No. of Recommendations: 150
After many small and medium happy dances, I can now celebrate the big one. I have officially paid off my debt. I owe nothing.

Two years ago my life was a mess. I was substitute teaching trying to hide from the reality that teaching was very poor career choice for me. I lived with my parents, and had no self-esteem. I used spending to temporarily escape from reality. And I fell deeper into debt every year. I felt like there was no solution to my problems, I convinced myself that no one would hire me to do anything.

I was $36,000 in debt, with an income under $13,500. But luckily I did not have to pay room and board. I wouldn't have been able to tell you the exact amount of my debt because I was too scared to add it all together. And since I wasn't facing reality, I was paying over 20% interest on most of my debt.

And then I slowly started to change my life. I switched some of my high interest debt to low interest cards. Instead of working as a substitute teacher two to three days a week, I did everything I could to work every single day. I cut my spending back dramatically, and put the extra income into paying off debt.

I read about an opportunity to get a good job in the government with the newly formed Transportation Security Administration, and I jumped at the chance. And I followed through with the opportunity. And I got hired.

Surprisingly I was very good at my new job. I have the ability to treat travelers with respect, but still perform the screening procedures exactly the way they are written. And I can do my job fast while still being thorough. I started work at a huge airport, and supervisors and other screeners manipulated to have me on their team. I continue to be amazed by the this because I have been the "screwup" my entire life.

At the airport to which I was assigned, the TSA couldn't hire enough people. So there was always overtime available. And I worked as much of it as I could. I worked over 420 hours of overtime last year.

And I applied everything I could to my credit cards. Before I knew it, I had switched all my debt to low interest cards. And the balances kept getting lower. I had a setback with a $900 car repair bill, but itn barely fazed me. By September 2003, I was down to a balance of $10,000 and I wasn't paying any double digit interest. Life was good.

This summer I heard about an opportunity to join an elite group of screeners who support troubled airports around the country. And I was selected to join this mobile team. And I have been on the road since September.

This opportunity has meant greater responsibility, greater chance to do overtime, and most importantly more money. Now I can write that I have paid off everything. And I bought myself a smoking new Alienware laptop that is paid off. Plus I put away $3000 in a Roth IRA. I maxed out my government TSP.

And I am $5000 closer to buying myself a house.

My long term plans are flexible. I will start applying for supervisor positions by the end of this summer (I want to stay on the road at least a year). But I may choose to stay on the road longer. If I accept a supervisor position next fall, then I still won't be able to afford a house. But I will have made a nice start to saving for a downpayment.

If I stay on the road a lot longer then I will have a much bigger chunk of money when I ready to settle down. One of my best hopes is that I have enough to pay cash for a duplex and then I rent out half and live in the other half. That would give me a source of income plus freedom from rent.

But if I could just save enough of a down payment to reduce the mortgage payment to a lower level than whatever rent I was intending to pay then I would be ok. That is if I figured on paying $750 in rent, but I was making a mortgage payment of $500 instead then I would be saving money in housing plus I would be building equity every year instead of writing a check to a landlord. Plus I could deduct my mortgage interest.

Worst case scenario: Tomorrow my boss tells me that I am fired and have to go home. I still have my $5000 emergency fund with absolutely no obligations. I can literally travel to anywhere in the country to get work. I also have 3 weeks of annual leave, so I have salary for 3 weeks. I should be able to find something before my income runs out.

I can't imagine that happening but at least I really don't have to worry about it.

I crawled my way out of debt. I paid my creditors. And I am grateful that I did so. It was a hard journey. There were weeks where I worked 10 hour days 6 days out of 7 only to see my entire paycheck sent to my creditors. And that stunk. But I feel good about solving my financial crisis without bankruptcy. I am glad I didn't take the easy way out.

Thanks for listening,

Angry Geek
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