I Paid Off $44,000 In Credit Card Debt

In early 2013, when they faced what seemed like hopelessly grim credit card debt, Joe and Stephanie Dorsch made a decision.

“We looked at each other and said we didn’t want to still be trying to pay this off when we were 65,’’ Stephanie said. “We had to do something. We weren’t sure where or how, but we had to do something.’’

Her solution to the problem was simple. She typed “debt consolidation companies’’ into Google and that led to the discovery of InCharge Debt Solutions.

From that moment, their life has been very different. That is what happens when you pay off $44,000 of credit card debt in four years.

“We are so happy,’’ Stephanie said. “When we looked at the (computer) screen and saw we were 98% debt free and we had just one payment to make, we were literally bouncing up and down.

“It’s so much more meaningful when you know your extra money can go for a family vacation instead of, oh yeah, another credit card bill.’’

Four years after joining InCharge’s program, Joe and Stephanie are completely debt-free, opening a world of possibilities and setting a great example for their three children (ages 11, 8 and 5).

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That is a stark contrast to the example they once set for their family. In the old days, they signed up for a credit card almost anytime an offer arrived in their mailbox. The zero-balance promotional offers were a bridge to more money and too attractive to turn down.

Now they have one credit card. They plan to stay at one and keep paying it off after years of letting bills bury them in debt.

“It was a series of little things — not one big thing — and it just creeps up on you,” Stephanie said. “I wasn’t happy with it, but if you’re not careful, that’s what can happen to you.’’

They are a Midwestern couple, living in Crown Point, Indiana at the state’s northwest tip, about 45 minutes outside of Chicago. Stephanie is a registered nurse. Joe is the accounting manager for a casino. They love to be outdoors with their kids, whether it’s walking, biking, having a picnic, playing basketball or hockey.

It’s the life they love. And it was something to be preserved. That’s why they called InCharge.

“I remember coming across InCharge and thinking, ‘This is the one!’ ‘’ Stephanie said. “I read a lot of success stories about how people had accomplished their goals. They said they would recommend it to their family members.

“I filled out the questionnaire on the computer and got a phone call from InCharge. They got everything up and situated in no time, very quick, very easy. But the thing I liked best was how we were treated. We weren’t just a number. They cared.’’

Stephanie said the InCharge personnel were “non-judgmental,’’ a quality she loved.

“There are plenty of people out there who judge you on the little things,’’ Stephanie said. “InCharge was more about helping us to get past everything so we weren’t stuck with debt the rest of our lives.

“The mental hurdle of it all was something I thought about a lot. You know, how is this going to affect everything else in our life? What are people going to think? It’s not the easiest thing to admit or say, that we have all this credit card debt.’’

But once that hurdle was passed, Joe and Stephanie were all-in with InCharge.

“It’s definitely not a simple thing because you are changing your life and changing your habits,’’ Stephanie said. “You’ve got to stick to your plan.

“Yes, we have three kids, but we decided if it was something we could live without, if it wasn’t of dire need, we’re not going to spend the money.’’

Stephanie said she and her husband hope that lifestyle will teach their children about the proper use of money. Already, the kids show admirable traits of saving the money they have for toys, while learning about delayed gratification.

“I think they are learning that money doesn’t grow on the tree in the backyard,’’ Stephanie said. “They’re learning the value of a dollar.

“I think some kids these days, they bat their eyelashes and get what they want, no matter the cost. Sometimes nipping that in the bud in easier said than done. But it helps when you learn this lesson.’’

Stephanie said she wasn’t raised to squander money. Neither was her husband, but like 70% of college graduates, he took out a student loan to attend college. She paid her way through school, but largely used a credit card to pay for her tuition and books.

By the time they were married 13 years ago, both Joe and Stephanie brought significant debt to the wedding. When needs popped up, there was always the credit card to solve the problem. It became an even bigger problem when their wants — not just their needs — were rolled into the growing debt.

It’s different now.

“Seriously, to take five people to the movies, it’s like $80,’’ Stephanie said. “You get five tickets, two boxes of popcorn, three pops (soft drinks) to share and it adds up pretty quickly.

“Now going to the movies is something to enjoy. It’s a special treat. But it’s probably best not to be a regular habit. Sometimes, you just need to wait for it to come out on video, pop your own popcorn and sit in the comfort of your own home. You have to change the way you think.’’

She described it as a “regimented’’ approach to money. Once a plan is in place — and you perhaps realize that many of the purchases weren’t necessary anyway — that provides the momentum and motivation to continue.

“It helped so much to find InCharge,” Stephanie said. “I wouldn’t hesitate to tell people there’s hope and there’s a way to get back on the right track. Sometimes, it helps to see someone who pulled through and see how they did it. We all need to be steered in the right direction.

“We’re on a good path now and we’re ecstatic about it.’’

About The Author

George Morris

In his 40-plus-year newspaper career, George Morris has written about just about everything -- Super Bowls, evangelists, World War II veterans and ordinary people with extraordinary tales. His work has received multiple honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press and the Louisiana Press Association. He avoids debt when he can and pays it off quickly when he can't, and he's only too happy to suggest how you might do the same.