Today we’re featuring the story of Travis Pizel, who together with his wife paid off $109,000 in credit card debt in less than five years. Travis blogs at Enemy Of Debt, where he candidly shares his family’s experiences, struggles and successes. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family.
Fruclassity: Tell us about your debt situation and how it started.
Travis: My wife and I dug ourselves into a hole of debt over the course of the first 13 years of our marriage. We didn’t have a budget and didn’t pay any attention to how we spent our money. We also didn’t communicate about our finances. We spent what we wanted, when we wanted, on whatever we wanted to spend it on. We both knew we had debt, but assumed that our next pay increase would cause our income to outpace our spending, and eventually our debt would start going down. Unfortunately that never happened. Each year’s pay increase went to finance the increase in the minimum payments on our credit cards. I hid from my wife how much credit card debt we really had. I spent my nights trying to figure out how to move balances around to new cards with low promotional rates to free up enough funds to make it to the next payday.
Fruclassity: When did you realize your debt had become a problem?
Travis: In June of 2009, we received 5 letters in the mail from a major credit card company, one for each credit card we had with them. The letters stated that they were changing the minimum payment policy from 1% of the balance to 2.5%. When I calculated what that was going to do to our monthly payments, I realized we were in deep trouble. There was no way we could make those payments.
Fruclassity: What’s your debt payoff goal date, or have you already reached it?
Travis: In January of 2014, we made our final payment that knocked off $109,000 of credit card debt. While we are not debt free, we continue to work towards that goal!
Fruclassity: What resources have helped you to be successful in your debt payoff efforts?
Travis: Our situation was so dire that we were unable to get a handle on our finances on our own. We enrolled in a debt management program (DMP). Our debt relief provider negotiated a lower interest rate and monthly payment to our creditors which would result in payment in full of our debt in about 5 years. In exchange, all our accounts were closed to prevent us from racking up any more debt. We made one monthly payment to our debt relief provider, and they dispersed the payments to our creditors.
Paying off the debt was really just treating the symptom. My wife and I knew that unless we learned how to handle our finances the right way, we would find ourselves back in debt again. By reading other financial blogs, we tried countless ways of budgeting until we pieced together a system that works for us. We communicate almost daily about our finances, and now work together to solve any financial obstacle that comes our way!
Fruclassity: What challenges have tempted you to give up on your goal of debt freedom?
Travis: As with any couple, we have faced financial challenges and unexpected expenses. Nothing has tempted us to give up, however. It was very hard in the beginning to make ends meet, and there are situations even today that require tightening of the financial belt to meet a need. I know what it feels like to be on the brink of financial ruin and it’s a horrific feeling. The feeling of uncertainty about whether you’ll lose your home or where the money will come from to even feed my family is something I never want to experience again. There really is no alternative to paying off debt and being successful in dealing with our family’s finances.
Fruclassity: How has your debt affected your relationships with your spouse/family?
Travis: Our children were aware of our situation when we enrolled in our DMP. We sat them down and told them that things would be different for a while. They didn’t know the numbers, but they knew about the program and our projected last payment date. It has helped them to become more mindful of what all of us spend our money on.
My wife and I have become closer throughout our experience, and have a stronger marriage because of it. We worked as a true team to climb out of the pit of debt. By going through such an experience together, we know that we can accomplish anything!
Fruclassity: What jobs have you held during your debt payoff process?
Travis: To knock out our debt, my wife and I have both taken on additional work to increase our income. My wife got a second job, and I fell into the world of freelance writing in the personal finance blogging community. I’ve also done quite a bit of mystery shopping. Opportunities for extra income are everywhere if you’re willing to put in the effort!
Fruclassity: After such great success in paying off your credit cart debt, what will be your next steps towards financial fitness?
Travis: There are really three things on our immediate financial “to do” list. First, we want to pay off our vehicles. Second, we want to increase our retirement savings contributions. Lastly, we have two kids we expect will go to college. We may be starting later than we would have hoped, but we want to put ourselves in a position where we can at least help pay some of their college education. The best gift we could give to them would be to put them in a position to graduate from college and start their careers debt free!
Fruclassity: What words of encouragement do you have for those who want to become debt free?
Travis: For anyone who is struggling with debt, I would tell them two things: First, you are not alone. Crushing debt happens to people in all walks of life. Second, I would tell them that there is help available. If you are unable to get a handle on your debt on your own, investigate all your options including debt relief programs, consolidation loans, or even bankruptcy. There is help. Educate yourself on your options and pick the one that works best for your situation. You do NOT have to struggle like this forever.
We hope this story inspired and encouraged you to begin your own journey to debt freedom. If you have a debt success story that you’d like to share, feel free to contact us and let us know! To read more inspiring debt success stories, click here for our Debt Success Stories page.