Archive

ShareThis Page
With discipline, plan, woman shakes off debt | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

With discipline, plan, woman shakes off debt

ptrtompor110214
Tanya LaPrad, left, is photographed with her financial counselor Bettina Bartolo at Green Path Debt Solutions in Monroe, Mich., Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. 'You have to budget everything,' LaPrad said. 'I don't spend extra on those things like I used to.' (Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press/MCT)
ptrtompor2110214
A client's credit card statement of a debt just under $12,000 shows that, if payed at the minimum amount, it will take 53 years to pay off at a cost of $62,000. (Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Tanya LaPrad’s story of dealing with about $20,000 in credit card debt has all the makings of CNBC show like “Til Debt Do Us Part” or a Suze Orman segment of “Can I Afford It?” where the answer is most definitely, “Denied.”

But LaPrad, 43, is willing to share bits and pieces of her drama because the Detroit-area mom eventually did find a way out.

She’s proud she has learned to stop saying, “Oh, well, I’ll just charge it” when it comes to buying clothes for her two children.

Last year, her daughter, who was a senior in high school, used her own money from her job at Little Caesars Pizza to pay for her prom dress.

By working with a debt counselor, LaPrad paid off the Discover card, the JCPenney card and the rest of her credit card debt and now carries about $800 in debt on one credit card.

“She took charge of it. She was really committed to paying this debt down,” said Bettina Bartolo, a financial counselor for GreenPath Debt Solutions.

LaPrad was named the 2014 GreenPath Client of the Year after completing her debt management plan. Her story is worth hearing, even if it only motivates some consumers to simply stop and reconsider how they’re using credit cards. It’s far too easy to get into trouble charging groceries and clothes than many want to admit.

When LaPrad started working with GreenPath four years ago, she had interest charges alone of $358 a month. She went through a divorce and was making about $30,000 a year as a cardiovascular technician, as well as working part-time as a yoga and fitness instructor.

On her Discover card, LaPrad owed about $11,900 — just $100 or so short of maxing out on a card with a $12,000 line of credit. The annual rate was 19.9 percent. It would have taken her 53 years to pay just that one card off by paying only the minimum of $235 a month.

As part of the debt management plan, GreenPath negotiated the rate on the Discover card down to 6.9 percent. But the minimum payment was not reduced.

Bartolo said each creditor has different policies for concessions. Some creditors might agree to reduce the minimum payment, too, with interest rates; others do not.

Under LaPrad’s plan, her total interest charges on the $20,000 in debt dropped to $108 a month from $358 a month after concessions. That freed up $250 to go toward principal and other bills each month.

LaPrad said it wasn’t easy making her payments each month. She paid $50 a month to GreenPath for the program. But she said the fee was worthwhile because she received substantially lower interest charges.

“I knew how much would be coming out each month, which helped with my budget.”

LaPrad has faced a troubled mortgage and her monthly expenses exceeded her income by about $400. Fortunately, she worked to negotiate a modification for her mortgage and received help through a community action agency that offers foreclosure prevention counseling.

Before her divorce, she put $10,000 of her husband’s debt on a newly opened, 0 percent rate credit card, in her name.

“He started charging groceries and more, and things got out of control,” she said. “It was a struggle. It was a control thing.”

During the marriage, she fell into a trap of trying to fix credit card problems by closing one credit card and opening another at ultra-low interest rates for a set time. But the charging continued, rates went higher, the money troubles got worse, and marriage problems grew.

In 2012, she might have given up on the debt plan when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She had lost time at work. But she felt she was so close to paying off those bills that she decided to keep going and never missed a debt management payment.

“It would have been so easy to say, ‘I’m done,’ ” she said.

Yet family and friends helped out with a fundraiser when she got sick; she got help with some bills; friends made dinners, which helped her tremendously.

“She was going to do it, no matter what,” Bartolo said.

LaPrad was able to pay off her debt in 33 months — more than two years earlier than originally expected.

“You have to budget everything,” LaPrad said. “I don’t spend extra on those extra things like I used to. I love to shop — and who doesn’t?”

Now that she’s healthy, she tries to pick up extra jobs to fill her time and add extra money to her wallet. “It’s not a good feeling to be under that much debt,” she said.

Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.