Financial Counseling Testimonials

How I Paid Off $48,000 In Credit Card Debt

people on zebra crossingIn 2009 I was in trouble. Credit card trouble. $48,000 to be exact. And how did it happen? My husband became partially disabled and was unable to work. I worked full time in commercial real estate with a two hour commute each way and maintained a part-time job on the weekends. Because I worked so many hours I was unable to see my son as much as I would have liked too. And that is very hard on a mother. We owned a lovely home in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and our mortgage payment was a priority to us. I knew that I had to pay my mortgage and car payments so everything else went on the credit card. The credit cards became our go-to for paying for the necessities…like food and utilities.

Then one day it happened. I had maxed out all of my credit cards. The phone was constantly ringing from credit card companies and I was afraid to go the mail box because I knew it would be nothing but bills. I tried to contact the credit companies and work with them but it didn’t seem to work.

I couldn’t sleep at night because I would lay awake crying. My work was suffering, my family was suffering and most of all, I was suffering. I needed help. I knew that I needed to do something but I didn’t know what. I had heard many negative things about credit consolidation, so I really felt like I was backed into a corner and didn’t know where to turn. My friends and co-workers all told me to file bankruptcy. Really? These bills were my responsibility. Bottom line, I owed the money and I was going to pay them back. No question about it.

I prayed and God answered me. That Sunday in church I overheard someone talking about financial counseling with Lutheran Social Service. I called them the next day and felt free. I was very embarrassed to reach out for help, but once I talked to my counselor I felt better. And I never felt judged for going to LSS or needing help. After preparing a budget my financial counselor Leah recommended that I start a Debt Management Plan with LSS. My DMP payment would be $824 a month. It was a lot of money for me to pay each month but I knew I needed to gain control. I treated my DMP payment just like my mortgage. It was that important to me.

To say that I had to get creative to make my monthly payment is an understatement. I had to cut out a lot of expenses. I kept my car longer than I normally would have. I stopped shopping at department stores and instead went to thrift and consignment stores. Haircuts got switched to twice a year. No movies unless it was Red Box. Date night became pizza and a Red Box movie. Throughout the DMP process I worked with Joanne Lundberg in the Client Services Department. I am so grateful to her and LSS for getting me through this dark period.

Each month I struggled to make my payment…but I did it. And every month I watched the balance get smaller and smaller. I am not only one payment away from being credit card free. I will be $48,000 lighter! As of today, I have no credit cards and probably never will. My new motto is, “if I can’t afford it, I can’t have it!” Once my DMP payment is done I plan on putting $500 a month in emergency savings and putting the other $300 in a college fund for my son.

It’s scary to ask for help, but LSS is there. They can and will help you. Melanie and her family are Debt Management Clients at LSS Financial Counseling. Melanie will be making her last DMP payment in November 2013.

Our goal at LSS is to work with people like Melanie as they take control and begin to build a life without debt. Give us a call at 888.577.2227 to see if a Debt Management Plan will work for you. A DMP consolidates your monthly debts into one tidy payment—often with a lower interest rate—so you can start paying off those debts and return to financial health faster.

R


Mark and Carol Pay Off $20,000 with a DMP at LSS

 


Newlyweds and Dealing with Finances

People pulling dollar signA little bit about us to start off with. My husband Mike and I were older when we got married and we were blessed with 3 daughters and a son. Mike works as a truck driver and we are very lucky because he works here in town and not over the road. I work the nightshift as an RN doing phone triage for ERs and clinics. We home school our children. As of today, we’ve been married 17 1/2 yrs. We own (or I should say the bank owns) our home. If all goes well, our house will be paid off in 8 years!

Like many newly married couples, we had opposite ideas of how to handle our finances. My way of dealing with money was to save nothing and spend everything. Mike was the opposite and as a result we could never calmly discuss our financial situation. It was a hot button issue right from the beginning.

About 3 years ago, during the “economy crash”, Mike was laid off. He was out of work for about 7 weeks. Several months later, my hours were thankfully increased so that helped some. While all of this was happening, Mike was looking for a new job. But unfortunately, the companies that did his kind of work were still laying people off. So, to help our family, Mike took a low paying job with a bus company that provided transportation to a local casino. He loathed it for more reasons than one, but I thought, “A bird in the hand…” He was there almost 2 years, when he quit. And thankfully, he was able to find his current job, driving truck again, with decent wages. It took about another 7 weeks though.

As you can imagine, all of this was putting a lot of stress on our finances as well as our marriage. I was forced to start paying for things, such as basic living expenses, with credit. This was when the car trouble started and the repairs totaled more than $2,000. To be safe, we bought a new car for me because our finances were so tight we couldn’t afford any more repairs, but of course this added another large payment. The hole got deeper and deeper.

We were always able to pay our bills…well sort of, because we were using more and more credit. This past summer, there was an incident where our cell phone company charged the wrong checking account, throwing that account into the red. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back as they say. I owed the bank $250 in charges because they covered several checks that would have bounced. I had to go in and explain the problem and beg for mercy. Luckily, they were merciful.

Mike was upset that the situation had come to this. I didn’t know what to do. I started looking online when I was at work for some help. I saw how some financial services claimed they “helped” people that were in similar situations. The more I searched though, the more questionable the “help” appeared to be. Then I found the LSS Financial Counseling site and read the testimonials. I called and made an appointment.

I met with Financial Counselor Phia alone first. It was a very encouraging meeting. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy and he never scolded or blamed me for my situation. And to be perfectly honest, I was expecting some of that because of the mess I had gotten myself into. But not from Phia. I could tell that he was experienced in dealing with situations like mine where spouses hid financial problems from each other. I knew I was guilty of this and I wanted to start fresh. Phia knew that taking control of our debts meant that Mike and I had to be on the same page so all 3 of us met 2 days later. Mike was extremely impressed and felt that Phia could put us back on track.

Phia helped us develop a budget and plan of action specific to us. He also recommended that we start a Debt Management Plan with LSS. I am excited to say that this week we will make our 3rd payment directly to LSS. What a relief! We are no longer just making payment after payment. Now, we make one payment to LSS and we can see the progress every month. Without LSS, we would still be making payments and getting nowhere. We are no longer discouraged. We now have hope!

I will end by saying that Mike really enjoyed cutting up our credit cards in Phia’s office! We look forward to following our budget every month and watching our debts go down.

At LSS we pride ourselves on gathering real testimonials from actual clients. Click button to read more.

R

 


A Success Story from Tom

LSS helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I went through a divorce in 2002 and obtained custody of my three young daughters. Going from a two income household to one was a huge change for me, especially with three kids. The expenses associated with being a single parent started piling up and I got to the point where every bill went on my credit card. Medical debt, car breaking down, etc. I soon built up a large amount of credit card debt. I started looking for some sort of solution with my problem because while I was able to make all the payments, I started to notice the strain. I eventually started working three jobs. I managed a mattress store during the day (10 am to 9 pm) and then I would make deliveries three days a week after work. I would literally strap a mattress to the top of my car for a delivery. I was willing to do whatever it took to stay current on my bills and pay off my debt. I eventually added a third job. I would get up a 1:45 am five days a week and deliver newspapers. I finally realized I was doing all of this and it wasn’t working. At this point the credit card companies began raising my interest rates. I felt like everything was spinning out of control. I was getting to the point where I would need to do something drastic…like bankruptcy. And I didn’t want to. I wanted to pay off my debt. And I began seeing all of the slimy bankruptcy commercials for the bad places and I knew it wasn’t for me. They were in it for themselves and not to help people like me. And I also had amazing credit because I had never been late on a payment and I did not want to mess that up.

In July of 2009 someone at my church told me about LSS Financial Counseling Service. I came to my first appointment and met with Financial Counselor Pat Segar. Pat explained who LSS was and what they did. She helped me prepare a budget and figure out what changes and cutbacks I could make to see changes in my situation. For example, I was paying a lot of money each month to rent. We discussed my options as a first time home buyer and I eventually bought a house and got the Obama Stimulus and I now save a lot of money each month. My budget each month went from barely breaking even to a surplus! I met with Pat again in November of 2009 and started a Debt Management Plan to pay off my credit card debt. My monthly payment of $633 would have me debt free in 59 months and over that period I would save an estimated $8000 in interest!

I have now been on the DMP for almost 2 ½ years. It has been very hard at times to make the monthly debt payment but I feel pride in knowing that I am paying off my debt legitimately. I love that LSS is willing to work with me. And even more, I love that the credit card companies are willing to work with LSS. I completely trust LSS to work on my behalf. And it was amazing to have my interest rate lowered! Once I am done with my DMP I plan to start an emergency savings and use that money for my retirement years. No more paper route for me!

LSS helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

At LSS we pride ourselves on gathering real testimonials from actual clients. Click button to read more.

R

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