I’m Scared I’ll Never Be Debt Free

I started this blog over two years ago because I was in a terrible place. I was living paycheck to paycheck and filling in the gaps with my credit card. I would get half way through the month and have no money for anything. There were times when I had $7 in my checking account, a maxed out credit card, and sit in the grocery store trying to figure out what foods would feed me the longest for less than $7.

I was worried, frantic, scared of my financial situation. It was stressful and terrifying.

This wasn’t supposed to be how it was.

Nearly $20,000 in credit card debt. $17,000 in student loan debt. There would be months where I would sometimes get upwards of 7-8 overdraft fees (@ $35 a pop!). I had a Ph.D. in Chemistry but somehow couldn’t figure out how to manage my finances.

This blog and the blogging community turned me around. I started saving money towards a modest emergency fund. I started working three part time jobs to make extra money to pay off debt.

It is two years later. I’m no longer in a sinking hole like I was. I’m not treading water just to survive. But I’m not going anywhere anymore either.

I’m just floating now. I’m paying $100/month to my Emergency fund. I’m paying $120/month towards my yearly fund (to pay for expenses that happen annually). I’m paying $700/month towards my debt ($300 over minimum). I don’t go overdraft anymore. All my bills get paid on time.

But it isn’t happening quickly enough. I feel like this process is just… never going to end.

From the last session of  Financial Peace University Dave Ramsey said that the average family takes 2.5 years to get their debt paid off. I’ve been doing this for 2 now and I still have at least 2 more to go. It doesn’t seem like I have an above average amount of debt – so what is WRONG with ME?

I have tried gimmicks to get me more money each month. Online surveys. Homemade gifts. No spend days. Eight months of not eating out. Multiple jobs. Monthly challenges.

And to be honest, I’m just worn out. I feel like I’ve put in all this effort and gotten NO WHERE (yes, I know logically that  I’m somewhere, but I’m still so very far away).

I’m so afraid that at this rate I’ll end up being in debt forever…

Worse then forever,  I’m afraid that I will end up giving up at some point and just accepting the debt. I don’t want this. I don’t. I want to be debt free. I dream of being debt free. But on some level part of me just wonders if it really is worth it. I don’t know. In my adult life I’ve never really BEEN debt free.

I’ll keep plugging away. Hoping to get there. I have my budget planned for when I am debt free. I have my goals set. I just want to BE THERE already.

Please tell me I’m not the only one struggling… the rest of you make it seem so easy.


[Edit: After complaining about this on Twitter, Red and Jenn (PayingMyself) helped me realize that I need to figure out my “out to debt” goal (once again, sigh) and I also have realized that I may need to just do this the Ramsey way and once I get my E-fund up to $1,000 just start putting that extra $100/month on my debt. I ❤ you bloggers! Thank you for your ever present support and encouragement!]


18 Responses to I’m Scared I’ll Never Be Debt Free

  1. eemusings says:

    YOU WILL! I know you can…

    I’m in the opposite boat..debt free but the boy is not, and every once in a while I get frustrated and feel like it’s holding us back.

    I still remember I drew up a graph a couple of years ago to figure out how long it would take him to repay me the nearly 2k I lent him. It was meant to happen in less than a year. And then he got laid off.

    Today, he’s about halfway through repaying me…Life happens.

  2. I was right at the same place you were 5 months ago. I have been attending and running a “Gail Club” and found I’d hit the debt wall. So I took a page out of a few of the other PF bloggers books and on a suggestion of someone in my group, I sat down myself and got real.

    To get out of debt you have to get real with yourself. While I get why Gail (Vaz-Oxlade) says to put money aside for an emergency, Dave Ramsay says to build an emergency fund of $1000 and then move on to aggressively pay down your debt. I sat down with myself, and created a whole lot of actual writing about what I wanted to do – Be Debt Free. I then began to write out all the items currently in my budget, and some of the steps I needed to take to get myself out of debt.

    What I found was that I was saving money, putting money away for retirement, including my entertainment and clothing and gifts budget and a bunch of other things that I thought I needed. Turns out I don’t. They are luxuries that I need to give up to get out of debt. I have chopped my cell phone, my online game will be gone at the end of the year, my gym membership will be gone at the end of the year, my savings are on hold until I’m out of debt – scheduled for the end of 2011. I still contribute a little to my RRSP’s (401k equivalent), but I’m only doing a little until the debt is gone. I have also decided to keep all extra cash in my account until I’ve built it to the minimum so I don’t have to pay bank fees anymore.

    What you really need to do is sit down and slug through all the mental stuff that has been making your quest for debt freedom fuzzy. You are moving a bunch of money towards emergency funds and what not that you could be moving towards the debt to speed it up. The other thing is – start looking at your entertainment in other ways. Can you use a library to borrow videos, dvd’s, cd’s, movies, books and tapes from? What about doing a DVD swap with some of your friends? Maybe you could put a frozen pizza or two, when on for a good price, into your freezer for when you want pizza? Pop it in the oven and voila for $4 you have a whole pizza and you stretched your entertainment/food budget farther by not spending $20 on one! Maybe you can friends some over for a cuppa something instead of meeting at the place.

    You CAN and WILL be out of debt SOON! You just need to renew your vigor on this goal. You CAN do this!! You’re just tired, fatigued, unhappy with your progress is all. We’ve all been there. Now it’s your turn to pull yourself up and out of this stage!

  3. findingserenity2010 says:

    I was at your point the moment after I began my debt-free journey. And a little over a month ago. And last week. Nobody said becoming debt-free would be easy, and we all have low points. And things happen that get in the way of your “best-laid” plans.

    Considering what you’ve been through, you should be extremely proud of your progress so far, and take that as encouragement to keep going. If you’re re-evaluating things and going from where you are now, you’ll be fine. But don’t accept debt. Stay the course. Keep inspiring others 🙂

  4. It’s definitely hard. Seems like it goes on forever and it’s hard to have a life but I find that making small goals helps a lot. You feel so accomplished when you are able to surpass those small goals (i.e. say you will put down $700 toward debt this month minimum, and then work to try to make it more than that). Make sure you do reward yourself once in a while as well though, don’t get burned out. IT WILL HAPPEN!!

  5. ndchic says:

    It will happen. I know its hard but it will be so worth it when you get there in two years. Look at how far you’ve came in two years.

  6. Carla says:

    Without getting into too many details, I have a friend in the same boat as you and she’s squeezing pennies just to feed herself some weeks! I think it’s admirable how hard you’re working to pay off this debt!

    Keep your eyes on the prize!!! 😉 It WILL happen!!

  7. LindyMint says:

    You’ve come so far already! It does seem like it goes on forever, and keeping the motivation up is hard too. I’m a big fan of visual reminders to help me keep motivated – like a chart or picture that logs how much I’ve paid off and how much I have to go. I don’t think you’ll become accepting of your debt. You might feel like it right now, but I have a sense that your motivation will return in spades.

  8. LBC Teacher says:

    I think it’s totally normal to feel that way! But you’ve made great progress, and if you decide to stick to the $1,000 e-fund, then you get to put a couple of grand toward your debt right now! Bask in that. Enjoy making that payment, blog about it, update the status bars…let it put a spring in your step to see that big of a jump at once.

    I would also say make rewards when you reach certain milestones. Obviously not expensive ones, but when I paid off my credit cards, I budgeted $250 for shopping that month and let myself enjoy it. Or take a day trip to somewhere you want to go (a museum or something?).

    Mostly, just hang in there. Those feelings will pass, and making a realistic plan will help. 🙂

  9. I guess this is part of the process. I find my self repetitively in similar thoughts for my personal and financial goals as well. And I am sure it is going to improve .. both ur mood and debt situation. Cheer Up.

  10. Here’s where I diverge from the PF wisdom – I don’t see paying off your debt as fast as possible as the be all and end all. You’re on top of your finances. Since you’re happy with your job and where you are living, the only thing that paying off your debt faster would do for you is give you extra spending money later. I don’t see a problem with just including debt payment as just one part of a balanced financial plan. As long as you don’t go into any more debt, at some point you will be debt free. And there’s no point in going on an extreme debt diet that you can’t sustain. I’d rather be frugal and get out of debt in several years than deny myself every material want to get out of debt in one or two.

    • SS4BC says:

      I have to admit that is really tempting advice. The thing is that I hate this debt. Hate it. This debt is keeping me from things I really want to do. Vacations. Savings. Buying a ‘new’ car. Buying a home in the future. I feel like my life is on pause while I have this credit card debt.

      The student loan debt I can handle, the credit card debt eats me up.

  11. You have made so much progress! Not overdrafting, having an emergency fund, saving for yearly expenses… all of those things are huge! It’s all about baby steps and slow and steady winning the race.

  12. jennie says:

    I have been a reader and non-commenter for a few months now and just wanted to drop a line that I find your story incredibly motivating for all the progress you have made AND for your openness about the process. I have these moments all the time… my best advice is mini-celebrations. As silly as it sounds, when I reached my emergency fund goal this month I ran around the house and jumped up and down with my dog like a mad women… I still have a mountain of debt, but I am working on it, and celebrating my milestones takes the edge off!

  13. I just read this post in my blog reader today, and it came at just the right time. I’m feeling the same way and it is so nice just to hear someone else SAY it. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out the way forward, but please accept my thanks for putting this out there!

  14. C says:

    One more thing. Put up a donation button!!! Anyone who has ever been though debt will know what you are dealing with. If someone wants to help then let them!!! To some, getting a sensible person and fellow citizen on solid ground and out of a dirty game is a much greater cause than donating administrative fees for a well marketed non-profit entity.

  15. Get Lucky says:

    wow, thank you so much for writing this. I found this page after being completely overwhelmed. I am in the same boat, the overdraft fees, crazy interest rates, eating rice with odd condiments for days, counting quarters and dimes for bus fare… it has to end. I don’t want to have to count down the days until my next paycheck. Thank you for sharing, it’s good to know someone else is going through this.

  16. After setting here and reading this post and the many comments, I can’t thank you all enough as a 1st time reader for the many votes of confidence. I am a new father and husband. For me, I was living outside at a local metro station for almost an entire year. There were cold winters and hot summers, all lonely days and nights with no food. As a temporary solution, not only did I choose to sign off for multiple credit cards only to feed myself over time but also a used dodge neon to sleep in. I had been hired at a manual labor job which made just enough money to pay my car note at that time ($446) per month. Back then I had no true knowledge of money, negotiations and deals as I do now. My prime worry was to have shelter and food. I lost my insurance, no more credit apps were approved and then the car was stolen never to be seen again… Now newly married to a woman that met me when I was living outside and now with our 1st and only child, I am 19,000 dollars in debt rounded up to the nearest thousand. I am 25, of that 19,000…. 1,000 of it belongs to the IRS which I was told I didnt report funds for 2 jobs that didnt send me a W-2 at any time during tax season…. 6 years have passed and I am striving to get a good paying job, though I am very diverse and intelligent, opportunity seems to be little to none. I have to pay 10,000 for the car immediately. Its been 6 years sitting on my credit and I have been to court about it and garnishments were being taken out of my check from my last temporary job… I am feeling like I am so close to giving up, I do not want to die like this when I get old. Some nights, I can not get sleep. I need help… There is none available. I have no clue where to start or how to continue but after reading all of this, I know that I have to keep going.

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