For the first time in…well, EVER, we have our taxes done this year before April.  There was a definitely method to our madness– because we are still making significantly large payments to our credit card debt, we decided we would need to plan ahead and figure out a way to save if we owned any money.  We did end up owing some, but not as much (thank God) as we thought we might – in fact, our accountant’s fee was more than what we owed the government, so we are grateful and will be able to pay it in full by the due date.

I asked our accountant how many years of back tax paperwork we truly needed to save – and she said five years was probably enough, but if we wanted to play it safe, seven was the official number.  Because nothing freaks me out more than the thought of having to reconstruct a financial year from memory, I decided to go with saving seven years, but was still able to purge about three years worth of excess paperwork, which felt great.  I set aside an afternoon, plugged in the shredder, and took savage delight in watching all those old bills and receipts get chewed to bits.

But as I was feeding the papers into the machine, the balance on a couple of our old credit card statements caught my eye, and I stopped to read them more carefully.  You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?  Well, when you are a shopaholic, so is an old credit card statement.  It was like stepping back into a Mall of Shame.

For example, look at the average amount of money I spent just in the month of June several years ago:

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Granted this was a couple months before we got married, and it’s  true that expenses can be high during that time – I know a couple things on this statement were wedding related.  But let’s face it, there is a lot of Nordstrom-ing going on this month.  What I also know was that during this month I had left my full time corporate job to take a part time writing job, at a 40% pay cut with no benefits.  There is NO WAY I could afford this level of buying.  And yet…there it is, in black and white, all the places I bought stuff that I probably didn’t need and definitely couldn’t afford.

I flipped forward to the month of our wedding, to see if our spending slowed down any, now that we’d had time to adjust to my new reduced income, but the bill from our joint credit card reflects no such change:

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Again, some more wedding charges, but did we need to go out to eat that much?  And how about throwing away $39 on a late fee (which happened ALL THE TIME during those years).    It should also be noted that we had just received a crapload of presents and new stuff for our wedding, and spent a bunch of money on souvenirs from our honeymoon in Mexico, so WE DIDN’T NEED ANYTHING.  It’s…sad, really.

I decided to look at a statement from close to a year later, to see if I’d finally pulled it together:

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There may be less line items on this one, but holy crap, look at the amounts spent at each place.  $541 in just one trip to Anthropologie?  Don’t forget I’d already been there twice already that month, dropping $226 the first time, and $58 the second time.  And $478 on boots at Bella Moda?  Another $200 on shoes at Johnny Sole?  And clearly my dedication to keeping Nordstrom in business hasn’t waned this month – four visits to the tune of about $240.  Yes, I did make a $400 payment, but I spent more than that in just ONE visit to Anthropologie – there was no way I was getting ahead of my debt.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, and ever wondered if I was being dramatic about my shopping habit, I hope this clears things up.  I have a real problem when it comes to shopping.  I almost typed “had”, but I’m not so cocky as to think I’m over it yet – one of the only things that has kept me in check this past year was the cold grip of fear that closed around my heart whenever I thought about our debt to income ratio. I haven’t shopped because I felt like I absolutely couldn’t do it and still cover our basic bills.   But as our debt is dwindling down, I find myself wondering what will happen after it’s gone, and I have disposable income again- will I go back to my old ways and rack the debt back up?  I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson and I wouldn’t – that from now on I will be responsible and level-headed when it comes to shopping and debt.  But the truth is, I really don’t know.  I guess only time will tell.

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