Months using ReadyForZero: 4
Accounts paid off: 2 of 7
“I love your website and the work you’re doing to help people. It’s great, I always tell people about ReadyForZero. I’m living proof that it works.”
It’s so much fun helping people get out of debt in the age of social media because it means we’re able to connect easily with people all across the country who are having success paying off their accounts using ReadyForZero.
Even as little as ten years ago, there was no easy way for a company like ours to hear spontaneous, continuous feedback from real users. But now, with Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, we can have a two-way dialogue with people at the click of a button.
A couple weeks ago we got one of those kinds of Tweets that makes us want to jump out of our seats and do a victory dance:
Thanks to @ReadyForZero!Paid off credit card #1 and moving right on to the next.Love your site and recommend it all the time.
— Chad Harris (@42graystreet) April 26, 2012
We have been extremely lucky to have some amazing ambassadors who talk about us to their friends and family – and anyone else who needs an easy and effective way to manage their debt.
Once we saw this Tweet, our fingers were itching to pick up the phone and give Chad a call. About two weeks ago we got our chance.
Chad is the first person we’ve profiled who has his student loans, auto loans, and credit cards all linked up in his ReadyForZero plan! In total, Chad said before he got serious about eliminating his debt he had $15,000 in student loans, an $18,000 car loan, and $16,000 in credit card debt.
He told us that since he not only has several different accounts but several different types of accounts, it has been even more useful to have a tool like ReadyForZero that helps him organize everything and does the math behind the scenes to give him the best plan to save money and get out of debt as fast as possible. Which is why we were so excited to talk to him. Without further ado, here’s Chad’s story…
Stage 1: Innocence
Have you ever had a passion for something? I mean, a real, honest-to-goodness passion that inspires you to meet new people, accomplish great things, and go to the ends of the earth in order to pursue your passion? If you have, then you know the joy it can bring.
And if you do, then you share a common bond with Chad. In his case, the passion that took him to all corners of the globe (or at least all corners of the U.S.) was the Dave Matthews Band.
Dave Matthews Band
He fell in love with their music early on, and became an even bigger fan as time went on. About five years ago, after graduating from college, he began traveling to see them perform in concert. Each show was a unique and exhilarating experience. Among the other DMB concert-goers he found new friends who shared his passion. They’d meet up at each successive concert, and despite not seeing each other in between, they remained great friends. When they’d finally see each other again, it would be like no time had passed since their last meeting.
Chad at The Gorge
During this time, he estimates that he went to over 20 Dave Matthews Band concerts in total. There were so many memorable concerts that Chad has a hard time picking his favorite, but two that stood out were a performance at The Gorge in Washington State (see photo above) and one in DMB’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Stage 2: Awakening
Of course, these trips were not free, and Chad eventually came to the difficult realization that many young people make in the years after college. With student loans coming due and credit card balances growing after leaving college, he realized his lifestyle was not sustainable.
His frequent concert attendance was draining his budget, and often he was using credit cards to fill the gaps. Although he doesn’t regret those trips, he told us his income at the time was not enough to support that kind of frequent traveling along with all the other things he was spending money on at the time. “Sometimes I was flying, sometimes I was driving; but it all adds up, and it added up very fast.”
Today, he looks back at his younger self and isn’t afraid to use the word “irresponsible.” He told us, “I came out of college with a little bit of debt, but not that much. I think maybe just a couple thousand dollars. But [after college] I just kept using the card I had used in college.”
Despite taking some measures to live frugally, he found that his financial picture was deteriorating. “After I graduated from college I was living at home for awhile and that should have allowed me to pay off debt, but I didn’t… A few years ago I had maxed out a credit card and I went to get a new one. I just wasn’t changing anything about my life.”
As his debt started to accumulate, he began to feel squeezed.
“I can think back to some months when I had no money whatsoever,” he said. “I remember going to the bank one time and crunching my numbers and thinking ‘Oh my god, I’m going to be late on a couple bills, and I have no cash for the next 2 weeks.’” This is the common problem for those of us who get caught in the debt trap. The account balances grow slowly, kind of like a baby bear that looks harmless at first. But then, after growing bigger everyday, you look around and realize it’s big enough to crush you.
And just like that, suddenly Chad was in danger of being crushed by his debt: “I was thinking ‘how am I gonna put gas in my car? How am I going to get groceries?’ I even asked the bank to raise my credit limit on my Visa, just because I needed some breathing room, and they said no.”
Stage 3: Redemption
Chad knew that it was time to make changes. But like many people, he didn’t want to share his situation with those close to him. “I was too proud to ask for help – and debt is a subject you don’t really talk about with people – so I felt alone with this,” he told us.
Instead, he started doing research and trying to figure out better personal finance practices on his own.
And fortunately, around that same time he got a job that paid better, and he decided to get serious about watching his spending. He said, “I started my own budget and I just started tracking what I was spending my money on.”
Shortly after that, he came across our site. He told us, “I found ReadyForZero in January. And I can tell that because I’m looking back at my spreadsheet and I can see how I started changing where I was directing my money. When I started with ReadyForZero it told me to pay off my Exxon Mobil gas card and my Best Buy card first, because those had the highest interest rates.”
Seeing the high interest rates presented clearly to him in ReadyForZero made a big difference. And he said that being able to compare what would happen if he paid off those accounts to how much he would have to pay if he didn’t made him determined to tackle them. He said, “plenty of people had told me ‘pay off your highest interest rate accounts first!’ and finally ReadyForZero told me, ‘Dude, pay off your Best Buy card.’”
That’s when it hit home and he realized the need for a thoughtful strategy, rather than just paying money randomly toward each of his accounts. “I had been trying to pay off everything at the same time. And that’s not a good way, because you lose money in interest that way, and you don’t see much progress because each account is being reduced very, very little.”
“That’s why I love your site so much,” he said. “Because it feels like a community and I can see how other people are getting out of debt, and it allows me to stay informed on financial topics. And then the tool itself is telling you what your story is – and it looks bad, you know, but then it’s giving you a plan and saying ‘You can do this! If you can pay off this amount every month, you are going to be able to pay off these cards in this amount of time.’ And just to see those numbers is so helpful and makes you feel like you are in control. And I fell in love with your site for that reason.”
Once he began aiming directly at those high interest accounts, Chad saw rapid progress. “I had carried that Best Buy card for four years, and then in four months – boom – it was gone! And I honestly did a dance, a victory dance, when I got the e-mail [from ReadyForZero saying the account was paid off].” (Apparently, we’re not the only ones who like doing victory dances!)
Chad said one of his favorite things about ReadyForZero is the positive reinforcement and encouragement. He told us, “you know, you wouldn’t think, but when you get the e-mail with the trophy and it says congratulations – it makes you feel great.
Stage 4: Enlightenment
These days, Chad is on a roll. Not only has he paid off his two highest interest accounts, but he’s on his way toward paying off the third one.
He was quite happy to have those two cards done, saying, “in Best Buy’s case, I had maxed it out at $2,000 and it had been fluctuating between $1800 and $2000 for the better part of two years – with a 24% interest rate! I mean, geez!”
As for the Exxon Mobile card, he said: “That one was maxed out at $700. And the minimum payment on that was $12 per month and that was all I paid toward it, and I did that for over a year – and then [when I started RFZ] in two months it was gone.“
The beauty of having a plan and executing it is that he’s not losing any momentum after each card gets paid off. He just shifts to the next part of his plan. “Now I’m on to the next card, which is American Express,” he said. “What proves to me that it’s worked is I’m looking at how much I’m paying down my credit debt every month, and ever since I joined ReadyForZero I’ve paid an average of $418… and when I look at the previous months before that, I was only paying down $126. And my income situation hadn’t changed.”
With this success comes wisdom, and a more informed perspective on finances. “Now, when I buy something, I make a plan to pay it off,” he said. “I’ve started making good decisions. And I put more money toward the bills. I increased the total allocation per month that goes toward the credit card bills.”
Furthermore, his overall credit picture is much brighter. “My credit score has shot up to 724. I don’t have any bad things in my history like bankruptcy or late payments but my score had been way down because I had just so much debt. And now it’s way up.”
We’re so happy that ReadyForZero has played a part in helping him get to this point. We always love hearing about positive outcomes for our users. In his words, “It’s helped me become so in tune with my finances.”
Since things are going well now, Chad is planning to see the Dave Matthews Band live in concert a few times. After all, what is life without passion? And if you can pursue your passion and keep your finances on track, it makes everything sweeter.
Long term, Chad has a goal of building up a substantial savings account. He is focused on goals of financial stability that once seemed very distant. And his newfound mastery of personal finance has become part of his identity, carrying over to his office where he works as a Clinical Data Specialist for a medical device technology company. Contrary to the old days when he was afraid to talk about his finances, now he enjoys discussing personal finance with his co-workers. He shares our attitude that we can tackle debt together by erasing the fear and embarrassment from it.
And whenever he runs into someone who is working to pay off debt he recommends ReadyForZero to them. He told us, “I love your website and the work you’re doing to help people. It’s great, I always tell people about ReadyForZero. I’m living proof that it works.”
We’re lucky to have such a great success story, and we think Chad’s experience is an inspiration to anyone who would like to pursue their passion while continuing to remain financially secure. Keep up the good work, Chad!
This article is part of our Credit Card Debt Resource Center. If you’re looking for additional information about credit card debt, be sure to pay a visit!