Andrew McNaughton, LCSW, CADC

I don’t know if I still have the scrap of paper I wrote out all of my debts and APR interest rates on that early March 2018 morning, but the information I gathered forever changed my life. As I said in Part One of this blog, the numbers were grim, however in choosing to reject both the Snowball and Avalanche methods of debt repayment, I instead chose the practical approach by prioritizing my credit card accounts that had the highest APR interest rates, specifically the ones that were nearly 30%. Of my nine credit accounts, the two or three with the near 30% APRs were accounts with lower balances, $1000-1500 each, not the two behemoths with $3,000 or $4,000 owed, but I went after them aggressively. Budgeting can seem like a daunting task for those of us who had never done it before, but it can be fairly straightforward when we don’t have a lot of unpredictable expenses, regardless of how much or how little we are earning. Everything can be budgeted for: rent, income driven student loan monthly payments, car insurance, etc. I even budgeted for my Riot Fest ticket and my annual trip to the Indy 500, both well worth it even if my budget dictated they be experienced more meagerly than past years.

This is the point where you may expect me to start dispensing advice, or offer clever tactics and unique problem solving to debt elimination, but I have none to give because I do not think that what I did was not unique or special. All I did was that I planned for it and used my Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy tools to dispute irrational core beliefs and distortions, and to approach my plan with courageous and graceful tolerance of any moments of emotional, intellectual, or financial discomfort. Or more simply put, I made a plan, then stuck to it, and resisted urges to backslide by using rational self talk. As a mental health and addictions professional, I acknowledge the advantage I have with my level of familiarity with thought and behavior change modalities, but these are straightforward skills that can be learned and used by anyone capable of rational thought.  

I took advantage of opportunities as I achieved milestones of paying off my credit card balances one by one, starting with the ones with the highest interest rates. It helped to destroy the physical cards and erase any record of account numbers to put significant obstacles in front of myself to reduce the chances of backsliding into poor spending habits. It also helped that my bank worked with me to restrict my ability to take funds out of my savings account through mobile banking while not hindering my ability to put money into said account. As I consistently paid off one account to the next, my credit score steadily rose. This gave me leverage to ask for reduced interest rates and eventually a zero interest balance transfer which I had 12 months to pay off even though I knew I would do it in 4 months or less. Once that last account was paid off, I was free of credit card debt, roughly one year after I set out to do so.

As I stated before, I realize I was lucky to have this opportunity to pay off my credit card debt, but I strongly believe that with a plan, a budget, and rational thinking, anyone can tackle their credit card debt in a courageous, patient, and graceful manner. Many therapists at Symmetry Counseling specialize in Financial Therapy. Please contact us today for a consultation.