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Becoming Debt-Free: From Hopeless to Hopeful

In April 2014, I had $16 in my bank account, over $6,000 in credit card charges, and about $24,000 in school loans. My car was stolen. My mind, faith and wallet was broken. I remember crying in bed: "How did I get here and how do I get out?"

To give you some background, I graduated college in May 2013 and accepted a job offer in the Bay Area by September 2013. For four months, I slept on my aunt’s living room floor to save money for my first apartment. There were seven of us staying in her 2-bed, 1-bath apartment and I am so grateful that my aunt let me crash there temporarily. When I finally saved enough for a down payment and rent, I moved into my first apartment in April 2014. Within that month, as I was leaving for work at 5:30 AM, my 1997 Infiniti car was nowhere to be found. I had to report it stolen.

A week later, the cops called me and said it was found. I paid $300 just to get it out of the towing company for being there less than an hour, only to find out my car couldn't be driven anymore. They broke it apart, stole pieces, and trashed it. I was so angry.

I saved money to live on my own, only to go completely broke in one month.

That day, my parents drove from Sacramento because I had no one else in the Bay Area to help me get my car out. I had a few cousins in the area, but they were all working. My parents brought me canned foods to last a few weeks and Matt (boyfriend status at the time) stayed with me to comfort me. Matt’s parents were so kind to offer me their old van to drive around when needed & Matt let me drive his car to work once a week. I was fortunate enough to have a boss who understood my situation and let me work from home 4 days a week. I was also lucky to have a Marketing career where I could do that.

I was absolutely grateful for the support I had, but I was also really angry and sad. On the one hand, I knew I was blessed to have a roof over my head and food to eat, but I still felt like I was in a dark place. I felt more alone than ever trying to start this new life without close family and friends I can call to come over, depend on or distract me from reality. I accepted what happened, but as I looked at my bank accounts and statements daily, I felt ashamed and depressed. I was stuck. I couldn’t buy a new car because I didn’t have the funds. I paid my minimum bill payments on time, but I put more charges on my credit card because I didn’t have enough money to buy groceries. I was living paycheck to paycheck and I didn’t know how to get out of it. I spent most of my college days in denial, setting everything to auto-pay so I could ignore my statements, but it finally all caught up to me. I felt hopeless.

Eight months later, I finally bought a new car but enter: an increase in monthly payments and MORE DEBT. I bought a new car because I was so tired of old car problems and my luck with them breaking down or being stolen again (before my ‘97 Infiniti, I had a ‘92 Nissan Sentra). Adding on more debt and another monthly payment didn’t make me feel better, but I also found peace in having a car again to save my job.

If you really know me, I don’t spend a ton of money on nice things. I didn't grow up rich. I can go years without buying a new phone and I don’t need the latest technology gadgets, clothes, or shoes. I definitely don’t need the latest or greatest car either. The money on my credit card was mostly food, gifts to give, travel expenses, and drunken decisions to pay for people’s drinks. Who did I think I was?! My thoughts when I would swipe my card is, “I’ll just pay it later. I’ll figure it out.” Isn’t that what most people do anyway? Being in debt is normal and people around me have credit card bills too, so it’s fine, right?