Sandi's debt repayment journal

I have the pleasure of reading a lot of great letters from people who have successfully repaid their debt. Recently, I received an email from Sandi in Massachusetts with her 3-year personal debt repayment journal attached. Following are some excerpts from Sandi's amazing journey (her entire journal is incredibly inspiring to read, I wish I could share it all!) Thank you Sandi for sharing your story—you are awesome!

OK, here we go. I am 54 years old and, after making some pretty terrible decisions I find myself deeply in debt and renting an apartment. So, what am I going to do about it? I have lived as if I had all the time in the world in which to recoup from these mistakes. Gosh, but they do add up! Now, I am in debt for over $48,000 and if I continue this way the debt will continue to climb! EEEEEEEK

On January 1, 2005, I took a three year vow of poverty! In my calculations and with the help of an on-line debt calculator, I figured I will be out of debt by the time I am 58 years old! Well, at least it is before I reach 60!

My first step is to make out a monthly payment schedule. I found that if I take out an allowance ($35 per week) it is easier to watch my money. The first week I found myself having to spend money on a doctor visit, $5 co-pay, and $25 prescription. Sigh…so much for that week’s budget!

I am thinking of what I will do first when I finally get out of debt. Sometimes I think I will buy a car first, and other times I think I will take a good trip to Europe and still other times I think I will continue to put $1200 per month aside and save for a down payment on a home. I guess I have plenty of time to decide but I suspect that Europe is going to have to wait. It seems to me that purchasing a car out right might be the best first step. All of these thoughts are what keep me going here at the beginning of my 3 years of self-inflicted poverty. I do hope they are good enough fantasies to be able to keep me focused because this is really and truly hard!

Decisions are now made with only one consideration…Do I NEED it or do I simply Want it? Funny now few “things” I really “Need”! What do I need?

Really, there are few things I truly need but all of them are quite important. The food, roof over my head, the ability to support myself and my pets, all of these things are, to my thankful joy, within my reach. I do have friends but I find that, because I can’t spend money right now, I am limited in making new friends, or so I feel. Funny, when you can’t go out and socialize, because in this society socializing costs money, then friend are hard to make. Thankfully I have a few good friends who thoroughly understand what I am trying to accomplish. As for mental stimulation, I have the internet and resources with which I can create clothing and other things. These are important and thankfully I have these resources in abundance. Now is the time for me to start utilizing them! Then why do I feel so lacking in inspiration? I need to think about it.

Now, the one interesting thing I have taken so far from this is that my spending habits are dramatically different. I think about my purchases and find that I still go into a store to “buy” but usually manage to curb my buying and walk out without anything at all. Yeh, I could use some new clothes but I have all I need and frankly, I don’t want any more “stuff” so things are going well and getting easier. I still have to beg off of going out to dinner with friends etc.

It is Jan. 2008 and in March of this year, after only a $700 payment that month, I will be completely debt free! This has been three years of serious financial deprivation but I made it! Yeah, I didn’t go places or out to dinner with friends and yeah, my common response to join people for socialization was mostly “I am sorry but I can’t afford it”. However, I have made some remarkable new friends in this last year. They offered me the stimulation and companionship of mind and heart rather than money and places and things. Yes, I have been determined and now am rewarded with the light at the end of the tunnel!

My spending has become very different! I no longer even think of spending above my ability. Living without credit cards has become habit instead of a hardship. Between my bonuses increasing every year and good raises, I have found that I have not been as strapped for money as I was at the beginning of this 3-year plan.

All debts are paid and well, I am a free woman!

OK, so I am 57 and a year ahead of when I thought I would be when out of debt. Pat me on the back! I am awesome!

I have become a whiz at budgeting! I have a spreadsheet that I keep every month that shows me what I need to spend before I can even consider the extras. I feel prepared to go out and face a future where there is gain instead of loss!


Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
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