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Smart MoneyJune 8, 2012

Many years ago, I was in Italy, and I saw, for the first time, tiny little things that kind of looked like vehicles, buzzing up the cobblestones and jammed in four deep at the curb. They were everywhere, zooming like bugs having a joyful race. I fell immediately in love, saying, I'm going to have one someday, somehow. 

I never thought they would be legal here (even though it turns out they're very well safety rated), but The Smart Car did come out in the States in 2008. I couldn't afford one (and besides, the wait, after ordering, was over a year at that point). I gave up hope for a long time. 

See, we were in debt.

Let's talk about money for a moment, shall we? I've been meaning to write this post for a long time, and now seems like the right time.

I believe the strongest emotion felt by a person is shame. Everyone feels it, and everyone fears it. It's completely debilitating and alienating. And money and shame go together like slime in a bathtub drain. 

During the great housing crisis-bubble-disaster of 2006 (and 2007, and 2008), we poured money onto our credit cards, trying to save my old condo (which we'd used as collateral on our house). We threw good money after bad, trying to rent it out (a rotten time to be a landlord in the Bay Area). We were in short-sale purgatory for almost sixteen months. We failed in all attempts, right around the time my mother died, at which point I got tired of fighting everything. 

Afterward, when the dust cleared, we were $47,000 in debt. 

What a huge number. Immense. Unimaginable.

It wasn't to be talked about. Never admitted. We were living paycheck to paycheck, paying only the minimum balances. There was never, ever enough to go around. 

And then Lala lost her job. 

I panicked, and I panicked hard. After breaking down in tears while talking to a coworker one day, she mentioned credit consolidation. I'd heard of it, but I didn't trust it. Surely these were companies who were trying to get over on the consumer -- exploiting them, raking them over the expensive coals one more time. But I cautiously looked into it. Somehow, I got the nerve to call, and oh, it was one of the hardest phone calls I've ever made, because I had to pull out all the bills and have them in front of me AT ONE TIME. You know how easy it is to not know how much you owe? When it's that great a number, it's easy to say twenty-mumble-thirty-something to yourself when you do manage to think about (usually at two-dark-thirty in the morning). 

While talking to the counselor at Money Management International, I learned we owed $47,000. It was devastating. 

And then, the counselor made it better. See, they're non-profit. They work with you, at whatever level you're comfortable with. They work with the credit card companies to get your rates lowered drastically (a couple of ours went to 0%), and you DO NOT use them anymore. You pay MMI one payment a month, and they dole the money out to the creditors. When one card is paid off, the money that you were paying to that one rolls over and goes to the next card. You can put all your cards with them (which is what we did -- we flew, terrifyingly, with no safety net for a while), or you can keep a card out for emergencies if you have to. 

With this plan, we saved $800/month in payments, and we PAID OFF the entire amount in four years (instead of the twenty-seven (literally) years it would have taken to pay it off making minimum payments). And a lot of those years Lala was only working part-time. (I can't sing the praises of MMI enough -- if you're curious, just call them, or someone like them. Their counselors are seriously the nicest people ever. They are used to hearing people cry, I think.)

And you know what? We didn't talk about it. I was ashamed. It's not okay to be at a cocktail party talking about how in-over-your-head you are. You're going to Hawaii? Awesome! I'm wondering how to pay the phone bill! 

So I'm bringing it up here, with you. Maybe we SHOULD be talking about this over dinner with our friends. And not in a ha-ha, isn't it rough kind of way, but in a what can we actually do about this kind of way. 

In our house, we scrimped. I made all our household cleaning products. While Lala wasn't working, she cooked all (ALL) our meals. I baked a lot of bread. She bought all groceries and household goods on $50/week. We drank two-buck Chuck. We cut off cable/newspaper/magazines/everything extraneous. 

We dug our way out. The day I wrote the last check I felt like a balloon of joy was deep inside my lungs, as if when I spoke, I'd have a helium voice. So happy. So proud. The opposite of shame. 

And -- this is the fun part -- yesterday, when I was driving to buy a rotary cutter (makin' some dresses out of thrift store fabric! Being frugal is fun!), I hit the brakes because I SAW THIS BABY: 


I was cruising down Shattuck in Berkeley and passed a used car lot (The Buggy Bank, awesome place). There was a Smart Car convertible in the lot. There is never a used Smart Car just lying around. 

I texted Lala: "There's a Smart Car at the Buggy Bank. Pray for me." 

I told myself I was just curious about the price, but I would not test drive it. I looked at the price ($11k) and the mileage (17k!!!) and walked in the office and gave them my driver's license. I texted La, "I'm test driving it, but I'm NOT going to buy it, don't worry." 

I test drove it, all through Berkeley and onto the freeway, into the Maze, and back, going way over my 20 minute test-drive limit. I was out of my mind with joy. (I don't get car joy. I don't care about cars. I've driven my hoopty station wagon for six years, and I've never liked it. Nor have I hated it. It was a car. It got me around. That was awesome. It has almost 200,000 miles, and the doors don't lock and the only window that still goes up and down is the driver's side window, and acts of its own volition as if it's possessed especially if I'm in a drive-through line.)

But the Smart Car? IT WAS FOR ME. It was the car I'd been waiting for. 

When I got back to the Buggy Bank, there was a woman and a teenaged boy standing in the space I'd left, watching me pull in. I thought, Oh, they're interested, too. That's the way it goes. And then I thought, I wonder how fast I can run for the buying office. I can take them. I know I can.

Turns out she was the seller who happened to be passing by. She'd cried when she left it there, but they need to buy their teen a car that he won't be embarrassed to drive. She was wonderful, darling, and very much Our People. We must have hugged each other five times. She was so happy to let it go to me (because by then, of course, after talking to Lala, I was buying it). 

And Lala was the voice of reason. I wanted to pay for it outright, but that would have depleted our savings (WE HAVE SAVINGS! WHO ARE WE?) by a lot, so she talked me into going to our credit union and financing a portion (about half). That way we're reestablishing credit (which is much better now, by the way) at the same time we're keeping savings in the bank. That Lala is smart, yo. I got a two-year loan, but my plan is to try to pay it off in six months if possible, because I love being debt-free (let's not talk about the student loan and the mortgage -- wait, no, let's DO talk about debt, okay? It's okay to talk about. Only by talking to each other do we learn how to fix our problems. If you're drowning, check out MMI.) 

After all this, I drove across the Bay Bridge with the top down. 


(I look daring in this shot but I'm not stupid, this was in stopped traffic, never fear.) 


THEN I PARKED IN A SPOT THAT A HONDA FIT WOULDN'T HAVE FIT INTO. Literally. It's hard to tell in this photo, but this is just a bump between two driveways in the Avenues. They are everywhere. No one but Smarts (and maybe that new Fiat?) can fit in them, and NOW I HAVE ALL THE SAN FRANCISCO PARKING POWER MWAH-HAH-HAH

I'm deliriously happy. It's my day off and I woke at six am because I was too excited to sleep. The first thing I did when I got up was stick my head out the window and make sure it was still in the driveway, that no one had put it in their pocket and walked away with it overnight. 

Last night when we got home from a dinner party, Lala (kidding) said, "You can drive on the sidewalk!" 

So I did. I drove on the sidewalk in front of our house. It was punk rock. 

(For those wondering, book money is not enough to live on. I still work 56 hours a week at the day/night job. It would be nice if book money was enough, and someday I hope it will be, but authors, as a vast whole, are not even remotely rich. However, book money has helped us immensely in the last difficult few years, and if you've ever bought a book of mine, I hope you know how that last night, on the bridge, I got teary, thinking about you. This is true.)

And now I have to go put on something cute enough to drive this car. Red cowboy boots for sure. Short dress and tights. Handmade sweater. 

Because I still need to go get a damn rotary cutter. 


Congratulations lady! What a super cute car and moreover what a fantastic story - hard fought and none more deserving than you. Thank you for talking about debt, it sucks and you're right, when you are in the hole, no one wants to talk about it. We've used MMI and am extremely happy they exist!

Hah, you went out for a rotary cutter and got back with a car? Go YOU! But seriously: congratulations on your awesome car and your awesome courage to talk about this and sticking with the getting-rid-of-the-debt. Well done!

Best blog post ever: Cute, funny, honest, revealing, information giving, tackling fears, talking about $$$, cute car, hugging, a dream and a happy ending

love this post so hard. I know what that kind of debt feels like, and also how it feels to start really paying it off, and you are such an inspiration. We've just started our journey towards being debt-free but this post gives me so much hope. <3 I am so excited for your awesome car!

First, congrats on the car and on paying down your debt.

We had similar times when my husband was unemployed for 2 years. We could make our mortgage payments but didn't have much for extras and we depleted our savings (which were from an inheritance) to live. We cut out the good coffee, eating out, beer, cable (which I don't miss), extras and just hung on.

We managed to avoid extra debt, but were teetering near that precipice. One leaky roof or broken furnace and we would be in big trouble. Actually we were very close to needing to pull the kids from daycare and using credit cards to pay for necessities.

Now that we're both employed we're saving. It's weird for us too. But I don't want to get caught without a safety net as you never know what can happen.

We're going to use credit to finance a renovation to our kitchen (needed not for looks but because it's breaking!) and your post is a good reminder of how important it is to have a plan to manage debt, to talk with others and to put it all in perspective.

You make me smile :)

But will the dog fit?

Drive in good health! (and pay that sucker down quick! Earning credit is great, but car loans are for the birds.)
Thanks for talking about your debt. Bravo!

Congratulations on the Smart and more so on doing battle with debt and shame. What a brave post.

It happened to me fifteen years ago when my depression got so bad I couldn't work anymore (freelance writer here, no benefits). Only I didn't know it and just thought I'm lazy and a bad person and everybody else has it all together. It took years of therapy and hard work to get out of that hole, but I did it. You and Lala did it, too. Perhaps you'll find as I did that this experience changes you for good and for the better.

Take care, write on and enjoy the HECK out of that car!

Congratulations, both on the car and on getting out of debt! I've been reading your blog for a while (and your books) and it's great to see you looking so happy and proud! Thank you for talking about money and recommending a good solution for people who feel overwhelmed. I agree that people should talk about this more.

Rachael, this is a truly inspiring and and truly important post. I really wish we were able to talk about money more - among friends, within families, within relationships.... I think we could solve so many problems and avoid a lot of heartbreak (and shame) if we could be more open.


Congratulations! Debt free myself and it feels so very good!

Rachael, I am so proud of you! I don't "know" you, but I read your blog regularly and you have really challenged my thinking on a lot of things. In this post you have said what I have long said. We need to talk about these things. We need to confess to our friends and trusted family members that the "highlight" reel of our lives is not the real thing. There's way more going on behind the scenes than anyone thinks and how we handle our "back stage" is the real us! You have behaved admirably and having the courage to speak about it will give others the inspiration to deal with their issues! I feel inspired by you today and just to prove it, I'm going to buy another one of your books. I think A Life in Stitches, because I've been wanting to read it for a while now.

Oh, sweetie, LOVE LOVE LOVE!! Everything about this.

Someone already said this, but OMG, I am SOOOO proud of you! And grateful, too! This is an inspirational post. I've known other friends in money trouble, and even so, when things were bad last year, I would only say, "Oh, it's a little rough, y'know, the economy," and wouldn't tell ANYONE how bad it was. I got so tired of claiming I didn't feel "up to" going to an event, because even on the sliding scale? Too expensive for me. I didn't buy any knitting magazines or new yarn. I let my fiber club go. And I felt horrible, like I'd failed at EVERYTHING, because how could I be 40 and in this situation? My mom had died, I was single, I turned 40...and at some point, I realized, it couldn't really get much worse. I didn't have debt--I just didn't have any money.

Thank you for writing about the money trouble, and for making me feel like I could tell someone (you and whoever is reading comments) that I'd had my own. Now I have a dream job, and EVERY SINGLE DAY I'm incredibly grateful. My proudest moments in the last couple of months have been donating to non-profits I care about. ME, giving money to SOMEONE ELSE. Makes me feel like a fucking rock star. :)

PS -- That pic of you on the bridge? Hella cute! :)

Thank you for "telling it like it is". It takes courage to tell that kind of truth. You have given me the needed kick to take a good look at my own "denial" issues around $$. Ask Lala to post her menus for cooking on $50 a week! :-)

I love this post! Money is the biggest shame Americans have and we are all so shamed by it that we are ashamed of being ashamed. I love that you wrote this it healed a little something inside my own heart as I had similar struggles this year. I am starting to see daylight. You stood in your truth for all of us today -- and you did it in red cowboy boots and tights in the cutest car ever made on earth! Love you......Juliette

You totally rock.

I did the credit counseling thing fifteen years ago, and it saved my sanity. (Didn't save my marriage, but that's okay.) It was very liberating to get away from the pile of bills, and to this day I function without a credit card. Fortunately my current partner is by nature a saver, so we rarely have to deny ourselves much to live within our means. Being forced to watch your spending closely can be very enlightening; I think a lot of folks spend money unwisely without realizing it.

I have four kids, and I have always tried to talk honestly with them about money and debt. I agree that we don't talk about it openly enough -- nor, in my opinion, do we put enough controls on the big finance companies making billions off of those huge interest rates. Our consumer culture puts pressure on us to spend, to keep up appearances, to buy now pay later, and a lot of don't know how to stop or where to go for help. Spreading the word about not-for-profit credit counseling and consolidation is a great service, because there are also agencies out there who, like the banks, are looking to profit from our shame.

I'm so glad you got your Smart car as a reward! I'm sure it's a fabulous feeling to be able to walk into your credit union (yay! not a bank!) and get a loan (I'm not there yet, thanks to my ex's bankruptcy, but I will be someday). As a happy Smart owner (I did wait a year on the list), I know how much fun you are going to have driving and parking that little guy. Enjoy!

I miss you RAH..I think I'm going to call MMI. Did doing debt consolidation hurt your credit? I'm trying to find a place to live and don't want my credit score to go down.
Your Smart Car is so cute. You look amazing driving it.

AWESOME! And thanks for talking about debt. Debt sucks and you feel so totally alone. It's good to know that we are not alone! WTG on paying off that debt and getting the car of your dreams. :)

Debt and shame is the *worst*, isn't it?

Congrats on getting free! I'm still working on it. I'll check out those MMI guys. Money can be hard to talk about...

Have you seen Brené Brown's TED talk on shame? It'll make you cry, it's so beautiful.


Yay you! Sounds like you are very deserving of that little bit of serendipity :-)

Woo Hoo!! Congratulations! Clearly a match made in heaven.

That is so awesome Rachael! Congrats! Do you have a name for the car yet? That car is just too cute not to have a spunky cute name. And yes, you'll be able to park in SF! And thank you for sharing your story about getting out of debt.

Again, I am so amazed by the parallels in our lives. We're still digging out from foreclosure in 2007, but progress is being made. Most of the debt is now paid (except for the IRS, but I now think of them as more of a utility that gets paid every month for life), we still rent but hope to buy again in another couple years.

You and Lala rock, I love love love your books, and the car is freakin' hot.

*Sigh* It's been a long time since I had Car Love. And if I didn't do most of my driving on the I-5 freeway, I would so want one of those little cuties. Well, there's also the issue of where to put the bale of hay and bag of feed, not to mention the sick sheep, so not really. But it's sure cute! Congratulations.

This totally made my day after a stressful week. You are the cutest!!

SO MANY high fives about kicking old debt in its rear end! And sweet car - enjoy the wind in your hair!

I so loved your post. I also remember seeing the cinquecento cars in what looked like a zigzag gumball machine when I was in Italy. Would love to have one as well. Drive safely, watch out for the idiots on the road and have FUN. Glad I could help by buying your books (you actually gave me one).
Also congratulations on paying down your debt.

MMI is a LIFESAVER! Thank you for being honest about this because it is easy to let shame take over and not discuss what really matters. We are about halfway through paying off our consumer debt through MMI and we couldn't have done it without them. You've renewed my hope that things will be so much better after we're done paying it off!

By the way, to answer someone's question, working with MMI does not hurt your credit, and will actually help it. Call MMI and they can give you the specifics for your situation. When I first called, I peppered them with questions about how it works, but we've seen our credit improve over the past couple years.

It's a very cute car and I think you have earned it. To be honest I always thought Smart cars were just funny looking until I recently saw one parked between two cars parked parallel to the sidewalk, one in front of the other with a small space in between. The Smart car had just squeezed in neatly between them perpendicular to the sidewalk in a space nothing else would have fitted into. Turns out they are as long as other cars are wide! I've seen the light - it's a perfect city car.

Congratulations on your new car and a great post.

The only good thing about debt + the associated shame is how great it feels to move away from both and to be able to comfort others in similar predicaments. And how GREAT is it to know that an impulse purchase (but not really...you've been waiting for the car since that trip to Italy) is OKAY because you know what you can handle. Congrats...it suits you perfectly! Drive it safely and in good health!

thank you so much for sharing your story :) It's difficult out there, and it really helps to see that people we 'know' are having difficulties too, and that there is a way out and a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm so glad that you both are able to be out from under the weight of debt, and you worked hard for it! We don't have much debt, but we're amassing student loans in the hope of one day being able to better provide for our children. I hope that when the time comes to get out into the work force, my husband and I can channel a little bit of you two, and square ourselves way.

I love everything about this post. GO YOU AND YOUR SASSY LITTLE CAR. Really. So fabulous! I've bought all your books so far (even though, in my own attempts to scrimp and considering the three shelves of To Read books I already have, I'm trying not to buy books these days) – partly as a big thank you, and also of course because they're a treat to read – so I like to think some tiny part of that car, maybe the needle on the odometer, can be considered a present from Elfling...

This is SO AWESOME! 1) because the money talk! I think we need more money talk - and the knowledge that there is NO SHAME in talking about money! How else would we learn to manage it if we don't know how to talk about it??? 2) The new car! Isn't it funny how when you see it, you see it? (the same thing happened to me earlier this year with a Honda fit). This was a great post! And I love your new car!

Oh I am so happy for you....keep on writing and I'll keep on buying. So glad we all helped in our small happy way

YOu're one SMART cookie@@@@

What a happy, happy post! Paying off your debt - such a great feeling! I smile every time I see a Smart car -- they are SO Kee-YOOT! And to get the blessing of the previous owner - how cool is that? You look adorable in it... Have a blast with it. Just one question - how will you get Clara & Clementime to the dog park?

Awe!!! Congrats!! It's hard to talk about debt but it's needed. This post means more to me than you will ever know! Thank you for sharing and LOVE the car!!! Rock on with your bad self!!!

I was so not kidding.

I know people think I must be rich, having inherited two houses and having a third to sell, plus inheriting a modest sum of money. Yeah, I'm living the high life, let me tell you.

The truth is, one house was in such disastrous condition that we had to subdivide and sell off part of the nine acres as building lots and sell the house lot at a considerable loss (carryover for years on my taxes, though it only helps IF I have income to use it against), made up for only by the massive insurance claim following an arson fire that paid out even though it clearly wasn't covered in the policy (wish they were a local insurance company, they're merciful).

My own former home that's been for sale twice (on the market now) was broken into, had the pipes removed, has some mold issues, and isn't in the best neighborhood. It's "vacant" and not my "primary residence" so the bank is being... let's just say less than reasonable. And I'm running out of time.

And savings? I once knew what that was. Credit card? Used to have several, but took Dad's advice (RIP, Dad) and tried living on a cash-only basis and somehow when it expired, I was too busy caring for my dying parents to notice so they wouldn't renew it. The only one I have is Home Depot's and unfortunately the utility companies won't take it. Talk about no safety net.

And because there are so few graphic design jobs in my area, I'm a temp. Barely.

Depressed yet? LOL

Thankfully, I'm single with cats (no kids to support) and I'm still ekeing by. But your story, and the link to MMI, has given me such renewed hope in the middle of a hopeless situation that none of my friends know the truth of. They know it's rough, but not HOW rough. In fact, this is the first time I've admitted publicly to just how bad it IS. Has been. Whatever.

Knowing that you not only got out of that level of debt but have paid it off in record time without winning the lottery AND restored your credit so quickly that you were able to buy the car of your dreams (AND have savings again)...

It feels like the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds. Enjoy your Smart Car. You deserve it. :-)

Congratulations on the new Wee Smart Car. I love it! And thank you for sharing about your experience with MMI - we've been a one-and-a-half income household for so long, and I get the MoneyPanics monthly - it's good to read that There is Hope.

I have bought and read your book,,,, which is now why I read your blog!!! Congrats on your new car. You are a fun person who knits and makes me smile!!

Congrats on your new car! I adored this post, it is so inspirational and warms my heart all at the same time... you are a rock star.

As the very first person who ever bought one of your books, I am proud to have helped indirectly financed your dream car. :)

Best post ever! Thanks for sharing rachael!!! That car suits you perfectly :)

I am glad to know that buying your books helped you get your adorable, pocket-sized dream car. Congratulations and enjoy! :)

Rachel, your words sound like the voice in my head! I have had very similar experiences with debt, it was a life lesson. I so enjoyed reading your story of triumph! I am the owner of a little spindle company, and we are visiting San Fransisco this summer where my son lives, and I am hoping to have a trunk show in Oakland. In any event, I so enjoy your blog! This is turning into a fan letter so I'll mosey, but thanks for keeping us happy! (loved Mr. Smiley Bob!)

So glad to know that my book budget helped with the car of your dreams!! I LOVE IT! Working on becoming debt free and you are an inspiration!

So cute! The car and the driver! I look at those cars and think - they could fit into the bed of our pickup! (We have a Tundra but we also have an Insight). The only thing that scares me about them is seeing people whiz by on the freeway in and out of semi's in them.....

Awesome! Congrats on the diggin' out of debt and into your new lovey convertible...we all know about you and convertibles :)

Thanks for the sock story, too. I'm glad Betty got her time in the spotlight.

DH & I have been debt free for 3 years and it's the most wonderful feeling...ev-ah. That car is so perfectly YOU!!! Congratulations. And know that I am jealous.

Absolutely fan.freaking.tastic! Congratulations, Rachael. I.Want.One!!!!! It is your dream come true. I hope it will be a fantastic car for you. They seem to be pretty popular around here. Maybe I will get one someday (was thinking of a Toyota Rav 4).

Congratulations on the car and the debt payoff. I will say I tried one of the credit consolidation places once, and it was awful. I had been getting everything paid on time, but they were racking up late fees on all the debt. So I did it on my own. So do real investigation (or listen to Rachael) before you choose.

Cute new car and wonderful that you are out of debt (almost). And I bought all of your books for my Kindle. I hope you still have a car that fits you, Lala and all the dogs.

My hubby and I first saw them in Europe in 1999; we thought they were so cute. Happy to see what you and Lala dug yourself out of the debt hole and can buy a Smart car.

"that", not "what"

That's awesome - congratulations! Also, if a blue Smart Car features prominently in an upcoming story and/or novel, I wouldn't be opposed!

I also own a 2008 Smart car (but not a convertible)and I love it. One of things I love is that it looks like it is smiling, which is how it should be. I hope you like yours as much as I like mine.

I didn't even know SmartCars came in convertible-style! That is awesome!

Huge, immense congratulations to you and Lala for digging yourselves out of the Debt Sinkhole. Money and especially debt are so freaking scary. Nearly everyone has The Money Fear and most people have The Debt Shame, but you're right, no one wants to talk about it. Thank you for having that courage (and for posting the link to MMI).

As a girl who just was able to purchase her own dream car (2009 VW new Beetle), I feel your joy. Congratulations - on getting out of debt and being able to pass something as amazing as your dream car and be able to just walk up and buy it. Enjoy it - you deserve it.

Good for you getting out of debt! And ong so love your little car. And I so know that feeling of love. My mini is almost 9 years old with almost 150k but I still love it!

I drove a Smart car while staying in Italy in 2005...a 4fer and it made me so happy. To drive a Smart car is to know joy! I absolutely LOVED it and I'd love to get one too and if they ever come to the US, I want the 4fer because I have a lot of stuff to haul around. I don't know how much life is left in the Smart car industry here, I hope it stays here forever.

Congrats I am so happy for you getting out of debt is really hard and getting that cute car. That is a wonderful feeling!

Great!! That car's so you!! And besides, think of all the money in gas you're saving. Right? (Always rationalize, and think about how it will save money.) Really, the way fuel prices are going to go, that car will save you so much in a few years. (Winks)

I got teary just seeing how joyous you are over your darling little car! It wouldn't work for me (where would I put a sheep?), but it is too cute. Congrats!!

First, congratulations on the car - it's very YOU (though I don't know you, I have been reading you for years so you know, I FEEL like I know you). And second, congratulations on being debt-free. That is AWESOME and I agree that we should talk more about money. I've been reading you as a knit blog for years, but I'd almost rather read you about money than about yarn (I'm totally into budgeting/saving/investing)!

Tried to Tweet but it didn't seem to go through this time. I would love to suggest a name for your car - "RaLa Blue". Either that or something with "Abigail" in the name! I am totally fired up on Smart Cars again. It "ain't gonna happen". Have a great time. Waiting for another new book! Have a great weekend.

Congratulations on the massive achievement of being free of revolving debt and having savings!!! Home ownership and education are good so mortgages and student loans are just something to deal with. So happy for you and proud of you for sharing your story and encouraging others on the road to getting the weight of debt off their shoulders.

WooHoo on the new Smart Car!! What an awesome treat for your soul and your parking mojo. Happy driving!

I was a week behind on reading blogs in Google Reader and this post was the only one that made me really smile. I'll appeal to the writer in you and compliment how I could really tell you found your voice! This made it really genuine. Have fun in the new ride!

A thousand smiles reading this post. :)

I am with Barbara just above - "A thousand smiles reading this post. :-) " Works for me too!

This post made me really happy (not the part about you guys being in debt, though).

Awesome and congratulations! A few years ago after feeling totally hopeless about our debt situation I was able to totally shift my attitude towards money. A better paying job, generous relatives (never be afraid to accept help!, and 8 years later we are debt free except for our mortgage and our car loan, both of which are very good interest rates and qualify as "good debt."

You're right, we don't talk about money! We don't talk about debt and how to utilize it correctly which is, I think, why I and so many teenage Americans get into trouble when we turn 18 and can suddenly access credit.

Love the Smart, I always think of those not quite parking spaces in the Sunset when I see one, enjoy!

First of all, you look AMAZING in your new car!!

Secondly, thank you for sharing your story about debt. It's something that I am always trying to figure out, still haven't after all these years!! As usual, you are the awesome role model!


Thank you, thank you, thank you! This post made me love you even more when I was sure that after your pit bull post it would be impossible for me to love you any more! Your writing is a timely, very honest, very loving gift to me. It's a conversation I've needed to have for a while but I've been stuck in the fear/shame place. I have wanted to look into debt consolidation but didn't know who to talk to or trust and honestly it's totally overwhelming to me. I am going woman up and call tomorrow. Thank you so much! I am grateful to have your voice in my life. Also, most excellent ride!

Congratulations on eliminating your debt -- that is awesome! A lot of people (including those going to Hawaii) are in the same boat but are unable to face up to it and are living paycheck to paycheck. I've heard some very sad stories, including that of a family friend who lived an opulent lifestyle and found when her husband died that there was nothing but horrendous debt. Good for you for biting the bullet and making the positive move.

And congratulations on your adorable car! I bought my dream car (a Mini Cooper) a few months ago and it makes me smile every time I see him. He's also good at tiny parking spaces, but not as good as yours!

Congrats! Drive it in health and safety!

I am so proud of you!

I have been reading your blog for years and have so often felt like you were talking directly to me. This entry (and the one about Smiley Bob, for that matter) have just taken me to a whole new level of Rachael love! :) If only everybody could read your words about money, then perhaps the shame could dissipate and we could all help each other to learn how to use our money wisely (of course, I had to have my own horrible money crisis, which is now happily resolved, before that was possible.) And THEN there would be so much more money and resources to help the Smiley Bobs of the world - I love the advocacy and love that you give to each animal you meet! Thanks...)

I'm so glad for you and your new car. I've been thinking about the cute little Fiat's since coming home from Italy. I'm beginning to see them on the road in Oregon now. So cute. And I would look good driving one!

I'm so glad I could help with your car purchase by reading your wonderful books!

That's so Smart! We have a Honda Fit, and we love it.

You need to put on some classy Italian duds and go screaming around San Francisco in that Smart Car.

I had The Shame, too, and it morphed into an Unreasoning Fear Of The Post Office. But there's no feeling like being free of debt and going to buy stamps without having a panic attack.

I'm so pleased for you!

I love this. Two years ago went thru a non-profit here in Illinois to do the same thing. While I am not debt free yet the end is in sight. So liberating. And it has totally shifted my attitude about money. I pay way more attention to how I spend now.

I love the new car. I have wanted one of those for ages but with 2 kids and 3 dogs I don't think it will work.


Smiley-Bob "carma" & a lot of hard work !

It is adorable! I love the electric blue color. Congratulations!

Your welcome. And that Lala is a keeper. But you already knew that! :)

I have been reading your blog for a long time and never comment even though I am a fellow Oaklander (hey!) But, thanks for writing this. Debt is so hard to talk about, I couldn't even get through reading this without crying so I can't actually TALK TO A PERSON about it!! My debt is not really even that bad comparatively, but I somehow see it as a sign of my failing at life, or proof of bad character. This was really inspiring and you look so great in that car, girl! Congratulations!

I'm glad I bought your book! I'm glad you got out of debt! I'm glad Smart Cars exist! Have fun!

You make me smile, you make me cry, you make me laugh. You, Rachael, are A Writer. This was a wonderful piece. You're so right about the debt thing. I've been so desperate that I took part of my late partner's coin collection to the bank and cashed it in at face value, and I just couldn't tell anyone. And I couldn't be more excited about the car.

Oh, I do love your post! You are not alone, as you well know by now. The shame one feels when associated with debt is something we probably all experience at one time or another, but we never forget it. It's the pits and there aren't enough adjectives to describe the desolation of the soul one feels. But, with our face to the wind we defy the gods of destruction and survive. You are a smart cookie......er....car? :)

Yes, yes, and more yes. To everything you just said. Totally great on every level.

Be safe.

I had to do that same thing years ago. I cried in the office of Consumers Credit. It was scary. But, in a couple of years the debt was gone. I am so happy to see you in that car. It couldn't be more perfect. woohoo!!!!

As someone who's gone thru a fair amount of economic stress & who works similar hours in a similar capacity, I sympathize! But one major benefit to all the trauma is how it can really cement a couple together. At least it sure as heck did for us. Love the car!

Girl, you are so crazy! Maybe red sunglasses too.

Your honesty should help a lot of people. Thank you.

Ohmigoddess, I love it! Always admired them, on our vacations to Amsterdam, and was thrilled when they made their way here. My lifestyle (2 big dogs, one of whom MUST ride in a crate) does not afford them at this point, but some day, I shall have a tiny, precious car.

Thanks for talking honestly about money. It squicks me out to no end, even thinking about it, in an empty room, by myself, makes me go dark and teary. I wonder, if being the child of parents who lived through the Depression, who fought and angsted about money has anything to do with it? Or is it just our national secret shame? At any rate, I love that you're out of debt, and pushing forward in your brave blue car!

You are awesome! Love that car! I, too, have wanted one since I saw it in Europe. One day!
Great of you to tell your financial story. You're right, we need to talk about it. I was 45K in the hole myself and over the last 4 years of strict payments am now down to 7k left. I have had to leave a lot of shoes in the store and not take them home but I feel so much lighter without that 38K of shame on my shoulders!

I am so happy for you. I have loved the Smart Car since I saw them several years ago in Europe. I went around taking pictures of them like THEY were the sights instead of the REAL sights. My hubby was slightly embarassed! ;)
So buying one is a dream of mine, but you have the perfect city for one and I'm so happy for you. And so happy that you are now out of HORRIBLE debt!
Congratulations all around!!

I am so excited for you and your new little car!! And thank you for talking about debt and how you got out of it. I am really inspired. I'm a single mom who inherited alot of debt along with my divorce and there are more days than not when the shame follows me around like my constant side kick. My other side kick - my 14 yr old son - is a typical teen and has a hard time with the concept of being frugal - which further compounds my shame and guilt. I just may try the company you mentioned. Thanks for being real. :-)

22 years ago I bought one of the first Miatas. I felt just as you do. And I am STILL driving that car and I feel the SAME way 22 years later. Enjoy!

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