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Collin’s Story, Part 1: Me Vs. $40K of Credit Card Debt

Let’s talk about finances. Yes, like really open up & have an honest conversation!

I think I felt some of you wince as you read that sentence. It is just so uncomfortable (or cringy as my kids would say!) to bring up money in any conversation. I mean, most people I know would rather talk about their sex life than chat about their income or expenses.

But not talking about our finances can leave us feeling alone and alienated, especially when struggling to stay afloat. Did you know that the U.S. credit card debt figure is at an all-time high of $870 million?! So if you’re having a hard time with debt, you’re certainly not alone.

That’s why we’re starting a new series on Hip2Save to bring our money struggles to light, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first.

As some of you may know, I have my fair share of stories to tell that apply to my issues with spending. But after years and years of work and teaching myself new habits, I’ve been able to turn them around for the better (I mean, I did start a frugal living website after all 😂).

Today, I’m starting with how my money troubles all began. Buckle up, because we’re in for a rocky rollercoaster ride. 

Growing up, I struggled in school to fit in.

One of my most vivid memories of elementary school is the day I literally tried to run away from school. Every day, my sisters and I walked to school together and this particular day was no different. However, as soon as we arrived at school, I had the horrible realization that I had left my glasses at home.

Clearly, this was not a big deal in terms of my vision as I was able to walk to school without any issues but it was a HUGE deal for me on a personal level as these glasses had become my entire identity. Without my glasses (and also my hair being pulled into a ponytail), there was no way I was going to face that classroom of first graders. Side note – my older sister was able to contact my mom who graciously dropped off my glasses so I could go on with my day.

I still have that one day ingrained in my memory. Looking back, it seems like such a little thing, but knowing I still remember that day so clearly makes me realize that it was much more then forgetting my glasses. It was the story of a little girl who didn’t feel comfortable in her skin, who felt out of place, and who could hide it all with her magical glasses. Those glasses were her safety net.

I also learned early on that I had a learning disability and had to work that much harder to keep up with my peers. Homework and tests were a constant struggle and remained this way my entire school career. Each class, each math problem, each homework assignment built up doubt inside of me.

At 10 years old, I witnessed my parents divorce and my dad move all the way across the country. A few years after that, I moved with my mom and sisters from Houston, TX to Boise, ID. We moved to Boise not knowing a soul. I think for my mom it was a way for her to begin again and start a fresh, new life. I am forever grateful for that move. Although at the time, that wasn’t the case.

As a teen, my self-doubt led to low self-esteem, which led to self-medicating with drugs in an attempt to escape my problems. I almost didn’t graduate high school.

Then at 19 years old, I got pregnant.

In case it’s not clear, it was not a planned pregnancy. As I watched all my friends apply to colleges and shop for their dorm rooms, I was filling out a baby registry and stocking up on diapers… oh and watching endless hours of A Baby Story on TLC. That show and eating bowls of Kraft mac & cheese were my sanctuary.

I also began to start stressing about the financial hardships that would inevitably start popping up down the road. As many of you already know, having a baby is expensive, especially when you don’t know the first thing about finances.

Reflecting on this monumental moment in life, I want to express that even with the uncertainty and apprehension filling me up, I was able to give birth to a healthy, beautiful, and amazing baby boy who stole my whole heart. It’s pretty incredible how joy can still wash over you during milestones like this, regardless of all the other emotions I felt until that point.

Then my fears and toxic thoughts eventually returned, and I developed an eating disorder.
In an effort to regain control of my life, I turned to my relationship with food, specifically filling up on what I loved and then purging afterward, also known as bulimia. I was ruining my body from the inside out, but what, when and how I ate felt like the only area in my life that I could completely control. Bulimia became my best friend.

I isolated myself from friends and family. I climbed deeper into my hole of depression. Every single day the vicious cycle of addiction would begin again. This was my life.

Along with the physical and mental damage, I was also creating a financial strain on my life. Binging on huge amounts of food is not frugal. On top of that, my desire to keep up with the Joneses (and give the perception that I had it all) led me to fall deeper and deeper into debt. I thought if we wore all the expensive stuff and drove the nice car that somehow my life would magically feel good – oh, how wrong I was.

To stay afloat, I opened a credit card account.

And then another one, and another one after that, then store credit cards were filling up my wallet. I was very good at coming up with reasons why it made sense to have THAT many credit cards. Oh how good I was at filling my head with excuses.

Before I knew it, I had acquired $40,000 in just credit card debt alone—and that doesn’t even include my car loan or mortgage. That didn’t stop the shopping. In addition to bulimia being a huge part of my daily life, the other thing that kept me numb and disconnected from the reality of my problems was shopping. Oh, how I loved to shop.

If $40k seems like a scary number, that’s because it is. I had never imagined my spending would spiral so far out of control! The hole I was digging got deeper and deeper, and the vicious cycle continued.

Collin beat herself up, then Collin escaped reality with her BFF bulimia and second runner up shopping.

This went on for years.

In the midst of this numb life I was living, I got pregnant again and was blessed with another sweet baby boy. I thought my life would change and get so much better – hello, I had two healthy boys and a supportive husband.

What is wrong with you Collin? Why aren’t you filled with happiness and joy? I was so good at pretending on the outside – making it seem I was living this fantastic life. But the truth was that I continued to dig deep and isolate myself from the world. My eating disorder was my life.

And then at my lowest, pregnant with my third child and recognizing that my credit card debt and depression didn’t have much room to get lower, I hit rock bottom.
Head here to read part 2…

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