Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Descending from a pillar of debt

Stacey Vanek Smith May 22, 2009
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Credit Card Terminal iStockPhoto
Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Descending from a pillar of debt

Stacey Vanek Smith May 22, 2009
Credit Card Terminal iStockPhoto
HTML EMBED:
COPY

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: Credit cards, car loans, it is easy to get over your head. Sabrina Reigel did just that. She moved to Southern California a couple of years ago. Without lots of friends, but plenty of free time, Riegel racked up massive amounts of credit card debt. Here is short story about how she delevereged her life.


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 Raman 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.

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

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.