For several years, I used credit cards haphazardly. I would charge nearly everything, from a twenty-five cent pack of gum to a twenty-five hundred dollar vacation. Also, I accumulated credit and store cards like it was a hobby. When I “bottomed out,” I owned 12 to 14 cards (some with zero balance) and was approximately $12,000 in credit card debt.
I felt like the “middle man” with my money. I was paid by my boss and simply handed over much of what I made to the credit card companies. Like the proverbial “hamster on the wheel,” I was “getting nowhere fast.” In my gut, I felt that something was wrong. That “something” was my misuse of credit cards. It had to change.
I sat down and wrote out what I owed on each of my credit cards, with its corresponding interest rate. Then, I calculated that grand total of all of the cards, the aforementioned $12,000. I felt sick to my stomach, but by putting this information on paper, I could devise a system to get out of debt, instead of spending frivolously and making the situation worse.
To start, I contacted the credit card companies to negotiate lower interest rates. Most of the companies worked with me and I was able to lower the rates by at least a few percentage points. Then, I listed my debts from smallest to largest and began to accelerate payments on the card with the lowest balance. Simultaneously, I paid the minimum on the other balances. NOTE – A very important point to make here is that, while I was devising and implementing my repayment plan, I was drastically reducing the number of times I was using the credit cards. In my first year of “recovery,” I used the cards a grand total of 12 times. During my years of debting, I would use cards 12 times per month, without thinking twice about it.
Once the card with the lowest balance was paid off, I rolled that monthly payment onto the card with the next lowest balance. Coupled with the minimum payment that I was already making, this card was paid off quickly, since I was now paying more on it than I had previously (and I was NOT using it). I continued this process, a snowball of sorts, until all of my credit card debt was paid, which took approximately five years.
As I made a “significant dent” in my credit card debt, I started to feel better about myself. I saw “a light at the end of the tunnel.” The “light” symbolized freedom from this debt. As my self-esteem grew, I began to dream about a better life for myself. I no longer had to stay at jobs which were either unfulfilling or low paying, simply because they “paid the bills.” I enjoy communicating. So, I began teaching. Also, I focused more on writing and eventually turned my experience with debt into a book called Master The Card: Say Goodbye to Credit Card Debt…Forever!, which traces my climb out of debt and details how my life has improved, as a result. In addition, I am pursuing work in the fields of voiceovers and sports play-by-play announcing. These were ventures that I could not pursue when I was mired in debt. Now, my dreams are becoming reality.
Lastly, now that I am out of credit card debt, I am able to help others. I can give of myself in various ways. I give to and serve at my church every week and also offer monetary and time support to a number of organizations. This further enhances my self-esteem and inspires me to increase my giving on a yearly basis.
In closing, as I write on the jacket of my book, “When you Master The Card, you begin to master your life!”
Joe Paretta is a coach, author, speaker, and teacher. He published his first book in November 2010, Master The Card: Say Goodbye to Credit Card Debt…Forever!, which he considers a “labor of love.” He has a passion for helping people overcome credit card debt, and his book embodies that desire. To learn more about Joe and his efforts, check out JoeParetta.com.