Getting out of $40K in credit card debt

Woman holding credit card.

TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: The government reports this morning consumer spending fell 0.2 percent in March. That might be bad news for the overall economy, but good news for consumers who are climbing out of debt. Sabrina Reigel lives in Southern California. She's in her early 40's, works in the entertainment industry. She was losing control of her credit cards. She turned to a debt-counseling service called Springboard. Here's what happened.


Sabrina Reigel: When I moved down here, I didn't know anyone, I didn't have any friends, and I think that's why I used shopping just to fill that void.

I had, gosh -- five, six -- I had about seven credit cards. It was just stupid stuff, you know what I mean? Just buying a lot of clothes, shoes, frivolous things.

I sat down one day and just took all my bills and realized that I was $40,000 in credit card debt. And I thought, oh my God!

I wasn't always able to make the minimum payment, and when people were calling me, I felt like there was a part of me that was very private that all of a sudden, I'm totally exposed. And it felt humiliating.

The credit counseling service fixed all that. And I thought it was going to be very bleak, like we're going to take all your money, and we're just going to put it towards your credit cards, and you're going to be left with $50 a month for food, gas, everything else. You know, and I thought I would be eating Top Ramen every night.

When I talked to the councilor, he said to me, you know, this really isn't that bad. You're going to pay this off in three years, and you're going to save tens of thousand dollars in interest payments.

I just was blown away how quickly they brought down the interest rates on all my cards. I mean I had some cards that were about, like, 26 percent, and they got them down to 9 [percent].

There's that sense of control, too. And I have a really strict budget -- I know exactly what goes into my account every month and everything that goes out.

I look for sale items at the grocery store. Before I didn't care, I had to have that name brand ketchup. Now it's like, you know, ah well, the store brand's on sale, it's cheaper, you know, I'm gonna try it.

I'm not crazy in terms of buying things anymore, I don't have that lust or that urge anymore. You know, I changed the way I look at life, I changed the way I look at my future. I just, I don't use it anymore to fill a void I guess.

Radke: That piece was produced by Stacey Vanek-Smith.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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