At the stoplight I looked at my bank account. Was my balance really only $76? Am I really 38-years-old and I only have $76 in my checking account?
Then annoyance traded places with fear. I remembered the check that had not cleared for my water bill of $134. $%#*&^ -- I am going to bounce a check.
Once at work, I begged, borrowed and took a credit card cash advance to cover my mistake. Panic left me and I moved into relief.
This is the last time, I promised myself. I am going to get it together with our finances. On the way home that same day I took my daughter to get a manicure with the money I didn’t have.
So I was struck that week when I attended the Military.com Spouse Experience on base. One of the guest speakers, Scott Halliwell from USAA, asked the crowd, “Who feels good about their finances?”
The majority of the people in the room raised their hands. So my hand shot up at lightning speed! Liar! I thought.
Later I was sitting around with my girlfriends over a few too many glasses of wine. We started talking about money. Then the “numbers” starting slipping. While no one actually said 'I have credit card debt' I was hearing numbers like $10,000, $18,000 and $20,000. I knew I was not alone!
That’s when I reached out for professional help. I emailed those professional financial planners at USAA. (See Certified Financial Planners JJ Montanaro and Scott Halliwell's advice about Tracey's debt starting here)
The first thing they had me do was figure out my number -- exactly what I owe. I’m not sure what that is yet, but I’m guessing I have close to $60,000 in credit card debt!
Holy chow I actually wrote that!
How This HappenedHow did I get here? Well, for us it started about eight years ago when my parents were in a financial hardship and asked for some money. My husband and I didn’t hesitate to give them a cash gift. Then for the next 7 years we paid anywhere from $1000-$1500 EVERY MONTH to cover their expenses. Why? Well that is a whole other post for Tracey's Dysfunctional Family!
At the same time I stopped working, PCSed to Europe, and had our first baby. We used credit cards for the first time for expenses and travel in Europe. Then I started opening credit cards without my husband’s knowledge to cover groceries and baby clothes.
Once I did go back to work I struggled with Mommy guilt. I was also trying to compensate for my husband’s deployments with gifts and adventures for my kids.
That was how it all began and this is where we are now.
Aside from this huge and embarrassing debt, I have a pretty great life. I am married to an active duty member who has been deployed five times in our 15 year marriage, three of those in combat. We have a funny Lego-loving little boy age eight and an almost-six-year-old girl who loves to be the center of attention. Plus I am blessed to have a good job in this economy.
So What Should I do?Debt - this is my deep dark secret; the subject I do not talk about. So here I am finally asking for help. With the guidance from USAA, the support of SpouseBuzz, and help from all of you, I want to change my future and hopefully inspire you a little along the way.
Today I cut up all my credit cards.
Tomorrow I start working with the professionals.
Cross your fingers for me.
Tracey's Huge and Embarrassing Debt is a new series starting on SpouseBuzz. Tracey is a military wife who attended one of our live Military.com Spouse Experience events and was inspired to make a life change. As she and her family work with USAA's Scott Halliwell and JJ Montannaro, they will all be blogging about how military families really can get out of debt -- one tiny change at a time.