How Tina and Eddie Paid Off $24,000 in Credit Card Debt

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Everyone knows that debt is an unacceptable subject in polite circles, especially if you’re the one not paying the bills.

“Debt is definitely a taboo topic,” Tina Bright said. “Nobody wants to talk about it and all that does is make it harder, lonelier and scarier, all at the same time.”

Tina and her husband Eddie were in that harder, lonelier, scarier place three years ago. They were both employed, had two cars, including a new truck, nice, new clothes, a new washer and dryer to keep the new clothes healthy … and $24,000 worth of credit card debt they didn’t want to talk about.

“We were embarrassed and ashamed,” Tina said. “We kept it a secret from all our family and friends. We didn’t want anybody to know.”

They know now because Tina is telling the story of how she and Eddie made $24,000 of credit card debt disappear – They joined InCharge’s debt management program and knocked out the entire thing in just 31 months.

“It really is pretty incredible,” Tina said. “I mean, we were in so deep that we felt trapped, but with help from InCharge, we managed to get out. I tell our story to people at work, to family or friends. Anytime the conversation comes up about money troubles, I tell them this story.”

The story, says Tina, began innocently enough.

“It started with a card here and a card there to cover some bills and expenses,” she said. “Then we’d see some shirts we liked and take out another card to pay for that. Then we got one to pay for the washer and dryer and then we used one to buy a truck, which was absolutely stupid, but we needed a truck and that was the only option at the time, so we did it.”

At their peak, Tina and Eddie had 10 credit cards going with interest rate charges ranging from 18% to 28%. In fact, more than half the debt was on cards with rates over 28%. Every week was a challenge. Which payment was due? And was there enough money to even make a minimum payment?

“We’d pay one here, one there and set the others aside for later,” Tina said. “But that just snowballed into late fees and more interest charges and the debt just kept growing.”

Tina went online to research debt consolidation as a solution and that’s where she found InCharge. She had looked into debt consolidation with a company that sent her a post-card advertisement and it turned out to be a scam so she went back online and did some more research.

“I was very skeptical, but for a good reason,” Tina said. “I wanted proof this was a legitimate operation.”

She got her proof on the first phone call. InCharge counselors did some work with her budget to get expenses under control. Then, they worked with her card companies and got the interest rate charges down to 8% or less on the 10 accounts. That brought her monthly payment down to an affordable level and gave the Brights a reason to smile again.

“When I made the first call, I was afraid they were going to reprimand me and tell me how crazy I was for going so far in debt, but it was just the opposite,” Tina said. “The counselor was so nice and so helpful. She took me through a whole budgeting process, we filled in all the numbers and I still use that budget to this day.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve called back since then to make extra payments and check balances or just ask questions and every single counselor I spoke with was so nice. Not one of them has been judgmental and that really made an impression on me.”

The impression remains, even though Tina and Eddie have finished the program. In addition to helping clients eliminate debt, InCharge credit counselors are supposed to educate them on managing money. The goal is to keep the clients from repeating the same mistakes.

Tina said she and her husband took the advice of InCharge counselors and started an emergency fund so they have money in case a crisis comes up like an unexpected car repair. They made their last payment in February and decided to use that same payment amount to start a vacation fund and a Christmas account for their 9-year-old daughter Elise and 1-year-old son, Elliott.

“We’ve got a good plan, now we just have to stick to it,” Tina said. “It’s only March and we’ll see where we are in December, but there is a real feeling of freedom now that we’re out of debt.

“The ironic thing is that my parents taught me how to manage money. I knew the dark side of credit cards, but when you see something you want, it’s too easy to swipe a card and forget about the consequences. InCharge counselors did a great job of reminding me of that and I won’t forget it.”

About The Author

Joey Johnston

Joey Johnston has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist with the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times. He has won a dozen national writing awards and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine. He started writing for InCharge Debt Solutions in 2016.