In 2005, riding instructor Julie Berry hit rock bottom.
Her marriage dissolved and her equestrian business, facing a law suit, fell to pieces. She struggled from one bill to the next, and desperately turned to credit cards to tide her finances over, she tells credit.com.
But that just made matters worse. When the financial crisis began, Berry’s credit lines shrunk and her interest rates spiked. She began to miss payments and her small amount of savings was quickly cut in half. Before she knew it, her eight cards were carrying a collective balance of nearly $US50,000.
“Everything spiraled out of control,” she said. “It was a horrible time.”
When it became unmanageable, Berry finally decided to call Cambridge Credit Counseling, where a counselor helped her formulate a plan. Here are some of the steps she took to not only pay off her debt, but also save up another $US50,000 in less than four years:
- Enrolling in a debt management plan. As part of the plan, Berry made payments of nearly $US1,000 a month, but her rates dropped to 0% on several cards and 2% to 9.9% on others.
- Making (mostly) reliable payments. Even when it was tough, Berry tried to keep up with payments that were now going mostly to her debt rather than her interest. She fell behind a few times but ended up paying off the entire debt faster than expected.
- Working to improve her credit score. Not surprisingly, Berry’s credit score nosedived from the mid- to high-700s to a low of 430 as her debt accumulated. She’s since turned an active eye to reviewing her credit reports, disputing mistakes, and monitoring her scores to turn them around.
- Refinancing her home. Slightly improved credit helped Berry recently cut the interest on her mortgage from 6.6% to 4.6%, to save $US200 a month.
- Changing careers. Berry got a fresh start in her professional life by moving away from the equestrian business and launching a line of bath products.
To read the full story of how she dug herself out of a $US50,000 credit hole, check out the article on credit.com.