The 3 Types of Debt (and How to Get Out)

I’m no financial guru, but I’m a self-proclaimed expert on getting into debt. I amassed about $30,000 in useless consumer debt (which was wiped out in Chapter 7 bankruptcy) by the time I was 23 years old. At age 26, I was back in debt to the tune of $60,000 between credit card debt, student loans, and a car loan. It’s pretty obvious that bankruptcy didn’t teach me much, but now at 29 I’m finally figuring out how to change my lifestyle and spending habits.

One of the things I’ve realized about debt is that no one accumulates it randomly. There are three distinct types of debt, each taken on with different motivations and justifications. As such, a cookie cutter approach to debt payoff may not be the most effective way to get over your debt once and for all.

Let’s talk about the three types of debt, where they come from, and how to tell them where to go.

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Weekend Randomness: Plus and Minus Edition

I can’t even express how glad I am that the month of March is over! The weather has been fantastic, but I can’t remember the last time I had so many ups and downs in a 30-day period. A few of the things going on:

Plus: I got the new iPad AND I DIDN’T BUY IT! An extremely generous friend thought I could use some joy in my life and just bought it for me like it was no big deal. I’m still kind of in shock! I sold the old iPad on eBay in an attempt to feel less guilty about the fact that I own the new one. Thank you, friend!

Minus: Long story, but some things happened in early March that have basically made it impossible for me to earn the kind of money I used to earn from blogging and freelancing. (Email me if you want the long version.) I’m not even posting my income and spending because the income portion is so depressing. I know the progress bar looked good, but I assure you, it was deceiving. I’m now scrambling to find a job. *very sad face*

Plus: UK plays for the NCAA championship tomorrow night! I know some of you don’t like sports and don’t want to hear about it, but I can’t help being excited. College basketball in Kentucky is a phenomenon unlike anything most people ever experienced - I’ll try my best to shut up now that March Madness is (basically) over.

Minus: I’ve been too depressed to keep up with reading, commenting, and linking to other blogs, which is normally one of my favorite things to do. I’m determined to step it up in April, assuming I don’t find a soul-sucking job that takes up all my time and energy. My apologies to all my blogger friends!

Plus: The community at Curiosity Killed the Blog is growing (slowly) and I’ve been hired by quite a few bloggers to do conversions to WordPress, site design, and blog consulting work. I don’t know if it can save me from returning to a “real” job, but I hope to see things pick up over there. If you’re a blogger or thinking of becoming one, I encourage you to check it out!

Minus: Season two of The Walking Dead has ended, so now I have nothing to watch until October. If you guys know of some good shows for the pickiest person in the universe, let me know. I usually don’t watch TV but I might make an exception since I’ve been moping around the house for weeks.

NEUTRAL: I know I just switched to regular WordPress comments and many of you rejoiced, but I’m trying one last comment system before I give up and conform. Intense Debate is VERY similar in that you can comment with just a name and email address - you don’t have to sign up for anything. I just can’t stand the WordPress comment system; it’s ugly and I’ve been behind on moderating ever since the switch. I hope you’ll approach Intense Debate with an open mind, and please let me know if you have ANY problems.

Those are the highlights from my life in March - what about you? Tell me the best and worst things that happened last month, and we’ll be back to normal finance stuff tomorrow!

Unsent Letters: Final Four Edition

Dear Louisville,

That is all, because I can’t think about anything else until this game is over.

Love, Andrea

Are You Proactive or Reactive?

Earlier this week, Jayden came to me with a look that said, Please don’t hurt me.

“Mom? I think my shoes are too small again,” he mumbled.

“What?!? Surely not! I just bought them!”

“Well, I have to scrunch my toes up to walk, and it hurts.”

Please note that my child is famous for waiting forever to bring up important things. Like the time he mentioned a “red mark” on his arm over the phone while I was at work, and it ended up being a serious allergic reaction that left his entire body covered in 3-inch welts. So when he says something is wrong, I tend to believe him.

I had him put on the shoes, felt them, and nearly died when I felt his toes “scrunched up” at the ends. I bought these shoes in December. Less than 4 months ago. And while I realize that he’s 13 years old and growing like crazy, I was not prepared for the fact that he would need new shoes every five minutes to make it through puberty.

Due to what I like to call “Fred Flintstone syndrome,” the only shoes that fit Jayden properly are New Balance. In case you’ve never had the pleasure of finding out, those things don’t come cheap. Especially when he may outgrow them before I place the order.

This is a test of the emergency budget system.

In the past, a situation like this would have been easy to deal with - I would have pulled out a credit card, ordered a pair of shoes (okay, probably two or three), and paid extra for overnight shipping. So what if it cost me $100 or more upfront, then twice that in interest? We’re talking about my child’s comfort here! Or, even worse, I might have asked my parents to “loan” me the money to order new shoes for him - money I would never repay, because what parents take money from their kid who can’t afford a pair of shoes?

These days, random problems like this aren’t quite as simple. Not because I have less money - in fact, I actually have more at my disposal now that I don’t have credit card debt. No, what made the shoe situation complicated is deciding where the money would come from. Do I use my debit card? Do I pull money from the emergency fund? Should I use my Paypal balance? Having choices can be overwhelming when the only choice you’re used to is Visa or Mastercard.

Just when I started getting that icky feeling of uncertainty, I remembered my cash fund for replacing Jayden’s clothing - a fund for those moments when he rips the knees out of his jeans or grows 5 inches overnight. I haven’t used any of that money in awhile, so I forgot I had it. How much is in there? More than enough for a pair of shoes, as it turned out. Problem solved!

Are you proactive or reactive?

Jayden went to school with non-scrunched toes this morning, all thanks to the fact that I hide money from myself. Some people may laugh at the thought, but it works for me. Regardless of the methods I use, this has made a huge difference in the way I look at financial matters, from everyday things like shoes to my long-term goals.

In my former life, I was reactive - I waited until something important came up, then tried to figure out what to do about it. Many times, that resulted in irresponsible decisions. Now I take a more proactive stance by realizing that shoes don’t last forever, appliances stop working, and cars get flat tires. Saving for them NOW is much better than freaking out about them later.

What about you? Are you proactive or reactive when it comes to financial matters? How do you handle the unexpected in your life?