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.

You Are So Lucky

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Whenever I get into a conversation with friends or coworkers about credit card debt and tell them I paid off my debt over two years ago, I will typically hear the response, "You're so lucky."  While it may seem lucky, I think most of you will agree that getting out of debt has very little to do with luck, and more to do with sacrifice, struggle, and wanting to sometimes pull your hair out of your head. 

You’re So Lucky…Do I feel lucky?  Absolutely.  I have managed to keep my job throughout this recession, am in a healthy relationship, and have no health problems that could have set me back financially.  However, my journey out of debt, like many others' journey, was long and had its ups and downs.

My debt accumulated after I moved from Massachusetts to Los Angeles - I was 25 years old and decided to be a struggling actor.  Before that, I rarely used credit cards and never held a balance on any of them.  Once in Los Angeles, I had only $100 left, with no job, no car, and no family close by.  I rented a car for a few days and put it on my credit card.  Shortly thereafter, I landed a job waiting tables at a restaurant.  Now I needed to buy a car.  The dealer told me I wasn't a good candidate for a loan because I hadn't worked or lived in the area for very long and had no savings or down payment.  For the price of $4,000, he told me I could put it on my credit card.  And so I did...and so began my debt woes.

I knew better about money, but didn't think it was too much of an issue.  I figured I'd start working at my job and pay off the debt.  The problem was that I was barely making enough to pay my regular bills.  I didn't buy extras, but looking back, I should have worked two jobs right away.  My interest rate at that time was around 14%, so I decided to get a personal loan with an interest rate of 10% to pay off the debt.  I worked my waiting job at night so I could audition during the day.  I'd try to pick up extra shifts to help with the loan and was looking for a second job, but still wasn't making ends meet.   So, even though I paid off the initial debt, I was still using my credit cards for groceries, gas, etc.

Flash forward to age 33.  I'm $13,000 in debt with nothing to show for it.  Another actor friend of mine told me about CareOne.  He completed the plan and was debt free, but for some reason, I was hesitant.  The thought of living without a credit card was just too scary.  I was dependent on them for so much, yet I hated that I couldn't pay them off and had no savings to speak of.  It was overwhelming. 

A few months later, I decided to search for a full-time job so I could get serious about life and my finances.  Before this though, I had put another $4,000 on my credit card for my Pilates certification.  My 34th birthday was in December and I started my 600-hour apprenticeship the following January.  In March of that same year, I landed a full-time position at the company where I am still employed (I was already working there part-time).  They needed a Purchasing Assistant.  Even though it only paid $12.50 an hour, I knew I could create a budget off of that, and was going to start teaching Pilates for extra income. 

I found I could make an additional $700 -$900 per month teaching, and decided to teach four nights a week and on Saturdays, in addition to my job.  This was when I called CareOne and started my journey out of debt through the DMP.  At this time, my debt had accumulated to around $18,000.  Those first few months, as most of you know, were really the toughest. 

I would meticulously watch and plan as I saw my debt drop month-by-month, payment-by-payment.  It was exciting.  I was working like crazy and rarely went out, but for the first time in nine years I had a grip on my finances.  I had what I call my "emergency fund" of $500 in case I needed it.  It came in handy when my car died just seven months into the plan.  I'll get into that story in another post.  I also remember starting a 401k at my job, was later promoted, and started a savings account.  Eventually, I was also able to cut back on my teaching hours and had a social life.  I later met and moved in with my boyfriend, which also helped to cut back expenses.  It was a freeing experience and it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.

I was debt free by age 38, and I turned 41 this past December.  I do encourage others who are struggling with debt to get into the plan even though I also understand the hesitation in taking that first step and how scary it can be.  I still have a few friends who have been riding the fence with their own debt for years now.  Occasionally, they will ask me questions about CareOne and my experience with the company as they contemplate their decision.  The truth is, even though all of our journeys are different, our destinations are the same.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, and even though it wasn't luck that brought you to that destination, you will certainly feel lucky once you've reached it.  I am grateful and happy to be debt free and wish all of you the best of "luck" on your path to achieving the same.      

Related Links:

Resource Guides: Educate Yourself to Become Debt Free 

Understanding a Debt Management Plan

Finding the Blessing in the Curse

 Cheryl BigosCheryl Bigos

Cheryl is a graduate of the CareOne Debt Management plan. She will be sharing her experience since she successfully completed the Debt Management plan. Being in debt is hard, but once you are debt-free, staying that way is no easy task. Find great tips, tricks and strategies to stay on financial track with her posts under the My Journey out of Debt blog. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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  • Thank you Cheryl, for these encouraging words.  I can relate to your post. I  have been in Care One's DMP  for 1 year with 2 years to go.

    In the beginning it was very hard. But it is getting easier and I look  forward to my day of "graduation" and sharing my experience with others as you have done.  This is currently a journey of patience and reflection for me. After this journey is over... I can trully say that debt will not be a part of my future journey, thanks to Care One and a little preserverance.

  • Congratulations PET021002 on taking that first step!  Perserverance is definitely part of the process.  Best wishes to you on your journey!

  • Wow, thank you for sharing your inspiring story.  You are definitely correct it isn't luck that brought you to where you are now.  It was hard work and you deserve to feel lucky now!!  I am about to make my 13th month payment.  It is exciting watching my debt go down, it makes me want to pay more to watch it happen faster.  I truly appreciate you coming back and sharing your success.  It truly inspires me!

  • Mdavis1964, you have also been an inspiration to many people going through the program!  Glad to see the DMP is working out well for you.  Best Wishes and have a great holiday!

  • I can understand and celebrate with you.  We (hubby and I) graduated a week ago after 4 years and $40k in debt.  The feeling of relief and weight being lifted is huge.  You are so right about it not being easy, and the sacrifice and commitment is a real crunch sometimes, but the end result is so worth the hard work.  Neither one of us have any desire to have debt again.  Really is a liberating experience!  Thanks for the inspiration!

  • thank you for sharing your story Cheryl. It encourages me.  I have been in the program for a year now, and hopefully will someday be a "graduate" of the plan. It has helped so much. CareOne is the best!

  • Congratulations sj1384!  I'm sure it feels great knowing that monthly payment will be all yours!  Best wishes to you and your husband, and thanks for the comment!

  • MeMeof3, thanks for your post.  I'm glad it's encouraging other people to keep going.  It really does go by faster than you think!  Best wishes to you on your journey!

  • Great encouraging story!  I too am a graduate of CareOne and can relate to a lot of your experiences!!!! CareOne is just AWEOSME!!!!

  • Thank you for sharing your story.  I have 3 years left in my DMP with CareOne.  It has been a huge relief having one monthly payment and knowing that I am on my way to a debt free life.  My problem has always been paying everything off then charging again.  Now I have definitely learned my lesson and will not do that anymore.  I am having my first child in June and I want to be able to buy a home for us and save for his/her college and future.  Hopefully, the next 3 years will swing by.

  • Congratulations cdbrown8, and best wishes to you on your debt-free future!

    tbronx75, it will go by faster than you think.  Congratulations on your baby, and glad Care One is working for you!

  • For those of you with me, those who are getting closer and closer to the goal of wiping out this debt, please take a moment with me and enjoy the feeling of knowing that this day is coming.

  • Your final payment has been made, and you've contacted your CareOne representative to let them know you will be finished with your plan. Wow! You are officially debt free!

  • Now, we aren't experts in camping and don't own an RV or anything, but basic camping with a tent can be a relatively inexpensive and great way to vacation - especially if you have children.

  • While you're paying down debt, the sacrifices are big, and the wait is sometimes long. But when you're done, it's really great knowing you can treat yourself to something you've truly earned that you won't regret.

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