Friday, January 14, 2005

Measuring Holes - How Deep Is Your Debt?

I have to be honest--I didn't know how deep I was in until today. My wife and I had made a few thumbnail estimates, and I knew we were somewhere between $17-20,000 in debt. It turned out to be the upper end of that scale, and was probably above that last month.

It was a far more emotional experience than you'd think. I've actually been excited about this day for a while--thinking about how great it would be to finally start seeing some numbers going down. What I wasn't prepared for was what it was like to watch the numbers pile up as I discovered this bill or that bill I didn't even know we'd had.

My wife and I were both on edge the entire time, snapping at each other. I don't think either of us blamed the other, really, but we both were experiencing that kind of guilty defensiveness you feel when something's your fault, and you know it's your fault, but you don't want anybody to call you on it because it would be more than you could bear.

She behaved far better than I did, and may even have found a couple of transactions that we can get reversed and get us that much further ahead. We won't know for sure until Monday.

In the meantime, the bills were a combination of the serious--there were medical bills on there from my wife and daughter--and the stupid--I can't believe I'm still paying interest on trips to Subway and Quizno's from two years ago.

If you've never done this, do it and get it over with. Pull out all your bills, all your debt, get the balances, and add it up. Use a calculator, use Quicken, use Excel, use Lotus, do it however you want, but get a total.

I'm telling you, it won't be fun. But it's like pulling off the bandage. You may as well do it quick and get it over with. The sooner you know how deep the hole is, the sooner you can start weaving roots together to make a rope so you can climb out.

Tomorrow, I start climbing.

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