I’ve been in debt now for 14 years. The reason why I’m still in debt after all this time is because quite simply, I gave in to debt time and time again. I was in the middle of a cycle of debt.
I paid off debt and then I spent again on my credit cards. I repeated this process several times. It was a vicious circle of spending and paying off, yet never achieving debt freedom (heaven in my mind right now).
Something often cropped up out of the blue that I would have to pay for like a car repair, so instead of overpaying debt, I would actually add to the debt in order to get through a tricky financial situation. The thought of catching a couple of buses to work for a month or two whilst I saved up for such a repair never entered my mind.
Shamefully, once something like this happened, things would spiral out of control again and I’d think sod it, the damage is done, I might as well put my holiday on the credit card too and be done with it. This careless attitude has meant that debt has been at the forefront of my life for all these years.
I wasn’t ready to commit to the rocky road ahead
I guess I either didn’t believe that I could ever be debt free or I didn’t really want debt freedom like I do now. Because the thought of buying something on credit now actually fills me with dread in the pit of my stomach, whereas before I thought of debt as something I would just pay off later. The problem was that ‘later’ never came.
My mindset has changed over time in that I don’t have the same enthusiasm for material items like I used to. I’m not bothered about keeping up with the Joneses and feel ecstatic when I find something I really need secondhand for a bargain price. I like recycling my old stuff and I like the possessions I’ve got already. Paying off debt makes me feel happy (yep really!) and with each payment, a little bit of that heavy burden I carry around with me feels a little bit lighter.
For the last couple of months, the hubby and I have made some great progress with paying off our combined debts. We’ve managed to pay off over £1000 from our total debt in both July and August! We could hardly believe it given that our wages now are half of what we were earning a few years ago! A lot of this cash that we paid off our debts was the result of selling old items on eBay, selling at a car boot sale and scrimping and saving every penny (these figures include our minimum payments on debts too).
This month on the other hand, although we have overpaid our debts, we won’t be nearing the £1000 mark. Lets face it, if we could afford to pay £1000 off our debts every month, we probably wouldn’t be in this situation!
Progress is progress!
Even though we’re paying off less this month than the last couple of months, we’re still overpaying, so that’s great. It would be unrealistic to expect such fantastic progress all the time. I’m sure there will be months where we can’t overpay a single penny. It will be hard during those times and we’ll need to work really hard to get back on track and keep motivated. And work hard we will.
There may even be a time which we don’t ever want to think about when a real emergency should happen and we’re forced to borrow money to get out of the situation. We can’t think what that might be but it would have to be extremely important and a last resort to get us spending money again that is not ours to start with.
Whatever happens throughout this long journey to a better financial place, I personally and solemnly promise that I WILL NOT GIVE IN TO DEBT THIS TIME. This is my promise to myself, my hubby and the PF community out there that has supported me this far. I am 100% serious about getting out of debt for good. This cycle of debt has been broken at last!
Have you ever been in a vicious cycle when it comes to finances?
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Illustration © A Disease Called Debt
Wow Hayley, I think this is my favorite post from you so far! I’ve been in debt for 12 years and counting. I recently got out of consumer debt but those annoying student loans are still there. Every single month I always aim to overpay on my debt by at least $1000 and when I don’t I always feel like such a failure 🙁 I really need to learn not to be so hard on myself! I believe that you and your husband have broken the debt cycle for good!
Girl Meets Debt recently posted…99 Days Left in 2013 to Achieve My Goals!
Thanks so much GMD! That really means a lot to me! 🙂 I know what you mean, it can be a bit of a setback when we can’t pay as much off as we’d like but to focus on the bigger picture is the main thing. Like you’ve mentioned before – paying off anything extra is brilliant! I’m always inspired by your debt progress – I believe the cycle of debt has been well and truly broken for you too!
I think changing your mindset is the key to breaking the cycle of debt. When buying new things loses some of its excitement and when paying off debt brings excitement, it breaks the cycle of debt. I have co-workers who want to get out of debt and have tried to save here and there or cut out a few things…sometimes. But ultimately, they still want to buy nice things and aren’t willing to make long-term sacrifices to their budget which makes it much harder to become debt free.
Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted…Patience is a Virtue
I agree Andrew – a change of perspective around material things is really important to break the cycle. For quite a few people it’s the love of material things that get them into debt in the first place (not everyone of course).
We’re in the same category as you and your husband: pay down debt, add more debt. Never totally out of debt. It’s a nightmare! When the going gets tough– we add more debt and spend more money mindlessly!
LifeorDebt recently posted…Plan “L”
Getting through a tricky time financially without adding to debts is a bit of a milestone and a turning point. We’re over the mindless spending stage now thankfully – there’s nothing we want more than to be debt free! Hope you can break the cycle soon – I’m sure you will! 🙂
Good for you to saying “no” to debt this time, Hayley. You are certainly not alone. I’ve seen many people rid themselves of debt to only go back into debt. It can be a vicious cycle but it also CAN be broken. And it sounds like you’re breaking it now and I’m so happy for you. You’ve eliminated debt before so you know it can be done and this time – it will stick!!
Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…How To Build a Strong Financial Foundation for Your Family
Thanks Shannon! I really appreciate your support. The difference I’ve noticed this time around is how much I really want, from the bottom of my heart, to be rid of debt for good. This lesson has been a tough one but valuable!
Let’s do this~ You, a lot of other people out there, and I are in the same boat. The support I’m getting from other PF bloggers have been tremendous since I’m not getting that much support in real life. Good luck~
Michelle’s Finance Journal recently posted…Birthday Perks
Good luck to you too Michelle! Like you, I don’t have that much support from family and friends either because they don’t know the full extent of my situation or they can’t relate to it. The PF community can relate to some of this and I’ve found their support a huge motivator. We’ll break the cycle together Michelle!
I really enjoyed your post. Debt operates like a habit: I especially like the graphic you showed that illustrates this point. On the plus side, debt repayment operates like a habit, too, and one that you’ve successfully integrated into your life.
We will perform better in some months than others but, like you said, progress is progress! Any gains ought to be celebrated, so kudos.
Done by Forty recently posted…Football, Losing, & Bad Behavior
Thanks so much! 🙂 It is just like a habit – something that you do without really thinking about over time. I’m glad it’s going the other way now!
Slow and steady does it, truly. Once the ball gets rolling, you’ll be down to your last $1000 of debt and marvel at how far you came.
save. spend. splurge. recently posted…I’ll give you a sandwich all right…
Oh how happy that thought is, to get down to the last £1000 mark! One day it will happen. Thanks so much for your support! 🙂
I am a victim of this vicious cycle as well! It’s so easy to rack up debt, especially after a small slip up, because then I think “Oh well, I might as well just keep buying stuff on credit!” It’s a hard cycle to get out of, but I am definitely with you on this!
Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans recently posted…Weekend Recap: Adventure
Thanks Lisa! 🙂 We’ll break the cycle together! It’s like dieting – when you fall off the bandwagon, it’s hard to get back on again. But this time, I’m determined to have the willpower to succeed!
I racked up credit card debt after I graduated from college. It started with purchasing stuff I couldn’t afford, then my car needed to be repaired and before I know it I could barely make the minimum payments. Once you have a balance it is easy to keep charging because you know you can’t pay it off on a monthly basis anyway. It took me nine years to pay off my debt including student and car loans. I’ve never had a balance since. Having an emergency fund has helped tremendously and being able to sleep at night. I don’t miss those days worrying whether I’d be able to pay the rent.
Congratulations on your new mind-set.
Savvy Working Gal recently posted…Receiving a Job or Promotion Because You are a WOMAN
Well done on clearing your credit card debt! It’s so easy to rack the debt up once you’ve started, that’s just what happened to me. I’m looking forward to not having to worry endlessly about money one day in the future!
We’ve found ourselves in this same situation before! (Car repairs…grrrrr….) The first time it happened I was like, “Screw this. We need an emergency fund.” Just like Savvy Working Girl relates. It really showed me how important they are, even if you’re working to pay off debt. Having one can keep you out of further debt. But it’s hard to not think, “Oh, I could be using that to pay off my balance…”
femmefrugality recently posted…The Psychology of Sick Days
I have an emergency fund which helps but it’s dwindling down a lot now. I think I might have to sacrifice a debt overpayment to top it up!
Since I stumbled upon your site it’s been one of my favorite reads. I especially love this one. Progress is progress one of my favorite mantras. Just keep on the road you will get there one day, we will all get there. Just keep on inspiring others and sharing your journey. Thanks for this.
Marissa@Thirtysixmonths recently posted…Why I Spent Twice My Budget on My Car
Wow thanks so much Marissa, that really means a lot to me! 🙂 I’m very humbled by the comments I’ve received so far on my blog, so to think that this journey might be inspiring to some people, well that just means the world to me.
I think that once you understood where your mistakes were it’s easier to get motivated to change. You have already proven that YOU CAN and will surely become debt free. While no months are the same, as long as you know what to do and are willing to put in the effort, it will pay off in the end. 🙂
dojo recently posted…Make Money Blogging: Hubpages vs. your own blog
Thanks Dojo! It’s taken time to realise (and admit) to the mistakes we’ve made around finances. At one point, it really did seem hopeless. When I wrote the ‘our story’ page, I was despairing over our situation. Yet making progress on paying back debt can be done!
Awesome post Hayley 🙂
“This cycle of debt has been broken at last!” – Look out debt…you’re done!
It’s a great feeling when that light-bulb goes off and you realize that NOW is the time for action for continuous action! I truly look forward to your progress and I wish you and your family nothing but the best.
Take care and rock on!
lyle @ the Joy of Simple recently posted…Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues!!
Thanks Lyle! 🙂 I’m really glad you liked my post! Once we actually started paying off debt, everything just seemed so much more positive. Before we had this ‘lightbulb’ moment, we really thought that we’d never be able to tackle this debt. But although we have a long way to go, we just know this time we can do it! Thanks so much for your support Lyle. P.S. I hope you’re feeling better today. 🙂
I think we go through cycles where we live in denial and then the cycle starts back up again where we start spending because we just can’t take being frugal anymore. I’ve been there before myself. It’s a hard cycle to break out of.
Budget and the Beach recently posted…Tiny Obstacles
That’s just it – having to scrimp and save often got the better of me. Luckily I don’t get as tempted these days but it’s taken a long time to get to this stage! 🙂
I can completely relate to you. I too have been in Debt for about 12 years now with the same sort of patterns as yourself. Getting out of Debt once and for all is going to do you the world of good and I wish you the very best of luck. You are doing great so far, keep up the good work.
Rob recently posted…Important need to knows before getting vehicle finance
Thanks so much Rob, I’m sure that this time you’ll get debt free for good too. I’m always inspired by your blog and your progress! 🙂
Oh my dear, I am in the same spot as you! I have just recently really put the debt-payoff hat on after almost maxing out my credit cards and trying to get pre-approved for a house we were looking at. It hit me like a ton of brick when we weren’t pre-approved for anything near the amount we would need. Keep kicking and we’ll soon all make it over the debt bridge to freedom on the other side~
Katy recently posted…Hello, Fall!
Hi Katy, thanks for stopping by! Getting a mortgage these days is hard enough so it’s a good idea to clear the debt if possible! I’ll look forward to reading more about you on your blog. 🙂
Great post! You are doing great and will overcome this. I’ve been in debt for 11 years (starting when my first loan was taken out for undergrad). That’s all of my young adult life. I hate it. All in the name of education. I try to pay off at least $1k per month, but am not happy with the timeline still, so am trying to accelerate as much as I can. I love the saying Progress is Progress as well, because some months are better than others. Things happen. Some months I can pay $1600, others, only half of that. In time, things will change. We just have to stay persistent.
Dear Debt recently posted…Side-Hustling: Not just a hobby, but a lifestyle
Thanks Dear Debt I really appreciate your comment! To keep on with paying off debt seems to be the main thing – even if we can only pay off a little one month and more the next! We can do it! 🙂
Story of my life, Hayley! We were in the same situation for years too. Isn’t it awesome to know that the cycle is indeed broken? SO happy for you guys, and for us too. Can’t wait to be standing with you guys as our families cross the finish line. 🙂
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Paying off Debt: Preparing Yourself for the Journey
I agree! 🙂 It is an awesome feeling Laurie to know that the idea of truly getting out of debt has resonated with us! One day we WILL cross that finish line!
I am in the same boat Hayley (so glad you revealed you name :P). I have been in and out of debt since 18. This is 11 years…. and counting. I’ve gone through exactly the same cycle as you and I feel that it has finally broken! The sentence I loved the most in this post is “the thought of buying something on credit now actually fills me with dread in the pit of my stomach”. This is EXACTLY how I feel about a credit card and I will never use it again to my disadvantage! You have done been doing so well and I know that one day in not so distant future you will be debt free (and so will I)!
Eva @ Girl Counting Pennies recently posted…3 Things I am not Willing to Give Up or Save Money On
Thanks Eva! It does sound a bit better than ‘debtfreeoneday’! I’m glad this post resonated with you as well. 🙂 I know that you will be debt free before you know it Eva especially as you are so brilliant at tracking your expenses and surviving on £100 per month!
The same thing happened to me and it is because my business crashed and I didn’t have enough time to build up a large emergency fund. I’m looking for a part-time job to offset these hick-ups in the business.
The Frugal Exerciser recently posted…I Want A Dancer’s Body
Oh no! I’m sorry to read about your business – I hope it’s picking up now for you? A large part of our total debt is due to my hubby setting up in business and the cost of commuting which he had no choice to do in the early days.
It is a vicious cycle and I think most of us have been there!! I know I have and I hate it. I refuse to have debt anymore, since getting debt free this year! Good for you for taking a stand against debt 🙂
MonicaOnMoney recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays, Fifth Edition
Thanks Monica! Well done on getting debt free this year, what an amazing feeling that must be!
Awesome on the attitude change! 🙂 It’s SO easy to just charge things in today’s society; I can’t even shop for a new shirt without being prodded to apply for a store credit card.
Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances recently posted…Closing Report, September 23-29
Thanks Alexandra. 🙂 That’s so true, credit is offered to us all over the place. I hate being asked if I want a store card. I try not to cringe when the checkout assistant asks me about it!
Great website! I’m writing a post about the vicious cycle of debt and came across your image. I would love to use it for my blog post. I would of course link back to you as the source of the image!! Would that be ok?
Either way, keep up the great work and thanks for your consideration. ~Kelsa (Financial Coach and Owner of Fiscal Fitness Phoenix)
Hi Kelsa – yes that’s fine – thanks for asking! 🙂 Really pleased you like my site and the vicious cycle image.
Wonderful! Thank you sooo much! The blog is scheduled to be posted on 11/12. I’ll try to get back over here and give you the link but you should also receive a pingback notification as well. Thanks again!
Kelsa Dickey recently posted…3 Alternatives to Cable