Dallas agency helps woman deal with personal debt

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by TINA FOSTER

WFAA

Posted on May 16, 2011 at 8:21 PM

The average American household with at least one credit card is dealing with nearly $10,700 in credit-card debt.

The average interest rate runs in the mid- to high-teens, and that's one big reason that many families are still barely making ends meet.

"I definitely was not able to stop by myself," said Elizabeth Hale Spitzer, who — like many — let her credit card spending spiral out of control.

Spitzer, who admits to being an emotional shopper, says her small purchases started to add up quickly over time, and she soon found herself deep in debt.

"Pretty much I can say I got into about $15,000 worth of debt, because spending was kind of my drug of choice," she said.

Spitzer turned to Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas after a family member confronted her about her spending habits.

CCCS counselor Todd Mark said too often people try juggling their debts, using one credit card to pay another.

"Juggling is kind of like the circus — you can only keep the balls up in the air so long," he said. "Eventually they are going to fall, and that's what we see. Many people come to CCCS once the juggling has failed and all the bills are on the ground and they don't know what to pick up first."

CCCS, a free service, helped Elizabeth Spitzer establish a payment plan with lower interest rates to help her get out from under the mounting debt.

Jointly, they came up with a budget; and just as important, CCCS taught Spitzer to re-think her spending habits.

She no longer charges anything. "I'm purely cash or check," Spitzer said.

She established a calendar system to help ensure that she never gets behind on bills again.

Now, after three-and-a-half years of paying down her debt, Spitzer is just a few months shy of a total payoff.

"I was able to take control of my life, and that was the best feeling ever," she said. "I've never looked back. It's been wonderful."

E-mail tfoster@wfaa.com

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