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10 Real People Who Are Winning Their Fight With Debt

Bridget Casey
By Mandi Woodruff and Anmargaret Warner

As human beings, there are some traits that we all have in common: two hands, one heart, red blood, and, unfortunately for most of us, a ton of debt. The average American carries a $47,000 debt load, and as a nation, nearly $2 trillion of our collective debt is either delinquent or 90 days past due.

Part of the problem in figuring out how to begin getting out of the red is knowing who to turn to for help. Maybe you're too embarrassed to fess up to your issues or you can't afford a financial advisor. So you might pick up a $20 self-help book or enroll in a $200 debt makeover course online.

Save your money. Some of the greatest advice out there can come from the person standing next to you in line at the grocery store. To prove our point, we've rounded up 10 truly inspiring stories of real consumers who faced their debt head-on and managed to come out on the other side.

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Robert Connor

Getting rid of debt can be done but it takes a lot of sacrifice!

July 14 2013 at 11:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


July 09 2013 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Handsome John

What a ridiculous story. Most of it is hogwash, absolutely stupidity. That includes the sleazy "speed up your computer", "make money from your home", and satellite tv ads that are peppered throughout the story. I knew AOL could go pretty low but this is a record!

July 09 2013 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This story is a retread. I read about the Harvard MBA before. Try drinking from your own flask in any bar I go to and they will show you the door. As usual these stories are fluff without any substance and do not have any concrete usable advice for the majority of us.

July 09 2013 at 3:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

They were very lucky in that they had jobs to give them income. Not everyone can find employment. I do agree that you should live below your means. That is essential. But sometimes that is not enough. I would never be able to pay 100k off in 1 year, that guy must have had a killer job.

July 09 2013 at 3:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

14,000 in a year...I pay off that much EVERY two months.

July 09 2013 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rhans43832's comment

WELL LA-TEE-DAH for you! You should be thankful that you have the means to pay off that much EVERY 2 months not to mention the means to be able to rack up those kinds of bills knowing that you can pay them off! LUCKY YOU!

July 09 2013 at 7:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

living below your means is not only helpful, it is now necessary in order to survive.

July 09 2013 at 1:27 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

And, all ten of those fine people need to head to Washington DC! It doesn't take a senator or legislator to balance a budget, it take real, honest people--something Washington doesn't have!

July 09 2013 at 12:13 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Divorce is always the answer to get out of debt, if your female.

July 09 2013 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Want to get out of debt? As hard as you may try, it's not always possible to stay out of dept. We do have to eat, sleep, and work. With gas at $5 per gallon, it sometimes costs more to drive to and from work that you'll clear in an 8 hour shift. And having an ex take the house that you must continue paying for doesn't help.

I read about a 70% solution where you work to lower all of you necessary bills to 70% of your monthly income. Mortgage/rent, necessary utilities (gas, water, sewage, and electricity only. No cable, etc.), car payment, gasoline, insurance, groceries. Put away 10% for long term savings (retirement, new home, large purchases), 10% for short term savings (new washer/dryer, vacation trips), and 10% for monthly fun and games (movies, dinner, plays, etc.0

After years of setbacks I found myself depending on friends and family for the occasional good meal, shower, and sofa to sleep on. The rest of the time I lived in my car.

Then I read about this "70%" solution. I decided to give it a try, only in my case it would be a 99% solution. I made up my mind to accept my situation and live in my car and depend only upon myself. This gave me incentive to search out where I could cut more. By the end of the first year I was down to only two credit cards with a balance, and was able to go to a 95% solution. After the second year, I went to an 80% solution, sold my car for a 14 year old camper and truck combo so I had more room. I'd finally found semi-regular gainful employment with a decent wage, and elected to continue living in the camper to save money. By the end of the third year I was debt free, had money in the bank, a small retirement nest egg.

At year 5 the camper was showing its age worse that when I bought it, so I traded truck and camper for a small used motor home, and lived in that for the next 6 years. I remarried, bought a small 20 year old mobile home, paid off the motor home 6 years early and saved some $9,000 in interest I would have paid, paid off the mobile home in 6 years and save the interest I would have paid on that over the full 15 year mortgage.

The housing crash of 2008 allowed us to buy a real house, we've since bought two rental units and with two mortgages, were still living on only about 54% of our monthly income, not including the rents.

It took a lot of discipline, wasn't easy, but it CAN be done. All you need is the 'gotta wanna!'

July 09 2013 at 10:38 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply