InCharge provides free credit counseling, debt management and bill consolidation programs to Illinois residents. InCharge Debt Solutions is licensed by the Illinois State Department of Financial Services.
Illinois Credit & Debt Consolidation Information
If you live in the city of Chicago, you are blessed with an unlimited amount of dining, shopping and entertainment opportunities that owning a credit card can make easily accessible.
You also are cursed with very high housing costs and taxes on everything from your personal income to where you park your car to the plastic grocery bags you use to lug home food. The expenses add up so fast that just breaking even every month is a personal finance victory.
Shawn Leonard knows all about that battle. He grew up in a Chicago neighborhood and never moved out. He loved everything the city offered and though he knew the cost of living was going to be high, he and his wife owned a couple of credit cards and for the first five years of their marriage, used them to get by, pretty much without incident.
Then along came two children in a span of two years and the credit cards took on a new role.
“We had to start paying for diapers and clothes and food and doctor visits and I was like WOW! This is expensive,” Shawn said. “In order to survive, we had to put all those new expenses on the credit cards and try to figure it out later.”
The results were not good.
“We couldn’t afford to pay more than the minimum every month and that was putting us deeper and deeper in debt,” Shawn said. “We kept saying “We’ll fix it, we’ll fix it,’ but we never could fix it.”
That’s when Shawn went on the internet and found InCharge Debt Solutions.
“I typed in ‘Help with credit card debt,’ and they were right there at the top of the page so I decided to give it a shot,” he said. “We were like a lot of young parents, we needed help. We were sort of flying by the seat of our pants with two young kids and not really getting anywhere.”
Living in Chicago just added to the problem. The average two-bedroom apartment in the city runs more than $2,100 a month. State income taxes jumped to 4.95% in 2018 and the state and local tax burden for Chicago residents was 11%. Sales tax on purchases added another 8.7% to the tab.
“The cost of living in Chicago already is high and goes up every year,” Shawn said. “Landlords raise the rent, cost of food goes up, and the city raises taxes on everything. They even taxed us for plastic bags and straws last year. People can’t live here anymore because of finances.”
Credit counselors from InCharge helped the Leonards turn things around. The counselors made some budget suggestions that brought income and expenses to an affordable monthly level. Shawn removed temptation from his wallet by throwing away his credit cards. His wife keeps one, but he pays bills with cash or a debit card that takes money directly from the family’s checking account.
“We only had about $11,000 in credit card bills, which is not a ton of debt for some people, but was a lot for me and my family,” Shawn said. “It’s great to have someone like InCharge to lean on and help us through this.
“I love the fact that I can go online and monitor my progress in paying off the debt. InCharge stayed in communication with me right from the start and I really appreciate that.”
The Leonards are now in the last four months of a four-year program to eliminate debt and as Shawn looks around at his peers, he feels pretty good about the direction things are going.
“Some of my friends are doctors and lawyers and still owe $100,000 or more on student loans so I feel pretty good about where we are,” Shawn said. “It’s really just a matter of swallowing your pride and taking responsibility for the situation you’re in.
“We were never going to get out of debt until InCharge came in and helped us solve the problem. We needed to lower our monthly payments and start reducing that debt every month and InCharge helped us get there.”