Below is an interview we did recently with Katrina, who is a ReadyForZero user we profiled way back in 2011. We wanted to share an update on her progress since then, in the hopes that it will be inspiring for all of our readers. (She recently paid off one of her highest interest credit cards) If you have questions for us or for Katrina, please post them in the comments section below.
About two years ago, we interviewed you for one of our early success profiles, which was a lot of fun. At the time you had been using ReadyForZero for about 4 months and you had paid off $1,081, which was awesome. Does it seem like a long time since then? How did being the subject of our profile affect you, if at all?
It’s funny, I was recently just thinking about the moment when I started this “journey” — I thought about it right as I was budgeting for the last payment of my very first card to be paid off. It does not feel like it’s been that long since I’ve started all of this. I’ve paid off about $6,500 now in total, and really being able to sit down and see that number lets me know I’m finally on the right track.
Being profiled on ReadyForZero made me feel proud and accountable, especially right after the interview. Somewhere between having to move and unexpected bills though, I lost that momentum for a little while. However, within the last year interacting with you all gave me encouragement — especially tweeting with the team. And joining both the debt destroyers and the ReadyForZero community recently has truly made me feel accountable and like I have a team to turn to — others to talk to who know exactly what it feels like and can encourage one another.
Recently, on the ReadyForZero Community Facebook group page, you told us that you had finished paying off your highest interest credit card, which had been with you for 8 years. Congratulations! How did it feel to accomplish that, and can you give our readers a little summary of your journey from first credit card purchase up to this point?
It felt amazing to accomplish that goal! I was on my lunch break at work paying bills and I was overcome with a giddy feeling, ready to burst at the seams with excitement, with no one to tell (which is why I had to take it to the community!). It felt like Christmas morning waiting to unwrap the large box sitting in the corner. I was excited and happy and wanted to show off how awesome it feels to be a little less in debt, to share with others that it really does feel like a weight off your shoulders.
There is a big difference between my first credit card purchase at the age of 18 and now. I have learned that an 18-year old shopaholic with a credit card is a big mistake. At that age I was sure that eventually I’d have the money to afford the things I was buying on credit. I trusted I’d be making big bucks when I couldn’t even decide upon a career path. When I realized I had no emergency fund, and had seen layoffs at work, I knew I had to get serious and save money, unfortunately it still took a few years later, and a few more credit cards, to do something about the situation.
That’s when I started using the Internet to teach myself how to budget, learn tips, figure out tricks, and use all kinds of graphs to manage my finances. I became fixated on what I’d have to do each month, how much to save, spend, and what to pay off. Sadly I lost that thrill after a little while, mainly because I knew what to do, had it all mapped out, and yet still couldn’t stick to a budget. Something would always throw me off, and I’d lose faith and just end up over budget.
It took me awhile to stop getting discouraged if I went over budget, and to realize that doing nothing at all was way worse than going a little over budget. The shopaholic sadly is still in me — in fact my last payment was almost spent on new clothes, but when I sat down and truly looked at what I would be getting versus not meeting my goal of paying off my card by September, I did not give into temptation. Which was great. I know that is not something the 18-year old me would have been able to do — I would have procrastinated and justified that it was a good sale, and later ended up with good ol’ buyers remorse.
What do you think you’ll do with that credit card now that it’s paid off? Cancel it? Or hide it somewhere?
Currently the card is hiding on me it appears! With a move last year, and wanting to leave it out of temptation’s way, I’m pretty sure it’s in a box somewhere in my closet. Though, thanks to my dog Bella it does have a chewed up corner. As I said in the initial post, she likes to help keep me on budget too.
Did it help to have a plan and focus on the highest interest card first? Did you have to make any behavior changes to be successful?
Having a plan helped a ton, but not getting discouraged when that plan didn’t go accordingly helped also. Life always seems to have something to throw at us. Within the last year I had at least 4 very expensive medical bills for myself that have thrown me off course, and unfortunately you can’t always budget for those ahead of time. I made few behavior changes, but I’m kicking myself for not doing more, or starting my current one sooner.
The biggest change I made last year was instead of buying the big ticket items that I wanted, I started entering reputable contests and giveaways. It became very time consuming, and frustrating at times when I didn’t win, but I actually ended up winning quite a bit of stuff, which helped curb my spending because I didn’t have to spend a dime. But you have to enter many to win one, so it is not for everyone. Currently my goal is to limit my eating out to once a week/or a set amount for the week. That has been an extreme challenge, but I saw that’s where a lot of my extra money was going and it was very upsetting to see.
My best friend and I also opted to change from the norm of eating out to planning what we called “Pinterest Nights” once a week. These consisted of one craft and one dinner found on the popular site Pinterest, and we’d trade off weekly. Not only was it cheaper and healthier than going out to eat, it also helped to strengthen our friendship since we got time to talk, relax, laugh and be creative. Easily the funnest way to stay on budget!
Now that the highest interest card is paid off, what is your plan going forward?
My plan is to tackle the next card. If all goes according to plan, the now highest interest card should be paid off in February. I already can’t wait!
Do you have any idea of what you will do when you become completely debt free?
Once I’m out of debt I’m going to save up for a mini-vacation, and after that I’ll be putting the money that was going towards debt into savings — hopefully for a down payment on a house. I’m also going to keep working towards improving my credit scores.
Any advice for our readers who are working on paying off their own debt?
My biggest advice is don’t give up and don’t get discouraged! Even if you can only put a little more towards your minimum payment, do so! Every little bit helps, and you’ll get there soon enough. And don’t forget, you can still have fun on a budget.
Thanks so much, and keep up the good work!