Pay the Piper

It is no secret that we have been digging out from under debt for a long time. I wrote about it for the first time in the blog post called The Face of Genteel Poverty, way back on September 26, 2014. I have to say that blog post caused a flurry of emails and calls from friends and family who had no clue what we were living with.

keep-calm-and-keep-shovelingIf you scroll over to the tag names in blue on the right side of the page and find the word DEBT and click on that, you will find a whole passel of blog posts on the subject of Debt. Well, since all of that was written, some other things happened as well. A source of our income stopped completely in January of this year. Suddenly my pay was needed to pay bills, put food on the table, and there was a lot less to go toward debt reduction.

As I have said, at my worst, I have sometimes thought, that the retirement dreams of being able to travel to visit family and friends may never happen. My dear husband, who is 18 years older than me, often talks of all the many places he would like to show me or discover with me. Just talking about those trips is wonderful – but we sometimes wonder – will we still feel like going to see the national parks five years from now or ten? I don’t feel as if we have unlimited time to get this debt thing under control.

Once in a while in life you are given the blessing of an ah-ha moment. Often when I say my prayers, I say to God:

Lord, if I am too stupid to figure out what you are trying to do for me, please nudge me. If I still don’t get it, please nudge me a little louder.

Recently a couple things have fallen into place. Again, not because of any brilliant planning on our part, but some weird grace-like gift. Our house got TERMITES. A gift from God? Perhaps! The termites caused us to finally have to tackle the mess that is our garage, but more importantly it presented us with a large bill we were not in a position to pay which we thought we could cover by credit card only to discover they didn’t take our brand. We ran up against a major road block.

When you diagnose an illness and prescribe a treatment, you need to check back periodically and see if the treatment is working. We have just done that. It wasn’t. Our plan has not been working. On two fronts actually: a diet front for me (after having lost 65 pounds I gained back 15 that I couldn’t shake); and the debt plan. We finally sat down and figured up all of our debt, and though we have retired one debt, and faced the fact that we have only been throwing pebbles at the others and making virtually no major improvement at all. Ah, and then there is the lean silhouette of our cash reserves.

So what did we do? Despair? By no means. We are too ornery for that. We went back to the classroom. I reread a book that had helped me 20 years ago to lose some weight, and at the same time, I rJerrold Mundis debteread Jerrold Mundis’ book Getting Out of Debt and Living Prosperously. In some ways the two books dovetailed nicely. So, after talking about it, my husband and I sat down together, and ruthlessly listed every jot and tittle of debt, and gulp, then we added it up. Instead of thinking we could tweak this and do it our way – we decided to bite the bullet together and do it the way he describes in the book. The new plan means putting a lot less money toward the debt, but, never under any circumstance, creating NEW DEBT.

Alas, that was where we had failed. Always from good intentions, if I do say so myself. Repaying the kindness of friends by using a credit card to take them out to dinner. Charging airline tickets to my only daughter’s wedding across country. The list goes on to more mundane expenses, like that one grocery store run, which we really needed, because we had put so much against debt, that alas, we were short of grocery money.

You can never get out of debt unless you decide you will never create new debt. Period. So we have gone back to the drawing board. Neither of us know what new possibilities may turn up. We keep praying. We keep on keeping on. But we have felt that grace-like nudge and we do feel like a good corner has been turned. We remain hopeful that we can get out of this in time to still take some of those dreamed about road trips.

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4 Responses to Pay the Piper

  1. I did the “no new debt” plan, following your advice I think, and it does work. I do not have any credit cards, and I have one debit card tied to my bank account. My divorce settlement landed me with the entire indebtedness in loans, credit cards, etc. Anyway — I am still chronically short on cash, but not because of debt, but rather lack of employment. That is the problem I am faced with now. I am working to correct that, and I wish you the best of luck (or divine Providence actually) turning your situation around.

  2. We walk such a fine line. Anyone can plan ahead for what you think will happen. Reality may charge along another path. I know I put away, as I was advised, starting in my early 20’s. 2008 blitzed those accounts. Even though I do have savings, I can’t quit working, for a long time. Not enough in reserve. This is where we dream of lotteries while we continue to slog ahead and work when we thought we’d be retired….

  3. A quick reflection-comment on something Kathie Staska said: “I can’t quit working, for a long time.” Why would you WANT to “quit working”? I have been out of work since the beginning to 2008, and I am going nuts !! Why would you WANT to win the lottery? The problem is not being out of work — I want to work — I’m only 59. But I want to work at what my many years of education and experience have trained and honed me to do. I am thinking now that may turn out to be my “avocation,” while my actual cash will come from a plain old job. Now THAT is a big change which I never contemplated until recently. But I guess my point is that I don’t need to work to make a fortune — I don’t want to — it takes up too much of my time. I want to work so that I can live comfortably in my little apartment with no anxiety about recurring bills and debts, and have lots of time left over to teach courses and write books. Life should be about what you WANT to do, even if what you HAVE TO do needs to be fitted in somewhere.

  4. AECRM says:

    Mark, many people have jobs that aren’t what they long to do, or what they were trained to do. Kath is an amazing sculptor and artist — but she has a regular job. Her education is in the fine arts. I’m in somewhat of the same boat. We work the jobs we can find, and long to do the work that is our passion.

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