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February 9, 2007

Tragedy Narrowly Averted (or "How I talked myself out of those shoes and saved $78!")

There is one reason why getting out of debt is so important to me: That debt I'm paying off isn't from all the pretty shoes I bought, or from yarn, or from anything at all hanging in my closet or decorating my house. That debt is the last remaining vestiges of my marriage and divorce, the sum total of a whopping $32,000 I found myself owing at the beginning of 2005.

About $10,000 of that was lawyer fees, the rest was from my marriage. (No, I will not go into details; yes I tried what I could legally; yes, I tried that, too.) In the end, this was my situation and so I had two options: cry in a corner and eat my hair, or face reality and figure out a way to pay off $32,000 worth of debt. You can complain about a thing, or worry about it, or make yourself anxious over it all day long. You can bitch and moan and carryon like nobody's business, telling yourself how it's all wrong, you don't deserve this, it isn't fair. But that doesn't pay off your bills. Eventually you have to face it, and accept your part in the accumulation of such a debt (he wasn't the only one spending while we were married) and you just do the best you can with what you've got.

So I made the budget and started learning how to handle my money, and I devised a repayment plan that was slow and painful but manageable. I had a fixed amount I repaid each month, plus anything extra went toward the debt. My bonus from work that one year? 100% went toward my debt. Yard sale money? Pay down the debt.

I had setbacks along the way (all the cats got sick AT THE SAME TIME. My car died, and then died again. And so on.) but I kept plugging along, even when it wasn't fun.

There were two months when I paid only the very bare minimum on my debt -- January and February, 2006. I saved that money to pay for my trip to Paris. It was the only way to go on vacation without going in deeper debt. I know some people thought it was frivolous of me to go to Paris when I had so much money I owed, but you do not get through three years of debt repayment without a little happiness. And I needed that trip. Some people need a new car, or a nice coat, or a great handbag. I need travel, I love travel. I needed that trip for my head and my soul, and it worked: it was when we got back from Paris that I knew it was time to finally open up to new possibilities, and finally start dating. Two weeks later I was on my first date in years and years and years.

So when I stood there yesterday at the store, eyeing those beautiful buttery-smooth leather open-toed heels, I had to remind myself why I don't want to spend eighty bucks on some shoes right now. Because that is eighty dollars closer to freedom, because the debt hanging over me is the last remaining shackle of my marriage and divorce, because I deserve to be free more than I need a pair of shoes, because buying them won't make me feel better that I had a cruddy day which is how I found myself shopping to begin with, because one day I will be free of all this and I will have worked hard for every single penny and my cats will get the finest catnip on that day, and I will drink a bottle of Veuve Cliquot in celebration, and we just have to hold on. (Cue Wilson Phillips, please.)

I have a fraction more to go, and while the sum left would seem like a crazy amount of debt to some people, to me it's the least I have owed in ten years (!!!). We were not fiscally responsible or mature when we were married. I pretended it was okay for him to "do the bills" while I managed the house. I thought I wasn't capable of money management, but boy was I wrong. Women -- with our excellent attention to detail and very determined natures -- tend to be very good at surviving and thriving, and that includes budgeting. I have made huge progress, all on my own. And I am so ready to be free! I want to be free of the last remaining obligation of sadness and divorce, to be free of a marriage that in the end was outlasted only by its debt.

So I put the shoes back and went home and mentally calculated how long it would take to get out from under this last chunk of debt.

It's close. It's so close I can feel it.

big ol' stoner kitty
Bob is dreaming of this alleged catnip.

Posted by laurie at February 9, 2007 8:58 AM