Collin’s Story: Me Vs. $40K of Credit Card Debt, and How I Dug Myself Out

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Collin holding wallet with credit cards

Let’s talk about finances. Yes, like really open up & have an honest conversation!

I think I felt some of you wince as you read that sentence. It is just so uncomfortable (or cringy as my kids would say!) to bring up money in any conversation. I mean, most people I know would rather talk about their sex life than chat about their income or expenses.

But not talking about our finances can leave us feeling alone and alienated, especially when struggling to stay afloat. Did you know that the U.S. credit card debt figure is at an all-time high of $870 million?! So if you’re having a hard time with debt, you’re certainly not alone.

That’s why we’re starting a new series on Hip2Save to bring our money struggles to light, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at first.

As some of you may know, I have my fair share of stories to tell that apply to my issues with spending. But after years and years of work and teaching myself new habits, I’ve been able to turn them around for the better (I mean, I did start a frugal living website after all 😂).

Today, I’m starting with how my money troubles all began. Buckle up, because we’re in for a rocky rollercoaster ride. 

Growing up, I struggled in school to fit in.

One of my most vivid memories of elementary school is the day I literally tried to run away from school. Every day, my sisters and I walked to school together and this particular day was no different. However, as soon as we arrived at school, I had the horrible realization that I had left my glasses at home.

Clearly, this was not a big deal in terms of my vision as I was able to walk to school without any issues but it was a HUGE deal for me on a personal level as these glasses had become my entire identity. Without my glasses (and also my hair being pulled into a ponytail), there was no way I was going to face that classroom of first graders. Side note – my older sister was able to contact my mom who graciously dropped off my glasses so I could go on with my day.

I still have that one day ingrained in my memory. Looking back, it seems like such a little thing, but knowing I still remember that day so clearly makes me realize that it was much more then forgetting my glasses. It was the story of a little girl who didn’t feel comfortable in her skin, who felt out of place, and who could hide it all with her magical glasses. Those glasses were her safety net.

I also learned early on that I had a learning disability and had to work that much harder to keep up with my peers. Homework and tests were a constant struggle and remained this way my entire school career. Each class, each math problem, each homework assignment built up doubt inside of me.

At 10 years old, I witnessed my parents divorce and my dad move all the way across the country. A few years after that, I moved with my mom and sisters from Houston, TX to Boise, ID. We moved to Boise not knowing a soul. I think for my mom it was a way for her to begin again and start a fresh, new life. I am forever grateful for that move. Although at the time, that wasn’t the case.

As a teen, my self-doubt led to low self-esteem, which led to self-medicating with drugs in an attempt to escape my problems. I almost didn’t graduate high school.

Then at 19 years old, I got pregnant.

In case it’s not clear, it was not a planned pregnancy. As I watched all my friends apply to colleges and shop for their dorm rooms, I was filling out a baby registry and stocking up on diapers… oh and watching endless hours of A Baby Story on TLC. That show and eating bowls of Kraft mac & cheese were my sanctuary.

I also began to start stressing about the financial hardships that would inevitably start popping up down the road. As many of you already know, having a baby is expensive, especially when you don’t know the first thing about finances.

Reflecting on this monumental moment in life, I want to express that even with the uncertainty and apprehension filling me up, I was able to give birth to a healthy, beautiful, and amazing baby boy who stole my whole heart. It’s pretty incredible how joy can still wash over you during milestones like this, regardless of all the other emotions I felt until that point.

Then my fears and toxic thoughts eventually returned, and I developed an eating disorder.

In an effort to regain control of my life, I turned to my relationship with food, specifically filling up on what I loved and then purging afterward, also known as bulimia. I was ruining my body from the inside out, but what, when and how I ate felt like the only area in my life that I could completely control. Bulimia became my best friend.

I isolated myself from friends and family. I climbed deeper into my hole of depression. Every single day the vicious cycle of addiction would begin again. This was my life.

Along with the physical and mental damage, I was also creating a financial strain on my life. Binging on huge amounts of food is not frugal. On top of that, my desire to keep up with the Joneses (and give the perception that I had it all) led me to fall deeper and deeper into debt. I thought if we wore all the expensive stuff and drove the nice car that somehow my life would magically feel good – oh, how wrong I was.

To stay afloat, I opened a credit card account.

hand holding fan of credit cards

And then another one, and another one after that, then store credit cards were filling up my wallet. I was very good at coming up with reasons why it made sense to have THAT many credit cards. Oh how good I was at filling my head with excuses.

Before I knew it, I had acquired $40,000 in just credit card debt alone—and that doesn’t even include my car loan or mortgage. That didn’t stop the shopping. In addition to bulimia being a huge part of my daily life, the other thing that kept me numb and disconnected from the reality of my problems was shopping. Oh, how I loved to shop.

If $40k seems like a scary number, that’s because it is. I had never imagined my spending would spiral so far out of control! The hole I was digging got deeper and deeper, and the vicious cycle continued.

Collin beat herself up, then Collin escaped reality with her BFF bulimia and second runner up shopping.

This went on for years.

In the midst of this numb life I was living, I got pregnant again and was blessed with another sweet baby boy. I thought my life would change and get so much better – hello, I had two healthy boys and a supportive husband.

What is wrong with you Collin? Why aren’t you filled with happiness and joy? I was so good at pretending on the outside – making it seem I was living this fantastic life. But the truth was that I continued to dig deep and isolate myself from the world. My eating disorder was my life.

And then at my lowest, pregnant with my third child and recognizing that my credit card debt and depression didn’t have much room to get lower, I hit rock bottom.

Oh the guilt I felt for failing as a mom, not only to my sweet baby girl inside of me, but also to my two boys right there in front of me just wanting the simple gift of a present mom. I felt like an empty vessel of a person just going through the motions in life without actually living it.

Not many people were aware of my relationship with food since I had isolated myself from sharing those struggles with my friends and family. That said, it was clear to them that I wasn’t in a good place. Keep in mind, at this point, my family and I were struggling financially – BIG time. Things sure get expensive when you are trying to keep up with the Joneses AND feed your addiction.

I hit rock bottom one weekday morning while crying on the bathroom floor. I finally said to myself, “I can’t do this anymore,” and shortly after picked up the phone to call my dad to ask for his support not only emotionally, but as well as financially, to help me get treatment.

So I checked into rehab.

Without anyone else prompting me, I knew I needed help, and I knew that unless I was truly wanting to break this addiction, rehab would have been a waste. I am so fortunate that my dad was able to help get me into a great rehab facility to begin working on regaining the mental and physical strength to fight my eating disorder, especially since Piper would be due in the coming months.

But one of my biggest takeaways from being in that treatment center wasn’t centered on my own problems, but instead on the hurdles that others have to tackle every day. It gave me that eye-opening realization to count my blessings and be thankful for what is going right in my life. Talk about a perspective check!

While I was in the 28-day program, we were lucky enough to have my mother-in-law come out to help with the kids and the support I felt from my family definitely kept me motivated to complete the treatment even when it felt like too much. I came out feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and just overall so much better, but just because I had finished my program didn’t mean that it was smooth sailing. Even to this day, the struggle with food still lingers because it was an addiction that engulfed my life for years.

Nevertheless, I was ready to be in control and get healthy, not only personally but financially! Since I wasn’t spending loads of money anymore to continue my food numbing and retail shopping coping mechanisms, it shed light on just how much money I was actually throwing away each month. When I heard about couponing, I had no idea those little pieces of paper would have such a powerful impact on not only paying down my debt, but help me to launch a business, and regain control of my life.

First, I had to learn the ropes of shopping with coupons.

Anyone who dives head first into couponing will tell you that there is A LOT to learn and a whole lot of math that comes with it. Remember when I said that I grew up struggling in school? Well, imagine my excitement when I finally got couponing and was able to apply this knowledge to our family’s day to day expenses and start actually saving us money—the complete opposite of what I was doing before (AKA spending money we did NOT have!). Love those light bulb moments!

Having never felt great at much of anything created a depression that painted a negative image in my mind of myself and my value. But because I was finally grasping a concept, it reinforced my confidence and self-worth to ignite that fight I had against my low-self esteem, health struggles, and my debt. It was a small win but it was life-changing.

I will admit, prior to having that light bulb moment, it took me months to understand the whole coupon thing. In the beginning, I was honestly spending money on items that our family didn’t necessarily need. Learning which deals made sense to purchase for our family was a key factor in actually SAVING us money. Is it really a deal when I have a stockpile of endless bottles of personal care and beauty products, with many being items that my family doesn’t use?

The thrill of getting a great deal with those magical pieces of paper can be addicting. And as you all know from my first post, this gal (that would be me) has got an addictive personality. So needless to say, when I first started couponing, I got a little too excited about the freebies and deals… and to keep things real, was spending MORE money on products my family didn’t even use. 🙈 Collin, Collin, Collin…

Months went by and I finally had the much-needed light bulb moment when my hubby asked me a simple question, “How come we have so many bottles of curly hair styling products when none of us have curly hair?” – Welp, I really couldn’t answer that with anything that would make sense. However, that question made me reevaluate why I was couponing and I quickly realized that I needed to change my focus. It was no longer about the thrill of the deal, but about truly saving my family money.

Having to discipline myself to only make purchases that made sense for me and my family is how I came out on top while couponing.

Cash Envelope System

In addition, I found that using a cash-only system when shopping kept me honest about my purchases. Knowing I had a set amount of money in my purse made sure I stuck to my initial shopping plan without any add-on items. This was especially helpful when I was grocery shopping as it made me so disciplined to stick to the grocery budget as I would leave my debit/credit cards at home. We all know how tempting it can be to drop a few extra items into the shopping cart – and then BOOM… budget blown.

As I got better with my shopping habits and scoring deals, I started sending them off via email to my friends and family. I was so excited about all the money I was saving and had to share! And then I got a reply back to one of my daily messages from my sister, Marley, that said, “You are sharing so much awesome info with us, you need to start a blog so that you can continuing sharing all of this with others, too…”

And then, Hip2Save was born.

collin wearing hip2save gal t shirt with coupons all around her

Way back when the site was hosted on Blogspot (in 2008), I started cranking out the deals to a small and humble following. One reader turned into 10, which turned into 100, and the more I posted, the more my site grew. I couldn’t wait to share the latest coupons and deals, and I was thrilled when I realized that this newfound passion was actually becoming a viable business. I felt empowered, excited, and just downright smart.

It also felt so great to be good at something, especially since it was helping me cut back on my spending so I could finally start paying down my credit card debt. And I was having so much fun! I was a one-woman show back in 2008, on top of the world, and I loved every second I spent working on the site.

However, the site did require a lot of time and it never really “closed” so I was essentially working 7 days a week. It was to the point that I had my laptop out during family events making sure my readers knew about the latest CVS deals or hot promos at Walgreens. To keep it real, as exciting as it was to be growing Hip2Save into a thriving site, there was no balance in my life and Hip2Save was all-consuming.

I was working for hours on Hip2Save each day – NOT because I was hoping to make money and grow a business, but because I was so passionate about sharing all of this money-saving knowledge with others. I truly had no clue back in 2008 that you could actually make money blogging. I still have to pinch myself as it’s pretty incredible to get to do what I love while making money and supporting my family… and I’m even more grateful that I get to employ people around the country who share in my passion.

Thinking back, I am so incredibly appreciative of my supportive husband who was serving in the Marine Corps when I began blogging and was always my cheerleader, even back then when I really didn’t know where this was going.

“How can I help?”

Collin and Bryn Hip2Save

I hired my first team member—my sister, Bryn, in 2009. She helped me source coupons, write posts, and respond to our awesome readers. I loved having her by my side through the ups and downs, and I could never put into words just how grateful I’ve been to have her in my life.

We spent a couple of years fine-tuning the site, only to realize we hadn’t stopped growing, which is a great problem to have in the blogging world! I brought on a few more employees to grow our team and felt overwhelming joy when I realized this passion-project-turned-business was actually helping others improve their financial wellbeing as well.

In fact, Stacy, one of my amazing employees, happened to share this message with our team recently:

“One of my original goals when I started working at Hip2Save was to pay down our debt. I hated seeing so much of our one-income budget going to paying creditors. Well… today was the day. All of my credit account balances are officially $0. It only took about 18 months…”

Phenomenal, right?! Being surrounded by such an inspiring community of like-minded, financially-savvy and passionate individuals is one of the reasons I love to wake up each and every morning, grab a cup of coffee and jump onto my computer.

Learning how to coupon, sharing my finds, and becoming empowered through saving money has changed my life entirely!

Couponing has certainly changed over the years with more policy restrictions and a focus on digital promotions. While I am grateful to have been able to turn my financial situation around years ago, many of the savings tactics I used no longer apply, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other successful strategies I can share.

Want to know some of my strategies? Check out these posts below:

Want to keep learning the best ways to keep some extra cash in your pocket?

Check out our 10-Week Financial Boot Camp! In this series, you’ll receive weekly emails featuring ​money-saving challenges​, ​helpful tips​, and even ​budget-friendly meal ideas​ to keep a little more cash in your pocket.

Sign up now for our Financial Boot Camp!

Join The Discussion

Comments 264

  1. Rachel

    We love you Collin! Thanks to you and your team I am staying in the frugal zone. I can’t deny that I have a home debt to pay off but you all here on hip2save with your daily deals help make my life so much easier. Especially the Christmas deals. I should probably start preparing for Christmas like …now lol.

  2. Heidi

    Thanks for sharing what must be difficult to talk about!

  3. Carol Maloney

    You are such an inspiration and a beautiful person inside and out. You have impacted so many lives in a positive way. I appreciate all of your tips and the fun you’ve shared with your videos. Your story clearly will be of help to so many.

    Thank you so much –

  4. justme

    I’ve been with you now for over 7 years! You are amazing and so inspiring to share your story with us! I’ve come to the conclusion in life that no one escapes life unscathed. You’ve turned your story into an inspiration for us all. You are always paying it forward and I want you to know you have helped me and my family so much while we’ve gone thru our own tragedies. Truly a blessing!

  5. maysee

    I love you Collin!!! You’re my hero!!!!

  6. Allison

    Collin, thank you so much for sharing! You truly are an inspiration to me and so many! You are awesome in how you care for your readers! Thank you for working so hard to have such an amazing site! Hip2Save is so incredible and has helped me so much with things that wouldn’t have been possible! Thank you so much for being you!

  7. Janet


    You are an inspiration to us all! I have followed your site from the very beginning. So glad that you have found happiness & success.

  8. Kim T

    Collin!!! Thank you for sharing ALL you life stories with us. You make us all feel like we can get our lives under control, whatever it takes. I will say, I too struggle with everything you described today. It’s a daily effort not to shop to make myself ‘feel good’ temporarily. After reading this article just now, I closed every other window I had open, trying to convince myself of why I NEEDED another pair of puma’s I don’t wear; Or more clothes I”ll never even look at it after being delivered to my house.

    Thank you,

  9. Adrienne

    Collin, You are exactly what we need in this world! Your honesty will touch so many lives and help them to make positive changes. I too have followed you for years through good times and bad. You silly videos always bring a smile to me.

  10. Martina Morton

    Thank you for sharing your story. That was very brave, cant wait for part 2. Amazing what you have overcome and how much you help others.

  11. dashofnutmeg

    Thanks for sharing! I’m so ready for part 2!!!

  12. KittyCat

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Judy Trac @ Lipscomb

    I actually read all of this. I got so much debt for pharmacy school and this makes me feel better lol

  14. Wanda

    You are awesome! Thanks for the transparency. Many want the world to only see the good things in our lives!

    This truth will help others be genuine with the hard stuff!

  15. Jourdan

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful piece of your heart. I can’t wait to hear the rest of it.

  16. Sue

    OMG I can’t believe you were ever overweight. You are so thin and look great. Thank you for sharing this and look forward to part two.

  17. Adriana

    Omg thanks for sharing, si im waiting for the second part, how you did it and how you started your business h2s?, very interesting 🤔😊😚

  18. John Henderson

    Hey folks for anybody struggling with any Financial issues whether it’s debt, mortgages, taxes, retirement planning budgeting Etc you may have access to free financial consultations through you or your spouse’s Employee Assistance Plan. Many employers provide this service free of charge to their employees but employees are not always aware of it. The service is generally telephonic counseling on any Financial topic that is free of charge to you and the counselors generally don’t sell any Financial product so you don’t have to worry about getting a sales pitch plus it is confidential and no information is shared with the employer. The best way to find out if you have the service available is check with you or your spouses employer human resources department and ask them if they have any employee assistance plan financial counseling benefit. When I was managing the employee assistance program at my former employer I was always shocked more employees didn’t use it as they had access to certified financial planners, tax specialists, mortgage experts, credit specialists, etc. free of charge so if you have the benefit definitely use it to get a better understanding of what paths you might be able to take to solve your financial challenge

  19. Gly

    Thank you!! Your story resonated so much with me. We’re on same boat and I, too, got pregnant at 19. I appreciate you sharing your story and I can’t wait for part 2. I knew there was a reason why I’ve been a hip2saver for many many years now.

  20. KORMOM

    You are a beautiful writer with great ideas and sharing this story is very brave. But, also will be helpful to many. The pictures of you with your grandmother and children are really precious. You definitely have good people in your life. I love this blog. Thanks for this and all of your posts. God Bless.

  21. Amy

    Thank you for sharing … such an important topic that no one likes talking about. Thank you for bringing it to light.

  22. Sally

    I have been followed Collin before this site starts. The blogs site that got shutdown, it’s over 10 years. I remember you had talk about this on the old site. I am so happy to see Hip2Save growing up and going strong.

  23. Mae

    I’m sure it’s not easy to be so vulnerable and open about the struggles you’ve faced, especially with so many strangers. I can say that I enjoy the person that you are and love watching your bubbly, silly personality on FB Lives. (And you save my family LOTS of money… woo hoo!) I’m so glad you’ve overcome those demons in your life & I’ll pray for you to always know your self worth! God bless you and everyone on the H2S team! <3

  24. Wadav

    Thanks for sharing what must be difficult to talk about!

  25. Jeffy

    I love these stories, they are 100% relatable. I’m 25 and have been following your blog since I was 18 <3 I'm so glad your journey has taken you where it has. Collin, your seriously my hero <3 <3 <3

  26. jpalexva

    Thank you for sharing your difficult story. I, too, went through credit cards debt, and mine was $60K! I was in my early 20’s and single and just graduated from college. My problem was not necessarily shopping but getting advance cash from ATMs – I did this because I did not have any money, and my salary from my job barely covered my rent. I counted coins for gasoline for my car. I signed up for a debt back-payment program. It took several years at hundred of dollars a month but I made it. I did not want to file for bankruptcy. I am now debt free. Trust me, what was definitely a lesson learned, and I don’t plant to go back to that situation again! NEVER. BTW, thank you for having this website. It is the first thing I look at every day. I don’t shop just for the sake of shopping. I find where I can save money. You have been a tremendous help!!! God bless you!

  27. Jessica

    Thank you so much for sharing. I thought I was the only one. I am a compulsive eater and shopper and we are in major debt as well as I weigh more than I ever have in my life. It’s shameful and so frustrating. Knowing there are others out there is helpful.

  28. M.Powell

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  29. Melissa Drechsel

    Wow Colin! I can’t imagine the amount of courage it took to share all of this! It was incredible brave of you to be so vulnerable. So many people will benefit from your transparency and be inspired by your story!!!

  30. lynsharp

    Your life looks like a fairytale. You are living the dream. I would have never guessed even you had your share of problems. People often think they just don’t measure up to those who seem to have it all together. Thank you for letting us know that we are not alone. It makes us feel like there is hope for the rest of us. God bless you.

  31. Sarah

    I always appreciate when you come out with personal information like this. There is something about you that just clicks with me, like if I met you in person we’d spend hours talking!

  32. Joan

    Collin, You are awesome and I have followed you for over 10 years! You are very brave to share this part of yourself with us. Thanks for all the great deals and I look forward to reading part 2 of your story. We love you and support you!

  33. Kris

    Has Part 2 been posted? I’d so, could someone please share the link. I’ve been searching the site and can’t find it.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Kris! Be sure to stay tuned!

  34. Sarah

    You took your lowest point in life, your worst hurts and turned it into the most beautiful story. You are a hero in your own way, Collin. Thank you for being BRAVE and sharing your story. It gave me chills. I wish you continued health and blessings! <3

  35. Regina Moore

    Where is Part2?

  36. CP

    The link to Part 2 of how you got out of debt doesn’t work.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      I still see it working when I click through on a desktop, CP. If you are using a mobile device, you can try to switch to desktop view or try changing your browser. Please let me know if that works!

  37. CP

    Part 2 still doesn’t come up

  38. patricialavenz-goff

    Collin thank you so much for sharing. I feel that there is hope for me. I only have $8000 in debt but it has been years since I used a credit card. I am slowing getting it down. I have never made a minimum payment so it will be quick hopefully.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Good! You’re very welcome! 🥰

  39. Abby H.

    Collin, thank you so much for your transparency. In the world we are living in, sometimes isolating ourselves, it brings comfort to know that we are not alone. It’s hard, I am working so hard on becoming debt free, thanks to your website and all the years I have been following you, you are amazing. WE can continue this journey called life when we lean on each other, encourage each other and have someone who can listen. Thank you again for all you do!!!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re SO very welcome, Abby H! Thank YOU for the kind words and for being a longtime reader! 💗 It sure means a lot. 💕

  40. Sarah

    Wow! Collin, thank you so much for sharing such a deeply personal story with strangers. I’ve been on here for years and never in a million years would have suspected any of this. From your bubbly personality to you silly antics, I never realized the pain you’ve been through. We all have pain. Some days it’s tolerable, some it’s barely a thought, but there are those days when the pain consumes. Those are dark and difficult times and I understand completely. I’ve struggled with weight and shopping for as long as I can remember. My husband and I have been together (and honestly through so much that I never dreamt would happen to us). It’s so easy to pretend to be someone else, especially online. To act like life is all rainbows and butterflies. But, to be honest and vulnerable is really refreshing. Life can be difficult, challenging, and sad, but it’s totally worth the fight to get to the joy, the happy, and the love. I’m grateful for the look into your private life and for you trusting your followers enough to open up. It’s inspiring and I’m so proud of you!! My best wishes to you, your family, and your future!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re welcome! 💕 Thank YOU so much for your sweet comment and for being a valued reader through the years! It sure means a lot. 🥰

  41. Kate

    Collin, why are you reposting this? Did I miss something?

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Kate! This was shared again to allow for any reader who had not yet read this, to have a chance to check it out now! Hope that helps! 😊

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