You know what makes life harder? Ignorance.
I’m talking about being in your teens… young, naive, and basically having no clue how your choices will effect your life, kinda ignorance.
This is the time of one’s life when we still think we’re invincible and that we will get away with pretty much anything.
This was me on my first day of college in NYC, at the Fashion Institute of Technology in the early 90’s, when banks were allowed to have tables enticing students to open their first credit cards.
I was just past the jail bait age, but was now bait for something else…
Credit card debt. And student loan debt, too!
Little did I know this dance would go on for 24 years, causing me to feel shame, out of control, and have the student loan thing hanging over my head for so long.
I could give you the long story, but instead, here’s a timeline. The skinny on how debt and I first met, danced for over two decades, and how I finally ended our relationship with ease.
My two decade dance with debt… (it’s pretty hot or maybe not!)
I got my first credit card in college, then more of them came in. I put myself through school, so I had student loans, too. I was scraping by, paying only the minimum amount, not realizing the impact of what was really happening.
When I learned I could defer my student loan payments, ignorantly I said yes, as the interest built up. After a few jobs out of college, I began to make more money and my expenses increased, too.
When I made it to Prada, I was making over $50K and still was barely able to get by – I was more into spending than saving, and designer clothes was my weak spot.
I was never able to save and always felt behind the 8 ball.
My view around money was: You had to work hard to make money. I was not making enough money to save and may never be able to. The debt would take care of itself, somehow.
Can you relate?
I started to pay some of my student loan debt and then deferred it when I was not into paying it. I was making more money at Prada and after a year I got a $10K raise. I was living in the West Village and had to keep up with the game of looking like I had money, so I spent more and still had NO savings.
My wardrobe was pretty incredible, the debt was growing and I was out of control telling myself this was normal behavior.
My boyfriend at the time made a lot of money and gave me cash when I needed it, even though I was making plenty on my own. I paid off my credit cards a wee bit and even paid off one that was around $1K – that felt good. I was still moving upward around $20K of debt and not really phased by it.
The debt at times would dip down to $15K, then it would go up. It was a dance after all.
My view around money was: There was never enough to get ahead. If we get married, then I will be taken care of. And over time, I will be able to get better with all of this, somehow.
My relationship ended and the dream of being saved was gone! I moved out and my boyfriend actually helped me to get started – a blessing. I moved to Brooklyn, was not working for Prada anymore, and struggled to survive with a bunch freelance gigs.
Debt was increasing and I was on unemployment because I felt the government owed me. I used my credit cards to eat well and gave up spending on clothes. I started selling my clothes to have food to eat – it was like an ATM.
At this time I was taking acting classes and did not need much really. I barely got by and the debt kept growing. It now was getting close to $30K, and I had no idea of this really.
I ignored my debt was missing payments and started asking for more credit so I had more to money to survive. I was making the minimum payments so I stayed out of trouble all the while keeping a good credit score.
In 2002 I moved to LA, became a yoga teacher and now had around $40k in debt. Things improved a little though, I was paying it off and was building some savings.
My view around money was: I didn’t need much. Money was not spiritual. Money was evil and the government owed me and also needed to take care of student loans. I detached myself from the debt and what I learned was debt really helps you build credit – I kept telling myself this.
Is this you?
I got married in 2007 and my husband said to me, “When I married you I married into debt.” It was joke and was true. He never had any debt, was a saver, and paid cash for everything.
In 2008, on my birthday, I went to a money mindset event and found out my thing with money – I was a spender. This was because I felt pain when I would save or have money. It was my start to make peace with money.
This stung a bit and put a fire under my butt to look at what I created. It made me sick at first. I read many books about it, learned from mentors and other personal growth resources – it was a start. One exercise really stood out…
It asked you to get a notebook and create columns from the highest to lowest amount you owe for any financial responsibilities. I did this and just about threw up. I saw I had about $50K in debt.
What a reality check and big ass kick in the pants.
The exercise also asked you to put down the payments you need to make – and double them. I did this and then started to map out how long it would take to pay it all off.
At the same time I became better at managing my debt by asking to lower APR’s, getting cards with low or no interest rates for balance transfers, and started to make my payments.
For my student loan, I made sure I had auto pay and made my payments on time every month. I did this for my cards, too.
I knew I had to get my butt into gear for this would clear up… someday.
My view around money was: Money is a game and I needed to learn how to play it. Money caused me pain and I had to learn to be a saver. We all have a money thermometer, and I had to increase mine to have more and pay off debt.
Do you feel this way?
In 2010, I was determined to pay off my credit cards. I had a plan and this plan was to have 0% interest and keep transferring the balances until it was gone.
Every summer I would get a big payment from my business and then something would happen and it was pushed aside. Maybe I was not ready to be debt free yet? The debt was coming down, and then would go up, and hang out from $15-20K.
This went on for 3 years until I finally picked a month at the end of 2013 to put an end to it. July of 2014, before I got pregnant, was going to be my month.
At the start of 2014, I promised myself, raised my havingness for this happening, and was not wavering. Every month I made my payments like clockwork, doubled them when we could and it was my JOB to erase it for good.
I saw it as a game and it started to be fun!
July came, and funny enough, we had plenty of money in the bank to pay it off. When I was about to do it, a part of me was scared. Then, I felt the feeling, asked myself what was coming up. I realized there was a block to let it go, I gave myself permission and then made the payment with ease.
By letting myself be amused by it, it was easier to pay it, and then dance my butt off – I was finally free!
My view around money was and is now: Debt showed me how to save. I was good at managing it and found my way out of it by being kind to myself. Money is energy and is a way for me to be generous, as well as grow spiritually.
The most important lesson that helped me go from wanting to be debt-free to actually being debt-free is…
I was able to have the debt, allowed myself to feel OK with it being in my life instead of feeling bad about it or having resistance to it.
I also set a date, had a plan and kept on schedule.
What you can do right now to start your journey to being debt-free…
1. Get a notebook like I mentioned above, see the numbers and set up a plan.
Then write at the top: I give myself permission to release any negative feelings around debt and promise myself to have ease in paying off these liabilities, doubling my payments when I can.
2. Set a date and know if you miss it, that’s fine.
You can give yourself benchmarks so you can start bringing it down and make it possible. The key is to make payments and stay focused on having FINANCIAL FREEDOM.
3. Expand havingness for debt in your life, and be thankful for everything you’ve purchased or how it benefited your quality of life at the time.
You can see it as a loan with a really high interest rate. I’m not saying go out and create more, I’m saying make peace with what is already there.
4. Get the large Post It Sheets and make a plan to make your payments.
When you shift your behavior with debt, meaning pay and stay committed to this happening, most likely you will see different results.
5. Feel the feeling of being free of debt.
This includes student loan, credit cards, or whatever else, and feel this feeling as much as you can. And take care of business to make it happen.
Lastly, notice how money makes you feel. If it’s icky that’s fine. I love what my friend Kate Northrup says, sit with your bank account every day and appreciate what you have.
You can also become aware as well as amused at what comes up around money, and see how you were programmed, and begin to see money as energy.
You can do it and it does not matter how long it takes, the key is you are on the path to do it. As you can see, it did not happen overnight for me, it was a journey and now I’m in my 40’s and finally debt free.
Be easy on yourself, take the next step to help you move towards it and commit to making peace with debt and clearing your issues around money.
Now that I’ve shared some of the dancing with debt lessons I’ve learned along my journey, I’m curious to know what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your own journey?
I want to know what you learned about money and how your relationship with debt has influenced who you are today. You may not be aware that it has. Take the time to sit with it, and feel what comes up.
And if you’re just getting started looking at your situation, I’d love to know which of these steps speaks the most to you. What can you pull from my story to help you in your own?
This is how we can support each other on the road to success.
Your Angel of Fire,
P.S. Want to learn more about what you can do to improve your relationship with money? Here are some cool resources…
[Please note: It’s important to note that the information in this post is from my own personal experience with debt. No advice or tips shared here should be solely followed or used alone as financial guidance. As in all cases, your situation will differ from mine, and you should seek guidance from your own professional financial or investment advisor.]