By Lisa Walters
Who hasn’t worried about money at some point in their life? Life events happen, appliances break, unexpected medical bills pop up, job change, relationship change, kids… there are so many factors that contribute to the current state of our bank accounts. Of course there will always be things that happen beyond our control; but more often than not, financial anxiety is caused by our own poor spending choices.
In 2017, my husband and I were expecting baby number three. We both knew we were in over our heads in credit card debt and were completely avoiding the conversation. One evening, we were cleaning up the dinner dishes and I mentioned the idea of shopping for a new car.
“I am going to need something bigger to fit three car seats.”
“We can’t. We don’t have money for a car payment.”
“What do you mean we don’t have money for a car payment? We can make it work!” I argued.
“We are barely paying the bills we have!” my husband shouted back.
My husband has a very even temperament, but he and I were starting to get snippy with each other. The reason? There was a black cloud of debt that had been growing larger each month during our seven year marriage. We both worked hard but we didn’t discuss finances. We didn’t budget. We didn’t plan, prepare, or save. We put everything on credit cards, and our interest rates were sickening. When bills arrived in the mail, we’d toss them in a bowl on the piano, and address them at the very last second on their due dates.
Whatever the issue, avoidance will always increase your anxiety and it won’t make your problems go away.
We continued straightening up the kitchen and discussing our finances. Okay, let’s be real. We were arguing. This is when the buildup of resentment and calling out each other’s spending habits finally came pouring out on the table. You’d think it would be a happy time with another baby on the way, but years of avoidance on this topic led to worry and fear. Our bank accounts were at an all-time low, and our financial anxiety was at an all-time high.
Fortunately, we both recognized that we were committed to our marriage and to fixing our situation. So we started researching ways to fix credit card debt. We stumbled across the Credit Counseling Center in Doylestown and made an appointment. We chose Credit Counseling Center because they are non-profit, HUD approved, and a member of United Way.
We sat down with Joan for our first counseling session. Talk about a humbling experience of hard facts and numbers. Our outstanding debt was staring at us in the face, and at first, it felt like a ton of bricks. We had tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt spread out among nine credit cards. How did we let this happen?
Although that first appointment was difficult, it was the first step in transforming our lives and finding relief. If you don’t face reality, nothing will change.
The Credit Counseling Center provided us the guidance to get organized and gain control of our situation. The counselors reached out to all of our creditors and negotiated lower interest rates. We committed to not using credit cards, and adopted a payment plan.
Each month we paid one payment to the CCC and they made that payment to the credit card company. Our counselors helped us with budgeting; it was necessary for us to practice better spending habits, and use cash only.
Each month our budgeting became stronger, our debt shrunk, and our savings accounts grew. My husband and I no longer avoided talking about money and could now communicate freely and positively about it. Ultimately… our anxiety lifted.
Where are we today?
Baby number three is currently three years old, and we are prepared to make our last and final payment to the CCC next month. We managed to tackle it 18 months ahead of schedule! This is thanks to the guidance of our counselors and the commitment my husband and I have made to aggressively managing our finances. We went from tossing our statements in a bowl and avoiding reality, to eagerly waiting for our monthly bills to arrive so we can immediately make payments.
If the state of your finances is causing anxiety in your daily life, I strongly recommend making an appointment with the Credit Counseling Center. You have nothing to lose … except your debt!
In 2021, Paula was named Executive Director of Credit Counseling Center. She joined the organization in 2008 as a Credit Counselor and was quickly promoted to Director of Housing Counseling in 2009. Paula is a firm believer that each client is a representation of a family whose lives, financial challenges, and needs are important.
She developed and still leads the Center’s Foreclosure Prevention program; and has partnered with the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas Foreclosure Diversion Program. Her keen focus on making a positive impact in the community has generated numerous program collaborations with the United Way of Bucks County and a multitude of social service organizations in the region.
Previously, Paula served 21 on Active Duty in the US Air Force. Initially serving as a combat photographer and finishing the second half of her career as a recruiter, leading to the position of Flight Chief. Highly decorated, she has received awards from the Air Force and the Department of Defense.
An active leader in the Bucks County community, Paula donates her time annually as a board member for the annual Congressional Service Academy Nomination Interviews under the office of Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. She is an active Chamber member in Lower Bucks, BucksMont, and Upper Bucks, advocates for financial literacy education opportunities at venues servicing low/moderate income consumers and senior citizen organizations.