The Consequences of Debt

You know, back in the day when I was charging up credit cards to take fun trips overseas it was all fun and games. Today there is not so much fun and not so much games.

I have mentioned before that I am in a crapload of debt. It is no joke. And being in debt has some pretty crummy consequences.

For instance, yesterday we got a big bunch of snow here. I wanted to call in. I ached to call in. I had to get ready for work though because my debt needed that money. I left and it was snowing pretty hard. It took me 45 minutes to go less than a half a mile. I had been on the road 45 minutes and could still see my apartment building. So, I made the decision to turn around and go home, but only for a few hours. See, traffic was bumper to bumper and I thought I would wait it out. So, I went home and made some money online to make up for the hours I was missing at work. It continued to snow and in a few hours I left for work. The drive went much quicker. And I stayed late to make up some time.

This morning when I got up the temperature was one degree outside. I wanted to call in. I have debt though so I had to go to work.

Being in debt really blows. You get to have loads of fun while you are racking up the debt. Then you have to suffer like with not being able to take a snow day. Ah, I can’t wait to get out of debt. And after this, it makes me want it so much more! I plan on spending the weekend looking for things in the apartment to sell on eBay or Craigslist so that I can pay down some stuff.

Turning debt reduction into a crazy game

I think that once you have been carrying around debt for quite some time, 10 years in my case, you get to a moment of crazy. Now hear me out on this and see if you don’t agree with me.

I got a credit card when I was 17 – I lived in a small town and banked at a small town one-branch bank that for some reason gave a 17 year old a credit card. Anyways, I started out responsible. I only charged what I could pay off. It was a good system until I went to college and had more expenses on my own and more free time to have fun, which means charge up fun things that I could not afford. That is when the domino effect started which has led me to where I am today, still carrying around a buttload of debt. I’ve been puttering along and paying the minimum payments, plus a little more when I could. Not that it mattered though because I was still using them!! Well, after getting this new job with a nice increase in salary I started to realize that if we were really good about the money we spent that we could pay off a big chunk of that debt in no time. How short of time is no time? Well, we could pay off all of our credit cards in four months when I ran the numbers yesterday. My first calculation was for seven months but that was allowing room for funny money and such. My girlfriend decided that she wanted to get aggressive and see if we could pay it off sooner. After getting aggressive we can pay off around $16,000 in about four months.

This is where the crazy comes in.

We were talking about how this debt has been with us for what seems like forever. And we were also discussing how everyone we know (including parents) are lugging around all of this debt and how we do not want to be “those people” any longer. Then we both said it at the same time, just in different words.

Her – “Wonder how fast we can really pay it off?”
Me – “I bet we can do it in less than 4 months if we try real hard.”

That was the moment that debt reduction became a crazy game. The game is how quickly can we do it? The objective is – each month we make a budget deciding how much we spend in allotted categories and then we strive to see how much under budget we can come in at! The extra money that is left over in each category goes toward debt and debt only, assuming there are no hospital visits, etc. Basically, we are trying out to do ourselves each month by living on less than the month before all in the pursuit to maximize how much can go towards credit card debt. And it doesn’t end there. I upped the ante by proclaiming that I can work 10 hours days at work for overtime pay! Then we cheered.

Frugal ways to furnish your home

Furniture can be expensive. And if you are moving out on your own for the first time you have to buy everything which can get really expensive. Of course, you can choose to be a minimalist and not buy loads of furniture. Or you can just be broke and not buy a lot of furniture 🙂

At my first apartment I had a year lease and I never bought a couch. Couches are expensive and at the time I didn’t know about things like Craigslist. At my current place we do not have a dining room table. We don’t have a need for it so we don’t waste the money.

If you do need furniture though there is no need to spend a fortune on things. In fact, you can get by with frugally furnishing your entire place.

The cheapest and most frugal way to furnish your home is with freebies. You can ask around and see if anyone has any furniture they want to get rid of. You can look online on places like Freecycle and Craigslist for free items. You can also look to places like churches that are getting rid of items. And if you are so inclined, there is always the curb or “dumpster diving” for furnishings. And if it is that time of year when college kids are leaving dorms and putting perfectly good furniture out for the trash man, be sure to stop by and see if it is okay if you take what you want.

As a quick note though, just remember that you could be bringing critters into your home. For instance, the couch you get for free could have a family of cockroaches or fleas living it in. And if you are allergic to pet hair how can you be sure there were no pets on it? Just some practical food for thought here.

Your next step of frugal furnishing is going used but cheap. You can look for these items on Craigslist also. But do not forget to stop by the Goodwill Store or the Salvation Army. And where I live there is a chain of used items stores called “New Uses” that sometimes carries furniture.  You can also look in the classified section of the local newspaper or penny saver paper. And do not overlook yard sales and garage sales for cheap used furniture.

Then you come to cheap – new furniture.  Can you say Big Lots? They have some amazingly nice furniture on their website. I had my eye on some dressers at Target that were around $300 and when I looked at the Big Lots website I found something almost identical in look for under $100 each. Sure, the quality is not quite as good as the Target ones but I am okay with that and it meets my current needs. Another website I have looked for furniture on is Overstock.com. They are especially nice thanks to product reviews. It is awesome to read if someone bought something and it was nicer than expected or that it fell apart a week later.

And for my desks, I wait for a coupon for an office supply store like Staples and then go to their fold-up table section – not the expensive desks section – and get a nice fold up table and a nice chair. It comes out way cheaper, I end up with more space to work and when I get ready to move all I have to do is fold it up!

The important thing to remember about buying furniture is do not buy it if you do not need it. If you are single, do you really need a couch and a loveseat? Honestly? Do you really need a table and chairs or can you get by with tv trays?