I hate credit card debt.
It makes my skin crawl. It makes me feel like I have a boulder sitting on my head.
For a long time now, Darrel and I have been drowning in credit card debt.
How could people who despise debt end up owing so much to credit cards that even with a very high annual income they can barely breathe?
Kids. But mostly medical expenses and the high costs of allergy foods.
FPIES happened, ladies and gents, and it dragged Darrel and I down into the depths of credit card debt.
FPIES reared its ugly head by sending us to the hospital when Zac was 7 weeks old. Not just a visit to the hospital, oh no. This was admitted to one hospital, then an Angel Flight helicopter ride in dire straights to Little Rock, and a week in the second hospital with myriad tests and multiple doctors attending our child. Oh, and then Jed was admitted to the hospital back home at the same time. (Boy, those were fun days…)
In case you don’t know, all that hospitalization is EXPENSIVE; at least 6K.
Then there was flying the kids to Atlanta to see specialists (which, even with free flights and free lodging was still a good 2K in medical costs and expenses).
All of this while I was out on maternity leave, not earning any money. Darrel’s poor paycheck begged for mercy. We just didn’t have the money to pay for these things.
It wasn’t our first choice, but it was our only option.
From the beginning, every time we tried to get on any sort of public assistance, we were denied. Apparently we earned enough money to not qualify for help, but were poor enough to be nearly bankrupted by the cost of keeping our sons healthy and alive.
(I’m not kidding; we were denied for one program because we made $100 too much per year. Argh!)
Adding to the problem was the fact that Zac didn’t have any safe foods until 17 months old and my breastmilk was all that was keeping him alive. I had to take continued leave of absences from work to keep Zac’s food source near him 24/7. We couldn’t afford those leaves, but what choice did I have? It was either go to work and kill my son, or stay home for Zac but maybe lose our house (or at least go into severe debt).
I’ve already done a breakdown of how expensive food allergic grocery shopping is, and those expenses hit us every month without fail whether I was bringing home money or not (on top of the medical bills just sitting on the credit card).
Then we had to buy a new freezer because all that expensive food must be stored somehow, and we had no more room. More credit card debt.
Now I’ve been back to work full time for over a year. Between the two of us, Darrel and I are earning…well, let’s just say VERY good money.
And we literally cannot afford to get a squeaky belt fixed on my car.
We can’t breathe from the credit card debt we are now having to pay off.
One card alone costs us $515 a month – just to keep the balance from going UP! That doesn’t pay off a single dime of the balance.
Darrel and I have been paying approximately $1,700 per month on debt, and have not made a dent in that debt in over a year.
We. Are. Drowning.
We’re GOOD at paying off debt, folks! We wiped out almost 20K in debt within the first 3 years of marriage alone! But we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of our current hole.
I’ve gone to one of our banks and one of our credit unions, applying for a loan to pay off all the debt. Despite the fact that I was back at work and we were bringing home a lot of money, regardless of the fact that both of our credit scores are very high, nevermind the fact that I informed them this was to pay off the credit card debt – and I’d even close out the credit card accounts (affecting my credit score negatively)…we were denied both times.
Our debt to income ratio was too high, they said.
“Yes, but using this money to pay off the expensive debt will mean the debt stays the same, right?” I asked.
“Yes,” they said. “But it doesn’t matter. We have a formula, and you don’t qualify.”
I’d resigned myself to working 80-90 hours of flight time per month (in the real world, that translates to a traditional 160-180 monthly work schedule) and maybe getting our debt payed off in another 5-10 years, while stressing constantly about how we were going to pay for needed car repairs, how we would pay for a new car when the time comes (a 2004 car isn’t going to last much longer, especially since we have to keep deferring needed repairs), and how we would pay for any emergencies that came up.
While never going out to have any fun or going on vacations, of course. Even with free flights and discounted lodging.
Not a fun way to live. But, you know, we had no choice at the time, and this is the price of being able to cope with FPIES effectively for our family. I’ll gladly live this way for as long as necessary in exchange for my happy, healthy little boy!
Still. Couldn’t there ever be a break for us? A way out?
It sure didn’t seem that way…until I got a piece of mail one day. I didn’t recognize the sender, so I didn’t throw it away as junk mail. I opened it.
Then I thought it was junk mail! It was one of those fake checks that said “You’ve been approved for $100,000!” Yeah, right. Another credit card ad. Trash!
Just as I was about to chunk it, though, I registered that this said “loan”…not credit card. Intrigued, I looked more closely.
The information in the letter seemed clear enough, but I’d never heard of this company before and frankly, it seemed too good to be true. So I did a little research.
By the time I was done with my online research, I’d shared the news with Darrel and we were applying for a loan.
Two weeks later, we were approved!
We will pay off all but our two smallest debts with this loan, and according to our current budget, everything but this new loan will be paid off by the spring. At that time, our monthly outlay for our debt will drop from $1,700 (without making a dent) to $550 (for a mere 7 years)!
Yes, it’s 7 years of paying on this debt, which sucks. Surely we could pay if off sooner without the loan, right?
Especially not if we keep getting hit with random expensive stuff. An $823 medical bill from a year and a half ago that insurance just finished with. $510 in new tires because mine were so bald they were about to blow. That squeaky belt in my car that needs to be addressed after over a year of squeaking at me.
This way, we can pay off our debt responsibly, but we can also BREATHE while we do it.
So what is this amazing company that saved our financial bacon?
It’s a completely new approach to financing. SoFi stands for “Social Financing”, and it started as a way for Stanford alumni to help fund the education of current Stanford students.
They expanded to service other universities with student loan options, and now are branching out into mortgages and personal loans.
This isn’t FICO based lending; it’s mostly based on whether they think you can pay it back or not (length of time at a job, income, college degree preferred, etc.). One really comprehensive overview of the company can be read here.
Everything is done strictly online. Even the document submission part was online (they suggested I take photos of my documents and submit the photos if I didn’t have a pdf available!).
Even with a completely online company, though, I experienced better customer service than I have EVER gotten from any brick and mortar finance institution! They have a nifty little “Chat Now” button that – surprise, surprise – actually connects you to a real human being instantly. No matter what time of day I had a question, the connection was instant and the conversation helpful and friendly. (Except for when they’re not actually open. Then I can leave a chat message and they get back as soon as they open for the day.)
When I’ve called on the phone, they were super easy to talk to and work with.
Even signing the loan documents was online.
Easy, easy, easy.
Why am I telling you all about this great company?
Well, because I know how expensive food allergic living is, and I know many of us in the FPIES/food allergy world have gone into extreme debt trying to keep our kids alive. Drowning in debt is an exchange we are all willing to make to keep our kids healthy, but living that way sucks.
This is a potential way out if you, like me, have exhausted all typical resources available.
If you have student loan debt, SoFi.com can refinance it for you! (Be careful, though; Darrel evaluated his student loan debt and realized he’s already got a better deal than what SoFi.com could offer. They’re awesome, but you still have to do the math!)
If you have credit card debt and a job, you may be able to get a personal loan to make those payments a little easier to bear!
If you need a house, look in to their mortgage options!
For older parents, they can even refinance student loans you’ve taken out for your children.
I can’t guarantee they will approve your loan application, of course. But it’s well worth investigating to see if they can help you breathe a little.
Before I say anything else, let me just state for the record: DEBT SUCKS. DO NOT go into debt if you can help it. If you’re already in debt, though, and drowning in payments that don’t make a difference, I recommend looking into SoFi.com.
Rest assured, I’m so stinking happy about getting this loan I would have shouted SoFi.com’s praises for free! But, you know, they’re just giving away money for referrals…I certainly won’t say no!
If you’re interested in a student loan, visit THIS LINK.
If you’re interested in a personal loan, visit THIS LINK.
Yes, I will get $100 if you are qualified for a loan, but guess what? SO WILL YOU. IF you go through those links, you get $100, too!
Being rewarded while also being able to breathe again?
I love you, SoFi.com.
With a little bit of breathing room in our budget, I have every confidence Darrel and I will easily avoid going in to any more credit card debt. This is easily the answer to many prayers. How about you? Have you gotten in such dire straights you’ve had to do a consolidation loan to survive? Would you be willing to try SoFi.com?
For more information on budgeting and debt reduction, check out my Frugal Friday series on the subject: