As I have perhaps mentioned before, D. and I are both anxious and not especially competent when it comes to our finances. This is not a good combo! In fact, in general we tend to be good at the same sorts of things and bad at the same sorts of things, which makes us compatible in terms of our relationship but also gives us huge gaps in our adult competencies as a couple.
One of the unfortunate things that has happened in recent years, through a variety of circumstances -- some in our control and some not -- is that we have accrued consumer debt. I hate consumer debt, which has nothing to recommend it (unlike, say, a mortgage or student loan debt, in which presumably one is getting something worthwhile out of it), but nevertheless that is the situation in which we find ourselves.
And unfortunately our approach to this situation is to hide under the covers separately -- that is, we don't talk about it -- and imagine the worst. This doesn't make the situation any better and makes each of us a nervous wreck.
A month or so ago, I set up a Mint.com account, thinking that this would be a user-friendly way for me to start getting on top of things. But it's taken me all this time to actually get the account set up, mostly because of silly things like the fact that I didn't remember my password for a credit card's online account and was too stressed out to call them to straighten it out. Because, yes, this is how not-on-top-of-things we are.
But tonight, for some reason, the stars were aligned, and D. and I some serious financial work without getting stressed about it! D. was on the phone with credit card companies, working her serious customer service mojo, while I was in the background writing down numbers and doing the math and checking our bank account and keeping track of all the decisions we were making. And then I did actually call the credit card company and get my password straightened out, so now our Mint.com account is updated as well.
Here are the good outcomes of tonight's labor:
- We fully paid off the smallest account, cut the biggest account significantly, and transferred the balance from our highest paid credit card to another one at a 0% rate for 15 months. I had had some cash sitting in an account ready to send to the highest-interest account, but I didn't know which account that was, and so it was sitting there not doing anything. This was ridiculously foolish, but now it's all dealt with. (Yes, I may have gotten slightly carried away with how much $$ we paid to various debtors tonight, such that I had to transfer some money from our savings into checking to cover it and we now can't spend any money for the next four days, but I get paid on Wednesday, and the huge relief of all of this debt pay-off is worth not spending anything at all for the next few days!)
- D. and I were working as a team, not getting stressed, and thus not taking out our stress on each other. This is usual for us in most respects but not when it comes to money!
- And the big one: It turns out that the amount of our consumer debt, even before we were paying off stuff tonight, was actually considerably smaller than either of us had thought it was! So our hiding under the covers and imagining the worst really was making us more miserable than just facing up to the facts, since the facts weren't as bad as we thought they were. There's a lesson to be learned here, obviously, although we have a bad tendency to not learn these useful lessons in a timely way.