No. of Recommendations: 50
Well, I'm here about a month now and have spent many hours working and reworking the numbers. I have a plan. I didn't post my numbers at first, but now I'm ready to hear the gasps and bring out the smelling salts :)

As of Feb. 11, 2003

Capital One $9,708.25 9.9%
First USA $8,833.60 22.99% (Would not lower interest)
MBNA $7,017.25 %24.99 Lowered interest to 15.99% 3/1/03
American Express $2,822.09 12.99%
Bank Of America $1,172.53 17.24%
Chase $1,312.16 18.00%
AT&T Universal $7,253.04 19.99% (raised from 11%-would not lower)
Chadwicks $110.05 22.80%
Total: 38,228.97

As of March 12, 2003

Capital One $9,638.07 9.9%
First USA $8,808.78 22.99%
MBNA $6,946.42 15.99%
American Express $2,750.87 12.99%
Bank Of America $1,159.67 17.24%
Chase $1,285.18 18.00%
AT&T Universal $7,205.13 19.99%
Chadwicks $0
Total: $37,794.12 Down from last month: $434.85

Pretty sickening. I was only able to sock an extra $100 to credit debt this month because of lingering bills from my business that I closed in November 2002. The only thing I charged last month was two credit scores and my Fool membership, which I consider to be an investment.

I have a budget in place, and DH is firmly behind me. As soon as I possibly can, I will start transferring the FUSA balance to Capital One, even if it is $500 at a time. I start the snowball on FUSA on March 15, when I start paying them an extra $200 a month. In July, I will have an extra $540 a month to snowball them. It's pretty amazing that with the snowball plan, I will be largely debt free in about 30 months - even with these current horrible interest rates!

In a couple of months, I will call ATT and ask them to lower the interest. The CSR really acted like she wanted to help me out last time, but said she just couldn't at this time. At least she was really nice about it. I will keep after FUSA, even though I don't expect them to give even a little bit.

While laying all this out on paper, I came to some startling realizations, and made myself some promises.

1. I will look at my statements EVERY month. The $17.95 Ulu knife I ordered at Christmas and put on my ATT card will cost me several hundred dollars in interest because I missed the "change in terms" notice. I had a chance to NOT charge and keep the 11.00% interest.

Also, last June there was a fraudulent $49.95 charge on my FUSA card. I called them, and it was from a company called "Increase Your Penis Size". Go figure. They took it off the next month, but in looking over the bills from last year, I was charged for it in May, too!!! Stooopid stooopid stooooopid. I have no idea where they could have gotten my card number. And I know it didn't come from DH. Mainly because he doesn't have access to my cards, and he knows I would have DECREASED that size if he had charged something like that to my card.

2. I will monitor my credit usage. It's no wonder my card companies are in a state of panic. Over the last year, I charged over $14,000. I was trying to keep a small business afloat, and with not much income, I was charging our home utilities, etc. It didn't work - I learned my lesson - all I got out of it was huge debt and one year of total exhaustion.

3. I will stick to my budget. A little over 2 years with hardly any new clothes and no vacations is a small price to pay to be rid of this debt.

4. I will watch for balance transfer offers. I applied for a Discover 0% offer, and was turned down. This week, I got a Citi 0% offer in the mail till May 2004. I'm terrified to apply for it, but I guess it won't hurt to ask. All they can do is say no, and lower my FICO.

5. I will "deal" with any issues instead of sticking my head in the sand. I have 2 "over 30 days" from almost 2 years ago from Chadwicks. I had paid them off, but they sent me another bill. I didn't pay it, thinking the payment would catch up. Turns out, that final payment was for interest due. Holy Moly..that payment was $10.00!!! For not paying that $10.00, I will paying thousands in raised interest rates.

There are some good things about all this. I have finally come to grips with my credit nightmare. And My husband said the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me. He said "For the first time in my life, I feel like financially I am not just trying to get through next week. There is a light at the end of the tunnel."

My FICO went up over 20 points in one month. Not sure why, but I'm not asking questions :) I am just sad we can't apply for a new house right now. We are SO cramped in my tiny 2-bedroom, and since I now work for the bank, I would get a 1% interest rebate on mortgages. With the prime at 4.25% it certainly would be a good time for us. Oh well. Maybe in 2 years.

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and support. I'll keep posting the numbers - and I hope you will too.
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