In our “Money Mic” series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a financial topic. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.
Today, Holly Michaelson*, 28, who makes $100,000 a year, shares how she got into $14,000 in credit card debt—and what she’s doing to get her finances back on track.
Money is emotional and sensitive, so please respect that this is just one woman’s story.
A few weeks ago I spent a quiet weekend at home. While I should’ve been relaxing—cooking, reading, enjoying my beautiful apartment after a busy week of traveling for work—I was totally stressed. That’s because there was a huge pile of bills on my dining room table, and I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that I couldn’t pay them.
Here’s the kicker: I should be able to pay these bills. I’m a pharmacist making $100,000 a year. But over the course of the last year, I’ve racked up nearly $14,000 in credit card debt. I hadn’t told a single soul about this debt until this particular Saturday night. I knew it was time to come clean to someone, so I called my mom, who came straight over.
“Ooooh, that’s not good,” she said, when I confessed exactly how much debt I was in. But she also wasn’t totally surprised. My mom and I were in a car accident a year and a half ago, so she knew I was facing some serious medical bills. When I told her the debt was due to more than those costs, she gave me some great advice: “Tomorrow morning, go through every single one of your expenses,” she told me. “Then figure out what’s necessary and what’s not. Doing that will help you get a handle on this.”
The next day, I sat at my desk and did just that. Netflix? Goner. All those premium cable movie channels? Canceled. Two online dating accounts? Done-zo. (I’m done with online dating on a few different levels, but that’s another story.) Nights out in New York City with my girlfriends? Not for a while.
What I realized very quickly was that I was spending around $300 a month (and sometimes more) on stuff I just didn’t need. I thought I could afford a certain lifestyle given my income. I also felt like I deserved all of these extras. After all, I work my butt off. I should be able to treat myself! But what I saw when I took a detailed look at my expenses was that I was being excessive, and while giving up Netflix was a good start, I was going to need to do more to get out of debt.