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Gail grew up with no concept of money management. Her parents lived hand to mouth and worked as many as seven jobs at a time to support their family (Gail and her younger sister). Gail started babysitting and helping people clean their homes at 11 years old just to help her parents.
When Gail married October 1983, she had a bachelor’s degree, a great job, and no debt. She married a man that had several thousand dollars of debt. “I thought together we would turn that all around,” she says. “We did not talk in depth about our finances before we married. BIG mistake.” In April 1996, after almost 13 years of marriage, Gail and her husband split up, primarily from financial difficulties.
Gail and her two young sons barely survived on a paycheck-to-paycheck existence. With a salary of $16,000 a year and no child support at the time, Gail began to use credit cards, particularly the ones that were offered at a 0-percent interest.
“I would run up one card, using it mostly to purchase food and other necessities, and pay it off with the next offer that arrived in the mail,” says Gail. “Each card had limits between $3,000 and $5,000, and I eventually went over the limit with all of them.”
Soon, Gail’s 16-year-old car broke down, and she had to buy another vehicle. She purchased it with a loan at 12-percent interest. At the first of every month, Gail would cry and pray because she had to pay rent, the car payment, and utility bills, as well as the four credit card payments. She was stressed beyond description because of her financial condition. On occasion, her church, along with family and friends, stepped in to help her financially.
Eventually, Gail found herself in approximately $35,000 debt. She despaired that she was unable to provide adequately for her teenage sons. As far as she could tell, her financial future would always be this way. “I felt hopeless about the whole thing,” Gail says.
Beating the Debt Monster
Over the next eight years, Gail’s income improved significantly, but she still found herself struggling to make ends meet. Eventually, she went to a credit counseling organization that worked with the credit card companies to reduce her interest rates and to accept a lower payment. Several months after signing up, Gail learned that she made a terrible mistake because signing up with a credit card counseling organization was a mark against her on her credit report. However, through that program, Gail has paid off two of the four over-the-limit credit cards, and she only uses one kind of plastic these days… a debit card.
A friend gave Dave Ramsey’s Your Total Money Makeover to Gail. The book gave Gail a glimmer of hope about her financial future. “I had given up ever being able to do anything more than meet my payments and have a little extra for something special once in a while,” Gail says.
Creating an emergency fund was a new concept for Gail. “When I established that emergency fund, I actually experienced peace about my finances for the first time in about 20 years,” she says. “I have had to use the emergency fund because child support payments stopped abruptly when they shouldn’t have. That emergency fund has helped me from losing ground financially and emotionally,” says Gail.
Using Dave’s concepts, Gail is down to only $13,000 in debt.
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