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Travis and Vonnie

How did you acquire $109,000 in debt? What did that debt consist of?

My wife and I racked up $109,000 in credit card debt through thirteen years of constant over spending. That amount represents everything from food to throwing dinner parties, to trips to Hawaii and Mexico. We just simply didn’t have a budget, and supplemented our income with credit cards.

What did it feel like to have that much debt?

To be honest, most of the time I didn’t think about it. I put it out of my mind until it was the time of the month that the bills came due, then my goal simply to find a way to pay all the bills any way that was possible. I didn’t know what the total amount of debt was, and I didn’t know how much our monthly payments added up to. I didn’t want to know because I was in total denial.

Eventually we hit a breaking point where we could no longer make the monthly payments due to a change in the minimum payment policy of a major creditor with which we had multiple accounts. When we added up the balances and the payments, our situation felt hopeless.

How long did it take you to pay it all off?

It took us 55 months to dig ourselves out of our massive hole of debt.

What resources did you use to help you through this process?

We used a Debt Management Plan in which our debt relief provider negotiates a monthly payment and reduced interest rate that would result in our debt being paid in full in 3-5 years. We made one payment to our debt relief provider, and they dispersed the payments to our creditors.

Did you face any challenges along the way?

It took a LONG time for us to really come to grips with how much we had to change our lifestyle to live within our means. We had to learn how to track our spending, budget and communicate about finances for the very first time.

How did this affect your marriage?

The process of learning how to handle our finances correctly, and communicate about our finances took a lot of trial and error, hard work, and even a fair amount of arguments and tears. But we have emerged from our struggle a happier and stronger couple!

What were you doing for a living while you were paying off the debt?

I am a software engineer, while my wife is a paraprofessional for the school district as well as an office specialist at our local public defender’s office. To help earn extra money I also began mystery shopping as well as developed a second career as a freelance personal finance blogger.

How did it feel once you paid it all off?

The feeling I had as I made the phone call to schedule our last payment was indescribable. If I had to use one word, I would describe it as, “FREE!”

What practical tips do you have for people looking to pay off their debt?

The most important thing for people looking to pay off debt is to never lose hope. There are options to get yourself back on the right path no matter how much debt you have, or how bad you think your situation is. You just have to educate yourself as to what your options are, pick the right one for your situation, and DO IT. But you have to be ready to change. We got in debt through bad spending habits and a feeling of entitlement. Until you accept that you have to make drastic changes in your lifestyle, you won’t make any headway towards your debt.

Note: This is part of a series called “Debt Success Stories” which features people who were able to pay off a significant amount of debt. If you have a Debt Success Story I would love to hear about it. Please visit the contact page to let me know the details.