Now, before you start judging please understand this: We don't want to get out of paying our debt and we're not looking for any handouts. So you can stop quietly (and some of you not so quietly) saying that. We understand that we took and then used money that wasn't ours and now we have to pay it back. Makes complete sense. Totally get it. With all that being said, I don't wanna.
The truth is that this stinks. It's difficult and the opposite of fun - but we're working on that. The hardest part of this whole debt process is the paperwork. Endless phone calls and emails and live chats to figure out balances and banks and automatic payments and routing numbers and the mail! Good Lord the mail! You would think by 2013 physical mail would fizzle out - maybe email would take its place but you are so wrong. Student loan providers have an excess of paper and need to use it, everyday. It's a lot of work to stay on top of just the mail.
What are the balances? When do my payments change? Why did Fringe get cancelled? These are things that are constantly on our brains. Aside from the difficult task of NOT spending, right now we are more focused on "spending correctly". A lot of our debt is the result of ignorance and allowing things to fall through the cracks. Things like late fees and over draft fees sadly became the norm. For awhile Dylan was getting $155 pulled from his account every month to pay a student loan that had been sold to another lender. We didn't even realize it until several months later - we were ignorant and it was easy to look the other way.
The worst of our ignorance came from our loan with DCU. We took out the loan to buy a used car and thought we had the proper insurance plan to cover their investment. A few months later we found out that we had been charged a non-refundable CPI that amounted to $3,000. Supposedly it was because our insurance plan did not cover collision. We still don't even know what CPI stands for (something, something, insurance probably). Moral of the story is to always make sure to read the fine print, or ask for help before contracts are signed, or even say wait. In the adult world everyone wants to take your money, and the easiest targets are those of us who stand by and watch it happen. Like us.
We are trying every day to get smarter about money and started by just picking up the damn phone. At first we had a hard time calling to talk with institutions about bills that came in the mail. Maybe we were embarrassed or maybe we weren't sure what to do and didn't want to look stupid. But ultimately it was just laziness. Once we got over this fear we were able to chat with representatives from credit card companies and student loan providers to reduce interest rates, late fees, and even monthly payments to a more realistic amount. It turns out some of the people on the other end of those calls are people too and you'd be amazed what you can accomplish with a positive attitude and willingness to not say the F-word to them. Some people on the other hand aren't so helpful and that's a drag. Don't take it personally.
Earlier we said 'spending correctly', it doesn't mean anything fancy, it only means that we are taking advantage of the best possible options each biller or loaner can offer us. We want to be experts when it comes to our debt. This whole snowball thing has forced us to research each bill, organized them by amounts, and find out interest rates. Once we wrapped our heads around all the financial details we were able to get determined about paying the debt off.
As we quietly pay our minimum fees and update balances accordingly, we are putting our full attention on the smallest bill and chopping it down with every extra bit of cash we can find. This is where our other ignorance comes into play: ignoring the fact that we spend hundreds of dollars a month on crap. You would be shocked how much money is spent on snacks, coffee and junk every week. We have a terrible habit of buying late night chips and salsa and early morning coffees and bagels.
Basically we are trying to prove to ourselves that we can be in control of our money just by being informed. We have to stop letting places like DCU and 7/11 take advantage of us. Opening mail, checking statements and account balances can literally save us thousands of dollars. When it becomes the difference of getting that dream home or not we can't say "I don't wanna" - we need to say "I really, really, really wanna ziga zig ahhh". Classic.