Tuesday, May 01, 2012

24 squares down the line

These days, it seems I measure the passage of time more with a spreadsheet than with a calendar. The budget dictates everything.

Two years ago this month, I started down the path of getting out of debt. May 2010 was the first time in my life I put all my debts down on the page. It was the first time I looked critically at how much I made, how much I owed and what my minimum obligation was to each creditor for the month.

It was a bleak picture. I owed more money to creditors than the average one-person median household income for Oregon in 2010.

I could not keep my head above water some months. There was not much, if any, wiggle room. It was ridiculous. I was making too much money to be so broke.

Now, 2 years in, I have paid off almost half of that debt. I've paid more than $24,000 and zeroed out the balance with 6 creditors. I averaged paying off $1,000 a month in principal, which is pretty incredible, given that those first months the money was almost entirely eaten up by interest. My debt snowball barely qualified as a snowflake.

Unless fortunes change, for good or ill, there is still a bit more than a year and a half to go.

Some days -- the bad days -- it seems like I will never get there. I want to give up. I am tempted to give in and go back to spending money on credit. Every piece of footwear I have is tattered and most are so worn out they can't be worn out of the house, with holes in the soles and severe scuffs. My car is many months and many miles overdue for an oil change. I need things. I want things. I want a real vacation and a new iPod and, well, let's just say there is a whole list I've been compiling of things I want.

Other days -- the good days -- my spreadsheet shows me how far I've come. I can see that there are fewer days of debt ahead than behind. I am beyond the halfway point. I am actually looking forward to calling up Chase in a few month and canceling that account, which reamed me with its obscene interest rate. They won't be collecting much more interest from me. And never will again. That will feel so good. Perhaps only paying off the last debt will feel better.

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