What happened when my credit card debt forced me to live on $380 a month

The funny thing about credit card debt is that it has a way of really sneaking up on you. It’s amazing how all of those little purchases can add up. One minute you’re spending eight bucks on a latte every morning, and the next you’re looking at a bill for 25 days’ worth of eight dollar lattes. The struggle is real.

Like many twentysomethings, my first credit card gave me a feeling of exhilaration. I felt like a legit adult, especially when I saw my credit limit. Baller. Unfortunately, that high quickly wore off. Fast forward to a couple of years later and picture me drinking a bottle of wine as I’m practically crying over my credit card bills because I can’t fathom how I am ever going to pay it all off. Then it hit me. I’m in my 20s, I don’t have a mortgage or children, and I’m young enough to be resilient. I knew that if I wanted to be able to have the freedom to travel and indulge without the guilt of waiting bills, I had to get a better hold of my finances.  The debt had to go.

So I sat down and made a budget. I totaled all of my bills and then set a goal for when I wanted to pay everything off. From there I took that credit card bill from hell and divided it accordingly between the months from now to my goal. What I would have to pay a month on that sucker was a little staggering, and when I thought of how many shoes that would buy, I hesitated for just a moment. But I pulled the trigger and wrote down the number in my expense column.

After all of this, what was left for living on was about $380, which works out to less than $100 a week to spend. That number was considerably less than I was spending before, and the number did intimidate me a bit, but I just kept saying to myself, “you can do this.”

And so far, I have been. Now I’m a few months in, and I’m still holding strong! It’s been an adjustment for sure, but a worthwhile one. I’ve learned again how to make the distinction between want and need, a skill I used to depend on for literal survival in college, but had lost after landing my first “big girl” job.

This is going to sound crazy, but I consider myself lucky to have gone through this phase when I did and not later in my life. I have no commitments, property, or kids who depend on me. Managing credit and your finances is a skill that everyone should learn, and I’m just glad I learned my lesson sooner rather than later. And to those shoes in the window that caught my eye as I walked by, you’ll just have to wait!

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