My Credit Card Debt Isn’t a Secret, I Just Don’t Discuss It

An as-told-to story of an anonymous woman with credit card debt



I asked one anonymous woman about her experience accumulating, living with and attempting to get rid of credit card debt. Here’s what she told me. 

I always remember I have credit card debt when I get gross credit card junk mail. I get so much predatory bullshit: new credit card offers, people trying to buy our debt (never settle your debt), that kind of thing.

The first time I accumulated credit card debt that I couldn’t pay off, I was 22 and working in Manhattan at an incredibly low-paying job. Once I had a little bit of it, it snowballed. It wasn’t that much, but I let it sit there and grow. I think it maxed out around $5,000. I hated it.

Then I started dating someone who was really good with money and it changed my thinking. I made a committed decision to pay off the debt. I was making around $35,000 a year and living hand-to-mouth. I’d make a payment on my card and then would have $10 to survive off of for two weeks. I lived in Chinatown and my lunch would be soup from the restaurant downstairs for $1.25. I would take change from my boyfriend’s change container. He didn’t realize it until he went to cash it in. He was really pissed at me, but I was like, “I’m so broke! Don’t be a dick!” It was really hard, but I paid it off over the course of a year.

The more recent credit card debt is a different ball game altogether. When the recession happened, my husband decided to change careers and stopped working for a while. Although I was working a full-time job and doing part-time on top of that, it was never enough. We ate through our savings quickly and that’s when we started accruing debt. Then we got married and had to pay for a wedding. Even though we did most of it on our own (the food, the decorations, all that stuff) it still ended up impacting us in a pretty serious way. Now, whenever we start digging ourselves out of the hole, something will set us back. So the debt is still sitting there. At its worst, it was around $40,000. Now it’s closer to $16,000.

Almost none of our friends are in our world in terms of finances. They all are very well off. I don’t want them to know I’m struggling because I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. They’d be surprised and probably wouldn’t understand. I have one friend in that circle who’s in a similar spot and I remember one night she was really drunk and started getting weird about money, talking about it, kind of calling people out. I remember [another friend] was like, “Don’t you know the last people you want to alienate are your rich friends?

Money is weird in general. I feel like I can really only talk about it honestly with people who I know are in a similar situation, and I just don’t know that many. Once I was at a Thanksgiving party and everyone was complaining about their hired help and how much it costs. Someone asked me how much I paid and I was like, “I don’t have a housekeeper.” I felt so much rage. I remember thinking, “You guys are so insanely clueless that you would assume everyone in this room could afford help.” They aren’t bad people – they’re good people! But they have no concept. No knowledge of what my financial situation would even be like.

I wouldn’t call our debt a secret, though, except when it comes to my parents. They’d be very upset if they knew. I started working when I was 12 and I pay for everything myself. They are frugal to the point of it being stifling. They don’t indulge in any luxuries ever. But that’s not necessarily my approach.

Essentially we have debt from the wedding and from the basics: rent, food, car insurance, gas, childcare. General cost-of-living stuff. We don’t spend frivolously. We almost never go out to dinner, although we do buy healthy food to cook with at home. When I shop, I try to invest. I’ve had all my clothes for years and years and years. If it won’t last the test of time, it’s not worth it for me. In some ways, though, looking nice is part of my job. There’s an element of faking it.

When I was single, I felt more flexible to pinch pennies how I saw fit. I remember one year where I just acknowledged that the whole summer was going to be really shitty. For lunch, I would eat a piece of bread and some cheese or sardines. For dinner, I’d have rice with peas and onions or just eggs. When I left the house, I wouldn’t even bring my wallet, because I didn’t want to be tempted to buy anything. That’s a good trick. When I got invited to parties, instead of bringing a bottle of wine, I would bake a loaf of bread. I used the New York Times no-knead recipe. All you need is flour, water and salt. The cost comes out to like 25 cents a loaf if you buy the ingredients in bulk. And people think it’s so lovely!

There were all kinds of things I did when I was single. I think debts builds up faster when you’re in a partnership. My husband and I have slightly different personalities when it comes to money too. I grew up with a very real fear of not having it; my husband never had that. I don’t think he’s ever really stared down the reality of getting super uncomfortable to save.

We’ve made some life decisions as if we had a safety net even when we didn’t. Like changing jobs or leaving jobs when there was money on the table or moving (an expensive move can easily wipe you of thousands of dollars). There was a big conversation around whether or not we were going to have a wedding, but we decided to do it and it was amazing. In that sense, I suppose there were things we could have done differently. But I don’t really regret the way we prioritized.

The weird thing about debt is…if you ignore it, it can almost feel like it doesn’t affect your life that much. I think of paying it off like anything else I’d start doing to better myself. Like a new diet or exercise routine or a commitment to water my plants. Adult stuff. None of these things are complicated necessary, they just require a extra time and energy and focus.

We’re not in a bad place right now, but we’re at a point where we need to set a new budget and figure out a more official plan to pay it off so it doesn’t start growing again. There’s always the question of paying it off faster versus having more liquidity or maybe buying property. It’s complicated. It inhibits our flexibility.

The thing with credit card debt is it’s really easy to start and hard to get rid of it. People underestimate how hard it is to get out from under it. You can ignore it for a while but when you tackle it head on, you start to realize it for what it is: this burden that swallows your money month after month. You feel better about yourself when you deal with it, but the actual paying off of the debt is so much more painful than you want it to be.

Want some money tips? How to save and Personal Finance 101.

Photo by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Suzan

    Great serious adult-y articles today! Super interesting to read and to pay attention to as a subject!

  • *Looks from side to side about piggy bank theft* Yeah. My boyfriend would be mad yet humoured if I did that ever… but I swear I don’t!

  • nevvvvave

    every time I venture into nyc I reflexively ask myself how so many people can “afford” to live there then I remember- They can’t. But that doesn’t actually stop them…My immigrant mindset tends to kick in when I read articles like this because it boggles my mind the extent to which people will justify certain kinds of spending because that’s how they think they should be living, even when debt is the means of acquiring that lifestyle. I know this sounds really harsh but the American mentality of consumption is really doing our generation a disservice.

    • Adrianna

      How is that different than people going to great lengths and debt to buy a house in the suburbs? A mortgage is a debt.

      Let’s stop generalizing the people who want to live and live in New York City. It’s clear that you haven’t actually lived here – otherwise you would know that recent college grads do not represent New York City.

      • nevvvvave

        In my comment I never justified going into extreme debt to buy a home- especially since the recession made it clear that millions of people were taking on mortgages that they knew they could never pay off. But let’s not forget that the endgame of a mortgage is that you end up with a home/asset. What has the author gained from paying off that 40k while living on rice and peas? I don’t need to generalize a city or the people living in it to see with my own eyes that many thousands of ppl are living way beyond their means because the lifestyle they want doesn’t match up to their career path or the lives they see portrayed elsewhere.

        • gloriagloryglory

          Eh, as a 1st generation person who was born/raised and sitll living in NYC, I’m going to go ahead and assure you that the person in this article doesn’t represent most people who live here. She’s living a very particular type of NY [or really, any big city] life while many other people are actually living here just fine.

    • George Milton

      You think your credit card is bad, mine was terrible. i was at the edge of loosing my family, when i got saved by an old friend of mine who introduced me to a hacker by the name Global View. I didn’t at first believe it but i had no choice, i was about to loose everything. So i contacted him via email at globalview{DOT}hacker {AT}gmail{DOT}com and i must say, hackers are the best. He raised my credit score to a golden score and removed the eviction from my credit among other negative listings. Now my life is much better than i ever thought it would. I can now get approved for loans, mortgage, e.t.c. I’ll advise you contact him to help fix your credit now. He’s the only hacker i trust can help out in any hack related issue.

  • Kayla

    Above all else, I want to say thank you for being open about this. My entire life has had this weird, shitty “money cloud” hovering over it: it drives me and everything I do. And it’s not the desire to make it — I don’t aspire to be rich — but rather it’s the fear of not having it, because I grew up without it, quite literally. It is the one thing in the world that keeps me up or jolts me awake at night.

    As an adult, I think I’m doing alright — I’m self-sufficient, no student loan debt because I worked instead of going to college (which comes with it’s own set of stresses, but that’s a novel for another day), and ultimately quite minor credit card debt. Still, I fear it, because I grew up believing that money is this elusive, scary thing… and as much as I budget for therapy, it’s always been that shadowy figure in the back alleys of my mind, ready to strike me down with something as simple as an unforeseen medical bill or a broken-down car. But I’m not drowning, which is a relief.

    Having a dialogue about these struggles and experiences is so important, even if just to make us feel a little less alone in trying to make things work. It’s supportive, it’s educational, and perhaps having open conversations around money management might help someone coming from a background like mine know that there are ways out, around, and/or above the fear of not having enough money. Scary, but true.

    Anyway, that turned into it’s own novel… thanks again for sharing, Haley. I appreciate the vulnerability.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      Kayla as someone who grew up poor this is something that drives my life as well. People who have money don’t quite understand how all-consuming money can be when you don’t have it.

      • Claire


      • Selina Moses


      • Marion A.

        I’ve heard it said that money is like air you breath, if you have it you don’t think about it when you don’t it’s all you think about.

        • ValiantlyVarnished

          That’s a perfect metaphor for it.

    • Haley Nahman

      Thank you for this! I totally agree that money complications are worthy of a more open dialogue. We’ll try to do more stories on it!

      p.s. This one wasn’t my story but I’ll pass on your thanks to the woman who shared it with me.

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    This article really hit home for me. Mostly because I was in this exact same spot almost two years ago. Drowning in debt and living hand to mouth. I was constantly stressed out and worried and was incredibly unhappy. I felt like no matter what I did as far as my finances went I could never get ahead. And then I made the enormous and scary decision to file for bankruptcy. It was a scary choice to make and I was afraid of what it would mean for my future but once I actually did it? It was the best decision I’ve ever made. Hands down. It was like having this huge albatross lifted and being able to look at my life without this dark cloud of “debt” hanging over it. Bankruptcy isn’t for everyone. If you honestly feel like you can pay off your debt in a reasonable amount of time and still live then I say do it. But if you were like me and found yourself unexpectedly needing your credit cards to live and then never having enough money to pay them off I highly recommend sitting down with a bankruptcy attorney. Once I did that a lot of the fear of it went away. And for a while I did feel a lot of shame for filing. Like I’d failed as an adult. But – then I reminded myself of why I’d had to file and that life sometimes throws us curve balls and we just have to go with them and make the best of the hand we are dealt.

    • Roxana

      I’m shamelessly judging you, but it’s really hard for me to read your story. . . You filed for bankruptcy, but chumps like me and and my husband end-up paying for your debts. We are crazy tight and still have some credit card debt ($6000), but we pay all of our bills and we do it on time. We live very modestly. Thankfully, we have excellent credit, but it doesn’t really matter because we don’t have cash. Either way, when you file for bankruptcy, the banks may seemingly “write off” your debt, but the reality is that the interest rates and fees that the rest of us pay for, are, in large part, used to pay off the debt you never paid. I know your credit is lousy and you won’t qualify for a credit card for the next 7 years. In the meantime, I’m glad you feel so great about filing for bankruptcy and for being “debt free.”

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        I filed for bankruptcy after mo I got my mother who has major health issues in with me and paying all of HER bills. Up until that point I had ZERO debt. But my less than 40k a year salary in a major city could not sustain two people. I used credit card to pay for essential like I say FOOD. So I. All honesty I don’t care what the hell you think. You don’t know me and you certainly didn’t know my circumstances before you decided to write this ridiculously judgmental reply. You made vast assumptions about where my debt came from and why I had it. Did you know the majority of bankruptcy debt is from medical bills? People who find themselves in situations where the majority of their money goes to pay for illness. That’s where a lot of my money went to for a very long time. Instead of wagging your finger just be thankful that you haven’t found yourself in that situation. Because it’s shitty and stressful and ruins your life. This is the first time in well over 5 years where I don’t want to cry myself to sleep. And you aren’t going to make me feel bad about that.

        • Roxana

          I did know all about medical bankruptcy. I find it odd that you wouldn’t mention that your bankruptcy was as a result of medical bills from the very beginning. I don’t think anyone remotely reasonable would judge anyone for filing for bankruptcy under those circumstances. I know I never would.

          Why would you feel “shame” for filing for bankruptcy if the debt was because of your mother’s illness? That’s ridiculous. It’s nothing to feel ashamed about. Medial debt is enormous. I know, because we’ve applied for financial aid and are on a payment plan for our medial debt with the hospital.

          There are thousands of people who file for bankruptcy because they are careless with money. You didn’t care to distinguish yourself from this group of bankruptcy filers, so what is one left to think? Oh, I know. You “don’t care.” Except that you do care what I think, otherwise you wouldn’t see fit to “put me in my place,” which, incidentally, you haven’t done.

          I’m sorry your mother was ill.

          • ValiantlyVarnished

            I didn’t mention it because because in all honesty- it’s no one’s business. But I was so taken aback and frankly pissed off by your your reply I felt that clearly some context needed to be given – after all you felt perfectly fine assuming that you knew all about me and my circumstances. And yes I did feel shame about filing for bankruptcy. Because people like YOU make people feel shame for filing. Just read back your own reply to my comment. All you did the entire time was judge me and make assumptions. You’re STILL judging and assuming. I could judge you for having so much debt and ask you where did it come from? Why are you spending so much money when you and your husband clearly can’t afford it? Why don’t you live a simpler lifestyle? See? Not very nice. Considering I am a stranger on the internet who doesn’t know the details about your life it’s also utterly ridiculous.

            And for the record- I’m not trying to put you in your place (though clearly you felt the need to try to chastise me and put me in mine). I just find people like yourself infuriating. People who think everyone’s circumstances are exactly the same as yours and therefore you simply can’t see past your own nose to get that that simply isn’t the case.

          • Roxana

            I told you I was shamelessly judging you from the get-go and I said we have $6000 in debt. It’s from circumstances completely out of our control (mold in our condo), and honestly, some stupidity and lack of self-control. So, I’m honest, for one.

            Two, I would never judge someone for filing under those circumstances. You don’t *know* me anymore than I *know* you. I’m just going off of what you said in your initial comment.

            You say your mother’s illness is no one’s business, but you seem to think that your filing for bankruptcy is someone else’s business? The way you distinguish between information that is appropriate to share vs. info that isn’t, is odd to me. If you’re going to disclose that you did something as personal (and frankly as “shame” inducing as bankruptcy) then why not also disclose that it was because your mother was ill? You gushed instead about how much better you feel since you’d filed for bankruptcy.

            Your story doesn’t add up.

            Again, I think it’s absurd that you’d feel ashamed if the debt was from expenses related to your mother’s medical care. No one with an ounce of decency would judge you or anyone else for that.

            Also, I don’t think your circumstances are just like mine. Nothing I said in either of my comments suggests that. Hardly. I’m a stay-at-home mom with two kids and a third on the way (go ahead, judge all day long). I think you’re probably single and childless and living in NYC and you waste time reading Man Repeller, which incidentally, if you’re struggling with money is stupid. I landed on this idiotic website because I clicked a link from a blog thinking it was an article about finances. This website will only make you feel like you’re not stylish enough and need to spend more to look acceptable. I could be completely wrong about all this, but I’m telling you what I think. Does it really matter what I think?

            On the right side of the webpage (as I type this to you) is “Shop MR Picks.” You know what it’s showing? a $1400 skirt. $1400!? I’m supposed to think that people who are fiscally responsible are trolling this site? Either that, or insanely loaded. Please explain how bankruptcy would play into either of the aforementioned circumstances? (It’s a rhetorical question, so please don’t answer it). In fact, don’t waste any more of your time responding to me.

          • ValiantlyVarnished

            I’m responding anyway hun. Because you are a piece of work! I shared my story because I wanted to lessen the shame that someone else may feel about their bankruptcy or thoughts about filing. I don’t give a shit that you feel “my story doesn’t add up”. The same could be said about you: You’re commenting on a site that YOU YOURSELF ARE ON and disparaging others for reading and declaring that I shouldn’t be on it because I can’t afford the items on the site. Why are you even on this site if you hold such a low opinion of the people on it? The only person TROLLING this site is YOU.

          • Roxana

            When I said “trolling” I meant following along. Like “fishing.” I didn’t literally mean internet troll. I don’t spend a lot of time on the internet or on websites leaving comments, so sorry for misusing terms.

            I explained how I landed on this site. Re-read my comment.

            I’m not judging you nearly as harshly as you think I am. Again, I DO NOT THINK YOU NEED TO FEEL ASHAMED ABOUT BANKRUPTCY RELATED TO MEDICAL EXPENSES. I AM NOT A MONSTER.

            And, you know what? Even if you (OR ANYONE ELSE) filed for bankruptcy because they royally screwed-up, get over it. It annoys people like me because we penny pinch, which is so freaking exhausting (as I’m sure you know) and struggle to pay off all our freaking debt. I HATE THE FEELING. I hate the debt looming over our heads. As I am sure you do. Either way, even if there is shame in bankruptcy, I understand it. People make mistakes. No one is perfect. Again, I am not a monster. Your first comment really infuriated me, because it’s Christmas, my husband works his freaking butt off, doesn’t get a bonus and we have hardly any money to buy our kids gifts (or anyone else) and we’re still trying to pay off the freaking credit card. And you talked about how much better you felt after filing for bankruptcy. So, yes, I resent your initial comment! Whatever. I know these are first world problems. My kids have plenty of toys and clothes and food. We have too much, probably, so please don’t misunderstand me. My parents are immigrants and grew-up with NOTHING. Whatever. This is ridiculous.

            I am sorry that your mother was ill. I truly am.

            All the best to you and yours.

          • Yen

            Wow you are a true asshole Roxana. I don’t use that word lightly, but wow!

            You managed to make her honest confession about a personal financial struggle about you and your debts. Who does that? …You’ll notice that “the rest of us” (the other people who, according to you, have high interest rates to cover the debts of bankruptcies) didn’t feel the need to attack this woman. What does that say about you?

            I certainly hope you’re never in a situation where you have to reap the karma of receiving other people’s unsolicited judgments and snide remarks, the way you’ve done to this poster. Shame on you. You sound truly miserable.

          • Don’t be judgy. What’s the point? At the end of the day, did it make your life better? Probably not.
            I’m old. I used to be judgy. I gave up; it wasn’t worth my time. Being supportive is. Then, if i know you and you burn me, I can be mad at you all damn day long. For about a day.
            Because it’s just not worth your time to focus misery.

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    wow this was amazing, thank you for telling your story. debt is one of my biggest, darkest fears since becoming an adult. I already present all the tell-tale signs of future financial mismanagement. I pay my utility bills late, ignore school payments until the very last minute when I am forced to pay interest, lend people money without following up for repayment… I don’t know why I’m like this. Sometimes, I avoid paying stuff even when I have the money. It makes no sense. As if finances as a construct just stresses me out and I’d rather not think about it, even when I have the means to deal with it. It’s almost laughable how worried I am about credit card debt considering I don’t even have a credit card. i’ve been too scared to get one. my dad’s been nagging me to get one as of late, and I really should, because I’ll never be able to get an apartment, or get a loan, or all the other things one does as a “proper” adult without actual credit history. But to take that leap is unbelievably terrifying, like I’d be setting myself up for inevitable failure.

    • Suzan

      You could make an Excel spreadsheet with your source(s) of income and then list all your monthly expenses like rent, gas, electricity, inernet, netflix, phonebill (maybe even groceries if that evens out to the same amount roughly every month) and note the due date (assuming that’s the same date every month) next to it.
      Not only will you exactly know what your free spending money is at the bottom line (which is helpful in making decisions), but you will also have a handy overview of your expenses, which might elevate your (even unnecessary) stressing about it!

      I know it sounds simple and nonetheless it can feel like a pain to actually make that list. But you can scroll just through the last month of your banking app and rearrange the necessary information in the Excel sheet. Then it’s just a simple subtraction.

      I promise you will feel much more at ease when you have it organized like that! Good luck!

      • Imaiya Ravichandran

        you’re absolutely right! my fear of everything finances related is such that I don’t even have a clear picture of how much money I have. that is to say, i don’t have a good idea of how much money i’m making, and how much my expenses are totalling up to. that’s something that i definitely need to confront. it shouldn’t be so hard, because i know for sure that my expenses are not more than my income (as of now, i mean), so it’s not like I’m avoiding some awful realization. i just need to overcome that general cloud of anxiety so i can actually implement the healthy strategies you mentioned, excel sheets and things of the sort. thank you 🙂

        • Rosie

          This sounds really dim, but every time i look at an excel spreadsheet and want to do a budget, it just seems really complicated and i get overwhelmed and then buy a lipstick to cheer myself up. Do you know where there are good templates? I don’t need like fancy formulas, but even just an idea of how to set one up would be good.

          • isa_s

            There is a great app called Dollarbird that helped me monitor my expenses. You can use it on your phone to add and track everything. Good luck!

          • Rachael Tate

            Hi Rosie, here is a template I’ve created for myself. All the formulas are already in there, so you just have to insert your pay/expenses.
            I’ve put in tabs in case you are paid weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. There is an ‘expenses’ tab to put in every single bill you know you will receive over a year and it breaks down how much you should save on a regular basis so you always have the money to pay it.
            There is also a savings tab where you can input how much you save every month and it will tell you how much you will have in 10 years. I like this one because you can see how much that money will grow (ball park figures). You will need to alter the interest rates to suit your savings account.
            I have 3 accounts: 1. bills 2. savings 3. everyday – If I create regular transfers I don’t see the money hit my account, therefore I don’t miss it or accidentally spend it on a night out!
            Good luck, and any questions let me know.

    • Kay

      Everybody has a different “money personality”, don’t beat yourself up. Knowing yours will help you figure out the best ways that work for you to be safe with money. I also don’t like to think about money in detail so I do a lot of pretending my money doesn’t exist so that I have a huge margin of error, that’s just what worked for me. The more you know about yourself and different tools out there, the less scared you’ll be. And this is a cheesy suggestion but personally suze orman books helped me a lot.

      • Imaiya Ravichandran

        now that you mention it, books have always made things easier for me. scary concepts are made simpler when they’re being deconstructed by a gentle voice, haha. i’ll be checking those books out for sure! 🙂

        • Francie Worley

          YNAB (You Need A Budget), the budgeting software, changed my life. I was like this with money, and in the year and a half since I started, I saved for a bought a house by myself. I’m a single mother and make a low income, but I didn’t actually struggle to do it. Big recommend for YNAB.

  • Urban Travelista

    Great article…reminds me of a place I have been to myself with debt. However, I am still digging up from it. I buckled up and put my big girl panties on and just decided to face it. It’s not as scary….for me I wrote my debts down every month and crossed the amount I paid off even if there happened to be a small balance it still felt good that is was slowly wittering away. There’s something about seeing it in black and white that made me not so afraid of it. So, it can be done just note it will take you longer but starting is key. Thanks for the share.

    • Suzan

      Well done! Takes character to go this route!

  • Selina Moses

    I watch a programme called the bank of mum and dad and it’s so interesting to see what people prioritise but also the methods in which it all just piles up and it’s so easy and everyone can be in that situation. So many people grow up with little and to see how easy it is to spiral downwards once you have a bit more money is scary. And when people assume you can afford to pay for a cleaner etc is quite patronising in a way. Only thing is, I think the response to the boyfriend and stealing from his change was rather rude. It wasn’t up to him to bail her out or to be called a dick because he saved his loose change and she didn’t

    • Catherine

      BANK OF MUM AND DAD FUCKING RULES total Sunday binge watch fodder

  • Marion A.

    Thank you for sharing this article. I think more people need to be open to the talk about money. What I’ve discovered recently is that I didn’t have the best information about credit, debt and finances in general. In my parent’s generation (they are in their 60’s now) the formula for success was pretty simple. Go to school, get a good job, buy a house, work for 40 years retire. Now the game is a little different. Several years of school later, years of being underpaid, professional licences and student loans now I’m finally in a position to tackle my debts and start living life on my own terms. In all honesty I think we need to start teaching people that the way your parents and grandparents (in some cases like my own) “made it” is not going to be the same for you. I am an advocate for being aggressive with your financial future as well as having multiple streams of income, business ownership, side hustles and the like!

  • Jacqueline

    Thanks for sharing this article. Discussions around money/financial management (especially when things go wrong) have always seemed to be taboo. It’s great to see more conversation around it.

  • AB

    I feel compelled to comment because I understand that feeling of once you wake up and truly start paying off credit card debt, realizing what a trap it is. I specifically remember when this happened to me: A minimum payment on my AmEx was something like $250. When I looked more closely at the bill, I realized a whopping $136 (or something) was interest alone. I’m a writer living in Brooklyn. I don’t make pennies, per se, but I don’t make that much money either.

    This is how I got out of it: Open up an interest free credit card. Chase Slate is one option, Citi Bank has another. You transfer your balance from your original card to the interest-free card. You’ll get something like 12-18 months on the new card with no interest. You have to go HAM and pay down the credit card within that window.

    If you still have debt when that time is over, you can open up another interest free card, transfering your balance yet again. But you have to know what you’re doing; each time you do this your credit does take a hit but it’s worth it to get out from what is essentially a black hole when actually paying down consumer debt.

    • Lyla

      I never knew that was an option! Thank you so much for the tip.

      • The other thing that really helped in our budget was “which debt will go to collection first”. Parking tickets, then medical bills, and so forth. I am grateful I went to college at a time when it wasn’t so ridiculously expensive.

  • Catherine

    I think it’s really hard not to live being your means, as she puts it, making life decisions as if they have a safety net that they don’t, when the people you sitting yourself with are all well off and basically clueless about what life is to many (most?) people.

  • Bea

    If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.

    -google: DAVE RAMSEY

  • Reed

    I know it’s kind of late to the conversation, but I want to mention this book that seriously changed my life: Secrets of Six Figure Women. I give copies to all the women I know (and even some men.)

    The book is kind of outdated and cheesy, but it really, really helped me. I realized that my thrifty Mormon family put way more emphasis on finding good deals than on actually making good income, and that hey had this weirdly outsized respect for people that “make it work with so little” while also being skeptical of people with wealth. And I knew I wanted to be one of the people who made good money instead of one of the people who were good at bargain shopping.

    It has these little exercises that help you get to the root of your own issues around money, and it really blew mine wide open. I had $100k in debt (failed boutique, go entrepreneurship, jk) and this book helped me pay it all off and also make a lot of money. I swear this isn’t an ad! Lol just check it out if you think it might help you. Love that this conversation is happening. 🙂

    • Rosie

      Literally just bought it off amazon. I feel like this article is what i need today to become sensible.

  • Lyla

    I was on your side until I read that you paid for a wedding and then I really lost respect for you when I saw that you had children. If you are truly in debt you cannot afford to do those things. Put them off. I have been in debt and I survived off rice and beans for years until I got down to a place where I could conceivably pay it off in a year. I didn’t date because I knew I would never be able to afford to go dutch on anything. This makes me so crazy. There are things that come up in life that you can’t control like major health problems, but you had control over taking career risks and indulging in a wedding. I can imagine why you keep it quiet. I would be humiliated by my irresponsibility.

    • Lan | MoreStomach

      this wins as the most judgemental comment.

      the key is, the writer PAID for the wedding, did not CHARGE for the wedding, which can be expensive AF. and having kids, there is rarely a right time to do it in terms of finance, but there is only a window of time that one can physically have kids, without the assistance of medical help, which can be expensive AF.

      tl,dr: if life was lived by the theme that one should only do things they have control over for fear of things like major health problems, and not indulge in things like weddings or kids, and only eat rice and beans and not date, then life looks fairly bleak.

      tl,dr: life is hard, but don’t make it harder by being so judgemental.

      tl,dr: hell yeah i’m judging.

  • cicir

    My husband and I ended up with a lot of credit card debt. Medical bills, a cross country move, one income when our child was young, dinner dates we felt we deserved… you name it. We did ( and at times still do) feel the pressure to ” keep up with the Jones”. We were advised to file for bankruptcy and didn’t feel right about it. We used the old fashioned cash only in envelopes solution. Restrictive, boring and certainly not sexy…. it worked however. There is something for me about seeing the green stuff disappear that helped me stay on track. And yes, there were times we raided our son’s piggy bank for change to buy milk or eggs or pay for a field trip. What I really learned during this time was to answer the question, ” what is a need and what is a want”.

  • Kubla

    Haley – thank you for sharing this anon story. I used to have debt when I was younger, purely for fancy clothes and beauty items. Then I paid it off, but got into debt again! Then repeated the cycle several times. Now I no longer have debt for which I am grateful. I try to spend mindfully and with gratitude and without greed – this takes loving effort. I still have to be compassionate with the needy greedy little girl within. It is a beautiful journey. May we all be free and know our boundless resources of love.

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