Debt Profiles: Michelle’s Story

Today is the first day I’ve ever featured a guest post, and I’m really excited it’s Michelle! I was won over to her blog by the header alone “one girl’s journey to get out of debt, survive unemployment, and buy all the shoes.” Yeah, all the shoes!! And, er, good financial decisions too! But enough of my rambling, here’s what Michelle has to say. 


Debt has sadly always been a part of my life. Like many millennials my age, I was never raised to respect money or fight against debt. Credit cards and overspending were just part of the American dream and my Italian culture- something to be proud of and to brag about.
My first memories of debt are of my mom’s messy filling system of bills. Her nightstand, car, and purse were in a constant state of disarray with mail from countless numbers of credit card and loan companies. Once I was old enough to read, I would begin noticing a repeat in theme. All of these piles were full to the brim with “final notices” and creditor warnings. I began to associate going to the mailbox as a necessary evil and piles of mail with dread and hopelessness.
My mom’s debt issues continued to grow to the point where it was beyond the control of even the most experienced debt counselor. She got desperate for quick fixes to get herself through to the next month and paycheck. Bankruptcy was always on the table and a normal part of our discussions. When she finally went through with it, “bankruptcy” became almost normal to us- a part of everyone’s life.
As a young adult, I felt obligated to let her borrow money from me. It started with her taking money from our college savings to pay a large legal fee without consulting anyone. But as times got worse and her mental state coming undone from the pressure to pay off creditors, her plight escalated to me freely letting her use my credit card for what I thought to be day-to-day expenses out of pity for the situation.
I had hopes that her using my credit card would mean she would be able to focus on paying down her debt. The credit card was to be used for day to day expenses to get her a bit of food or some gas for the car. Instead, she was using my two credit cards (one she took out under both our names) to gamble and purchase unnecessary items.
My junior year of college, I received my first call from a creditor demanding payment on a credit card bill I thought my mom had been paying off each month. And then came the letters. Soon, my dorm room’s desk began to look just like my mom’s nightstand- full of red mail and scribbled post-it-notes on who to pay off first. Seeing this chaos made me realize that I couldn’t fall like my mom had. I had to be different.
It would take me five additional years of hard work and mistakes to pay off the debt my mom racked up on my credit card. And now, I am working to clear up the rest of my debt issues one card and memory at a time.
Many who know my situation have asked me if I had any words for someone in a similar position of seeing a loved one suffer from debt. My advice is simple: Let those around you make and make up for their own mistakes. You cannot help those who are not willing to change. Do not allow yourself to get stuck in the same trap or to let emotions mix with money and finances. And if you do find yourself unknowingly wrapped up in someone else’s money issues, remove yourself immediately. Get yourself back on track, and learn from your mistakes one dollar at a time.
Michelle blogs at Fit is the New Poor where she writes about getting on the right track to financial freedom by slimming her debt and working out her assets. You can follow her on twitter @fitisthenewpoor.

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