I agree with Sarah.
As it is for so many who are considered admirably responsible, the debt train around here has been on the brink of derailing for some time. We were just too otherwise preoccupied to notice.
Taking care of others. Trying to get kids thru college, major sport, expensive passion/major. Spending pretend money for essential job-related expenses. Old-house-itis. Medical and dental expenses. Endless gas/car maintenance bills for insanely long work commutes. Two small side businesses crumpled the past two years by the economy and Mother Nature's brutal winter pranks. Dealing with no paychecks many summer months.
Etc., etc., etc.
What doesn't land on the list are items that frequently qualify as culprits: vacations (our last 'vacation' was a cross-country trip 18 years ago to introduce our children to their great-grandparents; since then, traveling to watch our college student's games sufficed), electronic toys, fancy house and/or cars, state-of-the-art anything.
At this point, though, it doesn't matter where the debt originated or what caused it to drag us down so far. The point is that we have finally taken notice and are taking hold.
The hardest part has definitely been seeing the numbers on paper and sharing them - with anyone. When I first added up our debts last year in our (failed) attempt to refinance our house, I thought I must have inadvertently hit an extra digit. I calculated again. And again. And when I realized all those numbers belonged to US, I felt ill.
I then had to share them with my husband, who stared at me incredulously - to put it mildly - for minutes before he could speak. I reminded him that we had worked brilliantly together when faced with an unthinkable situation years before, and we would do it again ("for richer, for poorer... remember, honey?").
When I regained some composure, it was time to share the numbers with outsiders, namely, the ones who tried to figure out a way to make the numbers 'work' for the (attempted) refinancing. Miraculously, it would have worked, too, had we been able to persuade all the financial aid lenders to put our accounts on hold for a year. Two said sure, the third said we qualified for 18 months... but they only approved it at 6-month intervals. Period.
Fast-forward to February, when I simply ran out of steam and pennies and started looking for a white flag... which in turn raised plenty of red flags on our accounts.
What I have learned these past two months in dealing with the creditors at the wrong end of our financial stick is that two things have so far worked in our favor: our (previous) excellent payment history and the communication that I've initiated in all cases. Have I enjoyed it? No. But I've been pleasantly surprised that almost all of the reps (the ones I can hear and/or understand) have seemed nice. Some have seemed exceptionally sensible and understanding and genuinely eager to find some way to help.
With five 'plans' in place, there are nine to go. And, no, that's not all - the rest are just still current.
Yep, the truth (aka perilously close to rock bottom) is pretty ugly.
But the truth shall set you free.