That Light Bulb Moment When You Start Paying Off Your Debt

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Anyone who has ever tackled massive debt has that moment. You know the one I mean; the moment where you finally think, “Enough is enough!”

It might be when you finally decide to add up what you owe or perhaps reading someone else’s debt free story inspired you to conquer yours.

I wish my “light bulb moment” had happened that way.

Instead, mine happened in the Wal-Mart checkout line.

Let’s set the scene:

“Ma’am, do you have another card?” the lady at the register asked.

I froze.

Did she really just ask what I think she asked?

Goosebumps started at my neck, and I could feel them as they trickled down my arms.

“What?” I asked stupidly, because although I knew exactly what she said, I was really hoping I was wrong.

“Do you have another card? This one doesn’t work!” she said, a little exasperated.

I fumbled in my purse, my mind ticking. Was I really that much over my limit? How many people are behind me? Was this some mistake? Why the hell did I buy two bottles of bug spray? I hurriedly handed her another card, my hand shaking a little.

I waited what felt like hours, when really it was just a few seconds.

She let out a huge sigh, reeking with attitude, “This one doesn’t work either.”

No, no, no! That’s impossible, I thought to myself.

“Oh, could you just try it again, please?” I asked nicely, as if sweet-talking her would make the card work. I could feel everyone behind me staring at me.

She let out another huge sigh as she swiped the card again. A second passed, and my heart skipped a beat. I thought that it might have worked, until she loudly said, “Nope!” almost a little too triumphantly.

I tried to think quickly, and looked down the check out line for my mom who was a few people behind me. I caught her eye, asked if I could borrow her card, and of course, that one worked.

When I finally got to the car, completely mortified and hot from the Louisiana summer heat, I just put my head in my hands and cried.

In that moment, sitting in the car, I knew I had to make some changes. We were too dependent on my husband’s student loans, which had just run out two weeks before. I had income from freelance clients transferring from my PayPal to my checking account, but it hadn’t arrived yet.

I knew I needed to get ahead. I knew I needed to stop living paycheck to paycheck (or invoice to invoice in my case.) I vowed right then and there, sitting in the car surrounded by endless shopping bags, that I would do better.

Now, one year later, after living extremely frugally, writing down everything I spent, saying no to friends, and working harder than ever before, I am credit card debt free.

I paid off every penny.

And now, when I go stand in the checkout line, I don’t worry.

I finally have a savings. I finally have an emergency savings too! I even sent back over $13,000 in my husband’s student loans that we did not use.

So bring it on, cashiers far and wide. I’m ready to hand my card over. Swipe away, baby, and watch it work.

Did you ever have a light bulb moment? If you’ve worked to get debt free, what was it that made you finally start paying it off? For debt free veterans, any advice for others who are currently on the journey?

Author Bio: Cat Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who currently lives in the Caribbean with her husband and spoiled pup, Julep. When she is not writing for other websites on all topics frugal and fabulous, she enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog,

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