How it started:
Ten years ago I would never have thought I’d be in the situation I now find myself in. My name is Lucy and here is my story.... My husband Mark and I were living quite comfortably, enjoying nights out on the town, spontaneous spending sprees and going on first class vacations when we were first married. We never argued about money because there was plenty to spend AND save. I developed a successful career in medical sales, and with a Master’s Degree, taught as an adjunct Professor at a local college. I was very independent with my money and liked it like that! My husband was a successful software engineer with a bright and promising future. As a double income couple, we would take trips, completely furnished our new home and gave gifts generously. We invested somewhat, but always knew we had the earning potential to make more.
A picture from one of our vacations in the Caribbean, before the credit card debt....Then we started a family and were reduced to one income. Mark’s company was no longer using consultants so to retain his job with the firm; he had to sign on to be an employee. You would not think that was a bad thing right?? But at a pay cut of over HALF, it was a huge financial burden. Our usual spending habits did not change and money started getting tight. My husband enjoyed all the latest in electronics and TV equipment in our home and a new car. Now we had 2 children in the equation with diapers, formula, fancy jogger strollers, baby music classes and a mini van to cart the kids in. With the kids also came my new friends, the neighborhood moms.
I was used to spending, having my own money and making purchases for whatever I needed and wanted at the mall or even online. On our single reduced income, however, it was getting tight, so I relied on my credit cards more and more. I was too proud to tell my husband I “needed” more money. I knew what he’d say and I didn’t want to hear it. I made more than the minimum payments monthly on credit cards, but charged more than that each month. I was slowly getting behind the eight ball and I was already too embarrassed to tell my husband about my recklessness with our already limited cash flow. After all I was an adult, I should know how to responsibly manage our money, right?
My friends were all home with their kids, could go out to lunch when they wanted, shop till they dropped, and I followed suit. Only I was really pretending to be like them. On our weekly trips to the mall, or to one of our local favorite restaurants in town, I soon began to feel a wave of anxiety rush over me when I would hand over my credit card to be charged. My wallet certainly was not like it used to be and I started to feel pressure to “keep up”.
Over the years, I became more frustrated that I could not “keep up” the extravagant façade of the happy homemaker and shopaholic who always bought the best for her family. Mark and I argued more at home over simple little things and money issues started to come up. When it became too stressful to shop in person at the mall, I moved onto the internet, where it was easy to purchase items with the click of the mouse. Mark was never home during the day, so packages were sometimes easier to hide than the dozens of shopping bags piling up in the corner of our room. As my credit card balances increased so did my stress and unhappiness. Spending money to keep up with the Jones soon started to lose its appeal. A few bad business deals and our nest egg was gone with just the bare necessities monthly to get by. Now I could not even make minimum payments and my secret was about to explode. The phone kept ringing and my husband was suspicious why I was not running to answer the phone as usual. The collectors were calling, sending threatening letters. I tried everything to keep this burden under wraps. I’d run to the mailbox daily to intercept the bad news the mailman had deposited and I even started to unplug the phone at certain times of the day when I knew the collectors would be calling. I never thought my debts would get that out of hand!
Starting to panic, I sold some old jewelry hoping to pay off some balances but it barely touched the tip of the iceberg. I’d always considered myself a healthy person so when my health started to take a turn for the worse from the stress of hiding my shameful debt, which over 10 years had grown to over $24,300, I knew I couldn’t hide this from my husband for long. I wanted to tell Mark who had been downsized and stressed out over his own job security, but how could I add more stress onto him I wondered?? It all came crashing down when he accidentally opened up a credit card bill reading “URGENT” on the envelope thinking it was his.
I walked in the door after another excursion to the local department store only to find him in the doorway with my credit card bill in hand. My house of cards had tumbled down while I was out buying my last pair of Cole Haan shoes! I crumpled into a heap crying and this would be only the first of many admissions of my guilt. There was more, much more he was horrified to learn. All those talks of fantastic sales and great buys were over. My frivolity had to stop immediately and he demanded my credit cards for our own good.
No more spending! Mark made me get rid of the cards once and for all to combat our mounting debts!!
But how could I ever tell my so-called friends I was grounded? This was the common bond of sisterhood we all shared. How could I be accepted if I can’t go to lunch at the bistro in town and brag about a great pair of Manolo’s I just bought? I was always known as the best dressed out of all of my friends! What would they do if they saw me wearing last year’s Marc Jacob’s blouse, or saw me buying drugstore hair dye? I could never tell them about my financial problems because they would not understand. Embarrassed, I told them an endless amount of manufactured reasons to avoid our favorite and only pastime we all enjoyed together. Sometimes I told them I was sick, other times I said I had a family obligation to attend to, and a few times I avoided my phone and email altogether. Little by little, they stopped calling and I was so lonely. I buried myself in shame and I was really depressed. I was so upset over the situation I had gotten my family into; I couldn’t even fathom getting a job to help out. I felt like I was a burden on the people I loved. Long gone are the days when I could afford to buy more of these shoes!
We no longer accepted social invitations with friends for the Saturday night dinner, knowing our part of the bill with our extravagant friends would now be well beyond our means. My stomach churned daily and my weight soared as I turned to food for comfort. Sadly, the only phone calls we received were from bill collectors, one after another filling up our voice mailbox. Then there were family events we could not attend, gifts we could not purchase, new tires for an old mini van that would not be purchased once again, home repairs that would go undone… our spirits were broken.
It was also so hard to hide the fighting from the kids. They knew we didn’t order out that much anymore, and pizza deliveries were now saved for a very special occasion. They could not always participate in the activities that used to fill up their schedules. We tried to keep our money troubles from them the best we could. I started clipping coupons for the first time in my life to provide them with the snacks and special treats they enjoyed and Mark tried to find fun free events in our community to take them to. I even learned how to cook so I could try to make them their favorite foods!! Our efforts to shield them from the very real troubles around them were successful at first. My kids loved the pizza I started to make on Friday nights and had a lot of fun having more time to spend with their dad on weekends at the local park. However, my kids soon caught on what was going on. It hurt me to deprive them of the things they loved like video games and tickets to baseball games in the city. When my one son learned we could no longer afford to shop in the local surf shop, he was crushed. He wanted to keep up with his friends at the private school we scrambled to make tuition payments to. But in the end, we made due in some “upscale” second hand stores I found and the kids were upset.
Finding a Solution:
One night while on a social web site, my old college friend, Tina got back in touch with me. She and I had lost touch over the years and I was so happy to reconnect with someone-anyone! I was so alone with my debt problem and had no solution in sight. Not knowing my town, friends and social circumstances, I confessed to her our terrible situation I had gotten us into. I blabbed to her for hours the stress it has put on my family and on my marriage, which was shaky at best. She patiently listened without judgment and was so positive and encouraging that it would all work. She in fact just last year had a great experience with DEBT SETTLEMENT. She recommended I contact 1on1Debt and they would help me to reduce my credit card debt and set me on the right path. I was a little skeptical at first because it seemed too good to be true, but after hearing my friend’s story I was immediately swayed! She suggested I give them a call to talk to them myself. That night, I prayed as I do every night that my debts would finally be relieved. The next morning when I woke up, I had new sense of optimism that I had not had in years and I decided to make the phone call! This phone call turned my life around in a positive direction and I learned a valuable lesson in humility and honesty. 1on1Debt was able to create a completely individualized program for me to decrease my credit card debt with the reassurance and support I had been seeking for over 10 years! With one payment a month I can see the progress I am making turning my mountain of debt into a small hill one payment at a time thanks to a long lost friend from college and wonderful people at 1on1Debt: DEBT SETTLEMENT COMPANY.
Please visit them here to find out about all of their services and how they can help you too!
If anyone has used 1on1Debt please comment and share your story with me!