Summertime and baseball. Burgers and shakes. Rock and roll. You and your credit card debt.
Unfortunately, credit card debt has become part of the “American Way,” woven into the fabric of America. Just before 2018 ended, Americans passed a milestone of having more than $1 trillion in credit card debt. The average American family has $10,400 in credit card debt, to put that into perspective.
Further, Prudential’s 2018 Financial Wellness Census showed that one-third of Americans are unclear as to where they stand with their financial goals. More than 50 percent are falling behind financially.
Credit Card Debt Was the Fabric of Our Lives
Fifty-five percent of LGBTQ people, in particular, have $10,000 or more in credit card debt, according to Prudential. We know this all too well. Credit card debt, for us, was the fabric of our lives for too long. Between us, we were in debt for 25 years and had a combined $51,000 on multiple cards. That’s because we were as naive about how credit cards work as we were unconscious with our spending, despite having both spent our careers in financial services.
Six months after we started dating, we saw the monetary value in moving in together. The best we could afford then was renting a basement apartment in a friend’s house. Luckily, he remodeled it, so it was fresh, but it was still a basement with tiny windows and no front door. We had to walk up the steps to leave.
I remember we were angry that we couldn’t afford a vacation home in the Rocky Mountains. I mean, really? We didn’t own a home to vacation away from. But, we’re gay; we’re supposed to be fabulous, right? We “needed” a vacation home away from our $300 jeans, $400 restaurant tabs and rock-star clubbing weekends. We needed a vacation home away from our Visa- and Mastercard-sponsored travels. So, we were angry when we realized that we couldn’t afford this fantasy vacation home.
More on Lifestyle Mistakes: 10 Signs You’re Living Beyond Your Means
We weren’t angry that we wouldn’t get a vacation home. We were angry that all our showy displays of wealth, success, fabulousness and [insert your favorite adjective here] were just that: a show. There was no substance. We weren’t as fabulous as we thought. We weren’t as fabulous as we wanted others to think.
In this despair, we created a plan to pay off our credit card debt, and our years in financial services finally started paying off.
Are You Wrapped Up in Credit Card Debt?
No two stories are alike, so if you’re in credit card debt, there’s a good chance you have a story to tell. But, is the story you’re telling yourself the truth?
Ours was a lie. We thought we deserved the nothing-but-the-best lifestyle. We thought we had to live up to a certain definition of being gay. We felt we had to prove that even though we were gay, we were as good, if not better, than everyone else, as evidenced by our Prada bags and Gucci shoes.
Your story might be showing the neighbors that all is well and good in your household. Or, that you can afford to let your kids do all those activities. It might mask the pain of her rejection or his infidelity. It could be that you’re barely hanging on and you’re telling everyone, including yourself, everything is fine, don’t panic and don’t look at your statements.
Prudential’s census also showed that stressful financial conditions are having an adverse effect on our physical and mental health, our relationships and even our ability to earn money. This is why it’s time to do something about credit card debt.
4 Things We Did to Pay Off Our Debt
It was a combination of the following things — plus consistency — to which we attribute paying off our debt so fast.
We Cut Down on Going Out
We didn’t stop going out; we just stopped going out as much. To do so, we kept a social calendar and planned well in advance the family and friends events we’d attend, and then we’d pepper in free and cheap activities we planned on our own or that happened in our area.
We’d invite friends to our free and cheap activities to get the most bang for our buck when going out. Eventually, we were the “Julie, Cruise Directors” for free and cheap fun in Denver.
We Became Meticulous With Our Grocery Shopping and Dining Out
At our worst, we were spending $400 a week on groceries and $400 a week on dining out. With intentional planning, using a grocery list and menu, we cut our grocery bill down to $150 a week, and we all but eliminated dining out until we were debt free. If we found a good coupon, usually sent by John’s mother for Boston Market or on Groupon, we’d occasionally treat ourselves.
We Learned How to Lower Our Credit Card Interest Rates to Zero
Rather than increasing our standard of living, we put all our interest savings toward our principle to pay off our credit cards as fast as possible.
We Canceled All International Travel and Cut Down Domestic Travel
We couldn’t go two and a half years without visiting grandma, so we didn’t cut out domestic travel completely, but international was off the table.
Note that eliminating travel tends to be particularly hard for gay couples to do.
You, Too, Can Crawl Out From Underneath Credit Card Debt
We figured out how to pay off our credit card debt in two and a half years. We followed some traditional advice and discovered many tips of our own, including our exclusive Debt Lasso Method for paying off credit card debt faster than the Avalanche or Snowball methods.
We’ve put everything we know from our years in financial services and our personal experience with paying off credit card debt into our upcoming Credit Card Pay-Off Course. It’s the only tool of its kind to walk users step-by-step specifically through paying off credit card debt.
If you’re in credit card debt, know that you’re not alone, it’s not a way of life and there is a solution.
Click through to read more about how to get out of debt fast.
More From Our Smart Money Squad
- How I Paid Off My $40,000 Student Loans in 2 Years (and 6 Days)
- Amex Canceled My Card and It Was the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Me
- How My Money Mistakes Have Affected My Kids
- Watch: Treating Finances Like a Game Will Help Get You Rich
We make money easy. Get weekly email updates, including expert advice to help you Live Richer™.