s a good time of year (what with all the New-Years resolutions and so-called “January Joiners” at gyms). There look to be a lot of openings. He’s also picked up some random side-gigs to earn a bit of money the past couple months. Plus selling things online, etc. Every little bit helps. We’re not where we need to be in terms of income OR outflow. But we’re taking some baby steps and laying out our credit card disarray is a good place to start.

Credit Card Debts

Here is our current list of credit card debts, listed from smallest balance-size to largest balance-size.

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRMinimum PaymentDecember Payment
Home Depot CC$12290% (through February 2018)$40$400*scheduled
BoA CC$24108.24% ($26$300
Capital One CC$299218.9% ($59$100*scheduled
Balance Transfer Student Loan (Citibank CC)$37130% (through October 2018)$55$55
Wells Fargo CC$15,17813.40%$360$400
Totals$25,522$540$1255

Adding up all the numbers for this post caused a sickening feeling. I really can’t even focus on it too long without getting a migraine. I know some of the “yucky” feeling is good because it is what will ultimately keep us from going back to this spot again. But for right now, I have to push it aside because I find my resolve to be too fragile to become bogged down with the “yucks.” I’ve talked before about how much of debt-reduction is psychological in nature (or, rather, how much psychological issues can impact debt payoff). If we are to succeed with digging out of this (again), I need to feel hopeful.

Hope is Ahead

Luckily, I do feel hopeful. I didn’t include it in this spreadsheet because it happened at the end of November, but I recently paid off the remaining balance of our Target credit card. At it’s peak, it reached about $3500 in the summer. Not our highest balance by a long-shot, but the card was maxed out and I had just been making little “chips” every month when the bill was due. In the last couple months, I paid a bit more and was thrilled to send in the final payment late November. It’s such a great feeling to make these tiny wins! The next three cards (Home Depot, Bank of America, and Capital One) shouldn’t take too terribly long to knock out. Then attention can turn to the beast. Can you imagine – my limit was previously set at $14,000. We accidentally went over that limit. And what did Wells Fargo do? Oh, what any reasonable lender-of-credit would do…..they extended more credit. Upped my limit to $17,000. And obviously some of that additional credit has been used (since we’ve now got over a $15k balance). So they’ve won on the battle. But I’m determined to win the war. We’ve been down this road before and kicked ass last time; we will just have to pull ourselves up and do it again.

Thank you for your support and encouragement! I know things look bleak, but I hope you’ll stick by my side as we pull through this mess all over again!


38 Comments

  • Reply Laura |

    I have to say, I am surprised by his number. Over 20k in new debt is a lot. Do you have a balanced monthly budget now so you can stop the bleeding?
    You’ve faced bigger numbers before, so I know you can do this. Get a budget, get a plan of attack, and stick to it. And keep looking for any opportunities for additional income.

  • Reply margann34 |

    Oh Ashley! This makes me sick for you. No wonder you have been “hiding” from us! But You have wallowed in shame and guilt for long enough. You need to shift to being angry at the debt and just tackle it head on. I think you need to cut up the cards and close the accounts as you pay them off. Some people are better off avoiding credit cards. You are one of those people. I commend you for sticking with blogging. It would have been so easy for you to quit the blogging. That show that you really do want to be free of it all. You can do it!

  • Reply Sandra |

    Ashley, I wonder how much of the recent debt was “new homeowner” related, I.e., curtains, furniture, lawn care equipment, etc? Those are mainly one-time purchases and won’t be popping up in your budget often again. If that is the case, you should feel better about being able to make significant strides against your debt in the future. ?

  • Reply cwaltz |

    I have a question.I understand why you are prioritizing Home Depot(with 3 months left until deferred interest you are hoping to pay this off without it costing you interest) However, is there a reason that you are prioritizing B of A cc over the Capital One card? It seems to me that with a higher interest rate that the payments should be the other way around with $300 going to Capital One and $100 going to B of A.

    • Reply Jill |

      I agree completely! Start a snowball so all extra goes to one card so you can achieve those small victories!

  • Reply Still at Work |

    You have got this! $25,000 won’t take that long to dig out of, and just imagine the triumph you will feel when the balance on each card melts away. I would definitely put your student loans on a 25-year repayment plan until you’ve paid off the credit card debt. Mathematically, the best solution is to pay minimums on all debts with lower rates (except to the extent a 0% interest offer is set to expire) and tackle the high interest cards first! Get in warrior mode and start digging out! We are with you.

  • Reply C@thesingledollar |

    Whew. Yeah, this is rough. But if you’ve gotten the expenses back under control, and especially if your husband is going to have an income again, I hope you will soon be out from under most of this! First step is just laying it out for yourself. And it’s great that you’ve already paid off one card.

  • Reply Kacy |

    Looks like it’s time to break out a new debt thermometer and park it on your kitchen counter! (Maybe put this one in a clear pocket folder or something to avoid the splatters?) You got out of this once and yes, you fell off the wagon, but now it’s time to face it and get back to business. Hiding isn’t going to make it better and we’re all cheering you on. You’re going to get through this and come out better on the other side. So now it’s time to put together a full debt list, a complete and detailed budget, and then let us provide our mostly gentle advice and suggestions. Very few of us working our way out of debt did it in a straight line, it’s just the rest of us aren’t brave enough to blog about it. You amazed yourself the first time and you can do it again.

  • Reply Shanna |

    I would close everything but 2 cards total. One that each of you can carry for emergencies (and different ones, in case one gets stolen or compromised). It is hard to have credit available as a crutch and if it isn’t there to tempt you it may help force better decisions. You have done it before you can do it again.

  • Reply Christopher |

    $25,000 is a large number, but you paid more than this before and you can do the same again.

    Balance your budget, start building your emergency fund and pay what you can each month.

    On a side note, with your husband getting a job at a gym, you will likely get a free membership for yourself and possibly for your children.

  • Reply Kili |

    Are you back using YNAB? Or are you planning on starting to do so?

    Are you trying to get back to living on last months income?

  • Reply debtor |

    Wow.
    I’m floored. My biggest question is do you know what contributed to the 15,000? that’s not a small number in a year and you must have had some pretty large purchases for it to get up there from zero. The other ones i can see happening from carelssness and not really paying attention but it’s hard to spend 15k without realizing it. What is that comprised of?

    Don’t forget to do part 2 for the rest of the debt. Burying your head in the sand never got anyone anywhere and change is always uncomfortable. This sucks but you can do this.

    To me this highlights why it is so important to have some sort of cash reserve or emergency fund or whatever you want to call it. And have it be a large amount. I’ve prioritized that over paying off debt for now because when crazy things happen it’s better to eat into that than resort to credit cards (Espcially if you have high limits).

    So in this journey, don’t forget to pay yourself first and build up a sizeable cash reserve because even though you will pay this off it might take a while and who knows what could happen in that time.

    • Reply margann34 |

      Ashley, I agree that you need to lay it all out! Avoiding the reality doesn’t make it go away. Instead, it is something that you dread/fear. Take that power away.! Face the whole, ugly truth! You don’t have to share here. But you should share with your husband. Avoiding the truth is partly how you charged up $20,000 credit card debt in 6 months! It WILL be painful, and upsetting. But after you reveal the true number, cry about it and then form a plan. I am guessing your total debt is about $350,000. including your house. So maybe $150,000 non mortgage. Ugly? Absolutely! Impossible? NO. Not with your income +hubby’s potential income. Also, you really need to address the psycological reasons for emotional spending. Maybe it is something you can address in therapy..

      • Reply Laura |

        I am wondering about the husband. Does he know the extent of this? If not you two need to talk. He will be part of the cutting back and digging out.

  • Reply ADY |

    I’m proud of you for sharing Ashley!! We’re here for you and excited to support you on this next phase of your journey!! I’m a therapist and I KNOW how much family and emotional issues can affect EVERYTHING. I have been there myself. Praying for peace and healing and wonderful things ahead in this new year!

  • Reply JayP |

    Don’t get discouraged. Own it(you have) and fix it. You will! Just curious, the big one here seems to be Wells Fargo. Is all that new debt? $15K is a lot, wondering what all that is? Plus 13% interest rate is a “hair on fire” number. Gotta get rid of that. That’s $2,000 per year in interest alone that isnt tax deductible. Kick that to the curb quick!

    • Reply debtor |

      also, its a small balance but that Capital one interest rate is outrageous! almost 20 percent on a credit card???

      Have you called them to try and lower it? Is your credit score bad? Close that card immediately and then just slowly pay it off (you know you can close a card that has a balance on it right? You’ll still pay as usual but you won’t be able to add anymore to it).

      Your BOA has the most reasonable rate and I think should be the card that you keep.

      Ouch, thinking about that 18.9 percent makes me want to cry. What rate to loan sharks charge?

  • Reply Been There Done That |

    Oh, dear. That is a boatload of new debt. It is really hard for me to believe that you were paying so little attention to your finances! It seems you need to watch those “triggers.” Yes, people have stressful situations, but I sense that you are using that as an excuse to justify all this new debt. Plenty of people live with stress who do not charge things willy nilly!

    But it’s good you laid it all out there. That took courage. You lost a lot of ground, though. You know what you have to do! Start attacking it with a single mindedness. It concerns me, though, that in your heart of hearts you have not learned anything in this debt pay-off! What in the world went on that Wells Fargo card?

  • Reply Jean |

    This snowball stuff is total B.S. It may be a way for first-timers to reduce their feeling of helplessness, but you’ve been here before. Look at your total debt and figure out how to reduce that as quickly as possible, which is by eliminating the highest-interest debt as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about how many different creditors you have. This mind game of crossing creditors off your list is costing you dearly in $$$. The only number that is important is how much money you owe, period, not how many people you owe it to.

    • Reply Lisa |

      So, Jean, if you paid off a debt to which you were paying $200/month, what would you do with that $200/month once the debt was paid off? Wouldn’t you put it toward the next priority debt? So the amount you can put to the next priority debt increases. This keeps happening until all the debts are paid, in whatever order that is done, and the amount available to apply to remaining debt keeps increasing. That’s what “snowball” means here. Not sure why that would be considered BS.

      • Reply debtor |

        think he is referring to the fact that snowballs start with the smallest debt amount wise. That way you pay of lenders faster in terms of reducing total number but might not be most cost effective (most cost effective is to pay off highest interest first). So if you had 5 little loans and 1 big one, you would pay off the 5 first and put all that money to the big one. So your pay off might be month 3, 5, 7,9, 11, 30. Whereas the more financially astute thing would be more like month 24, 26, 27, 28 29 30.

        Hence in the 2nd scenario, you’d pay less but have to wait 2 years to pay off your first loan which can be hard psychologically for folks.

      • Reply Been There Done That |

        I think Jean is talking more of the avalanche method, with which I agree, especially for Ashley. Debts should be lined up according to the highest interest first, which could possibly also be the highest balance but not always. Yes, once the highest interest debt is paid off, the money earmarked for that can go to the next highest interest debt. Others like the “quick win” method in which the smallest debts are eliminated first regardless of the interest rate. Like Jean said, it’s good for beginners to see some successes, but Ashley should probably know by now that getting rid of high interest debt first is in her best interest.

      • Reply Jean |

        Because while you are paying down a debt with a low interest rate, the ones with the higher rates continue to grow at a faster rate. Let’s say I have two $1,000 debts. One carries zero interest; the second is 10 percent. I have $200 I can use to pay toward debt. If I pay on the zero-interest debt I owe $800 on the first loan and an additional $8.33 in interest (assuming interest is applied momthly. It’s higher if daily.) if I put the $200 toward the 10 percent loan, the interest would be $6.66 on the $800 remaining the next month. So I’ve saved $1.67 by paying on the 10 percent loan. It’s a small amount in this example, but apply this to a couple of $10,000 loans over time and the difference is significant.

        • Reply Lisa |

          Okay, so it’s not the snowball method that is BS, just where some folks suggest the payoffs begin. That makes a huge difference. As I said, “in whatever order that is done,” because the Method (overall concept) is different than the Execution (details on where to begin).

          Ashley, I think it is healthy that you realize that psychological issues can impact debt payoff. I think you know which to pay off first. You listed the debts in order of smallest to largest, but you didn’t state the order in which you are going to tackle them. Care to elaborate?

    • Reply Been There Done That |

      This what Jean said. Capital One must be the first to go. What was the interest rate on the Target card?

    • Reply Sarah |

      I think paying off the Capital One card first is fine since the balances are not that far apart (in relation to the Wells Fargo).

  • Reply Malady |

    Ashley, I’m so glad you shared this.
    I’ve been following along and doing my own debt reduction. Due to a whole bunch of circumstances – some within my control, some outside it – I’ve racked up just over ) $18k in new debt over the last 6 months.

    Like you, now I’m resetting and getting back in the right place to nail this to the wall. You can do it. So can I.

  • Reply Katie |

    Ouch. This is pretty shocking. Do you use Mint? It can easily categorize your spending, and I’m curious as to where this $25K was spent. That’s a lot for a short time, unless you had some really large expenses. What did the Home Depot go to? I didn’t think your house was a fixer-upper, so what projects are you doing? Facing it is half the battle, but sounds like there are areas where you really need to get a handle on the finances again. I’m confident you will, you’ve done it before!

  • Reply Jean |

    Sorry if I was a little harsh yesterday. I have heard of Dave Ramsey but am not very familiar with his methods. The pain of paying interest is worse to me than any joy I might get from what I am buying. I also have been fortunate enough never to have had an emergency expense so high I couldn’t cover it. Ashley, keep working at this.The peace you get from being debt-free will be worth what you and your family do without. Cherish your family and friends, good health and other things that matter. If you need an occasional emotional buying binge, try resale shops, dollar stores and garage sales.

  • Reply drmaddog2020 |

    Oh man. This reminds me of an addict who falls off the wagon and goes on a long binge on their drug of choice. This is a lot of debt accumulated in a short period of time. I think it is very important to determine exactly what all this was. If this was unnecessary impulse spending that is one thing. If it was day to day spending on items to support your living (groceries, gas, utilities, daycare, etc), that is much more concerning because that would mean your current income is nowhere near meeting your needs. This must feel awful, but you just have to start over. Best of luck and I’ll be reading.

    • Reply scarr |

      I agree – I would like to know about what was charged – emotional or survival or FOMO. I empathize no matter what it is. I am shocked at the number, but I have relapsed before…a few times. After you have paid these cards down (which you will, I know you can) I think you may need to reconsider if having a credit card is smart for you and your husband. Maybe keep one, frozen in ice and cancel all the others? As I am sure you understand, emotional spending does not go away when the debt goes away; it thrives no matter how much you try to suffocate it.

      I hope to see more numbers, it really helps with suggesting what could best help you. THANKS for posting this, I am sure it was difficult.

      • Reply Anon |

        Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul? Perhaps some of the IRS payments were put on credit cards.

        • Reply Katie |

          I wondered if it was the IRS debt too. I kind of hope it was, because it’s hard to imagine accumulating that much debt in this timeframe from just day-to-day living.

          • drmaddog2020 |

            I hope it’s not the irs debt. They would make a payment plan with you and, even with penalties, surely it wouldn’t be as expensive as credit cards rates.

  • Reply Shauna |

    Great job on putting it out there. It’s always hard at first to look at the pile of numbers and get everyone’s comments on them. They are just numbers though and you know where they came from. Now it’s just taking a deep breath and putting one foot in front of the other.

  • Reply Caitlin |

    I think the table of debts got eaten by the blog. Instead of the table, I just see a shortcode “[table id=106 /]“.

    • Reply Admin |

      Thanks Caitlin, we were doing a clean out of unneeded plugins and that table got deleted by mistake. I have gone ahead and restored it.

So, what do you think ?