After Paying off $65,900 on Credit Cards, He’s on Pay-As-You-Go Plan

Credit Cards Paid OffJoe Forte celebrates the fact he eliminated $65,900 worth of credit card debt and wonders if his struggle to achieve fiscal sanity will wake up anyone in similar circumstances.

“I have a good job, my wife has a good job, we have two great kids, a nice house … and we had to live paycheck-to-paycheck for the last five years because of credit cards,” Forte said.

How dependent were the Fortes on credit cards?

“Anything and everything that had to be bought and paid for, we just put it on a credit card and thought we’d figure it out later,” Joe said. “I call it kicking the can down the road and I bet there are a lot of families like ours doing the same thing.

“The thing is, eventually you realize you’re kicking the can uphill and it keeps rolling back down to you. You borrowed somebody else’s money and eventually they want to get paid back.”

Forte’s “kicking the can down the road” plan was based on the fact he had a six-figure income from his job as an optician and his wife brought home a teacher’s salary. He only had two kids and figured there was more than enough income to handle any problems.

So, what could go wrong?

Well, the two kids went to college and then graduate school and needed more than student loans to pay for it so Joe passed the problem off to his credit cards.

Both children got married right after graduation, creating two sets of wedding expenses in one year. Not a problem. That’s what credit cards are for.

Then Joe and his wife decided to change jobs and relocate, which meant a new batch of bills for moving expenses and there was only one way to handle those:

Pull out the next credit card!

“We were living 5% beyond our means and when you do that for 39 years of marriage, it adds up,” Forte said. “We weren’t doing anything extravagant like buying jewelry or taking fancy vacations or spending a lot of money on clothes. We just weren’t paying our bills on time and it caught up to us.”

So, Joe had $65,900 in credit card debt spread over 13 cards. Never mind the new mortgage, some student loans and the home equity loan from the previous house that was costing him $400 a month in interest alone.

“We were drowning in debt, that’s the only way I can describe it,” Forte said. “It felt like we couldn’t breathe. We needed someone to throw us a life-saver. We couldn’t function because of all this debt.”

Joe went online, found InCharge Debt Solutions and got the lifesaver he needed. The credit counselors at InCharge set up a budget based on the Forte’s income and financial obligations and 38 months later, the $65,900 in credit card debt is gone.

“There were a lot of things InCharge did that impressed me, but the way they started us out was the thing that impressed me the most,” Forte said. “They talked in language I could understand. We were paying 24-28% interest on all of our cards and they got that knocked down to 7.99%

“Then they consolidated all our bills and gave us a budget that was realistic, something we could live with. Finally, we could breathe again!”

And while he was out smelling the roses for the first time in years, Forte discovered he could save some money by doing his own landscaping. And driving the same car a few years longer than planned. And bartering, instead of buying. And working six days a week, even after suffering a heart attack.

But the most important thing he discovered was “pay-as-you go” program, especially when you must use a credit card. Joe was attending an event and needed to book a few rooms at a hotel. The hotel wanted a credit card as a deposit, so he pulled out his American Express card.

“Then I went home and wrote a check to American Express to cover the deposit amount so the bill was paid before I even got to the hotel,” Forte said proudly. “I pay my bills ahead now, or at least mail them $50 a week so I’m paying something on it. I’ve been down the road where you let it go until it becomes a crisis and I’m not going there again.”

As proof, Forte said he wrote the due date for monthly payments on the back of the two credit cards he keeps for him and his wife. Anytime they use a card, they are reminded when the bill comes due and pay in advance.

“I’m getting ahead of the game,” he said, “and I’m going to stay ahead of it.”

That is a financial lesson anyone can use.