Editor’s note: Emily’s off on her vacation in Europe, but before she left, she asked a couple friends in the blogosphere to fill in for her while she sips a refreshing beverage in a Parisian cafe. Kacie kindly said yes.
Kacie blogs at SenseToSave.com, where she writes about frugality and saving money. She and her husband, both 23, have been married for one year and are expecting a baby in December. They are committed to living debt-free and they enjoy seeing their savings account grow, which is easier now that the credit card company’s hands are no longer in their pockets.
After quickly digging myself into thousands of dollars of credit card debt during my last year of college and while planning a wedding, I knew I wanted out of debt just as fast — if not sooner.
At first, my purchases were innocent enough. I used my credit card to pay my cell phone bill because I wanted to establish a credit history. I easily paid that balance each month and began charging more. Groceries, textbooks and gasoline soon made appearances on my credit card statement.
I began to carry a balance. It wasn’t much at first — just a few hundred dollars. But soon, it was too much for my small income to handle, and I realized that I would be carrying a balance for a while.
My husband and I got married on a tight budget of around $3,000. Our parents contributed quite a bit, and what they didn’t cover, we charged on our cards.
Around three months before the wedding, I clearly lost my mind. I applied for (and received) a new credit card with a $2,100 credit line. I intended to use most of that to pay for a honeymoon cruise to Alaska.
Just to recap, I already had a few thousand dollars in debt, a college student-sized income, no tangible plan to repay it all — and decided to go to Alaska on borrowed money.
Things could have turned ugly fast. I’m so fortunate that we were always able to make our minimum payments during that time.
After the honeymoon, (Alaska was amazing, by the way! I’m glad we went, but I’m mad about how we chose to fund it) we moved 400 miles from our hometown so my husband could start a promising career. I landed a paid internship.
My husband gets paid monthly, so that first month of not having much money was difficult. I had a few small paychecks to tide us over and cover our credit card payments, but it was a stressful time.
Looking back, if we had less debt and more money in savings, it would have been a much better way to start married life in a new city.
We looked at how much money we were paying in interest and considered how stressed we were about the balance, and decided that we needed to pay the entire thing off as soon as we could.
We started packing our lunches for work instead of eating out and saw an immediate savings. I learned how to maximize my dollars at the grocery, and now spend $40-50 per week in that area. Thanks to other blogs, I discovered how to get free or almost-free toiletries at drugstores such as CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens. We cut out all unnecessary purchases. And it wasn’t so bad!
We started sending credit card companies payments of $500, $700, even $1,000 or more at a time. We focused the bulk of our efforts on one card at a time, similar to Dave Ramsey’s advice (though we hadn’t discovered him by that point).
Seeing our balance go down was so empowering.