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Anyone with personal experiences with REPUTABLE CCC agencies please tell me a little about the agencies (names, fees) and your satisfaction with them.

I am seriously looking at signing up to try to get my APR reduced to a manageable level so I can start chipping away at them.

Very brief synopsis:

Income: (myself only) since I am the major wage earner.. Approx 70K before taxes, deducations etc.

Mortgage: 1st mgt-approx 130K at 4.5 fixed for 5 years (starting 3rd year this month) then adjustable. 2nd mgt: Heloc at 9%

Total unsecured debt : ~50K. Lowest balance: ~$250. Highest balance: 19K. Average APR on cards: about 27% (citi, ATT, Optima)

I own my car, a 1993 Toyota Previa.

Avail savings: I have 200 dollars automatically put aside every 2 weeks, but I usually have to raid 100 dollars of it each pay period. I have been unable to build up my savings more than 300 dollars for more than a year.

Retirement funds:
Amex Financial: ~13K
TIAA-CREF: ~ 12K
Mutual of America: ~ 2K
AIG: ~10K
KPERS: ~25K

My husband and I split groceries, about $150 a month. He pays utilities (phone, gas, electric, car insurance) I pay health, dental, vision insurance (directly deducted from paycheck before I receive it).

I have some monthly expenses that I pay out of the checking account :

$155 for orthodontics
$80 for the girls' dance lessons. I will keep them in these since they are the only recreational activity (paid) they are in, and it is a cultural experience for us (Irish dance) We do have associated costs for competitions at periodic times during the year.

I'm not even counting Social Security since that won't be there when I retire, anyway.

I refuse to consider using any of my retirement for debt reduction.


These are all ballpark figures off the top of my head, just figures for you all to conside before you offer advice/opinions.

thanks,
hwkncat

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You didn't say you've called the credit card companies yourself and asked for a lower rate? By all means do that before signing anything with an agency. Play one company against the other. Snowball, working on your highest interest rate. Do balance transfers to get lower rates. And of course, you pay at least the minimum on each card every month.

The credit counselling service folks aren't likely to do anything you can't do for yourself, and some of them will trash your credit rating in the process.

Best wishes, Chris
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Well, I just got off the phone with Citibank and they agreed to lower the PR to 11.12% on both the ATT and Citi cards. I could'nt believe it, I thought they would just laugh at me. That means I have a 450 dollar payment to each of them by Aug 1, then the regular payments after that.

I don't see how I can do much of playing companies against each other since I have high rates with almost all of them. The only one that is below 15% is providian which is auto withdrawal from the bank each month.

I do feel a little better with the citibank situation. It looks like most of next paycheck will fund citibank since all of my gas cards are owned by them also :-(

This whole situation makes me physically ill. I don't know how I did the 'ostrich' thing so long. :-(

hwkncat
feeling very glum and failure like
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Congratulations! All you had to do was ask! ;-).
Best wishes, Chris
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feeling very glum and failure like

Actually, you've turned the corner and are starting to work your way out -- lowering the percentage is the first step. As someone else said, "left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. One step at a time.
Good luck -- you can do this.
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This whole situation makes me physically ill. I don't know how I did the 'ostrich' thing so long. :-(

hwkncat
feeling very glum and failure like


Greetings, hwkncat, dry those tears and turn this inside out: why, look what you did. Came here to post, received some good ideas (ignore what feels like flak), stuck your neck out and received a break from Citibank on the interest rates! YAY! WOO HOO!

So rather than continue to feel glum and failure like, why not give yourself a hug for pushing past a threshold and onward to reckoning with financial steps that will put you in the good stead you seek? Usually one does the 'ostrich' thing when one feels like there won't be any other, better choices. But now there are!

Next thing to consider working on is a more realistic budget - do you have any thoughts about what causes you to raid your savings that I know you have excellent intentions of trying to keep stashed away? If you get a handle on that and even if you were to lower your savings target a bit just so you can get accustomed to the feel of what it is like to watch non-emergency-fund savings build undrained, it might be a good basis for continuing on with the trend in your preferred direction. I don't disagree with ceasing use of the credit cards (unless they can be paid off every month) but neither would I think that "absolute" thinking, as in "I'm in so much debt that I can spend nothing on myself until I am completely out of it," is likely to lead you towards feeling like you have incentive to stick with a budget. I have the strong sense that you could be reacting to the idea of a budget the way that many react to the idea of a diet - as in some sort of punishment state that one longs to escape and then blows, sometimes spectacularly!

I know that for me, a major turning of the tide came when I decided to look at a budget (or a spending plan, if you like) as something liberating rather than restricting. Rather than think about what I couldn't have, I decided to challenge myself to find full joy and satisfaction in how creatively I COULD have something on reduced available funds. This really got me going - I began to find ways of spending as LITTLE money as I could in pursuit of some pleasurable occasion or transaction. And I began thinking of making credit card payments as my ticket out of a hole rather than feel enslaved to the creditors. It became an issue of outlook: once I boarded the frugal train, I found I really enjoyed the journey as well as the destination - and I liked how the terrain looked once I got my ingeniousness going about how one conserves income.

So if your next paycheck funds Citibank, hooray! Less of that check will be going to Citibank than did during the month before, due to the decrease in interest rates, and more goes to principal. One foot in front of the next, in front of the next - but this journey can be one of enlightenment and delight that you will be taking a new view of money as freeing you more and more with each new payment.

xraymd

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feeling very glum and failure like

Stop that. Right now.

I've been there, too -- and so have many other (amazingly supportive) people on this board. You can do this! You really can!

There's nothing you can do about what happened in the past. Beating yourself up over it won't change the situation you're dealing with now. And I'll tell you something again that you'll hear over and over again on this board -- THIS IS NOTHING YOU CAN'T HANDLE!!!

Admitting you have a problem is the hardest part. Now you just have to take it one step at a time. You called the cc companies...that's a huge step to take. Congratulations! Nobody laughed at you. And they won't. Trust me, those companies love you (they certainly love me, too) -- and they'll do plenty to keep you from doing a balance transfer to another card company. That's the one positive from us charging up so much on our accounts. <grin> They want to keep you with them. They love you. Remember that. Use it to your advantage.

Focus on the positive. You're doing great! Baby steps...you'll get further than you think in no time at all. Hang in there and keep posting for support. You'll be surprised how many great people there are out there, with advice and support for you. Don't shove that head back in the sand -- you're too good looking for that anyway!
<grin>

To hwkncat -- for taking charge of your financial life!!!
Yippeee!!!

Lys
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xraymd,

If I could give you a hug in real life, I would. But a cyberhug will have to do. {{{{{{HUG}}}}} with a big squeeze on the end :-) You were one of my favorite people here before, I'm glad to see you're still here. I'm glad to see alot of you old timers from several years ago are still here, for that matter.

I raid my savings every check because there simply is not enough to pay the bills without doing so. And I still can't get them all. You're absolutely right about the budget idea, it's just too intimidating to put it all on paper right now, that would magnify the failure feeling astronomically :-(

The last time I was here, I was doing "all the right things" and geting all those "warm fuzzy" feelings you describe, the good feelings about paying down the bills and the challenge of outsmarting the CC companies.
Silly me, I thought that would be the last time. Then I bought the house and got caught in the trap on trying to fill it up so I would feel like I was "like everyone else in the neighborhood". Bad Idea :-(

Once I get the Amex accounts paid off (the charge accts, that is) they're getting CLOSED. Finished. Unfortunately I'm late on them as well but if they can be patient (I'm calling them tomorrow) I'll have them paid in 2 months. When that happens, the $800 or so that's been going to them will go elsewhere. I think I will fel A LOT better when that happens, like the noose is not sitting directly on my neck anymore.

If the car had not broken down, I wonder how much longer I would have continued in the same holding pattern? That brings the sick feeling in my stomach out again.

Thank you all, keep giving me positives, it's very important to me, I'm on a precarious tightrope right now :-(

I've gotta stay very narrowly focused right now so I can keep my momentum up. Help me stay there, please. I need those success stories from all of you, and I think it's great those of you who have slayed the monster keep coming back to help those struggling.

hwkncat




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I raid my savings every check because there simply is not enough to pay the bills without doing so. And I still can't get them all. You're absolutely right about the budget idea, it's just too intimidating to put it all on paper right now, that would magnify the failure feeling astronomically :-(

First, congratulations on reducing Citibank. That's a hard call to make don't beat yourself up the way you and DH have saved for retirement is great.

I though budgeting would just make me sick as well. To see all the payments I had to make to CC's but after a while facing my problem, just seeing it in front of me sure it looked bad. But then it made me angry not so much as myself but at seeing my enemy face to face. I wanted my life back. I started to see little areas that I could make changes. One of the changes was huge I just did not realize. I kept driving my trunk to work 80 miles round trip but I ignored it everyone has to drive.

Then on my budget I could clearly see, crap, I was spending close to $15 a day on gas. I make a simple change with my son, and instant $200 a month saving. I also take great pleasure in finding savings in the various areas over time. Whatever savings I find goes to my snowball. I use a little positive reinforcement it works on dogs I thought It might work on me as well. Works great, Ruff. You are a saver I can tell by your retirement investing. I am one of those that calls it a Spend Plan I actually like the thing now. Its focusing our spending in areas we want. Sure at first it hurts, but it gets better and soon you will even start getting control of it. I love the Line I read “Money is a terrible master but a great slave” To me it is so true.

I now look at my Spend Plan as an excellent capital generator for investing once I get all the debt cleared. I as well will not sacrifice me and DW's Roths this year. They will be fully funded.

One more thought, I was turned down twice for low interest CC at the beginning of the year. DWs was not so to cut down some of the finance charges we opened a few and transferred to lower rates. Please don't think that I am trying to be sanctimonious. But, debt in marriage is a joint problem and it has been so much of a help to have DW join in. I love problem solving and finding money and DW keeps things real. I am reading Debt free marriage by Mary Hunt there is quite a bit on men and women and their differences and how to get everyone involved. DW was the budgeter first and well, it just did not work mainly because I did not feel involved I was not fighting and killing the dragon. Just a thought but DH might be just the one to take on the dragon. We may look like couch potatoes but DHs do love to solve problems, feel important, rescue DWs from dragons, even if we are somewhat simple and can only do one thing well at a time.

Roy (going back to my couch now.. )
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hwkncat:

I know you may be looking for a way out of a lot of messes, but people sometimes think CCCS or bankruptcy will save them -- often these things just make more of a mess, or keep you under your debt load longer than you otherwise would have been there.

Paying debts and providing for your kids is a tough thing to do. It should really be a family problem though, and one you should all work for together, try to fix together, and try to maintain together. Think about your parents and their attitudes about money, and what effect it had (and is having) on you. Now think about your kids. Do you see any patterns?

Once when I was a kid, my parents were having a tough time and it was near Christmas. I was about 7 years old, and my Dad sat down and talked to my sister and me very sincerely. He said that some things had happened and that our family just didn't have a lot of money for toys and things at Christmas. This may have been heartbreaking for my Dad to do, but you know what? I DIDN'T CARE AT ALL! But that talk was over three decades ago and I remember it more than any Christmas present I ever received, because it taught me that my understanding and participation in the family dynamic was paramount.

Your kids might feel the same way about their dance lessons, if you come clean with them about your debts. Just a thought.


~dswing
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they're getting CLOSED. Finished. Unfortunately I'm late on them as well but if they can be patient (I'm calling them tomorrow) I'll have them paid in 2 months. When that happens, the $800 or so that's been going to them will go elsewhere. I think I will fel A LOT better when that happens, like the noose is not sitting directly on my neck anymore.


I believe that late charges age out of your credit report sooner on an open account than a closed account. It might be wiser to destroy the cards, but wait to close the account. Also, their credit line would lower your overall credit used/credit available ratio.

It sounds like the tight rope will be somewhat relieved when you have Amex paid off. If you are paying Amex $800 a month and it will be less than 2 months to pay them off, the balance has to be less than $2K. Is there anyway to buy you some breathing room by transfering the Amex balance to another card? Since Citi was willing to lower your APR, if asked would they raise your credit limit? In time it will be possible to obtain lower interest rate balance transfer, but for the short term it might help avoid any late payment fees and dings on your credit report.

Debra
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dswing,

thanks for your advice. I have reconsidered and am holding off on the CCCS. I was in a big panicked state when I wrote that. These next few months are going to be pretty painful but I hope I can keep my resolve firm.

I am also considering a part time job on my nights off, probably to start in November after the dance competition season ends(I work Sun-Wed and the dance comps are always on weekends). If I really pinch pennies till then, the extra income will seem like a windfall.

I have talked a little to the girls about the fact I have a lot of bills right now and we are going to have to cut back for a while. They both handled it well, glad to say. DH is a little bit more of a problem, he is not happy about the cable cutback idea and flat out refused to consider dropping the landline, which he pays for. He does a lot of business for his job (refereeing) by the home phone, in my thinking, he could do that by cell phone and use the money he saves to pay me a little more.

A little bit at a time ...

hwkncat
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When your husband complains about the cable cut-back, tell him it's either cut-back or cut-off and let him decide.

xtn
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