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$2,000 in credit card debt can feel like the end of the world. It isn't.

In my 20s, I found myself in $2,000 of credit card debt. It took planning and patience, but now I'm debt-free.

$2,000 in credit card debt can feel like the end of the world. It isn't.
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In 2013, I left a job when I had little in my savings account to carry me over.

It was the right move. I knew that. But the timing? Well, that wasn't ideal. I threw myself into the job hunt and tried to make my minimal savings last as long as possible.

One and a half months later, and I hadn’t found another job. Things were looking bleak. And, bam, just like that it was time to pay the rent again. In NYC. And even with roommates and a dingy apartment, that’s no small feat.


I had interviews lined up that looked hopeful, so I decided to buy myself some time. I turned to my credit card.

Before I knew it, I had almost $2,000 in credit card debt.

You see, I'd used my card’s cash advance to cover my rent. One of those interviews panned out and I did get a job — yay! — but as we all know, that first paycheck takes a few weeks to arrive. I used the card again to cover basic necessities.

This debt sent me on what I'll call a five-phase journey. The first phase? Feeling hopeless.

Image via iStock.

I was overwhelmed, confused, and disappointed in myself.

“There’s a lot of stigma attached to debt and it really eats at self-esteem and confidence," says Charles Freeman, a psychologist based in San Diego. He explains that when someone winds up in debt, "they resent the debt, and then that resentment leads to stress, impaired self-esteem, shame.” He's right.

I’d never really understood debt before. And while I know that many people are wrestling with far more than $2,000 in debt, it felt like the end of the world to me.

My situation wasn’t unique. A lot of people rely on credit cards or don’t have savings, and it can feel pretty hopeless and overwhelming.

I spent a year making payments and barely saw the balance reduced. I paid more than the minimum amount, but it all went toward interest. They don’t teach us this stuff in school. I didn’t know what to do.

Thank goodness for Google. Through research, I found a glimmer of hope.

Image via iStock.

I did my homework on how credit cards and interest fees work. Basic stuff. I mapped out a plan and started to feel excited. I could see my way through the mess I'd created. Enter phase two: Realizing I wasn't doomed.

I transferred my balance to a 0% interest card. I also took a look at my income versus my monthly expenses. I mapped out my pay schedule and upcoming expenses, determining when I could afford to make additional payments and exactly how much. I passed on nights out with friends and buttoned up my spending so that it was as efficient as possible.

I made sacrifices and remained disciplined, but I began to feel anxious.

Phase 3: Impatience. I wanted instant results.

I wanted to pay off the debt as quickly as possible, so as I saw success, I was tempted to cut back even further. I found myself sacrificing necessities unnecessarily. I wanted all of the debt gone, and I wanted it gone immediately.

Image via iStock.

But cutting back on necessities was stressful. The debt was still there, and now my quality of life was decreasing. "Some people create a budget, they're starving themselves, they're isolating, they're trying to shave off too fast, and their quality of life is extremely impaired," Freeman explains.

So, I had to tell myself to stay calm, be patient. Give it time.

I learned to celebrate small milestones — down by 25%! 50%! It was an incredible feeling.

After a year of feeling like I was throwing money into a black hole, suddenly I could see the difference. The lower the balance got, the more determined I was to master money: phase 4.

In just a few months, the debt was gone. A challenge that previously felt insurmountable was suddenly nothing.

Literally, balance 0. I'd done it.

Image via iStock.

Not everyone can pay off debt this quickly (and many people are faced with paying off much higher balances). I was fortunate enough to be responsible only for myself and to have the financial flexibility to put every extra penny toward my debt. But one thing I learned is that even the smallest amounts do add up, as cliché as that sounds.

I felt elated. And I felt empowered.

I was ready to tackle any financial goal that came my way. I was almost addicted to that feeling of success. Phase 5.

“That’s called a process addiction. … there are payoffs emotionally," explains Freeman. "By paying it off [you] get some sort of external self-esteem.” And he cautions that the true goal is to learn how to not get overwhelmed by debt and to view financial hurdles as long-term goals that you can and will conquer with time.

Image via iStock.

After that first major failure and subsequent triumph, my financial game is much stronger. And I've found that there’s no substitute for education.

Trying to tackle debt without understanding it was useless. It was like throwing a ball while squinting up at the sun. I had no idea where my efforts would land. And I sure wasn’t hitting my target.

But that feeling once I dug in, found the right resources, and knew what to do? Oh, it was glorious. It was a small win, but it made me feel like any of my financial goals are possible. And in truth, they really are, given hard work, due diligence, patience, and of course, just the tiniest bit of luck. Now, on to my next financial goal!

Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

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The story of Patricia and Leslie "LD" McWaters dying together might have both of those elements, but it is also tragic because they died of a preventable disease in a pandemic that hasn't been handled well. The Michigan couple, who had been married for 47 years, both died of COVID-19 complications on November 24th. Since they died less than a minute apart, their deaths were recorded with the exact same time—4:23pm.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

True

"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

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