Do you have those defining financial moments in your life? I have one, and it all started with my divorce at 23.
My former husband and I were college students who didn’t have a clue about money. We were living off of student loans and credit cards, just like everyone else. Fortunately, we were both working, so although our debt was higher than it should have been, we weren’t completely subsisting on credit.
Fast forward three years and, unfortunately, our marriage was struggling. It ultimately ended in divorce. We parted ways amicably, splitting up our minimal belongings and our debt. I ended up with half of our credit card debt, which was around $800, and my student loans, which were slightly over $8,000.
I know, those numbers seem small, but this was 17 years ago, and to a newly graduated 23-year-old, these numbers were overwhelming. I could deal with the student loan debt. It was mine and had helped me get my degree. My real issue was with the credit card debt.
I knew that the vast majority of the spending on that card wasn’t mine, and it made paying the debt so much harder. Every time I had to make a payment toward that debt, it reminded me of my failed marriage. It reminded me of the money mistakes we had made together. Most importantly, though, it reminded me of all of the decisions that I made that had gotten me into this whole mess. Every month, I had a reminder of my failures.
It took me approximately six to eight months to pay off my credit card debt. I was that girl who lived in her parents’ basement to save money. At the time, it was just another reminder of my failure, but looking back, I’m so thankful I had that time to recover financially and emotionally.
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As I slowly paid off the debt (on my $24,000 annual salary). I swore every time I made a payment that I would never carry credit card debt again. For me, my credit card debt grew to represent all of the negative parts of my life situation. I hated using credit cards and became paranoid about having any type of credit card debt.
Fast forward another 17 years, and beyond some work-related credit card charges, I have not carried a balance on my credit card since my divorce.
Although it was a tough situation at the time, I’m so thankful for that experience now. I still use credit cards, but I pay my cards off every two weeks when I get paid. I’ve learned how quickly spending can get out of control when using credit cards and don’t ever want to be responsible for paying off debt again.
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