How I Fought My Financial Demons of The Past and Won

(Guest post by Natalie of the blog, Debt And The Girl)

Do you ever feel like something is hovering over your shoulder? Like something is looming behind you that you cannot explain? I certainly have.

It is not a menacing presence but more of a reminder of financial “demons of my past” as I like to call it. (Editor’s Note: Anyone watch Dexter? :)) We all have things that may haunt us, whether it’s decisions we have made or something else. The silly choices I have made still influence me because I don’t want to make those same mistakes again.

The Backstory

I used to be bad with money to say the least. I used to go to the mall in my college years and blow a couple of hundred dollars on handbags and clothes. Then I would do the stupid thing of not paying off my credit card, except for maybe the minimum payment. I would then feel guilty about it and head to the mall where the cycle would repeat again.

You see the problem?

It wasn’t long before I had over $5,000 in credit card debt. At the time, it seemed like an enormous amount of money that I would never be able to pay back. It made me feel anxious and embarrassed that I had let the debt demon get that bad.

How did I get to that point? To say that I shopped all my negative feelings away is a cliché, but unfortunately it is true in my case. I just didn’t have a good grasp on how to handle my feelings, and I would choose bad ways to cope with the stress. It was the pressure from being on my own for the first time and handling my pile of college classes. To deal with this, I used to love going out to eat with several of my friends and pick up the tab for all of them. I just felt so happy that I could put things on my shiny new credit card, even if it was an illusion.

I don’t want to be the person that sits and complains about how they got this way because of their parents, but I will say that I didn’t get much financial education as a kid. My mom did go with me to open my first savings account but did little to teach me what savings were for and how to go about saving for the proverbial rainy day. I remember doing an assignment on investments in middle school, but that was the extent of my financial education in school.

I saw a lot of people spending their hearts out and generally took that as the norm.

Overcoming These “Demons of the Past”

After being depressed for a while, I decided to take action. My boyfriend and I cut corners, lived frugally, and even lived with our parents for a little while to save money. I would not recommend living with the folks if you can help it, but it did get us to our goal.

About 6 months ago we were finally able to pay it all off and become credit card debt free! We paid off over $5,000 in about 7 months.

I have since taken a completely different approach to spending, now that that awful debt has been removed from our shoulders. I have adopted a minimalist lifestyle and currently only use about 5 pairs of shoes for my entire wardrobe. I literally have shirts that I wear with small holes in them. If you can’t notice them, then its okay, right? My boyfriend and I have also continued our habits on frugal living and even have a decent amount in savings right now – which is a blessing.

Staying On Track

I use these financial demons of my past to help me stay on track. No more mindless spending for me!

I wanted to tell this story because there are people who are in debt and are feeling drowned by it. I know that’s how I felt, but you can persevere with a little hard work. I felt like throwing in the towel more than once when discouraged, but you can’t lose hope. The feeling you get with paying off that demon is more awesome than just about anything!

I am so glad that we were able to do it, and are continuing to pay off debt. We want to be financially independent so that we can live the lives that we want and not be beholden to anyone — even our nasty demons of the past.

How are you fighting your financial demons?

Natalie is writer, instructor, marketer and a full time debt destroyer at her PF blog. Read more about her story at!

EDITOR’S NOTE: I love hearing stories like this, thanks so much Natalie :) I had to kick my own mall shopping habits to the curb a handful of years ago too (I pretty much shopped whenever I was bored!), so it’s always nice hearing others overcoming this as well. If anyone else has a debt-slaying story they’d like to share with us, please let me know! We can never have too much motivation!

[Photo by ark]

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  1. Joe @ StackingBenjamins June 27, 2013 at 6:48 AM

    I love the fact that you were able to curb your spending successfully! Great story. I didn’t have much in the way of financial education either, which meant that I also had to tackle some horrible money issues right out of high school and throughout college. Imagine how different things would be for many of us if we talked about money more often as a society….

    1. Debt and the Girl June 27, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      Thanks. I appreciate that. I am a huge proponent of financial education being taught in the schools. I don’t think its going to happen anytime soon.

  2. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth June 27, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    That’s so great that you guys got rid of all of your credit card debt. My parents taught me well, so I never got into that type of debt, but I did have a decent amount of student loan debt that was recently paid off. I think it’s important we learn from our past so that we don’t make the same mistakes in the future. It sounds like you’re doing a great job with this!

    1. Debt and the Girl June 27, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      Thank you. Its good that you had parents that were able to show yo the right way. My parents were immigrants to this country so they really didn’t have a good grasp of financial stuff but I think everything worked out.

  3. Shafi June 27, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    Once in a while, many of us have been possessed by demons to spend and keep spending. Some have faced them head-on and have been successful; others either don’t want to face them or just are unable to do so. Blessed be the ones who have fought against their demons – not only financially but in other areas as well – and won especially in today’s complex world but not necessarily complicated one.

  4. John June 27, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Thats the problem, I don’t think these demons ever entirely go away, they just go on ice for a while.

    1. J. Money June 27, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      You don’t think they could be killed forever? I feel like they can, but there will always be newer/different ones trying to take their place.

    2. Debt and the Girl June 27, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      I think we can overcome them but it takes a lot and many things come up along the way. Just gotta stay positive.

  5. Alice @ Earning My Two Cents June 27, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    I definitely relate! I too racked up credit card debt trying to keep up with my friend’s lifestyles (or so I thought), picking up dinner tabs so I could play the big shot, and shopping to make myself feel better. My parents had taught me that credit cards are to be paid off every month and they never carry a balance on theirs (they only use it for the airline miles). But I think most of us get into this trouble because personal finance is more personal than finance. We take our emotions out on our money.

  6. Done by Forty June 27, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Thanks for sharing that story, and congratulations on conquering your credit card debt! My financial demon was (and is) trying to impress people by picking up the check. I think a lot of it is ego, and a bit of it is just not liking the process of chopping up a check uncomfortably in a big group of people.

  7. Christine @ ThePursuitofGreen June 27, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    Yeah for you Natalie! I’m sure moving back in with your parents was really hard to do. A big blow to your pride and ego. Plus having to admit that you needed your parents help. I’m glad you were able to get it all together! It’s a wonderful inspirational story. Thanks for sharing this moment.

  8. Idan Melamed June 28, 2013 at 1:34 AM

    Well done Natalie!

    I don’t fight any financial demons, but I do try to change how I feel about earning more money.
    I found that by creating a budget, I realized how much I actually wanted, and it made my drive for earning more money greater.

    Was it the same with you, or did you know how much money you wanted before creating a budget?

    1. J. Money July 1, 2013 at 5:48 PM

      I don’t know about Natalie, but I know it helped me want more money too :) Especially when I barely had any left over every month! Cuz if you can stay on track and spend the same, all the extra money you get in the future feels SOOOO much better!

  9. jim July 1, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    Nice article and congrats! Here’s a little piece of information that may keep you “on budget” for the rest of your life. Our grand daughter was just diagnosed with a rare, incurable disease. Wow are there medical expenses involved. I NEVER dreamed, imagined or even thought this would ever happen. It simply never occurred to us. Now that it’s happened, we’re helping with medical expenses just when we thought we had raised and educated our kids and thought we could finally push hard to get our retirement fully funded – ha! Hope this never happens to any of you guys, but keep it in mind ’cause it could be just the motivation you need to keep you on track. Best of luck.

    1. J. Money July 1, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Ouch! Health stuff is so freakin’ crazy sometimes. All the more reason to save more than you think you need and be prepped for emergencies! Hopefully they’re just not as drastic as some cases :( I hope your grand daughter has lots of years ahead of her!! So sad when things happen to young people :(

      1. jim July 1, 2013 at 7:41 PM

        Thanks for the sentiment. This is going to be out of the world expensive – and she’s insured!

        1. J. Money July 2, 2013 at 11:12 AM

          I’m sorry :(

  10. thepotatohead July 1, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    I too had a bunch of credit card debt, to the tune of around $7500. Took me around 6 months as well to pay it off once I got serious. For me it was all about realizing that I was way over spending and being too much of a consumerist. Identifying purchases that I actually needed instead of purchases that were fleeting wants was totally key.

    1. J. Money July 2, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      Wow congrats – that’s a fast payoff!