Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Long Winding Road HOME

I am still waiting to hear the seller's response to my offer on the house. I think they may be considering it, I can only hope. They asked for more financial information so I think maybe that's a good sign.

And as I was preparing all this documentation, and trying to think of how I can explain why I am not just blown out of my chair by the fact I have nearly $30,000 in credit card debt, I was reminded just how far I have really come in the past 5 1/2 years. Actually more like the past 22 years ...

In 1989 I accepted responsibility for my then 2 1/2 year old disabled godchild, Ashley, and I spent the next 16 years peddling as fast as I could to keep up. She has a type of Muscular Dystrophy called Mitochondrial Myopathy (sometimes called Mitochondrial Cytopathy).  At the time the doctors insisted she would not live to see her third birthday. I proved them wrong.  In the 16 years I had her I spent not one but TWO substantial inheritances on her special needs, and slowly accrued nearly $100,000 in credit card debt (total of something like 13 cards going at once) and had zero in savings. I always made my minimum payments, and my credit score was actually quite good at 720, considering I had such massive debt. When she moved out in 2005, I was finally free, and started the long arduous road home.

With so many credit cards, I had to make a plan, and I had to stick to it. We had never lived extravagantly: most of our clothes were from thrift stores and we ate a lot of macaroni, even re-used coffee grounds (did you know you can usually make a second pot from them? might have to drip it through twice the second time but it works), I am a master at recycling anything and everything, but now I had a more specific goal.  My ONE extravagance I allowed myself for the first part of this transition period was to move into a very nice house with a higher rent than I'd have been comfortable with usually. I had been doing without so many things, I decided I just wanted to feel a little luxury for a year or two. I molded that in to my financial plan though and it worked out. I started with the cards that had the highest interest rate. Every paycheck (every 2 weeks), I would pay double the minimum monthy required on that one card (and then for the month just the minimum on all the others), and when that was paid off, I chopped up the card and called the company to make sure it was cancelled, gone forever. Then I'd start on the one with the next highest interest. One after the other I disposed of them, and each month I had more money to devote to the whole project than the month before (because I had fewer cards to be paying on). After the first year even though I was still paying off cards I started putting some serious money into a savings account as well, "pay yourself first" as my mother taught me. Near the end, I put the small remaining balances of two cards onto my two lowest interest cards at 8.9%, and have been more slowly paying these off the past year. I went to three days a week at my job -- making almost as much after all with a little "Me Time".

I know to the financial experts, carrying almost $30k in revolving debt is a lot, but considering where I started, I am truly amazed that I have ONLY that much. And with the low interest, my monthly payments are very managable. Assuming I get the house, I'll get these 2 cards paid off over the next 2 years and then start whittling away at the mortgage, a little at a time like I did the cards.

I am living proof that you CAN do anything you truly put your mind to. You have to really want it, and you have to be willing to sacrifice and work at it, and expect NOT to see instant results but to keep plugging away at it, a penny at a time if that's what it takes. Make a plan, make it one you can live with (build in a few luxuries but stick to just those in the plan) and stick to it.

I don't know if I will get the house, I really hope so. If I don't, I'll go back to the plan and continue saving, go back to 4-5 days a week at my job in the coming year and get rid of the balances on those 2 cards to make myself more desireable to lenders next time, and the next house I WILL get. You don't give up, you find a way and you make it work.
I am going to make this work!