Many people across our nation are dealing with the high cost of being poor. But there are also many of you with good jobs, bringing in regular income, but also stowing in credit card debt. One family wants you to know there is a clear way out. "I thought I was actually doing okay. But it came to a point where after you've applied for so many credit cards, you're drowning in debt. You're looking at a short sale on your home. You're looking at life-changing events," Lester Sconyers said.
Lester Sconyers told Fox 13 News he struggled with debt for years. "I thought that if I had, literally--this is going to sound embarrassing to some--but I thought literally, if I had a little bit of money in my pocket after I paid the bills, I'm doing okay. Found out that is absolutely not the right mindset to take," Sconyers said.
At one point, he said, he was living paycheck to paycheck, owed thousands to creditors and still couldn't stop spending. "In retrospect I think the limit was a $300 Gold Card. Gold Visa is what it was. I think the interest was like a 28% and I'm thinking that I'm really doing something because I can plop this card out when everybody else plops their card out so that was a bill. But that was a card that was brought about after I couldn't pay a $10,000 card and then you couldn't pay the $15,000 card and the whole reason you have this card is because no one else trusts you with their business," he said.
He said he was hopeless for years until help came along. It came in the form of his future wife, Jackie. "I knew how he felt," Jackie Sconyers said. Years ago, says Jackie, she was thousands of dollars in debt herself. "It felt like free money. I'm like, 'ooh, I got free money. I can just go somewhere and give them this card and buy something and that got me.' I think when it was all said and done at one point, I had about $10,000 worth of credit card debt, if not more from that mindset. So I had to change that. It's not free money, in fact, it's just the opposite really," she said.
The Sconyers said these days it's easy to go underwater with debt. Seemingly "free" money is everywhere. It's stuffed in your mailbox in the form of pre-approved credit applications. It's at the mall where it's almost impossible to turn down a card at your favorite store. And then there's simply overspending and under saving. Jackie said she learned the hard way and Garry Patterson, a credit counselor, said she's by far not the only one. "Because it looks like a good idea-- it might not," Patterson said.
Patterson is part of Clearpoint Credit Counseling and said some businesses actually search for people drowning in debt like the Sconyer's were. "Often times when they notice that credit report may not be as good as it should be, that will solicit certain types of lenders that say we're here to help and that's the last thing they're there to do. They're there to get your money."
Lester was struggling and Jackie had been right where he was before. But unlike him, she knew what debt free felt like too. "Like a weight had literally been lifted off my shoulders and all of a sudden I had all this extra money. It was unreal. It was almost like getting a big raise at work," Jackie said. That feeling wasn't easy to come by. She said it took hard work and will power. "I took every raise increase, went towards the credit cards. Every bonus at work went towards the credit cards, every income tax refund went towards the credit cards because I said I don't deserve any money until everybody gets paid."
Lester said he asked her for help. She said yes and put him on the same plan. After all bills and household necessities were taken care of, he had $150 a week for spending money. That may seem like a lot, but old habits die hard. "But in this particular weekend I splurged a little too much. When it came to Sunday morning, you know, I had a little bit of fun with my guys and it came out that I was broke. I was broke again and it wasn't a good feeling," Lester said. Fifty-six cents is all he had to his name after that weekend. Not even a whole dollar. He said he called Jackie, hoping for some extra cash and a little relief. "You know what I told him? He needed to take a nap. He needed to look at TV and take a nap and get up and go to work the next morning. That's what needs to be doing because we don't have anymore money for you because everything else is allotted," Jackie said.
"The fact of the matter is when it boils down to it, what I had in my pocket was all I had and that was 56 cents," Lester said. That 56 cents grew and after years of hard work, the two are happily married and both debt free. Jackie said she pays cash for everything and doesn't even touch any form of credit. "It don't matter if you're running to the mall and the stuff is on sale. If you don't have the money, its not on sale for you. Because once you put it on that card, whatever you've saved, you've spent that and then some, just because you used the card," Jackie said.
They say it's something they'll live by for good because they never want to see those days of broke again. "It is worth it to do it and just start with little things and it will create big things and the satisfaction you get from it is phenomenal."