CareOne Community Member Spotlight - "cher47917"

My Journey out of Debt

Featured customers currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Relief Plan, share journey to become debt-free; hear how they juggle family, finances, and more.

CareOne Community Member Spotlight - "cher47917"

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Welcome back to the CareOne Community Member Spotlight! We are placing the spotlight on some of the familiar members you see engaging in the Community.

These members have graciously offered up their time to let me interview them about their personal stories, tips for success on the plans and more.

Cheryl Bigos

This month I have interviewed Cheryl Bigos; you may know her as cher47917.

Pictured at left is Cheryl, our very first Debt Management Plan GRADUATE blogger!

Why did you decide to seek professional help with your debt?

In March 2004, I had just started a full-time job as a Purchasing Assistant where I am still employed, and was later promoted to Purchasing Manager.  I was overwhelmed with debt and had just started a 600-hour apprenticeship program to teach Pilates.  A friend of mine had told me about CareOne a few months earlier, and I was hesitant because I knew I'd have to get rid of the credit cards that I was so dependent on for day-to-day expenses.

I waited until I could start teaching in addition to my full-time job.  The Pilates brought in an extra $700-$900 per month and I decided to teach every night after work except Fridays, and also taught Saturday mornings.  I read in a financial column that if you're trying to pay down debt, a $500 financial cushion should be enough to cover most costs.  I had my cushion saved in July of that year, which is when I called CareOne and started the plan.

What reservations did you have about enrolling in a Debt Management Plan?

I was concerned that it would affect my credit score.  Although I had a lot of debt, I never missed a payment and worried about my payments getting in on time and by the due date, etc.  But, my biggest concern was that I wouldn't be able to live on cash alone.  I had depended on credit cards just to live, so the thought of not having those to rely on was very scary for me.  However, after about six months, I found I could cut costs and make my payments on time as long as I paid close attention to my spending habits.

What kind of challenges did you face once you were on the Debt Management Plan?

My car died just a few months into the plan.  I thought, "You've got to be kidding me."  This is where the $500 came in handy.  It wasn't much, but it was a start.  I managed to save another $200 on top of that, so I had a little bit of a down payment.  Now I had to figure out if I could really afford a car payment on top of my DMP payment. 

I redid my budget and figured I could pay approximately $300 a month if I added a couple more hours of teaching Pilates on Saturdays.  I researched my credit report through annualcreditreport.com.  My credit score was good, but my bank wouldn't give me a car loan because my debt-to-income ratio was too high.   I was told I could get a loan through the dealership, but they would probably haggle me to death.  I researched car salesmen on the internet so I could figure out exactly what they were going to do, say, etc., and my experience negotiating with vendors at my job helped also.

 I purchased a certified used car and was able to negotiate the price of the car down so that my monthly payment was $296 per month, with a down payment of $500.  This left me with $200 in savings.  When I received a small yearly bonus from work a month later, I decided to put it in my emergency fund. 

What tips would you give to someone just starting out on the DMP?

  1. Keep your eye on the prize.  I remember thinking when I first started how long five years was going to feel.  However, I also realized that there was a finish line.  Try not to think of what you "can't do," but what "are doing" to put yourself in a better financial situation.  You have to remind yourself that without the program you could stay in debt forever and just accumulate more of it.   It goes by faster than you think.
  2. Track your finances.  Just because you're on a DMP doesn't mean you're no longer responsible for your payments.  Check your statements, track your expenses, and if you notice a problem, contact CareOne right away.  It is not CareOne's responsibility to track your credit card statements.
  3. Increase your monthly payment if/when you can.  When I became settled in the plan and found I had extra cash here and there, I would increase my monthly payment.  I started with $10, and then increased it by $20, until my payment was $80 more per month than required.  I also made extra payments with my tax refund every year.  This cut my payment period back from four years and nine months to just under four years. 
  4. Stick to a budget.  I know some people like to keep a credit card for emergencies while on the DMP, but I would suggest not doing that if possible.  Just as you track your payments, you should be tracking your expenses so you can stay on your budget - especially in the beginning.  If you are in a position to have a small emergency fund, try and use it just for that - emergencies only.

How have you managed to stay debt free since completing the plan?

The most important yet simple motto that's worked for me is this, "If I can't afford to pay for it with cash, then I can't afford it."  I have a friend who has paid off her debt twice, only to build it right back up again. 

This is why I think CareOne has a great plan.  It really forces you to look at your finances in a different way, get rid of your credit cards, and learn to live on cash.  If you don't change your spending habits, the vicious cycle will continue.  I don't use credit cards anymore.  That's not to say I never will, but I don't think they're necessary. 

I've already built up a credit history through renting apartments and paying the gas bill, cable bill, a car loan, and my old credit cards.  I use my debit card in place of credit cards and it works out well.   I also save the monthly payment I used to make to CareOne and save more when I can. 

I did, however, allow myself a $200 shopping spree when I was finished.  I only ended up spending $107, but it was a great treat to give to myself.  Even then, I went to a discount shopping store and made sure I didn't pay full price for anything. 

It's a wonderful, freeing experience being debt free, and I look forward to connecting with those of you on your journeys!

Please look for Cheryl's blogs discussing what life is like after the successful completion of a Debt Management Plan. Cheryl will be featured in the My Journey ouf of Debt blog.

More Community Member Spotlights:

Suzanne CoblentzSuzanne Coblentz

Suzanne Coblentz is a CareOne Community moderator and works in the Social Media department. If you are interested in being profiled or have some feedback about the CareOne Community please feel free to email her directly at scoblentz@CareOneCredit.com

 

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  • Thank you for sharing your experience.  It helps those of us still on the program trying to see the light.  Congratulations to you and I look forward to hearing more.  Keep up the great work.  :-)

  • Thanks mdavis!

  • We are continuing our featured segment for the My Journey out of Debt blog; CareOne Community Member Spotlight!

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