Debt can be debilitating. While student loans and mortgages are widely discussed, credit card debt is so stigmatized, but it shouldn’t be.
There is help out there - just ask Maura Donovan.
Donovan just bought herself a new home, but not too long ago, the Springfield resident found herself in more than $25,000 of credit card debt.
And, she doesn’t blame a shoe obsession or big ticket items, rather just the simple stuff, the basics.
“Even like cold medicine or hairspray or whatever. After a while, it adds up and you keep swiping that card and you don't even realize it,” she said.
And when Donovan couldn’t pay her bills on time, the debt snowballed.
“And after probably a couple of months of getting phone calls because I was late and I had a pay and all you're paying is a minimum and you're not making a dent that I finally just sat down and I’m like, ‘Okay, I gotta do something,'" Donovan said.
She searched online and found Money Management International, the nonprofit formally known as “Consumer Credit Counseling Services.”
MMI said their credit and housing counseling is always provided at no cost to consumers, although one quarter of their clients do sign up for a specific management plan for a small fee.
MMI financial educators helped Donovan create a payment plan and they have concessions set up with major creditors. That means they can negotiate lower interest rates for people struggling to pay their bills, while helping them improve their credit score.
“So on average, it reduces interest rates around 24% to 7%, so that most of your payment is going to principal rather than interest,” said MMI Financial Educator Thomas Nitzsche.
MMI said don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you're in debt, whether from a counseling service like theirs, or by even calling 2-1-1.
They say the sooner you ask for guidance, the better.
“So if you stop making payments on a credit card, you usually have about three months before that card company either sells it or transfers it to a collection agency. And at that point, it becomes a lot more difficult for us to help with,” said Nitzsche.
With the direction of MMI, Donovan said she paid off her debt early.
She hopes you don’t feel ashamed to ask for help like she did.
“My intent was always pay my bills, but I got behind, or I got overwhelmed by them. So it's not, you're not a bad person because of it. You just, I needed to learn a lesson. I mean, I learned it the hard way," she said.
Now Donovan is free of debt with a condo she calls hers.