Technically, my only debts remaining are the loan Mike and I have on the car (one I’m always angling to pay off early), my student loan, and what remains of my student loan after it went to collections post-divorce. The numbers are still pretty huge, but are ultimately all much more manageable than the relatively low number of credit card debt I was in at age 30 – around $7000. I’ve avoided applying for or using any credit card at all since I went into credit counseling. I shut them all down. I use a check card – it gets me through airport terminals and car rentals well enough. Because it eases household issues like shopping and gives me some sense of ownership over our lives, I have a credit cards in Mike’s AND my name that we use for all household purchases and that gets paid off at the end of the month, every month. So I have not had credit card/consumer debt as we know it for six years now.
The first three years of that were especially tough, because without the easy debt hole to fall on/fall into, I had to struggle especially hard. A writer’s life is only lucrative as long as you’re doing the work, and I wasn’t doing the work – I was mostly trying not to die from an allergic reaction. Even without the illness, I would have had trouble – I manage other people’s money beautifully, better than they do themselves. I’m even super-cautious about using the designated shared accounts with Mike because I’m deeply uncomfortable thinking of his money as “our” money. I’ve gotten looser with the shared account recently, and it makes me nervous. My stomach gets queasy spending anything from our joint account that is solely for my benefit. Mike established a “fashion budget” when he realized how unhappy I get with threadbare clothes, and I’m constantly sure I’ve shot it to hell. I realize the best way to fix that is to put in yet another tracking program on my Droid.
I know from years of research on the history of marriage and divorce that marriages were primarily business transactions until the 20th century, and that we ignore this facet of the relationship in modern marriage at our peril.
So technically, I do not have debt – but in personal management, I do. I debt to myself now since I don’t monkey with credit card debt.
At the beginning of every month (or on a holiday, what have you) I automatically deduct from my personal checking before my bank does monthly fees that come out – Dropbox, Boomerang (make life easier), MPR and MIA (make life better.) 25% went into savings, as it does every week. That left me with about $35 this week – that I promptly spent on flower essences from a discount retailer, since my inner noise has been driving me crazy and the essences, whether placebo or not, consistently help.
While my bank balance does not reflect debt – there’s money to cover everything in there, and more money will land in the account before the monthly bill is due – it is still debt in my mind. My checkbook shows the dreaded minus sign, and now I have to pay myself back over time. I also have to make some decisions for clothing that was sent to me for Fat Chic – the items are gorgeous, but require some modesty that I must provide myself – and once again, that comes out of the fashion budget. I could conceivably wait until next week, but I’d rather not put off anything for Fat Chic blog as July has a lot of blank slots to fill.
So while I’m not debting to a bank, I’m debting to myself. This is the practice that I’m working on stopping next.