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“Financial Awakening, Part I: Drowning in Debt”

2009 August 10
Drowning in Debt, Photo by Doug Naugle

Drowning in Debt, Photo by Doug Naugle

Like many people, I got suckered into credit cards during college; I wanted to hold the same lifestyle and purchasing power that I’d had when living with my parents, but on a fraction of the income-if any income at all.

Ever since my first credit card, I’ve kept my finances under control and always managed to make the minimum payments. I didn’t think I had a problem. Like my other monthly bills for utilities, cell phone, etc., I just thought credit card debt was going to be a part of my life forever. Why worry about paying it off?

After the birth of my second child, which coincided with finishing graduate school, my outlook started to change. We were already living paycheck to paycheck as it was. How were we going to afford additional daycare bills and student loan payments on top of our existing credit card debt? I realized that my life wasn’t my own anymore. I had two kids who relied on me to provide them a safe and secure environment, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I was going to be able to give them that.

This newfound awareness was my awakening: My life could be so much richer in so many ways, if I cleared my debt. In order to truly live in freedom, I needed to get control of my financial life once and for all.

The first step was to reveal my “dirty” secret. Knowing that any real change would require the support of loved ones, in May I sent an email to my closest friends, revealing my $37,540.09 in credit card debt and asking for their support as I began a journey towards financial freedom. I remember my hand wavering over the send button, anticipating an inbox filled with shock and disappointment; instead, I was overwhelmed with replies of support, encouragement, and even confessions of their own financial struggles. That was when I knew that I had begun something life changing.

Debt does not have to be a part of my life. Hopefully soon, it won’t be. Join me as I find my way to financial freedom.

Have you had your awakening yet? Let us know in the comments!

Casting away the debt, Photo by Doug Naugle

Casting away the debt, Photo by Doug Naugle

Above Photos by Doug Naugle. You can find more of his work at

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15 Responses leave one →
  1. Jen permalink
    August 10, 2009

    I found myself where you were about 8 years ago. I moved out to LA from Austin :( and charged, charged, charged, just to keep afloat. I finally stopped avoiding the collecor’s calls and said, “Can we please make a deal.” A couple years later I had zero credit card debt. However my credit score really did take a big hit. But to this day i do not charge a thing. Debit card only. Best of luck Rachel, you can do it. (I still have that massive student loan though.)

    • Rachel Naugle permalink
      August 13, 2009

      Jen, I’m proud of you for facing up to those collectors. I’m sure that wasn’t a very easy thing to do. I’m also proud that you’ve managed to stay out of debt since then! Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Erin permalink
    August 10, 2009

    Thank you for sharing this. You know you are not alone in the struggles you facing, but your achievement is facing them with honesty and the reality that you can do something about it. I look foward to following your future posts and hope to learn from you. My husband and I have cut back on eating out and we’ve cut back on unecessary expenses with hopes to rid ourselves of credit card debt. The other day, I looked at the interest we were paying on one of our credit cards and I was speechless. I would love to have that money in savings right now or to pay other bills because it was certainly enough to cover one of my monthly bills! I’m now working to separate my ‘wants’ from what I only ‘need’.

    • Rachel Naugle permalink
      August 13, 2009

      Erin, I can relate to that feeling of dread when you look at those credit card bills. Have you called the company to see if they will reduce your rate? I called up all of mine a few months ago, and they all reduced my rate by a few percentage points. Not a lot, but every little bit helps!

  3. Maya permalink
    August 10, 2009

    Great article. I admire you for your honesty and your intention to inspire others!

  4. Audrey permalink
    August 10, 2009

    I was over $20,000 in debt, solely credit debt, in 2003. I just dug myself out in 2008. While I now have a more manageable (but certainly not respectable) $6000 in new debt (moving to Austin in 2007), I know the fear, uncertainty and worry that attaches itself with owing credit card companies. Thank you for your honesty and courage; and while it’ll be hard sometimes, I know you and your family will pull through!

    • Rachel Naugle permalink
      August 13, 2009

      Thanks Audrey for the comment. It’s inspiring to hear that you were able to get out of the same situation I’m in. Also, since you’ve done it once, I’m sure you’ll knock that $6000 out in no time!

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