The Kinky Green

Excess Baggage

"Do I worry too much?" by Sam Brown of

A little over a year ago, I decided I needed to drop some of the burdensome weight I’d been lugging around with me unnecessarily for too many years.  Excess baggage accumulated via unhealthy habits that began well before college but were fostered and allowed to blossom there, aided by pizza giveaways and the lure of decadent things not meant for one with a tight belt. After college, the bad habits continued to grow in number and scope.

The truth is, the load was keeping me up at night. I couldn’t seem to avoid the endless headlines and water cooler talk about the folks around me who shared my problems. Or had it worse. It made me so uncomfortable I had to skip going places and doing things I otherwise would have loved. I watched as my friends enjoyed delights that I knew, deep down, weren’t for me. And when I did join them, my temporary pleasure was well-surpassed by the guilt and worry brought on my splurges.

When I sat down and took a cold, hard look at the reality of my situation, I knew I had to make some changes. I couldn’t keep behaving like a teenager. Yo-yoing between a firm resolve to abide by strict mandates in my daily life and the overwhelming appetite to get what I wanted when I wanted it, regardless of the lingering consequences. I knew if I didn’t make some changes, there would surely be a reckoning far worse than the relatively light stress I’d been handling so far.

I’d made up my mind.

The debt had to go.

With the economy in the shitter, my then-company doing layoffs at the drop of any old hat, and jobs as scarce as a virgin in a whorehouse, I was in no position to be carrying around credit card debt. And credit card debt I’d accumulated for what, exactly? Cheap wine and expensive beer? Shiny shoes and dull dates (with guys who insisted on going dutch)? Pretty things for my walls and shelves? Gifts I couldn’t afford and dinners out I didn’t need? Clothes, clothes, and more clothes?

The cold reality was the tawdry trinkets and throw-away imports of yesterday weren’t going to keep me warm and secure in the face of  potential financial ruin. And, with no savings in the bank, all my lines of credit nearly maxed out, and no real guarantee of a future paycheck, that’s exactly the tightrope I felt like I was walking, day in and day out.

I knew getting off the tightrope wouldn’t be an easy feat all by my lonesome. I’d need some help. So I consulted some friends who were making dents in their deficit then headed to my local library to check out the works of a couple of folks known for helping the everyday masses handle their money: Dave Ramsey & Suze Orman.

Fortunately, my research revealed that my circumstances weren’t entirely dire.

If nothing changed for the worse in my employment scenario and I could forestall any small financial disasters until I got an emergency fund together, I was confident I could pay off my debt in the 22 months between the start of Project: Debt Rolldown and my 30th in January 2012.

I’ve learned I’m not one for making progress in ethereal realms. (Still meaning to get around to that meditating business…) But concrete goals with measurable outcomes and well-planned, manageable steps to achieving them? Completely attainable. Particularly when there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The original plan:

  1. Build emergency fund of $1,000 in 4 months.
  2. Continue monthly savings to build $2,000 by January 2012.
  3. Meanwhile, pay off credit cards in order from smallest balance to largest.
  4. Turn 30 debt-free! (And take an awesome trip with my besties.)

Project: Debt Rolldown is well underway, and – I’m happy to report – on target. But the journey thus far might be worth a bit more detail.


2 Responses to 'Excess Baggage'

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  1. Alicia said,

    Way to take charge. It’s hard to change money habits but like you said, important to get rid of that burden.

  2. Allison A said,

    Good job. It’s so hard to train ourselves on this. Good luck! I know you can do it.

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