How this Single Mom Paid off $18,000 with InCharge

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One of the many difficulties in dealing with debt is getting past the feeling there is no way out.

“Every morning I woke up, I had this dreadful feeling that I was never – EVER! – going to get ahead,” Joanie Asmus said.

Asmus problems included going through a divorce; suddenly becoming a single mother supporting three children; trying to make mortgage payments and pay off $18,000 in credit card bills while working three jobs.

It was, she said, an endless struggle to make ends meet.

“It’s terrible living in survival mode every day and that’s exactly what I was doing,” Asmus said.

But she survived. In fact, she’s debt free after catching up on mortgage payments and eliminating the credit card debt as part of the debt management program at InCharge Debt Solutions.

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick. It took nearly five years to whittle her debt down to zero. As happy as she was with the way things ended, it was how things started that she remembers most about the debt management program.

“The counselor listened very patiently while I tried to explain away all my debt,” Asmus said. “Then she said: ‘Honey, we’re not here to judge you. We’re here to help you.’

“I broke down and cried right there on the spot. I was trying so hard for so long and getting nowhere, so just hearing someone say something like that put some light at the end of the tunnel. It changed my whole attitude about things.”

It helped that the InCharge credit counselor also set up a budget for Asmus and reduced the interest rate and eliminated fees on her credit cards.

The new budget included monthly debt payments Asmus and her family could afford. Asmus said she had looked at other debt relief options, but none of them made sense, even with the fact she was working full-time at a nursing home during the day and alternating between sales clerk work and bartending at night.

In the meantime, her oldest daughter graduated from high school and went off to college, while her middle child attended high school and her youngest was going through middle school. Trying to feed, clothe and support them in extracurricular activities was a challenge, to say the least.

“I had so many expenses that I just started putting everything on credit cards,” she said. “I maxed out one card and signed up for another one. I got so desperate that I thought about declaring bankruptcy.”

Instead, she asked the employee assistance program at work to recommend a place that would help. Their first suggestion was a state assistance program, but she was rejected because her income didn’t fit their boundaries. The next call went to InCharge, which has no income limits or debt limits.

At this point, she was trying to make payments on her credit cards, but between interest rates of 26%-28% on overdue balances, plus late fees and over-the-limit charges, the payments she made every month did little to reduce the balance she owed.

“I’d look at my statement and even though I didn’t use the card that month, the balance would somehow go up,” she said. “Those late fees and over-the-limit charges were killing me.”

InCharge intervened with the credit card companies to reduce the interest rate charges on her seven credit cards to as low as 2%. They also stepped in and got the card companies to eliminate the late and over-the-limit charges. InCharge was able to consolidate her credit payments into one convenient monthly payment.

“All those charges went away and that was a huge relief, but the biggest thing was the phone calls from the creditors stopped,” Asmus said. “I knew I couldn’t pay them and the constant phone calls just added to my stress. It was such a relief when that stopped.”

Slowly, but surely, the balance started dropping on her debts. She followed the progress every month through the InCharge’s online account management tool and loved the story the numbers were telling.

“I had some friends who tried other programs and told me that the whole thing was a crock and all those companies did was eat their money,” Asmus said. “But with InCharge, you can follow it along every month on their website. I’d go look it up and say Wow! This card really is paid off.’ “

It took nearly five years for Asmus to complete the program. Along the way, her daughter graduated from college, moved home, got a job and started paying rent. Her son also helped with the rent when he took a job right after graduating from high school.

“I’m just proud that I got it all cleaned up,” Asmus said. “My kids watched the progress we made and everyone contributed so that was fun. I’m going to finish paying off my house in two months and have a huge celebration.

“But I’ll never forget the words of encouragement I got from that counselor at InCharge. The people there really did help me. I am thoroughly debt free!”

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.