How I Got $26,000 in Debt in Less Than 72 Hours » VSB

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How I Got $26,000 in Debt in Less Than 72 Hours

I am not a very smart brotha. If I was a smart brotha, I would not have buried myself $26,000 in debt in one uninhibited binge spending weekend of ignorance.

Have you ever made it rain?

For those of you that have never made it rain, let me briefly describe it for you: It’s spiritual. Making it rain is a personally transformative experience. This is why I suggest you never start a rainstorm. In my three-decades of life, I have never made a positive decision that involved withdrawing cash from an ATM after 12:01am. Early morning ATM withdraws are a gateway debit to a lifetime of ignorant spending.

When “raining”, an action typically experienced best at gentlemen’s clubs, each bill cascades through the air like a beautiful Black Swan pirouette before falling tragically to rest in peace from its predestined interpretative dance towards its Final Destination. During the making of rain, “Father Stretch My Hands” plays as a captive audience rejoices around you while greenbacks fall like snowflakes onto the heads, faces, and depending on the club dress code, other exposed areas of epidermis.

Many great philosophers have walked this Earth but only one has managed to sum up my $26,000 quiet storm in one word.

“Sensational.” – Future Hendrix

You might be wondering, “Where did the money come from?”

Well, this year the average college student will graduate with over $37,000 in college loan debt. When I graduated, I had $9,000, mostly allocated to personal credit cards that I acquired for the low price of my soul and a few free T-shirts emblazoned with logos from the various credit card representatives that graced my campus first semester.

How did I get into $9,000 debt in the first place? I honestly have no idea. Given my favorite college activities: drinking, spending irresponsibly, and partying, one must assume my accumulated debt was a result of the lifestyle I had become accustomed to. With only one-fourth the debt of the average student, several banking institutions deemed me worthy of “pre-approved consolidation loans” post-graduation. I didn’t even know what a consolidation loan was, so naturally I applied for the loan with the most attractive marketing and moved on with life.

Imagine my surprise when 3-5 business days later, a check arrived in the mail for $10,000. I think I was supposed to consolidate my three credit cards into one low monthly payment but…

iMADE IT RAIN!

If I wasn’t in a relationship, I would have embraced my inner Lil Wayne by driving around campus to “flirt with the hood rats” and then pop bottles. Instead, being a man of principle and commitment, I took college-BAE on a several hundred dollar shopping spree. We also went to various clubs buying every lavish-colored liquor we could consume before losing consciousness. Because I hadn’t completely spent the $10,000 “blank check,” I did the next rational thing: I went shopping for a new car with rims. I settled upon a used 2002 Toyota Camry for $13,000 on 20s. Ok, they were 16s but I KEPT THEM CLEAN!

I put $2,000 cash towards the down payment. I bought the car at sticker price (without negotiation), because negotiating sticker prices was for brokebois who didn’t have $10,000 in their checking accounts, unlike myself, a baller.

Because I’m the responsible type, I used the remaining consolidation loan to pay off the lesser two of my three credit cards. For those of you keeping track at home: in less than 72 hours I went from $9,000 in debt to about $26,000 and that was before I decided to buy one of those new $3,000 flat screen TVs a few months later for “0% interest.”

Pros: It was the most fun I’ve ever had spending money that wasn’t my own.

Cons: It would take over 7 years to pay off a 72-hour experience. I’d love to tell you that I immediately learned my lesson and this was the last time I made a stupid financial decision.

I don’t want to lie to you, dear friends.

After a few thousand more dollars in debt were tacked on, I found myself living paycheck-to-paycheck fighting back tears as I literally begged a creditor from my knees for another consolidation loan as I teetered on the brink of possible bankruptcy at the age of 25. It took a quarter century for me to become fiscally responsible, but I was forced to make a decision to change. I made a lot of difficult changes over the years but for your benefit I’ll hit the highlight reel:

  • When digging a hole, the easiest way to get out is to stop digging. First, I made the decision to get out of debt by any means necessary.
  • I had so much miscellaneous consumer debt floating around I didn’t have an honest account of how much debt I truly had in my name. This needed to change. Second, I requested my free federally mandated credit report from all three major credit bureaus from AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • I had never created a budget in my entire adult life. When I needed more money, rather than spend less or track my income and expenses like a responsible person, I worked more hours or took on another part-time job. Not only was this unsustainable, it also made my life miserable. Third, I created a budget that tracked all of my monthly income and expenses. You can also use automated tools. I use Mint but hear positive reviews by users of YNAB, Level, EveryDollar, and Prism.
  • A declaration is nice. A plan is even better. Many people think declaring their debt free resolution is enough. I disagree. You need an action plan to make your resolution come true and hold yourself accountable. Fourth, you need to create a debt payment plan. Originally, I used Bankrate’s debt payment calculators, because they’re free and I’m cheap (now). I also recommend Ready For Zero, MoneySavingsPro, and SimpleDollar.

Look, money is meant for spending. Even after all of my struggles with money, one of my favorite quotes is still, “if you didn’t help me make it, don’t tell me how to spend it.” Today I’m still not perfect. I still make financial mistakes, just far less than I used to. Living within your budget and living life are not mutually exclusive. You can do both and hopefully you don’t have to waste $26,000 and seven years of your life to figure that out.

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Marcus Garrett

Marcus Garrett is an auditor turned author of Debt Free or Die Trying: How I Buried Myself in Over $30,000 in Debt and Dug My Way Out By Age 30 and co-host of Paychecks & Balances where we share free advice to help young professionals raise their paychecks and lower their balances so they can live the lives they want. You can find us on Twitter @PayBalances and Facebook: PaychecksAndBalances.

  • angela

    Great read!!

  • Mr. Quojo .

    Great Great Article!!! Debt is no fun! And it’s not like you only paid back the 26k. It took seven years to pay off you probably paid something like 12k in interest. Credit card companies be like Lorenzo from Training Day “Putting Charges on Everything”

  • HouseOfBonnets

    As a twentysomething with way less debt but in a similar struggle thank you for the article and tips. I’ve been working on my finances and upping my financial literacy game since I would like to look into investments before I’m 30 (still have school to work out). So it’s nice to see that I’m not alone and we all have each other for support and resources. ?

    Also does making it rain food Stamps count? Even if it doesn’t making it rain poultry, produce and dairy is a magnificent scene lol.

  • Other_guy13

    Man look…I thought my $1700 spending spree was something….heck…I get upset when I go over $100 at a strip club (I have recently changed my views on dating strippers…they are great so if I’m ever single *signal lost*)…the fact that you bought a car though is hilarious. I just have one question….did you and Collegbae make a kid after this experience or nah?

    • MsSula

      I actually thought it was you writing the article for a second there. Lol.

      • Other_guy13

        Lol….not this time

  • rhymeswithbrucelee

    Wooo that’s a wild ride! I’m happy to see a post on personal finances here at VSB. I have been mildly obsessed with some of the early retirement blogs over the last couple years.

    • MsSula

      Like that is my sole vocation right now. Working on retiring in the next 5 years. Amen!

      • rhymeswithbrucelee

        Me too! I think my timeline is more in the 5-10yr range because I’m single, I like to live in nice places without a roommate, and I love my fine wines and carnival trips :-)

      • Kas

        Good for you. My two kids have me at least 15 years out from being able to retire.

    • Other_guy13

      I plan to retire at 50 and go back to work as a professor til I die.

      • rhymeswithbrucelee

        I second that! I’d like to retire corporate at 40, do consulting or travel or maybe run around after some late in life babies, then go be a professor around 50 to 55yrs old. I’ve also thought about joining the foreign service in that 45-55 time frame

        • Other_guy13

          Great plan…just do ya time like a penny in a jar and keep it moving. 19 years to go lol

      • Kas

        I planned to retire at 55. It’s not going to happen for me.

        • Other_guy13

          Hang in there…may change once I get kids but I doubt it. My dad did it…mom is soon to follow. I try to learn from them as much as possible.

          • Kas

            The way my lifestyle is set up . . .

            • Other_guy13

              Lol

            • MsSula

              There are levels to this. But my husband is cramping my thrifty style.

              • Kas

                My wife feels the same way about me.

          • Kas

            My dad retired at 52. I assumed if he could do 52, I could certainly do it by 55. Sigh. Of course my wife is adamant she will never retire.

        • PinkRose

          I’ll getting into my career groove at 55. ;)

          • Scorpiogoddess??

            Wait PR, you 55?!?

            • PinkRose

              No not yet just turned 50, but that’s the age I expect to be at my educational and professional leak.?

  • miss t-lee

    Look at you, WiM!!
    Seeing you allude to this weekend via tweets I was curious about the details…lol you’ll always have memories.
    Kudos on digging yourself out of the debt hole.

    • Oh sh*t! That is WiM! I just looked at the picture again.

      • miss t-lee

        Ha!

    • Sigma_Since 93

      WiM???

      • miss t-lee

        Yes?

        • Sigma_Since 93

          who is that?

          • miss t-lee

            Wisdom Is Misery, he used to write for Single Black Male, back in the day.

  • will_the_thrill

    When I tell you I needed to see this after this past weekend! Thanks bruh!

  • ED

    I got my first credit card at 19 and went on to fuck up my credit. Luckily the credit limit was only $900 but I maxed that out in no time. But with interest, late fees, and over-limit fees it went up to over $1,600. One day (now I’m 22, so that’s about 2.5 years without making a single payment on that card) I got a call from the credit card company and they offered me some “options” to pay it off. I can pay off month to month and pay the entire balance or pay larger amount per month over then next three months and only pay a fraction of the cost. Well of course I’d pick the lower amount. That’s called settling a debt. Settling a debt usually isn’t a good thing, I found out about 3 years later. Later that year I decided to do my personal balance sheet and that’s when the light finally came on. That was the first time I really faced how much student loans I had, how much I was gonna have to pay monthly and for how long. I was sick to my stomach and scared. It forced me to make big personal finance changes. It changed my life. Back then I never thought I’d do anything finance-related. I’ve done financial literacy seminars.

  • RaeNBow

    #message … such a great post! i laughed all the way through

  • MsSula

    Solid advice!

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