Digging My Way Out of $40K in Credit Card Debt
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Debt is scary, but it IS possible to get out.
Financial struggles have been a big conversation between me and my team lately. So much so that we’ve decided to launch a series of posts dedicated to this topic. In fact, I recently opened up about how I found myself $40,000 in debt—yes, that’s a 5-figure number!
To leave off from where I was in the first part of the series, I had officially hit rock bottom. I was pregnant with my daughter Piper and truly wasn’t taking the best care of myself. I was struggling with bulimia and the vicious cycle continued even though I was pregnant with my third child. The weight of the guilt and shame I was carrying seemed to be getting heavier and heavier as I continued to numb the pain with bulimia. Binge, purge, binge, purge… my daily life was wrapped up in this vicious cycle.
Oh the guilt I felt for failing as a mom, not only to my sweet baby girl inside of me, but also to my two boys right there in front of me just wanting the simple gift of a present mom. I felt like an empty vessel of a person just going through the motions in life without actually living it.
Not many people were aware of my relationship with food since I had isolated myself from sharing those struggles with my friends and family. That said, it was clear to them that I wasn’t in a good place. Keep in mind, at this point, my family and I were struggling financially – BIG time. Things sure get expensive when you are trying to keep up with the Joneses AND feed your addiction.
I hit rock bottom one weekday morning while crying on the bathroom floor. I finally said to myself, “I can’t do this anymore,” and shortly after picked up the phone to call my dad to ask for his support not only emotionally, but as well as financially, to help me get treatment.
So I checked into rehab.
Without anyone else prompting me, I knew I needed help, and I knew that unless I was truly wanting to break this addiction, rehab would have been a waste. I am so fortunate that my dad was able to help get me into a great rehab facility to begin working on regaining the mental and physical strength to fight my eating disorder, especially since Piper would be due in the coming months.
But one of my biggest takeaways from being in that treatment center wasn’t centered on my own problems, but instead on the hurdles that others have to tackle every day. It gave me that eye-opening realization to count my blessings and be thankful for what is going right in my life. Talk about a perspective check!
While I was in the 28-day program, we were lucky enough to have my mother-in-law come out to help with the kids and the support I felt from my family definitely kept me motivated to complete the treatment even when it felt like too much. I came out feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and just overall so much better, but just because I had finished my program didn’t mean that it was smooth sailing. Even to this day, the struggle with food still lingers because it was an addiction that engulfed my life for years.
Nevertheless, I was ready to be in control and get healthy, not only personally but financially! Since I wasn’t spending loads of money anymore to continue my food numbing and retail shopping coping mechanisms, it shed light on just how much money I was actually throwing away each month. When I heard about couponing, I had no idea those little pieces of paper would have such a powerful impact on not only paying down my debt, but help me to launch a business, and regain control of my life.
First, I had to learn the ropes of shopping with coupons.
Anyone who dives head first into couponing will tell you that there is A LOT to learn and a whole lot of math that comes with it. Remember when I said that I grew up struggling in school? Well, imagine my excitement when I finally got couponing and was able to apply this knowledge to our family’s day to day expenses and start actually saving us money—the complete opposite of what I was doing before (AKA spending money we did NOT have!). Love those light bulb moments!
Having never felt great at much of anything created a depression that painted a negative image in my mind of myself and my value. But because I was finally grasping a concept, it reinforced my confidence and self-worth to ignite that fight I had against my low-self esteem, health struggles, and my debt. It was a small win but it was life-changing.
I will admit, prior to having that light bulb moment, it took me months to understand the whole coupon thing. In the beginning, I was honestly spending money on items that our family didn’t necessarily need. Learning which deals made sense to purchase for our family was a key factor in actually SAVING us money. Is it really a deal when I have a stockpile of endless bottles of personal care and beauty products, with many being items that my family doesn’t use?
The thrill of getting a great deal with those magical pieces of paper can be addicting. And as you all know from my first post, this gal (that would be me) has got an addictive personality. So needless to say, when I first started couponing, I got a little too excited about the freebies and deals… and to keep things real, was spending MORE money on products my family didn’t even use. 🙈 Collin, Collin, Collin…
Months went by and I finally had the much-needed light bulb moment when my hubby asked me a simple question, “How come we have so many bottles of curly hair styling products when none of us have curly hair?” – Welp, I really couldn’t answer that with anything that would make sense. However, that question made me reevaluate why I was couponing and I quickly realized that I needed to change my focus. It was no longer about the thrill of the deal, but about truly saving my family money.
Having to discipline myself to only make purchases that made sense for me and my family is how I came out on top while couponing.
In addition, I found that using a cash-only system when shopping kept me honest about my purchases. Knowing I had a set amount of money in my purse made sure I stuck to my initial shopping plan without any add-on items. This was especially helpful when I was grocery shopping as it made me so disciplined to stick to the grocery budget as I would leave my debit/credit cards at home. We all know how tempting it can be to drop a few extra items into the shopping cart – and then BOOM… budget blown.
As I got better with my shopping habits and scoring deals, I started sending them off via email to my friends and family. I was so excited about all the money I was saving and had to share! And then I got a reply back to one of my daily messages from my sister, Marley, that said, “You are sharing so much awesome info with us, you need to start a blog so that you can continuing sharing all of this with others, too…”
And then, Hip2Save was born.
Way back when the site was hosted on Blogspot (in 2008), I started cranking out the deals to a small and humble following. One reader turned into 10, which turned into 100, and the more I posted, the more my site grew. I couldn’t wait to share the latest coupons and deals, and I was thrilled when I realized that this newfound passion was actually becoming a viable business. I felt empowered, excited, and just downright smart.
It also felt so great to be good at something, especially since it was helping me cut back on my spending so I could finally start paying down my credit card debt. And I was having so much fun! I was a one-woman show back in 2008, on top of the world, and I loved every second I spent working on the site.
However, the site did require a lot of time and it never really “closed” so I was essentially working 7 days a week. It was to the point that I had my laptop out during family events making sure my readers knew about the latest CVS deals or hot promos at Walgreens. To keep it real, as exciting as it was to be growing Hip2Save into a thriving site, there was no balance in my life and Hip2Save was all-consuming.
I was working for hours on Hip2Save each day – NOT because I was hoping to make money and grow a business, but because I was so passionate about sharing all of this money-saving knowledge with others. I truly had no clue back in 2008 that you could actually make money blogging. I still have to pinch myself as it’s pretty incredible to get to do what I love while making money and supporting my family… and I’m even more grateful that I get to employ people around the country who share in my passion.
Thinking back, I am so incredibly appreciative of my supportive husband who was serving in the Marine Corps when I began blogging and was always my cheerleader, even back then when I really didn’t know where this was going.
“How can I help?”
I hired my first team member—my sister, Bryn, in 2009. She helped me source coupons, write posts, and respond to our awesome readers. I loved having her by my side through the ups and downs, and I could never put into words just how grateful I’ve been to have her in my life.
We spent a couple of years fine-tuning the site, only to realize we hadn’t stopped growing, which is a great problem to have in the blogging world! I brought on a few more employees to grow our team and felt overwhelming joy when I realized this passion-project-turned-business was actually helping others improve their financial wellbeing as well.
In fact, Stacy, one of my amazing employees, happened to share this message with our team recently:
“One of my original goals when I started working at Hip2Save was to pay down our debt. I hated seeing so much of our one-income budget going to paying creditors. Well… today was the day. All of my credit account balances are officially $0. It only took about 18 months…”
Phenomenal, right?! Being surrounded by such an inspiring community of like-minded, financially-savvy and passionate individuals is one of the reasons I love to wake up each and every morning, grab a cup of coffee and jump onto my computer.
Learning how to coupon, sharing my finds, and becoming empowered through saving money has changed my life entirely!
Couponing has certainly changed over the years with more policy restrictions and a focus towards digital promotions. While I am grateful to have been able to turn my financial situation around years ago, many of the savings tactics I used no longer apply, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other successful strategies I can share.
Stay tuned as there’s much more in this series!
We’ll be posting ways to earn, ways to save, and ways to be smarter overall when it comes to your money.