From $17,000 On Credit Cards, To Debt-Free

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A few months ago, when the Credit Card Bill of Rights was before Congress, we visited Rachel Wilson: She'd had more than 18 credit cards since college, and had $17,000 in debt. But this past Wednesday, she finally paid off her "statement balance" and owes nothing to the credit card companies. Now she has to start saving.

GUY RAZ, host:

And now, from the most macro of economic indicators to the most micro.

Ms. RACHEL WILSON: I'm about to make the last payment on my $17,000 of debt, so that I'll be out of credit card debt right now. Right now, yeah.

RAZ: That's Rachel Wilson talking with her friend and our producer Zoe Chace. You might remember Rachel. She was on this show a few months back just before Congress passed a credit card reform bill. Zoe checked in with her this week.

ZOE CHACE: This was Rachel's life two years ago when she owed $17,000 to about 20 different card companies.

Ms. WILSON: I couldn't sleep at night and I just had this kind of constant anxiety about it. And I would say, okay, that's it. Like, I am not going to, you know, spend anymore on my credit cards. One time I froze my credit cards with a block of ice, so I couldn't use them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHACE: In October of 2008, as the government bailed banks out of their bad debt, Rachel started her own bailout program. She wrote down every single expense on her blog, and she put a big chunk of her pay check towards her credit cards every month. When I visited her in April, she was only $3,000 away from being credit card debt-free.

(Soundbite of typing)

Ms. WILSON: So I'm logging into my account.

CHACE: July 15th, 2009, bank earnings are up, stock market stabilizing, and Rachel...

Ms. WILSON: By selecting okay, you're authorizing an electronic withdrawal to pay your credit cards. So I'm going to click okay. And there we go. Yeah, so now I am out of credit card debt.

CHACE: So how do you feel, man?

Ms. WILSON: I'm a little scared actually because now I have - I'm supposed to start saving all of this money that I've been putting towards my credit cards. And it seems like it would be really easy to not do that. I can literally do anything I want, which is terrifying.

CHACE: That's a terrifying spot a lot of us would like to be in.

RAZ: That's NPR's Zoe Chace.

(Soundbite of music)

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