Ambushed by the Mailman
I lived in an apartment at the time so it was easy to avoid that area of the building. But then one day I’d gone home during lunch and ran into my mailman in the parking lot. He said he’d thought I’d moved because he could no longer stuff any more mail into my box.
I shamelessly told him that I’d lost my mailbox key. (It’s a little known fact that being in debt can turn you into an extraordinary liar.) I even started to embellish my story with how I’d also been out of the country for an extended period of time, but he interrupted me to hand me my mail. Then he suggested I walk with him to the mailbox so he could unlock it for me and give me all the mail currently stuffed in my box. Unable to make myself invisible, I had to take possession of my mail.
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That night, I got a glass of Chardonnay for courage and spread the envelopes out on my dining room table. I paid the utilities and other necessities. When I started looking at the credit card statements, I looked only at the minimum payments and started writing checks for half the amount. Amazingly, I still didn’t stop using my credit cards.
Instead, I decided I had to make more money. So I studied for and passed the CPA exam with the plan of getting a higher paying job. Only now do I see the “Becky Bloomwood” irony in all this. I had a head for numbers but was clueless when it came to my own financial affairs. My solution was to make more money to maintain my spending habits instead of focusing on paying off the debt.
The Day I Hit Rock Bottom
I went to work for BellSouth Mobility and got a higher salary. I got this job just in the nick of time because to my horror, I could no longer get approved for a credit card. I could no longer get credit limits raised. The banks no longer loved me.
Then one day I tried to make a purchase and my Rich’s Department Store card was declined. Rich’s had canceled my credit card account. Refusing to give up my card without a fight, I called the Rich’s credit office and asked to have my card reinstated. A service rep was quite rude to me and told me my last check had bounced. And even when I did pay with a check that didn’t bounce, it was always late.
Do you know how big a mess your credit life has to be to lose a retail credit card? A really, really big mess. This was the turning point for me. My credit ride had come to a merciful end.
My Wacky Approach to Debt Reduction
I didn’t know exactly how much debt I had and I didn’t want to know. I wasn’t in denial, this was my strategy. And not one I’d recommend. It’s like trying to work your way out of the eye of a hurricane when you don’t know where the edge of the storm is.
Today, I’d face the total amount head on and make a plan of attack. But back then, I was young and inexperienced, and honestly, I think I was worried I’d pass out from shock if I saw the actual number. So for each card, I looked at the minimum payment due and avoided the rest of the statement. I told myself that in one year, I’d see how much debt was left.