I had to have the "talk" with my husband this morning. You know the one. ...
"Did you spend $50 at some place involving bikes?" (said as I was waving around his personal credit card statement)
"Yeah. I gave a donation to someone in a ride."
"Uh, yeah, and like how did you expect me to pay for that?"
"I guess out of my monthly expense account."
"You mean the monthly expense account that you already spent for August on an iPhone?"
"Ooops. Yeah. Guess that won't work will it?"
"Ooops. Guess not. So how do you think I'm going to balance the spending plan this month if you randomly spend $50 that you don't have and then conveniently forget to tell me about it?"
"Yeah, you'll be sorry when you're eating Alpo in your old age, pal!"
I'm thinking I'm not the only compulsive debtor in this household....
Viewing the 'Compulsive Debting' Category
I had to have the "talk" with my husband this morning. You know the one. ...
Last week I got a letter from the administrator of my daughter's 529 plan that said a hard drive with client information was missing and I was among those whose vital records were on it.
The administrator included a number of options to "safeguard" clients like myself against identity theft. Among them was signing up for a service that would alert me to anything changing on my credit report.
Today, I signed up for this and in the process was given my current credit score. I was surprised to find that it's still in the excellent range -- despite all my debt. Now, I'm thinking WTF?!?!?!?!?!
I mean, come on, aside from my booming side business, I have very little reportable income. And, as you can all see, my debt is HUMONGOUS!!!! (Plus, there was that unfortunate incident last year when I was more than 30 days late on my credit card.....)
So someone tell me, just what are these credit folks thinking rating my credit score as excellent????
I'm no financial genius (obviously), but I think it's safe to say my credit score should be around the "sucks to downright stinks" rating.
Well, as a compulsive debtor and reformed compulsive shopper, I know all about dumb purchases.
There was the $400 bowling party for Mini Me that I fessed up to yesterday (which was probably more like $500 when all was said and done).
Then there was the $5,000 piano purchased in hopes that one day Mini Me would become Mini Mozart. (Not gonna happen, folks....) The piano is beautiful, though; and works great as a dust and fingerprint catchall in my living room.
Then there was Beauty (not her real name), who I bought while seriously depressed and suffering from a serious physical ailment a few years ago. (I won't reveal the price because I don't want to incite a riot...) She might be cute, but like I said before: she'd eat your face off in a second -- then she'd go poop on the floor just to show you she can. My husband has often said that if she didn't cost so much he would have gotten rid of her by now. His nickname for her: Ka-Ching!
Oh, but the absolute dumbest purchase was the $200 car seat for Beauty. Yes, I succumbed to the thinking that Beauty would only be happy in the car if she could sit in her own little perch and look out the window. Of course, Beauty had other ideas. Instead of sitting obediently in her car seat, she would jump out of the car seat and try to sit with whoever was driving the car. As if that wasn't bad enough, she was strapped into the car seat and would end up choking herself as she dangled halfway out of the dog seat and halfway in the driver's seat. This would then send the driver into a fit of panic, causing said driver to slam on the brakes at inopportune moments (say like when cruising down the highway at 80 miles an hour....). The doggie car seat has since been sold at a garage sale for $1 and Beauty has been banished from the car for life.
(Obviously not a picture of Beauty....)
I've had a number of people ask this question today. To learn the answer, go toDebtors Anonymous to take the debtors quiz and read about the signs of compulsive debting.
In case you're wondering, in my case, I can not have a credit card ever again because I will spend like crazy if I have one. I do have a debit card, but I rarely use it. Instead, I tend to deal strictly in cash and I record every dime I spend. I have to think out every purchase I make and plot out every shopping trip I take so my compulsive debting doesn't kick in. Buying a pair of socks is tantamount to buying a new car for me.
I wasn't always like this. I used to be a pro at the 30-minute power shopping trip.
When I was still doing the high-powered corporate job, I would run to the mall during lunch and in 30 minutes buy a new wardrobe. It was retail therapy at it's finest.
Now, I know if I live that way it will ultimately kill me.
I attend 12-step meetings regularly for my problem. I do not have credit cards; and God willing, never will again. I tend to joke about my "problem" here, but it is a very serious issue in my life. Yet, I refuse to let it define me and I also refuse to live in deprivation.
The difference, though, is that I'm not debting to live my life anymore. Yes, I'm going on vacation -- paid in full with cash. Yes, I shop at Macy's -- with cash only. Yes, I have a maid -- paid with cash twice monthly because frankly it's hard to work two jobs, volunteer 8 hours a week, raise a child and keep a home.
Someone mentioned in a comment that I've dug a big hole but I have a big shovel to use in filling it. This is very true. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say I will be disqualified from any government rebates this spring because of the salary cap. Don't feel sorry for me, though, my bills are paid on time each and every month thanks to the hefty salaries my husband and I make and I'm in no danger of losing my home due to stupid mortgage mistakes.
I know people who have dug bigger holes than I have and have used every dime they had to pay it off and then had something catastrophic happen that left them wishing they had saved a little of their emergency funds to help them get through the rough patches. This is ultimately why I don't pay off my debt with my savings. Also, I'm not joking when I say I don't want to be eating Alpo in my old age.
I think that it's easy for people who are not in my position to think they know what will solve my problems, just like I think I know what will get smokers and alcoholics to give up their "vices." Unless you've been here, you have no idea....
Nancy, who I don't know, slapped my hand for shopping at Macys when according to her I should be shopping at Walmart's clearance aisle because of my debt.
Here's what she had to say:
"I just found this blog and have read about 30% of it. It's scary. Your credit card balances are so high and yet you refer to a housekeeper, manicures, vacations, and such, when in reality, when if ever will you ever get out of debt? The sweaters at Macy, for example -- go shop at WalMart on clearance. I hope this blog gives you insight and I will bookmark it because when I read it, it serves as a cautionary tale, indeed."
This was my response to Nancy:
"Sorry you're scared, Nancy, but I'm not sure what you're afraid of. I'm paying my debt off on time. I'm not late on anything. I own a house and have a huge amount of equity and I have a boatload of savings in other accounts (remember what you see reflected there is not my complete savings, but it is my complete debt). If I wanted to, I could pay off the debt today, but given that I'm a compulsive debtor paying it off in one fell swoop is not going to make my problem go away so I'm following a very set program for paying it off on my terms while not living in deprivation. I have a housekeeper because I work more than 40 hours a week. My husband does as well. We go on vacation by paying cash. The clothes I buy at Macys are paid for with cash. We have no more credit cards, so the debt is not increasing in any way. Deprivation is just going to make me want to spend more, so if I can live comfortably while still paying for my debt it really shouldn't scare you."
Now, having said all that, I've decided to clear up some of my vagueness surrounding my savings and debt. First. look over to the left and you'll see my savings has jumped drastically because I've decided to include the equity on my house. Note that I still need to add a bunch of pension money into that measly total, but I'll get to that sometime before I retire. Plus, I own some property that is being drilled on for oil and gas and I'm not sure what the current value is so it's not included here either.
Also, my debt is not all credit cards. My husband and I put a kid through a very pricey private university and I put myself through grad school, so a whole lot of that debt is in student loans. It's still debt, but I'd just like to clarify what kind of debt it is so that Nancy won't think I'm using credit cards to fund my sweater-buying trips at Macys.
If you look to the left, you'll see I updated the debt and savings totals. It's still bleak as far as the debt is concerned, but I'm happy to report that the debt did go down and the savings did go up over the last 9 months.
Neither went anywhere fast enough for me, but I'll take what I can get at this point.
Ralph asked me why I didn't pay off my massive debt with my massive savings, so I thought I would share my response with all of you in case any of you are wondering the same thing.
The reasons are many.
1. I'm old and want to make sure I have some savings to fall back on so I don't end up eating Alpo later in life.
2. Much of that savings is tied up in 401Ks, investments, etc., and the tax hit would not be worth it.
3. I'm still old and I won't be able to build my retirement back up should I dip into it.
4. My thinking is that until I retire the massive savings is only to be used in the case of a true emergency (i.e. I or my husband are not able to work and the insurance company doesn't dish out the disability pay fast enough; or disgruntled underlings take my husband hostage and I have to provide a ransom to get him back -- or to get them to keep him).
My self-created debt isn't an emergency. It's a mistake, but I am paying it off using my own hard-earned money.
People who know my husband and I -- but not about my debt -- always ask why I work. By all appearances, I should be one of those women who lunch/play tennis/get daily blowouts/etc. But I work because I am a compulsive debtor in recovery who is trying to make my wrongs right. Working allows me -- not my husband -- to deal with my problems. (My husband, by the way, has been encouraging me not to work as well, but understands why I keep at it.)
I have often thought what I would do if I suddenly got a $167,313.77 windfall. Would I automatically pay off all my debt? Well, DUH, YES!!! I'm not that much of an idiot after all. But I know that a windfall is not going to make my debting problem go away. It's always going to be there. All I can do is work my 12-step program one day at a time, not debt in any way shape or form, stay away from my triggers (i.e. credit cards), live within my means and still have a life while doing all this.
So that, dear Ralph, is my answer. Anything else????