Home > Uncategorized > Joy of Paying Down Debt, Saving

Joy of Paying Down Debt, Saving

Just a quick post today.

Like many other people, I accumulated more debt than I should have. Unfortunately some of that was credit card debt. It is something I should not have allowed to happen, but compulsivity got the better of me and long-term thinking got pushed aside for short-term consumption.

The recent economic contraction – really a papered (literally in FED printed money) over depression – plus some personal revelations, began to change the way I think about money, debt and savings.

[I'll leave the personal revelations for another day, but let me just say that a little bit of self-knowledge goes a long way towards re-asserting control over your destiny.]

Over the years, I have tried various times unsuccessfully to save money. Most of the time this was because some bad debt came back to bite me in the backside. I would accumulate a nice little savings nut, only to have to hand it right back over to someone I owed money to. In addition, I tended to stumble from one "good" business idea to another, depleting savings with the idea that the business would ultimately generate enough cash to refill the empty coffers. None of my "good" ideas ever panned out.

Personality-wise, I never felt very well-suited to any line of work. My Dad was an excellent salesman and earned a good living in sales. He also had a certain amount of compulsivity and managed to burn through quite a bit of money over his lifetime. I tried various sales careers, ranging from retail sales, working for my parents selling product on the road, and international sales. None of these pursuits was ever very satisfying for me and left me feeling pretty empty and cold.

I managed to get things flying straight when I joined the Army. Accumulated enough money to invest in an IRA. However, upon leaving the Army, I managed to clean out all of that money attempting to go into business for myself.

It seemed as if I would never learn. All of this came to a head a few years ago when all of the debt came crashing down. There were some pretty miserable days. My wife reached the end of her rope and demanded that the debt be dealt with or else. We'll just say that I chose to deal with the debt rather than face the or else.

We began to negotiate down debt and arrange repayment with various credit card companies – a process which is now nearly complete. It was an arduous process – one which initially made money extremely tight for us. There were many days when after paying bills there was barely anything left to cover gas, food, etc.

I don't really know how we made it through, but we're still standing. During that time I decided to look for a more stable line of work. Rather ironically, that stable line of work turned out to be in manufacturing – an industry noted for shrinking, not growing. Another delicious little irony is that the job is in recycling – one of those "green" jobs Obama talks about. In this case, the business actually makes money and probably does more to help the environment than most who squawk about saving the planet will ever do. But putting all that aside, the job turned out to be something I enjoy. i went from a temporary line worker, to an assistant supervisor, and ultimately got promoted and am now a shift supervisor. The job is very physical, far different from any job I have ever had – most of my former jobs were very sedentary desk jobs, or jobs where I spent large amounts of time driving. Our benefits are good and I have began to make contributions to the company 401(k) where I am receiving a company match. We have profit sharing and it appears the business has a good opportunity to continue growing.

At the same time, I took a hefty share of my check and set it aside in a savings account. Some of that money is used to pay down debt, and the rest grows savings. With an uncertain economic future, I am determined to have money set aside – partly as "insurance" and partly to have a small degree of economic independence. I don't ever want to be flat broke again. I don't want to be completely vulnerable to the economic winds or changing government policies.

I now am focused much more on the medium to long-term. That requires a fair amount of concentration on the present moment. I rarely, if ever make an impulsive major purchase. I find that most times, if I give it a day or two, I don't really need the thing that seemed so necessary or tempting. I am working on both my real life and financial life – which are more intertwined than I previously realized. While I am somewhat of an idealist and have tended to think money and possessions aren't so important I now realize that, being married, there has to be some balance. In my youth, I rented a room so small I could reach my arms across and touch the closet on one side and the wall on the other. I'm no longer that youth, and my wife certainly deserves better than to live in a tiny little "dungeon" room with me.

As part of that focus, although it has no direct bearing presently on my finances, I am making the effort to write more. I have always wanted to write on a regular basis, but never made the time to do so. I'm not necessarily a good judge of my own work, so I can't say how I am doing. I only hope someone out there reading this gains something worthwhile from it – if only a way to enjoy a few passing moments. I figure if my writing is to improve, it's only through continued exercise of the writing "muscle". So, I continue on – writing, thinking, and acting on the things I believe are important. I figure I can either live accidentally, or on purpose. I choose to live on purpose. I choose to make the effort to establish some small ordering of the elements of my life. Will it work this time? I pray that it does, and I hope that if you are struggling with some of these same issues, that you find your own joy and happiness. It isn't always easy or fun. You'll likely wonder if it is worth the struggle. Don't give up. From someone who has been there and is still on the path, it gets better. Each small victory brings you one step closer to the life you hope for. But, hoping is not enough. You have to take the first step and start the journey.
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