In 2002, with the sudden loss of my job and a string of very bad decisions, I found myself with no savings, $50,784.35 in credit card debt, a kid in college and no plan. In addition to the credit card debt, I had an additional $28,756.17 in student loan debt that was a combination of my master’s degree and my daughter’s undergraduate degree.
In addition to the above, I had two parents who were semi-dependent on me financially and no prince charming on the horizon.
I was alone and desperate to keep my family from becoming homeless.
Over the course of several weeks, I began to start thinking about ways to get out from under this crushing debt. I considered bankruptcy but for many reasons decided against going that route.
Losing my job should have been the event that made me change my ways and catapult me into living a different lifestyle, but it wasn’t. In fact, it wasn’t until I received the foreclosure notice on my home that I finally snapped out of my haze and decided something needed to change and fast.
Desperate to change my financial situation, I picked myself up from my bootstraps, dusted myself off and started my residential and commercial cleaning business. That business grew very rapidly and by the end of my second year I was bringing in over 350K a year.
Simultaneously, I started to learn everything I could about money, my relationship with it and why I was so addicted to shopping. What I discovered about myself worried me a lot, but it also saddened and surprised me.
I’d like to say I used one particular method to get out of debt, but I didn’t. Instead, I used the best strategies I read about and developed a plan of action that best suited my particular situation. What I realized when I read Dave Ramsey’s books and others, was there was so much more involved in getting out of debt than just cutting your spending and living frugally.
I realized early on that my use of money (overspending, shopaholic behavior) was tied very specifically to how I felt about myself as a person and began to see that I used money to fill my unmet need for love and belonging.
I explored this by reading some of the best financial books out there that tackle the psychological issues in which people use money in unhealthy ways. Having spent many years working in the mental health field, this approach worked for me because psychology, spirituality, and self-help were of particular interest to me personally.
Of course, I had to tackle the biggest issue which was my feelings of unworthiness. I did this through some personal therapy, meditation, and yoga practice. Eventually, I hired a personal coach who worked me through the remainder of my personal issues with money.
Soon after I enrolled in the Coach U training program and became a certified coach myself. It was my hope that I could help other women who were struggling with the same issues. Hence how A Mess Free Life came into existence.
I believe in being totally transparent about this because I know how many people struggle with the same thing, and if my honesty can help just one woman, well then, I’m okay with sharing this information with you.
But, ultimately, what I learned transformed me from a broke, credit card wielding shopaholic to a responsible, debt-free woman who values and respects herself.
How I Got Out of Debt – My Debt Free Journey
My cleaning business grew very, very fast and I was making multiple six figures by the end of the second year. During this time, I worked and paid bills. That was it. I worked like a dog and paid bills. It was the primary way I paid off the debt.
I also learned about couponing and began to learn all I could about bargain shopping and using coupons and deal sites to garner the best price I could no matter what I was purchasing.
I changed many of my habits. Instead of going to the local coffee shop each day and dropping close to $6 for a coffee and breakfast sandwich, I started making my coffee and eating breakfast at home. This one simple move enabled me to save over $1200 a year.
I always asked myself if I needed what I was going to purchase BEFORE I made the purchase. If I couldn’t honestly answer yes to that question, I didn’t buy.
Read more: Wants Vs Needs
I adopted a simple lifestyle, got rid of all the excess crap in my house and began enjoying life in a different way. Now, excess seems ridiculous to me, and I see how all that stuff was just a substitute for what I lacked in my life.
Meditation has helped me to see things differently and to accept myself in a way that I hadn’t before.
Many People Think Once You Get Out Of Debt You’re Golden
That’s not true.
In fact, I continue to work on the issues that got me into debt in the first place. I don’t use credit cards anymore but from time to time I still struggle with the urge to go out and spend a ridiculous amount of money on something I don’t need.
When I get the urge, I stop and assess what’s going on. I ask myself, “In what ways am I not getting my need for love and belonging met?” It forces me to evaluate what’s going on in my life and to find a healthier way to meet my needs that won’t get me into debt.
It’s easy to get out of debt. It’s like going on a diet. Losing the weight is easy, keeping it off – well, not so much. Debt is the same thing.
Read more: How To Stay Out of Debt
You’ve got to be diligent and aware of what’s going on in your life to stay out of debt permanently. As soon as you fall into a haze, reckless spending can quickly take over. You’ve got to be committed to staying out of debt too.
What Other Secrets Can I Share?
My biggest secret to my success is rooted in acceptance.
You see, getting out of debt and staying out of debt required me to, above all else, accept where I was in the moment. From accepting my desperate circumstances to accepting my financial triumphs, they were and still are important in my overall financial journey.
In my past, I was surrounded by people who were wrapped up in keeping up with the Joneses. I fell into that trap too. My best friend’s motto was “Bigger, Better, Best”! And although it’s fine to want nice things, what I know is it becomes very detrimental to your self-worth when you focus solely on what you want and how you’re going to get it.
Through a long and sometimes painful process, I’ve come to accept my circumstances, find joy in the simple things in life and have learned gratitude is the most crucial attitude you can cultivate when you’re moving through any difficult journey.
Read more: The Art of Learning To Be Content
My hope is in that learning how I got out of debt you’ll be inspired or motivated to start down the process towards your own financial freedom. If I can do it, I know you can too.