Sunday, February 22, 2009

Good Riddance!

I hope everyone had a meaningful and restful Shabbos. This was my first Shabbos with the Artscroll Ohel Sarah in-hand, and I couldn't be happier with it. It's really the ultimate siddur for a gal like me, so mad props to Susanne for being awesome and having her's so it could be brought to my attention. As for the Shabbat itself? Well, it left a lot to be desired, but I don't want to dwell on it, so we'll move on.

Instead, we'll talk about some BIG NEWS for me that isn't Jewishly related*, but is a big thing for me. It's pretty personal, but I'm a full-exposure kind of person. So, folks, for the first time since 2001, I am debt free (except for student loans, but even those? I don't have as many as some in my position).

*crowd cheers!*

I got my first credit card, a Visa, my junior year of high school when I was 17. My concert choir was going to New York City for a choir competition and we were going to be there for four or five days wining (not so much) and dining, visiting Ellis Island, going to a Broadway Show, you name it. I was working part-time at an in-bound catalog call center, but I wasn't making much money. I had to pay for the trip all by myself, but when I was done I had no spending money. So, the parents suggested I get a credit card (sage advice ...), and I did. I managed to get my first credit card as a junior in high school with no co-signer needed. Why? Well, I'd been working for several years, so I had legitimate work experience, and I'd had a bank account for many years, too. So I got the card that had a $500 limit on it and went on my way. From that point? People borrowed the card, I got more cards, I kept getting credit at all sorts of places -- JCPenny's, Best Buy (though these two I never really used), a MasterCard, another Visa ... when I was done, in the past eight years, I managed to have more credit and credit cards than I could possibly handle. Being in school, I used the cards as a crutch (the downfall of most college students with no guidance on credit) and ended up maxing a few out, and making payments became a dreaded situation.

I can remember one month, my senior year of college where I had to sell DVDs and CDs, not to mention some much-loved books, in order to pay my rent because my paycheck went to pay credit card bills. When I think back on it all, I don't even know what I bought with my credit cards. Books, clothes, food, alcohol? Just things.

Since graduating, I had spent a great deal of time hoping, magically, that all of my debt would pay itself off. It never happened, but I continued to work hard, save money, and through a couple of years of trying, I managed to pay it off, without going completely broke. Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking -- why share such a personal bit of information? You know, the thing of it is, I know there are a lot -- A LOT -- of people out there with credit card debt. Maybe not my readers, but it's a big problem, especially now. To know that in such a crappy economy that I can pay off my debt, tells me that financial stuff is always fixable. There has to be a will, and where there is a will, there's a way. And the one thing I wanted was to pay off all my debt so that I wouldn't feel so bogged down while in school and so that someday (G-d willing) when I'm married I can start it all off with a clean slate.

So, I feel good, despite all the Shabbos drek. I feel like a weight is off my shoulders, but I also keep telling myself in the back of my mind that "debt free" does not mean that I can start charging up my cards again. Instead? It tells me that if (G-d forbid) something should happen, I have a cushion. Otherwise? I need to spend within my means, and that, folks, is what I'm starting to do. The only things I need these days are: Judaica books, siddurim (can't have too many!), skirts, kosher food, and a little extra cash to buy Shabbos flowers and things like that. The books are one habit I'm not willing to skimp on ...

Shavua tov, readers!

* I'm a firm believer that to be a successful blogger (and this is just the Chavi philosophy), one should pick a topic (in this case Judaism/Jewish things) and write about it 93 percent of the time. The other 7 percent is alloted to random things, personal quips, YouTube videos, and things like this entry here.