Big Goal Number 2: Debt

Three years ago, we had nearly eliminated our credit card debt.  We had at least gotten it down to some level that could be paid off in the forseeable future.  Now, not so much.  There are a number of good reasons why we ended up here: school expenses, medical expenses, home repairs and improvements.  But there are bad ones, too.  A “need” for new things. Travel.  We spent a ton of money going to see family last year.  Kind of necessary, but we could have probably done it cheaper.  Instead, we charged it.

I’m not proud of this fact, but I’m not alone.  Many Americans out there face this same situation.  It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of shame (sometimes) surrounding credit card debt.

I’m trying to whittle away at it.  And despite having a kid going off to college this year, I think I can make some significant progress, but it’s going to take work.  It’s like the weight loss thing in many ways.  Things go up and down, but you want the trend to be down.  My trend has been up for far too long.  It’s such a slow process.  While I can see progress for weight loss in weeks, progress in this area will take months at best (barring some kind of windfall).

I have to kind of trick myself into dealing with this, using game techniques to keep myself on track and interested.  I try to see how long I can go without spending money.  I make payments that create an even balance.  I write little programs to generate savings goals for the week.  If I don’t do things like that, it just seems boring and awful and depressing.

Anyone out there have little tricks that work for them to achieve long term goals?

4 Replies to “Big Goal Number 2: Debt”

  1. Two in college this fall for us… I hear you, oh boy, do I hear you on this.

    Mint is pretty good on tracking expenses, if you put a little time into categorizing the stores the first month or two. (Inside Mint, you can slot a store to “Groceries” or any other category, and that’ll be its default from then on.)

    I remember this wonderful epiphany when our daughter was a baby and we were desperately reading a friend’s copy of the Tightwad Gazette: bulk counts as anything that you stock up on, regardless of the unit size. A pantry is anything that is a back storage of non-perishable items, and if you have an extra freezer, that extra freezer can count in the pantry, too, and the more you shop to refill the pantry rather than the next day’s needs, the better. So this ironically turned into a reward for shopping for bulk: if I could buy $100 of items to go in the pantry, that would save down the road. Elizabeth winced when she thought I overbought (and still does, for perishables), but the psychology worked for me to make me think of “refill the pantry.” As the car ads say, your mileage may vary.

  2. I’ve started shopping that way: having beans, pasta, canned veggies, etc. on hand. That way I can play the “how long before I really have to go to the store” game. If I can whip up a decent meal with stock items, I feel like I deserve a badge. 🙂 When the farmer’s market is open I set aside a certain amount for that. If I stick to fruits and veggies, my dollar goes further than at the grocery.

  3. Well, this might be obvious, but have you could track your money for a month, and see where it goes. Really track it, by putting each expense down on paper or a spreadsheet. Sometimes what we think we do, isn’t quite what we actually do.

    The next step may be to have a budget. A realistic one, that includes travel, and anticipated new things…

    Best of luck!

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