How Michele Conquered $7,000 in Credit Card Debt
Imagine the commotion in a household with five children ages four through 23, run by a single parent who is working three jobs to try and make ends meet.
Now toss into the mix eight credit cards that Mom took out to help her meet the daily expenses like food, rent and utilities. The lowest interest rate on any of the cards was 25% and she had to keep track of eight different minimum payments required on eight different due dates every month.
If your head isn’t spinning yet, the oldest child joined the workforce and needed transportation. The next two were going to high school and wanted the same things. And don’t forget the youngest was just starting kindergarten and probably wondered if anyone would remember to drop her off and pick her up every day.
“Stressful,” Michele Allen said, letting a single word describe what it’s like to be the sole parent, sole provider and sole problem solver in the situation described above.
Allen wasn’t asking for sympathy, she was just remembering the anxiety that greets a parent when you wake up every day knowing you can’t afford the problems you’re going to face that day.
“Obviously, there was a lot going on,’’ Michele said. “I have to say my kids were really, really good about things and never asked for anything outlandish or caused trouble.
“But the finances, trying to use credit to keep up with the necessities … dealing with eight credit cards and remembering when each one was due and did you make the payment on time … and was anything going to change next month … that was really, really stressful.”
Things did change. Gradually, the stress went away. All it took was a little online research and a phone call.
Michele had $7,000 in debt spread across the eight cards, but wasn’t making progress with any of them so she researched debt consolidation companies. She is a big believer in review sites that rate businesses and allow customers to comment on how they were treated.
That’s how she heard about InCharge Debt Solutions. She picked up some positive vibes about InCharge on a visit to TrustPilot website. She decided to make InCharge her first call for debt consolidation and it turned out to be the last.
“I had done enough research to know that InCharge was the No. 1-rated company for customer service and that’s exactly what I got,’’ Michele said. “The counselor was so nice the whole way through our conversation. She talked me through every step of the way and was so patient and understanding that I just knew I had found my solution.
“I can honestly say that when I hung up the phone that day, the stress was gone. I knew I had a plan that I knew was going to work. What a relief!”
The first step in the plan was to get the Allen family’s budget in line with Mom’s income and the child support check she received from her ex-husband. Her primary income source was cleaning residential homes, but she also did hairstyling on weekends.
Still, that wasn’t bringing in enough to pay down the credit card debt. Then she discovered an unlikely source of income: She shopped thrift stores and garage sales for unique furniture and household goods, then resold them at an online marketing site.
“If I could find things that were really unique, I’d make three or four times what I originally paid for it,” Michele said. “I found out I could make extra money every day.”
The third step in her recovery was the biggest: InCharge credit counselors consolidated her eight cards into one monthly payment. They worked with the eight card companies and got them to reduce the interest rates from 25%-30% to 6%-8%.
“I went from owing $550 a month to owing $195 a month,” Michele said. “You can just imagine what a relief that was. All the sudden there was some hope that I was going to get out of debt.”
There was more than hope. There were results. She threw all the credit cards away and started using cash or debit cards to pay for everything. “You definitely spend less when you’ve got to dig into your pocket and use cash,” she said.
Her oldest son found a full-time job and the two used their combined incomes to move the family out of a rental home and into one they owned.
She even challenged herself to get more out of the three jobs she worked so she could finish InCharge’s debt management program faster. The original plan was to pay off the cards in four years. Not surprisingly, the debt was gone in just two and a half years.
Oh, and the lessons she learned in managing her money allowed her to take a family vacation and purchase a backyard jacuzzi, a new dog and the sports car she always dreamed of owning.
“I am so much better organized and focused now and it’s all because of that one phone call to InCharge,” Michele said. “They’ve taken the stress out of my life and given me more time to spend with my family and enjoy myself. I couldn’t have picked a better company to work with.”