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Andrew K. Johnson
Communications Manager/GreenPath Financial Wellness
Indiana Couple Welcomes 2014 Out of Debt
GreenPath Financial Wellness provides options to tame credit card bills and other debts
(FARMINGTON HILLS, MI – January 20, 2014) This past Christmas, a couple from Mishawaka, Indiana, was able to breathe a sigh of relief for the first time in years. Financial stress that they had felt for many years eased a bit, allowing them to enjoy the holidays even more.
Taking a look back, even as early as 2008, Tony and Peggy Laskowski knew that they were facing a daunting task to get their credit card debt under control.
“We were just racking up the credit card debt in 2008,” said Tony. “No matter what we did to try and pay them off, we were making minimum payments plus, and it just wasn’t enough. We didn’t want to go through bankruptcy and we weren’t going to cheat anyone out of that money.”
“I was getting calls at least twice a week reminding me that my payments were late. There was no way of getting out from underneath it without some professional help,” he concluded.
Tony and Peggy reached out to GreenPath Financial Wellness, a nation-wide, non-profit credit counseling and education organization, to help them build a budget and implement a plan to pay down their credit card debts. They had two children in college and really wanted to know that there was going to be a time that they could be out from under so much credit card debt and stress.
After reviewing their situation, GreenPath began working directly with the Laskowskis’ creditors through a debt management program. This allowed them get their interest rates reduced, eliminated their late fees and set up a workable repayment plan.
Tony recalled that, as the program got underway, he saw changes from the credit card companies. “It was nice seeing the letters of acceptance from the credit card companies,” he said. “When the smaller balances got paid off and we got the zero balance statement, it was nice seeing that.”
Originally, GreenPath determined that the Laskowskis would be able to pay off their debts in full in five years. As they entered the fourth year of their plan, the Laskowskis were able to pay off some larger balances and realized they were going to pay off their debts in 47 months, more than a year earlier than first projected.
“This was not an easy feat,” said Amanda Walker, GreenPath Midwest manager. But by working together, we helped them reach their goal,”
A little more than a year after completing their plan and paying off all their credit card debt, Tony said this past Christmas was the first time in years that they felt they didn’t need to worry so much about providing a nice holiday for their children.
“I don't think I can thank you enough for everything GreenPath has done to get us to this point,” he said. “We were in a deep hole with no way out and you brought us a ladder. It is wonderful what you do for your clients.”
GreenPath reminds everyone that January is an opportune time to review your debt situation.
“In January and February, we usually see a surge in calls from people worried about their holiday bills,” said David Flores, GreenPath personal finance counselor. “Once the excitement of the holidays has passed, they realize they need to get serious about paying off their debt in the New Year.”
Some tips from GreenPath include:
Plan Your Finances – This is an important first step to take in the New Year. An active financial plan is a tool that helps reduce spending and increase savings. “You shouldn’t simply be content with having money left over in your checking account at the end of each month,” said Flores. Developing a plan will allow more financial freedom and enable you to get through financial emergencies.
Create a Budget - A budget forces you to get your spending under control, and to “live below your means,” which is exactly what you’ll need to do to start eliminating your debt. Making little adjustments to your lifestyle can add up to big savings. “Be sure to give yourself a bit of breathing room in your budget for unexpected expenses,” said Flores.
Prioritize Your Debts – “Debts that take first priority are the ones directly related to your ability to survive, such as mortgages or auto loans,” said Flores. “If you don’t pay these loans, you can face foreclosure or repossession.” Flores recommends prioritizing payments into three categories: high priority (housing, child support, utilities, car loans); medium priority (personal secured loans, student loans, home improvement loans); and low priority (loans for household goods, credit cards, doctor bills).
Estimate Available Income – Income can be a weekly paycheck, pensions, public assistance or money you are taking out of investments. After you subtract taxes and other deductions from your total income, you will have your available income that you can work with each month.
Check Your Spending - Identify your past spending patterns by reviewing cancelled checks, receipts, and charge statements for the past two to three months. Place expenses in "fixed" or "flexible” categories. Fixed expenses occur at specific times and rarely change (car note or mortgage). Flexible expenses fluctuate from month to month, and may possibly be altered to balance the plan (credit card, utility bill).
Use Cash for New Purchases - Unless you pay off the entire balance every month, you are probably paying interest on new purchases from the date of the purchase. If you stop using your credit cards altogether, you will be able to reduce your debt more quickly. Because of compounded daily interest, it is far better to use cash for the things you need and adjust your budget to accommodate those expenses. Otherwise, it will cost you a lot more if you use credit cards and can’t afford to pay them off each month.
Review Your Plan - You should review your plan about every two to three months. Do not be surprised if, in the beginning, actual expenses are quite different from what you initially listed. Your plan will become more realistic as you continue the process.
For more information on GreenPath, or to receive a free counseling session and budget plan, call (866) 648-8122.
GreenPath Financial Wellness is a nationwide, non-profit financial organization that assists consumers with credit card debt, housing debt and bankruptcy concerns. Their customized services and attainable solutions have been helping people achieve their financial goals since 1961. Headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan, GreenPath operates more than 50 branch offices in Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona and Wyoming. GreenPath also delivers licensed services throughout the United States over the Internet and telephone. GreenPath is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA). For more information, visit www.greenpath.org.