Couple overcomes cancer, $20,000 in credit card debt - CBS46 News

Couple overcomes cancer, $20,000 in credit card debt

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Come payday, Conyers couple Richard and Charita Starr like to stay on top of their finances. But it wasn't always that way.

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In 2005, Charita was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Took all our money out of savings, we hit 401K, because we had so many medical bills," she said.

Then came the credit cards.

"And once it starts, it's hard to stop it," Charita recalled.

In less than two years, the couple racked up more than $20,000 in credit card debt. The phone started ringing off the hook.

"We were getting phone calls in the morning, I was getting phone calls at my job, I was getting phone calls before I went to bed," she said.

The couple had hit rock bottom and turned to a credit counseling agency for help.

"They basically took over and they distributed a certain amount of money to each creditor where it knocked off, it saved us about $200 a month actually," Charita said.

In addition to a debt management program, the Starrs stopped using credit cards and started budgeting. And within three years, their $21,000 in debt was gone.

"We go over our bills, we go over our money, we decide what we can pay, what can't pay, what we need, what we don't need," Charita said. "What needs to be paid now, what needs to be paid later," her husband added.

Now the family lives frugally and survives on cash, using the envelope method. They divvy up cash for groceries, gas, entertainment, etc.

"It's more or less a discipline type of thing. Once you run out of that money in that envelope, it's gone," Charita said.

And she's made sure her boys, ages 18 and 23, know how to use credit responsibly.

"They'll tell you that I get on their nerves so bad, but I don't want to see them go through what we had to go through," Charita said.

"Where you're spending your money, are you saving for gas, saving for other things outside of school or working," said the eldest son, Xeryus.

He and his younger brother Miles pay their own cell phone bills and put gas in the car so they can get to work.

"Be more aware of your money and what you do with it because you can't come to momma and daddy all the time and get extra," Charita said.

The Starr's advice to others: Learn to distinguish between your wants and needs. And once you can admit you have a debt problem, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Also, talk to your spouse or partner about money. Better yet, build a budget together and stick to it.

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