Counseling, Consolidation and Recovery – My Debt Story

by Kay Lynn

Debt Word Cloud

My first marriage ended in divorce and it resulted in a big financial change for my kids and me.  I resisted this change and continued our normal spending patterns thinking it was punishing the kids to change their lifestyle.  You can probably guess how that ended.

I accumulated a lot of debt and hope my experience can help others avoid making the same mistakes.

Debt Story

The first couple of years after my husband and I split up, our standard of living stayed the same.  It wasn’t lavish, but I would buy my kids new clothes when they needed them, insisted on a nice apartment in a good school district and paid for costly sports.

There weren’t vacations other than staycations or visiting family.  If I didn’t have cash which happened often, out came the plastic.

At first, I kept up  with the credit card payments but the balances kept getting higher and higher.  Eventually, I was unable to make ends meet and avoiding collection calls.


It’s amazing how many people put their heads in the ground when debt becomes overwhelming.  It’s because of shame, embarrassment and the feeling of failure.

Finally I admitted I needed help and turned to credit counseling.  I contacted the local chapter of a national nonprofit credit counseling organization.  It was relief just to share the situation with someone.

We developed a budget together and came up with a payment plan.  They helped me consolidate my debt into one monthly payment that was manageable.  The organization also convinced most of the lenders to eliminate or reduce the interest rate.


I eventually paid off all my consumer debt after a few years.  My goal wasn’t to be eliminate all obligations though.  I thought as long as I had a reasonable amount of debt and had no trouble making monthly payments,  there was no problem.

Planning for my retirement headed onto the path of becoming debt-free for life.  I haven’t made it yet, but will eliminate all non-mortgage debt in a few months.  Within five years I won’t have any debt for the first time in decades.

Reflecting on my debt story keeps me focused and motivated.  What helps you on the path to eliminate debt or stay debt-free?

Photo: Attribution Some rights reserved by Vectorportal

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Money Beagle September 16, 2011 at 6:20 am

Setting small goals along the way makes eliminating debt attainable in the short run and long run. Sometimes people give up because the numbers are too big, but I find that putting measurable steps along the way keeps you going. Celebrate each accomplishment (but not by going into more debt, of course!) for a job well done.

Jon -- Free Money Wisdom September 18, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I agree with you, Money Beagle. Those small goals are essential to accomplishing the big picture. Baby steps!

Maggie@SquarePennies September 16, 2011 at 7:09 am

We remain debt free because it is freedom. We are free to live within our means. We can enjoy some things without worrying about paying off the bill. It feels good and we don’t want to change that.

krantcents September 16, 2011 at 7:39 am

I am debt free except for a small mortgage. It gives me many more choices in life. Add in a low profile lifestyle and I can max out my retirement savings.

The Happy Homeowner September 16, 2011 at 8:23 am

I agree with Maggie about having more freedom and MB about setting smaller goals along the way. I continue to keep myself consumer debt free because I remember how hard I worked to dig myself out of the $14K in credit card debt that I had foolishly accumulated!

Thomas | Imperial September 16, 2011 at 11:07 am

I looked into a debt program once and though it was going to help with the monthly payments in the end it was going to cost me 3 times as much as I actually owed. My wife and I just took what we had in savings and paid off the settlements with the companies. Being debt free has been such a relief.

Danielle Liss September 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm

CCCS AND planning hideous credit card snuff films as each card gets paid off. Ain’t nothing pretty about my feelings toward my debt and KILLING it.

Niki September 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

We just recently became credit card debt free and I think what will keep us this way is thinking of our future and travel plans. I don’t want to worry about money, like I did a couple years ago, for the rest of my life.

Hunter @ Financially Consumed September 17, 2011 at 7:11 am

Maggies is absolutely correct, being debt free equates to personal freedom. Of course, we will never escape taxes, but at least we don’t owe a lousy bank.

I enjoyed reading your story Kay Lynn. Thank you.

Bret @ Hope to Prosper September 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

This is a great story Kay Lynne. So many people either igonre the debt problem or try to bail out. Paying off the debt is much harder, but it’s more likely to end with a permanent resolution. People who refinance or BK are way more likely to wind up back in debt.

Squirrelers September 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Thanks for sharing your personal story. We’re all human, and we make mistakes. We can also learn from them, which makes your story even better.

For me, it’s about thinking worst case when old. I do not want to be older, having health problems, and short on money. That thought motivates me the most.

shanendoah@Baking the Budget September 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm

The only debt we currently have is the mortgage, student loans, and the 1 yr SAC financing on the work in the basement that should prevent the flooding (we had the cash to pay that all at once, but figured if they’d give us free money for a year, we’d take it).
What is left of our debt will take years to pay off, so I set milestones along the way. I actually just hit one last week (and have a post about it). I am also part of a money message board that serves as a support group for debt payoff and that helps me tremendously, as well.

First Gen American September 19, 2011 at 5:59 pm

I guess I have been lucky growing up with an extremely modest lifestyle. It makes most of my spending seem like a luxury even though I still don’t have a lot of the latest gadgets.

Wow..I didn’t realize you were so close to debt freedom. We’ll have to celebrate when you finally get there. I’m so excited for you.

Evan September 21, 2011 at 8:41 am

Did your kids appreciate the change in mom’s plan? or were they resistant?

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