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Subject:  193,345.59 Date:  9/16/2005  3:20 PM
Author:  ClimbingOut Number:  210854 of 312988

193,345.59 Take a look at that number. Roll it around in your head for a bit.

I thought I had kept pretty good track of my expenditures throughout the years. I always carried a debt, but until yesterdays mail delivery I had no idea just how much debt I've lived with.

193,345.59. Yesterday I received the final account investigation from an account I started when I was 16. This from a request I sent out almost a year ago. A year ago at this time I decided to get serious about paying down my debts (down 10K this year to a grand total of 54,000 secured/unsecured not including mortgage.) and I started wondering just how much I've paid out in debts since I started it all. How much of that was important to me at the time and no longer around?

193,345.59. From such modest beginnings is mighty oak grown. My siblings and I grew up as "working poor." Our heroic single mother worked very hard to make her paychecks stretch just that extra day to make it to the next payday. When I think of the effort she had to expend to do that I look back in horror on my behavior both before and after that fateful first account was opened. "Hey mom, can I get 5 bucks?" You would think that we would know the value of a dollar, but no, none of us learned a damned thing. A combination of personal and parental responsibily, whatever it just never happened. It wasn't until just the last few years that I've actually learned about money.

193,345.59 That first account was amazing. Someone would actually give me a piece of plastic, run it through ker-chunk and out I could walk with whatever I wanted. Friggen awesome! Ka-CHING! Bills are something that come in the mail later. Who needs to worry about those?

193,345.59 I actually managed to graduate from high school without too much trouble. I had a good-for-my-age job that allowed me to pay the bills and I was headed off to college. No, I'm sorry son we can't give you a scholarship. Your grades aren't good enough and you don't fit into any of these tight little molds. You could take out some Pell grants and student loans though. Don't worry about the debt, it can always be refinanced, forgiven, or hardship deferred.

193,345.59 I flunked out of college after a year. My heart wasn't into it at all. Who needs college? RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE! I was going to be an artist anyway. Never mind that I can't draw, sing, write, or paint. I knew what I wanted to be, and I hung around in the low rent districts with all sorts of unsavoury types. I couldn't lose! My lottery ticket was going to come in anytime now and then it would be cash cash cash! Oh crap, rent's due and the paycheck is next week. Hey what's this? A Payday loan? Cool, and it will only cost me $25. Not a bad deal.

193,345.59 Well, I've been working for a while. Gave up on the idea of being an artist. Seems like people are looking for "talent" in their artists. Pfft. Well, I've always loved computers and the University is hiring in the Biomed department for pc guy. Oh, I have to be a student? problem, I'll get a student loan and take a few easy courses.

193,345.59 Wow, I was suddenly making more money than I'd ever seen before. $250 a week? Sign me up for that new tv, and I'm too tired to bike home tonight so I'll just get a cab. No cash? No problem. Cabs take AMEX. I'll just pay it off before the bill is due and won't pay any interest. Oops, forgot about that TV didn't you? Well, AMEX didn't and they want their money. Wait, what the heck is a "charge-card?" I thought I could just pay this off over time?

193,345.59 A couple of years down the road now. Thoughts of college are forgotten. Turns out that I really didn't need it. My career path has led me from lowly PC tech to Software Specialist for a major business phone system vendor. I make good cash. Of course, I'm still paying off my debts from a few years ago, but hey it's not that bad right? I've managed my debts well over the years and nothing has gone to collections or is still hanging around longer than 5 years so kudos to me.

193,345.59 I turned 35 last year and took a good hard look at my life. 401K balance: minimal, no other retirement. Manageable debt that left me with a little extra spending cash each month. Basically spinning my wheels. Why? How could this happen? I made good money, I should be in a better position than this! Look at my finances! One slightly major problem and I'm wiped out!

At that point I realized that I needed to make drastic changes if I was going to be in a better position 10 years from now. I got serious about paying down my debt. Started calling for rate decreases and scratching and saving for every penny I could throw at my debts. It wasn't until 6 months ago that I stumbled across the magic bullet formula that we all know as the Snowball. I just kept throwing money at each debt never really seeing any major progress, resigned to paying my debts off by 2016 instead of 2030. I also got interested in exactly how much my profligate lifestyle had cost me over the years so I started contact every past creditor looking for records. The discovery of the Snowball was my lifesaver and brings the light at the end of the tunnel 7 years closer.

So what is 193,345.59? That is the total interest I've paid over 20 years.

And that first purchase? An awesome stereo system. Not a rack type of system, but one of those all in ones. A glorified boom box that I just had to have. Lasted 1 year. And the damned thing ate my favorite tape.
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