Dealing with Credit Card Debt
Here we go — Round Two of this Credit Card Debt Repayment Journey —
Last month I started documenting my progress toward paying off the credit card debt we’ve accumulated over the past couple of years.
The point was to understand exactly where our debt is, and gain structure around what we can pay off each month.
While it hasn’t been an exact science, at least it has been a starting point. And then there’s the whole accountability thing.
If I’m putting this all out there for the world to see (albeit anonymously), at least this makes it a bit more real.
So here is our current progress, building off of what was documented previously.
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Note: I’ve been using the tools on Undebt.It to track our debt repayment progress. And, I have to say, the Undebt.It website has been a godsend when it comes to manually tracking our credit card debt.
I previously had built out this Excel spreadsheet that became more and more complicated every time I decided to add something to it. Undebt.It not only tracks your various accounts, but also calculates the best options for paying down your debt.
I’ve been using this tool for several months, and honestly can tell you that it makes a difference. The amount of stress that I have every time I sit down to do bills is reduced by using this site:
Yes, I still need to make entries on payments or purchases made. But the website does all of the calculations for you. And it provides such helpful visuals so you can actually SEE the progress you are making.
Plus, once one account is paid off, it directs you to apply that monthly dollar amount to the next credit card debt on your list.
So it’s always keeping track of your monthly payment budget, as well as the dollar amount that you should be “snowballing” into the next bill.
I’m pretty sure the Undebt.It website explains this way better than I am attempting to — so feel free to check out their site. If you’re looking to better track multiple debt accounts, this would definitely be a great option for you.
Things purchased over the past month, that may or may not have impacted our credit:
- Blogging and Pinterest courses/upgrades — mostly paid with PayPal, but one larger purchase was put on a cash rewards credit card. The hope is to consider this an investment, and that the money can be made back eventually. (And isn’t that what we are all hoping — which is a major selling point for these courses?) ~$150
- Dental work 🙁 A tooth that had been bothering me for roughly 7 – 9 months finally required some serious drilling and a new crown. ~$650
- Prescription – Since we belong to a High Deductible Health Care Plan, any and all prescriptions are first subject to a $1,500 deductible (which we haven’t even come close to this year.) $111
- Dog joint supplements I thought were cancelled from auto-ship. I swear I cancelled this two months ago, having found a cheaper alternative. Guess I’ll need to keep a closer eye on this, to make sure the charge doesn’t “magically” appear again. $67
- 2.5 cords of seasoned firewood – delivered (not stacked). This was paid for with cash that could have been used to pay off credit card debt. However, getting a great deal on firewood right before winter is a really good investment to stay warm over the months to come. This will reduce the amount of oil and electricity we will have to use, and hopefully last for the duration of the winter. $300
- Heating oil delivery – 150 gallons, paid with a check. We found this great new resource — a website that’s essentially a roundup for heating oil prices. It’s only available in the Northeast, in the following states: CT, Long Island NY, NJ, PA, RI, MD, MA. The website is: https://cashheatingoil.com/
Here’s how it works: You search by ZIP code, then select which local heating oil dealer you’d like to purchase from. The search results show basic info on the dealer, as well as the price per gallon. But it doesn’t show the business name. You will not see the name of the company until you put in your order. However, you will be able to read others’ feedback on the dealer, as well as their reviews and rating. And you’re not placed under any sort of contract. So the website really serves as the liaison to connect companies with buyers, without having to pay for advertising.
We used this service once, and will definitely use it again. The amount of savings was unreal, compared to what we paid our regular heating oil company. They delivered exactly when we needed it, and the company was professional and courteous. A definite win-win situation. ~$350
- Purchased a wet/dry vac — plus tools/supplies to fix cracks in the basement. $80
We had a few really rainy days last month, and found a smallish pond had appeared in our cellar. After a few investigative ventures, we think we’ve pinpointed the area of entry — vertical cracks along the stairs leading down the outdoor hatchway, into the cellar.
We bought several cans of this weather-proof foam sealant, and have been patching these areas as we go along. It’s kind of hard to identify the problem areas when it isn’t raining. And when it is raining, you can’t apply the fix because the area needs to be fairly dry. So we’ll be keeping an eye on this issue going forward, and using our handy new wet/dry vac as needed. ~$20
- CoffeeForLess.com — We love our Keurig, and use it every day. K-cups can be pricey, especially at the grocery store. We discovered the Coffee For Less website a few years ago, and found their prices can’t be beat. ~$80
In addition, they’re really good about offering coupon codes when you join their mailing list. If you time it right, you can benefit from a 12% off code every few months. Otherwise, you’ll regularly find 5 or 7% off when searching online at coupon sites. Also, for Cyber Monday 2017, they offered a whopping 21%. (Unfortunately, we didn’t need coffee at that time, so didn’t take advantage of that deal.)
As for service, we found that even when selecting their Super Saver Shipping method (free for orders $49+), the coffee is still delivered within 3 or 4 business days.
- Spent more than usual on both takeout and groceries due to Thanksgiving holiday.
- Spent a little more on clothing & sneakers with Black Friday deals. While I firmly believe apparel is not really a necessity (besides the fact that you generally need to be clothed), I make this exception for my other half, who has lost an insane amount of weight in the past year.
We’re talking 165 lbs, and counting.
Because of this, none of his winter clothing or outerwear fits whatsoever, and he has been swimming in an abundance of fabric. Since we do live in New England, and also due to his major weight-loss accomplishment, we’ve had to do some seasonal shopping for him.
Things I’ve done to make extra money over the past month:
- Surveys – $34.27
- Ebates – $39.28
- Earny $63.89
- Paribus – $0.01
- Sift – $4.76
- Usability testing – $43.27
- Credit card reward points (applied to balances) – $80.72
- Amazon No-Rush Rewards – $5.00
Again, it was an extremely busy month, so not a whole lot of side hustling going on. I count any profit, no matter how small, as a win for this timeframe.
- Next month will start the first of many months to include Parent PLUS loan payments. Our son’s student loans have entered repayment, which means we’ll all become a little (a lot) more strapped than usual. For the next 10-15 years or so.
Thankfully, he is now gainfully employed, having started his very first full-time job as of the end of July. Because, truth be told, we won’t have much flexibility to help him out with payments, even if we wanted to.
- Christmas plans – For this year’s Christmas season, we will be paring down the gift-giving.
First off, we will not be using credit or credit cards for any gifts.
This is contrary to everything we’ve practiced in the past few years, where we were pretty much broke by the time December rolled around. Then went on a shopping frenzy to order whatever we could find online, and put it all on credit.
No more of this craziness — credit is not the way to be buying gifts.
- Car maintenance – rumor has it that vehicle #1 needs new tires before the snowy season starts. Ugh, but it’s a necessity.
- Vet visit – puppy #2 is due for her annual vaccinations in mid-December. (I know there are alternatives for cheaper vaccinations, but I simply refuse to skimp on quality pet care.)
In summary, I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit from Month One, and my eyes were opened a little wider going into Month Two. We were able to increase our debt payments this past month, and tried to the best of our abilities to not take on more credit card debt.
However, there were some curveballs thrown in the mix (which is really part of life, isn’t it?) So my learning from this most recent month is:
Control what you can, but plan for what might be coming.
And with that in mind, I’ll take December with a grain of salt, and not set any unattainable expectations.
- My main goal will be to not take on any more credit card debt.
- The concession: we won’t make a major dent in our debt, knowing it’s the holiday season.
Plus the upcoming expenses listed above need to be considered — and I think that is a crucial part of the expense planning phase. You can budget all you want, but unless you’re adhering to said budget, you’ll still come up short when these one-off expenses creep up on you.
So with that being said, I turn it over to you —
How do you plan for the unexpected (or the expected-but-seldom-encountered)?
What do you consider to be a necessity? And what if you and your spouse/partner have differing opinions on this?
Any suggestions or tips on how we could be handling these purchases or expenses differently?
I’d LOVE to hear from you!
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the insurance industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.