Winner Stories

Tiffany Pedroza Family

I don’t know how this happened. I had a little bit of credit card debt when I graduated college, and I married a man who had a little credit card debt of his own. Then we added college debt, a new car and a home into the mix. I wasn’t indulgent, everything we bought were items we really needed. I got more and more nervous opening our credit card statements, so I started just throwing them out and paying the minimum payment online. Plenty of time to pay that off when we were older, right? Then the baby came, and of course, we needed things for him. The big change came a few months ago, when I got laid off from teaching, a job I have loved to do for the last five years. All of a sudden, I realized we were trapped in a dark, deep hole of our own making. I realized I had to face up to our debt, so I opened our credit card statements and was shocked to realize some of them have a 25% interest rate. It didn’t take long for the reality to sink in: we would never pay these cards off the way we were going. The first step I took was to make a household budget. It may sound surprising, but I had never done that before. I actually had to run an internet search to figure out how budgets work. I could immediately see that we were being really wasteful in some areas of our lives. It makes me sick to think of the things we were wasting money on. I began to change our wasteful habits by only buying secondhand clothes and discounted food, renting movies instead of going out and canceling our cable. Still, with such high interest rates we aren’t making a dent in our principal balance. I’m ready for that to change. I don’t want to waste money, but I don’t understand how to fix a 25% interest rate. A little help would go a long way with our family. We are willing to make sacrifices. I want us to be out of debt so we can cancel some of these cards and start saving for our son’s education.

PeterMcCarthy Family

I am making a change in my life because it is the right thing to do. I appreciate the power and freedom in doing what is right- standing up to the promises that I have made and following through on them. A lot of people use credit in desperation to make ends meet and I was one of them. My family was broken up through a bitter divorce that was difficult to cope with emotionally and financially. To get through the divorce, I overextended myself on credit to the point where I was seriously in debt without a good plan to pay down that debt balance. I have resolved to do two very simple and easy things to get out of that debt: (1) realign my lifestyle and financial decisions to match the level of income and meet my current financial obligations and (2) aggressively pay down the debt with the assistance of a consumer credit counseling agency. It originally seemed to me in the context of the divorce and the breakup of my family that this was just another thing complicating my life. But in reflecting upon my situation and in prayer, I came to the realization that I want to actively stand up to the promises that I made and follow through on them, mostly to encourage that behavior in my children. I made some poor choices that landed me in debt and though I could use the divorce as a crutch and say it is not my fault, I have decided to make the right choices now and start over with a good solid plan to pay off what I owe. It really feels liberating to do so- probably the hardest part was getting to the point of making the decision. But I have been pleased to find out that there are lots of resources out there to help me make that plan, to help inform me of the choices that I needed to make and to support me in my plan to get out of debt and start my financial life over and do things the right way from here on out. And I hope and pray that my actions will be an example to my children and anyone else who is struggling with debt right now.

The Suttons Family

A person never thinks about how cancer can change every facet of their life until it actually happens. At that point, the financial path you’re walking upon suddenly becomes impassable with costs coming at you from every direction. My wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice. Chemo, radiation, and surgery were absolute necessities. If only we’d known five years before the fact that we’d need to start saving for the medical bills we’d face. Even with health insurance we still found ourselves thousands of dollars in debt. Today most, but not quite all, of those bills are paid off. We’re nearly as financially free as we’ve ever been. But our credit history has been damaged; we still need to pay off the last of the bills to begin the repairing process in earnest. That process needs to begin ASAP; the oldest of our three daughters is less than two years away from beginning college. We’ll find a way to pay for their education; my wife and I will do whatever is necessary. But $5,000 would be a very, very good start for us.

Milhoan Family

I wish I knew then what I know now. I remember hearing that when I was growing up, and I wish I had been listening. I did all the things that I thought I should- graduated, went to college and obtained a lot of debt. Last part sounds funny doesn't it? I didn't really understand credit at the old age of 18 and I thought it made me grown up to have credit cards. It just turned into a series of mishaps and I stumbled along the way. I won't bore anyone with details, but when you graduate college it is not a good idea to have debt that will take 3 years salary to pay off. A fast forward into my future I got married had children then KABOOM had a divorce (oh the wonderful things that will become of your credit after that!). I was so very lucky to be reunited with and marry my high school sweetheart (insert the awws here). We are working very hard a rebuilding our life together, but the credit is holding us back. We have a big family, five children to be exact, so their needs come first (needs not wants mind you). We would like to buy our first home since we are desperately running out of space in the one we are currently renting, but even with a down payment, it is just out of our grasp.
My husband and I are trying very hard at paying down our debt left from our previous marriages and not repeating any of our past mistakes. We anxiously wait for the day when our credit scores are an elusive beacon of 750. Most importantly we have begun teaching our children about credit and savings. Our most creative teaching tool was a game called "show me the money" where our children learned about interest on loans, interest on savings and what it takes to achieve their goals. I want my children to grow up knowledgeable about their credit and never will they have to utter the phrase "I wish I knew then what I know now."

Nicole Carmichael Family

I am a struggling 35 year old single mom and part time college student doing everything right- but everything wrong is happening to me. Three years ago I purchased my first home by educating myself on paying off my debt, writing letters to correct or to delete incorrect information to the credit reporters, while maintaining the good credit I had. I also went to first time homebuyers seminars to help me purchase the best home for me and my daughter. I was able to afford my house and a new car at the time until I was laid off in 2008. I have been able to maintain my credit after a voluntary repossession of my car, late payments on my house due to bank errors, and multiple temporary jobs. My income is drastically less than what I was making when I purchased my house. I don’t want to lose my house, I think that is why I am so eager to pay off my debt just in case I have to move from my house and start all over again. I have friends and family telling me to stop paying my creditors because it’s not worth not having groceries or gas, just to pay a bill I can’t borrow from anymore. But I feel I am too close to paying my debt off to give up now. I have met with a non-profit company to assist me with paying off all of my debt so that I can have one monthly payment, but that will take about three years to complete. The same programs that helped me get into my house are trying to help me stay in my house. But until my mortgage is up to date, I can't consolidate my bills to have one monthly payment. I feel that I am in between a rock and a hard place. I'm constantly looking for a better paying job while in school, taking one class at a time online, to better myself during this economic crisis. Every chance I get I am reading info on how to keep my credit good but I can't continue to do this to myself and my daughter every day, month and year. There has to be a better way to handle all of this debt and live without the burden so that I don’t lose my house and/or my credit score dives below 500. I'm hurting on the inside but praying every day that it has to get better. I have truly learned from my mistakes and will definitely encourage anyone who will listen, especially my daughter on how important your credit is and will be your entire life.

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