How I paid off $19,000 in debt by asking for help
It was such a relief to not carry the burden alone.
For most of us, debt is a necessary evil. Paying it off can be one of the most freeing, empowering accomplishments in the world, worthy of celebration. Mic's series Paid in Full tells the stories of these triumphs, and just might help you figure out how to get to balance zero, too.
City/state: Virginia Beach, VA
Amount of debt paid off: $19,000
Type of debt paid off: Legal fees from divorce, credit card debt
How long it took to pay off: 46 months
Jobs held while paying the debt: Military college advisor
My parents immigrated here and both worked multiple jobs. My father was the eldest and became the patriarch of the family, sponsoring and hosting his siblings as they immigrated to the U.S. and got on their feet. Money was tight because it was stretched to provide for my immediate family and my extended family. I was taught to watch, save, and be careful with money, and to not be frivolous with it.
From these early experiences, I knew I needed to work hard for my money. I understood the value of a dollar, and I teach this to my boys as well so they understand the hard work that goes into earning money. When I got into debt, I believe my credit card interest rate was around 20%.
I tried to pay off my credit cards on my own, starting with the card with the lowest amount of debt, while making the minimum payments on my other cards, but it was too overwhelming. I was $19K in debt while living on a single income with two kids. While I was making all the minimum payments consistently, I wasn’t making a dent in the balance, because credit card companies would just continue to tack on interest to the total. I tried to read up on how to pay it all down, but I felt helpless.
While I was making all the minimum payments consistently, I wasn’t making a dent in the balance, because credit card companies would just continue to tack on interest to the total.
After my divorce, the bills from my marriage and legal proceedings were overwhelming. I felt hopeless, but wanted to turn my finances around so I could get back to living and focusing on my boys. I found myself looking into bankruptcy and other options and considering what would work best. That’s when I learned about National Debt Relief.
Their team negotiated with my creditors to lower the total amount owed; it was such a relief to see my debt decrease so dramatically! The company also coached me through financial habits and strategies when I was hit with unexpected bills that would’ve left me in more debt otherwise. One month, when I had to pay for unexpected car repairs, they worked with me to budget my monthly payment. Another day, I came home and found a rolled up paper that was a summons from one of my creditors. My heart sank; I was terrified, upset, and felt defeated. I called National Debt Relief immediately, and they helped me assess the situation and guided me on what to do. They took care of it. The stress was off my chest, and I didn't have to worry about it anymore.
Birthdays and holidays were the hardest for me, but I also needed to cut back on small, everyday purchases that went from inconsequential to luxury — like [buying something at] a concession stand at my son’s football game. We stopped going out to dinner, and we packed snacks when we were heading out for the day. We downgraded our cable to remove any premium channels — we used only the antenna on the window — and canceled our DVR. The silver lining here is that I became a thrift shopper to find great deals and ended up falling in love with it. It’s great for the environment and my wallet!
I feel liberated and able to live my life and enjoy time with my family without the burden of debt.
Now, I feel liberated and able to live my life and enjoy time with my family without the burden of debt. I no longer have credit card debt and I finished paying off the car. I have my living expenses, and I have student loans, but I’m in a much healthier financial situation. As for saving and budgeting, I divide my paycheck in three: taxes, savings, and spending. I got rid of all my credit cards and only pay via cash and check. If [there’s something I want but] I don't have the cash, I don't buy it.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, be open to [constructive] criticism, so you can understand what you can’t afford and how you ended up in debt to begin with. Finances and financial jargon can get confusing; don’t feel ashamed to ask questions — like what ‘accrued’ means.