Earlier this week, I finally managed to pay off my main credit card.
This has been quite the source of stress for me. In the past, I’ve used my credit card like a debit card, using it for most of my purchases but paying it off each month. My parents instilled in me very young that a credit card was not free money, but could be a great tool build credit and have some fallback financial options. But then I finished grad school.
Upon graduating, I found myself without a job, and not just in my field. I had been working as a computer lab technician, but that position was only available to students. I decided to give myself some time before finding a job, giving myself a chance to decompress before getting back into the grind. But like most plans, this one faltered when it encountered reality. I couldn’t find a job in my field, and ended up spending a total of two months unemployed before my current place of employment hired me to work part-time.
But of course, working part time can only go so far. I hadn’t accrued much of a balance on my credit card, but it seemed that every spare cent was being gobbled up by bills (rent, credit cards, student loans, etc.). This had the unfortunate effect of making me feel especially poor. After all, I was working hard at a menial job that, while paid well for what it was, was in no way the fulfilling career I had dreamed of upon entering grad school. I suppose I could have cut back on any and all social activities that cost money, but that level of isolation from my friends would have surely pushed me into a Funk. I was running as hard as I could, but was barely keeping up. Would it ever end?
But I persevered, trying to both curtail my spending and put a little bit extra towards my outstanding balances each month. A few unexpected expenses (like new tires) were unfortunate, but I kept soldiering on, trying not to focus too hard on what were far too many numbers to the left of the decimal point.
And this week, I finally managed to get back to zero. I’ve still got a ways to go (a backup card, as well as student loans), but finally paying off my balance is a huge weight off my chest. I finally feel like I’m getting ahead, clawing my way out of underemployment hell. I’m still working at a job that is unfulfilling, but at least it lets me pay my bills.
What did I learn? Well, I like to think I already had pretty good budget habits. The biggest thing would probably be to not look too closely at the details; long projects advance in tiny steps, and it is only after a longer period of time that slight changes coalesce into a larger shift.