February 8th, 2019


credit card update

Last month I wrote about my credit card situation and everybody was really nice so I'll post an update.

This will be long, sorry, but zomg credit card debt was way in my head. every day. and I must keep the attention to it going, somehow!

Here's what I did with the two cards:

First I put all the money I could towards our higher interest credit card (17%), and barely made the minimum balance on the slightly lower one (14%) - I got its balance to an even thousand though, so I could keep it in my head! That higher interest credit card is supposed to be only for scheduled stuff - insurance, bills, aka needs. It gets a good cash back so I'd been using it for other things too but I just totally put it away.

Then I set us a goal to spend less than $600 on the 14% card this month. That's because when I looked at our statement, that's the amount of stuff that made sense. We spent about $900. BUT that's way better than our average month, where we'd spend upwards of $3000.

I set up a notification on my phone to tell me whenever it was used. I knew the balance was exactly $5000 so the math would work out in my head every day to know if we met our goal.

I made a chart for our fridge showing a line for where we should be each day to keep it under our goal.

I did something possibly damaging: tuned my eight year old on to this. I'd tell her the balance and why we had to use the card, and she put a dot on the graph every day. She went nuts. She did not understand why we were in debt and it was hard to explain to her why we spent things we did... try telling your kid that you took a lyft home because you drank too much at your friends, hey it's way less than a DUI! she does not approve. okay fine, no more drinking. we went out to eat one night because a friend was in town and she protested, "I didn't even want to eat out!" so okay, no more eating out, even though that night we had food budget left in the debit account she's now obsessed because we told her eating out is one of the more expensive stupid things we do. (and my kid obsesses. annoyingly.)

The notification on my phone whenever the credit card got used was really helpful, it meant I was stalking my husband but he was on my side, and there were extras that went on there that I hadn't thought about and now we had a whole day to think about the day's activities. It helped us cut out some embarrassingly needless things that I wrote about in a previous entry.

Week 1 marc used it for groceries once because our grocery debit account was short. when I asked him about it he admitted he could have left the groceries and fed us on leftovers. The next week, I noticed we were eating leftovers more. Two weeks, I'd open the fridge and there was just no food in there. Fewer snacks. Less waste.

He lost six pounds this month.

We bought nothing. No clothes or gifts or things. No trips to Target, no amazon orders. I realized something - there were things I've bought in the last few months that I didn't love, like these reusable silicon bags from amazon I thought would be eco-friendly but they're actually just a huge pain in the ass to wash. Well if I don't buy anything, I'm not disappointed in anything! No guilt. It was actually nicer. I felt like we were living more simply.

I was telling marc that on our previous statements we had some big expenses for car repair bills, but I said that happens, we have to budget for car repairs. The next day he accidentally ran over a gigantic screw and had to buy a new tire. He was like hey baby you were right, good job! No marc, lol. That was our biggest spend on that card.

I am looking at my credit card statements differently. This is embarassing to admit but at age 38, I have learned to look at the line that says "PURCHASES", aka the "spending". How much did I spend, vs. how much was I supposed to spend, vs. how much money do I make? It's kind of like that obvious thing they tell you in dieting, that if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight? Well if you spend more money than you make you will not be able to pay your credit card. This idea does not take a masters degree.

Anyway, that line on the statement that says "spending" tells you what direction your balance is going to be going - provided you've sat down and broken out your paychecks so you know what you have.

Most of a credit card statement is dedicated to interest and informing you of your minimum payment and telling you how long it'll take you to pay this thing if you pay your minimums. I now think all those square inches are bad for accounting practices.

Anyway spending...

June-December we spent an average $4028 a month (OHMIGOD), and our statement balances all together averaged $8200.

The January statements we spent $2160, and our total statement balances were $6832.

I kinda started this campaign late in the statement period, there were late Christmas charges on there, and as I mentioned about XM radio, we can do things differently. We can make those spending lines in the March statements even lower.