My Insane Credit Card Debt

Warning: this post will sicken anyone who finds first-world problems pathetic.

Who knew it was possible to have over $100k in credit card debt and still have a decent credit score? Me, that’s who.

I use the app Mint to keep track of my finances. It’s ugly on paper and even more ugly in pixels.

Screenshot 2017-12-31 16.26.16

When I started keeping track on Mint in mid 2016 it was a bit over $30k, now it’s $103k. The worst was $107k. (The graph above is mistaken for November because it double counted one card.) And this doesn’t include a maxed out home equity line.

How did I do this? How am I going to fix it?

How I got here:

Put simply, we spend beyond our means. Also, until now, my partner was on a 10-month pay contract, so summers I would only put the minimum down on credit cards. Then we’ve got a fair amount of medical expenses that are out-of-network, so I have had to pay these out of pocket and wait to get reimbursed for only a percentage of the costs. And as I noted in yesterday’s post, I’ve been spending an insane amount every week on groceries. Plus, to my extra embarrassment, I rack up too many charges at my favorite (fancy) department store. Many of the clerks there know me by name. I’m mortified when I get a holiday card thanking me for being on the top of their list. My cosmetics clerk sends me boxes of samples of Chanel whenever I ask. I often pay no attention whatsoever to what things cost. It is, I now realize, quite delusional.

Without the extravagant spending and credit card payments, our paychecks cover the mortgage, utilities, insurance, phone, cable, and other regular things with just enough to spare for a yard service and house cleaning twice a month, and music lessons for one of the kids. That leaves maybe $1,500 to apply to unreimbursed medical costs and past credit card debt—except that every month I’ve racked up more additional debt than I can cover.

Notice the first person singular here. Partner has no idea how bad this is. You, dear reader—along with my analyst —know more than they do.

What I’m going to do:

  • For 2018 I’m going on a shopping freeze: no more shoes, bags, clothes, or jewelry. Except for the Chanel lady, all the other department store people are going to forget my name. At Chanel, there will be no more Sublimage for me, just the pedestrian stuff. Whoa is me. Yeah.
  • I’m going to keep our food, booze, and dining to under $901 a month. I’ll continue to bake my own bread and cook lots of pots of beans and eat mostly vegan. I’ll buy wine and beer in bulk and only go shopping for food after planning my meals. I’ve renewed my subscription to a CSA that runs from May through November. I’ll learn to love radishes and turnips. Otherwise, I’ll shop for food at the local place that has lots of inexpensive fresh veggies and accepts only cash or debit cards.
  • I’m going to learn where the cheapest places are to get essentials like toilet paper and laundry detergent, along with how much these things actually cost.
  • I’m going to use some additional side income I have to pay down the debt.
  • I’m going to apply for more grants to cover all my research costs, including travel.
  • I’m firing my analyst.

What I can’t yet bear to do:

  • Give up my cleaning lady, yard guy, Peet’s coffee, Weight Watchers membership, or Chanel face cream.
  • Buy crappy stuff that pollutes the earth, relies on antibiotics, agribusiness, and cheap labor.
  • Require my kids to shoulder all their own college costs.

What do I hope for?

  • To cut my credit card debt by 2/3 this year and get out of it altogether next year.
  • To get ahold of myself.
  • To live by my better principles.
  • To have some good things to share with you all along the way.

Wish me luck!




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