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Collin’s Story, Part 1: Me Vs. $40K of Credit Card Debt

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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.

Stay tuned for part 2…

Join The Discussion

Comments 246

  1. Renee

    Collin…bless you for sharing your story. You truly are an inspiration. I also have a huge amount of credit card debt and I’m anxious to see how you were able to overcome yours.

    • Linda Sherrill

      I’m a certified counselor with Dave Ramsey’s Financial peace training program. I’m always happy to help explain how to get out of debt quickly. Free of charge.

      • Lori

        Linda…May I contact you or will you email me? I would love to talk to you.

        • Linda

          Yes please contact me! I’m happy to help with financial questions! 575-644-4613

      • Steve

        How to find out more

      • Ariana

        @Linda could you contact me as well? My debt seems to be unsolvable though not 40K high it is unmanageable for me. @levinsbooklovers@gmail.com

      • Angela

        Hi Linda. Please let me know how I can contact you. I have a hardship financial question, regarding debt.

        Thank you!

      • Felicia

        Linda, I would love to talk to you!
        Collin thank you for sharing your story! Opening up can help so many people including myself. I was also young when I had my first. We were struggling financially! However, my biggest debt is student loans. Mine ballooned tremendously over the years due to hardship. Looking forward to hearing the rest of your story.

      • Angela

        I would also like information but I always thought it was expensive for Dave Ramsey’s program
        Angelabeisme@yahoo.com

  2. Saiza

    What a great story, I can’t wait for part 2! I too started the cycle of credit card debt at 18, I was in college and you get soooo many credit card offers in the mail, I’m like what’s the harm. Well 15 years later I’m still stuck in that credit card cycle and close to $40k in debt and I’m horrified. Horrified it got that bad and I didn’t really realize how bad it was. I’m starting the “Dave Ramsey” baby steps to try and pay them off, but it will take me a couple years at least. Not to even mention my car loan.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Big Hugs friend! I can so relate to what you are going through, and sure appreciate you opening up. ❤️

    • Mary

      If you’re able to consolidate those credit cards in to either ONE low interest card or a personal loan – and then cut the cards up – you should be able to save yourself some $$ in interest charges/fees.

  3. Stacey

    As always love to and awe of you! Things happen for a reason and your life and struggles happened so you could help and touch so many over lives!

  4. Heather

    Thank you for sharing your story! Can’t wait to read Part 2!

  5. Lisa

    I was there too. Almost 30 thousand in debt. Greenpath became my friend and helped me pay off that debt in less then 4 years. I couldn’t have done it without them. The nights of not sleeping and worrying how I was going to make those payments are behind me. If I don’t have the cash I don’t buy it. I will never allow myself to get “there” again. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    • BranFlake

      What is greenpath?

      • Sue

        Green path is a credit counseling agency- they offer education, and will help work out payment plans or advise about bankruptcy

        • sheasmom

          Thanks Sue!

    • Felicia

      I am the same way now ! I believe once you live that nightmare, you tend to stay far away from debt.

  6. Bonnie

    Thank you for sharing and I’m certain your story will speak to others to help them thru their journeys. God bless you!

  7. Laura Ochoa

    Colin,
    Thank you for sharing the Part 1 to your personal story. I am intrigued to find out what happens in Part 2 as I can relate to you in many ways. God bless your heart and thank you again for sharing this.

  8. SamSim

    Thank you for being so honest and straightforward about your struggles! My husband and I had credit-card and medical debt when we married, then found out that he had a few grand in college debt that he wasn’t even aware of. The Dave Ramsey steps got us debt free, and now we live very leanly (even with 3 kids!) on about $30 grand a year, in large part because of great resources like Hip2Save!

  9. Jazz

    Thanks Collin for sharing your story, its takes a big heart to do that. Its was very aspiring. god bless!

  10. Linda Sherrill

    I’m a Financial Counselor withDave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program. I’m always happy to help others eliminate debt so they understand money and never repeat debt mistakes. I can be reached at 575-644-4613. Help is free

    • Julia fiero

      I am Ramsey follower myself. Love his program. It works and we have turned our lives around with his help.

    • Mina

      Just looked it up, and it’s $129.99 – but for someone in debt, who can pay that!

      • Patti

        Check out his book at the library… The Total Money Makeover… it goes over everything you need to get on board without buying the FPU kit. Follow the 7 Baby Steps and you’ll change your life!

      • Lisa Williams

        You can purchase his book. Total money makeover and it’s 10 dollars or free at the library. Thats all I have done and I have paid off over 70 thousand in debt so far. The program is life saving for many people.

        • FMyers

          Lisa that is amazing! How long has it taken you to pay off the $70k?

      • Su

        Follow Clark Howard – he has a radio show helping people with finances. He is inspirational and FREE 🙂

      • Linda

        It is free if you call me! I’m one of Dave Ramsey’s counselors and I’m happy to help!
        575-644-4613

    • Emily

      Curious if this works when your living paycheck to paycheck. I mean if there’s any extra money every week it would be a no brainer to use it to pay off debt.

      • Diane

        It is amazing how many families in debt will tell you that cable, cell phones for ever family member are needs.
        Getting out of debt requires deciding what expenses you can reduce or cut out completely and use that money to pay down your debt.
        I have heard Dave Ramsey tell callers that they should sell car pay off what they owe and use any leftover to pay cash for less expensive car.

  11. Julia fiero

    Dave Ramsey. It works. Every bit of it. 6 Baby Steps.

  12. Tammy

    Thank you so much for your honesty and transparency.
    You will help so many people with your story.
    Blessings to you!

  13. Adriene

    Thank you for being so transparent and sharing your story. I look forward to reading the second half.

  14. Cizzy

    Thank you for sharing this Colin! I too have a huge credit card debt. I have been doing Dave Ramsey for a year and not getting ahead of the credit card debt because of the interest. Although this is not part of Dave’s plan, I just finalized a personal loan yesterday and a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I can finally tackle this debt fast without it all going to interest. And yes, all my credit cards are gone!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      That’s awesome!! Congrats, and thanks so much for sharing! 🙌

  15. Alice

    Oh my goodness, what a story you have to tell. I am very much interested to find out how you stopped that vicious spiral you were on, in particular, what you did to stop the self destructive choices and behaviors you chose to cope. I guess it really goes to show us that we should never judge a book by its cover; too many times we are fooled by the carefully cultivated and largely false image people are so desperate to project onto the world. So glad Collin you are healthy physically, mentally and emotionally to share this.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Thank you so much Alice. I sure appreciate the comment. ❤️

  16. Jodi

    Thanks for your vulnerability and transparency. This takes guts. I’m sure this can and will help so many people.

  17. Becky

    Just when I thought I couldn’t adore you more than I already do! Thanks for sharing such a personal part of your life. You just never know what affect your story can have on someone else. Thank you. XOXOXO

  18. Gloria

    Thanks for sharing. You are an amazing person.👏👏❤️❤️

  19. Lisa Schraw

    Thanks for sharing your story. I never would have dreamed you’ve been through so much. I look forward to read part 2.

  20. lee watts

    Thanks for being so honest. There is nothing in this world to hide from, you are only hiding from yourself, so everyone should be honest and when the moment is right open to the less than perfect beautiful things in life. We all have stories and if we share them then we will see just how alike we are and alone we aren’t (even if the story is sad and tragic).
    I think shopping is a quick fix for me as well. Even if it just grocery shopping or cvs, trying to get a deal is addictive and probably filling a void caused by the stress of life. Like if I try to process the fact that I have only 60k in student loans and I’m still in school (grad school) then I’d probably be physically sick. So I stick in a metaphorical box, put it on a shelf, and when I get a good job after graduation I’ll take the box down and sort thru it.
    Thank you for sharing, thank you for being real.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and open up about your own struggles. ❤️

      • Winnie123

        Wow, I always looked at your picture and your family and your house and thought, “she’s cute, she’s skinny, she has gorgeous kids, a cute husband, a nice house, she has it all!!” and I have none of that.
        I suffer from depression, and I have lost 60 lbs but I am still not “skinny and cute” but I don’t have any debt, although I struggle with spending. I was raise frugally so I know how to get the deals and really use your website to capitalize on stretching the $$. I appreciate you sharing your story, foremost because I know intellectually that no one is what we perceive them to be, but I always think, “if I was just more like her” my life would be great. I don’t have the family, or the body, or the other stuff, but I also don’t have debt so I guess I am better off than some others.

  21. rozzie

    Congratulations on turning your life around. Your story is similar to that of Mary Hunt, who also writes a frugal living blog, Everyday Cheapskate. Both of you are inspirations to people who have hit bottom in their lives and don’t know how to get help.

  22. ally

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. We appreciate your honesty. This community is so supportive, while the deals are amazing, the people is what really makes it! That’s why I loved it since joining. You are a strong, beautiful, talented individual. Kudos!

  23. Candace

    Anybody that is in debt needs to read the total money makeover by Dave Ramsey. You can listen to the audiobook for free on YouTube. Do it. You will be so glad you did.

  24. Kelly Bates

    Thank you for being so honest and open, we all need to do it more! God bless you

  25. John Henderson

    Great story Colin and looking forward to hearing the rest of it. Congratulations for working your way out of the debt I was a financial coach for a lot of years coaching people with similar problems, lots of great options out there but people need to be careful because there’s also some scam operators out there.

    • J

      Hi, can you give some legitimate places or companies out there that you had recommended?

      • Shelby

        If you go to daveramsey.com and click on the link for “endorsed local providers” it will help you find local (and legitimate) places. As Dave puts it, these are people “with the heart of a teacher” than can help you get to where you want/need to be financially. I don’t mean to sound like a walking billboard but I’ve found great help this way 🙂

  26. Julie

    I can’t wait to hear the rest. You are an inspiration now and hearing your back story makes me put you on an even higher pedal stool you are already on! XOXO

  27. Tenisha Williamson

    Thank you for sharing your story , Collin ❤️

  28. Jess

    Thank you for sharing your story! So often we only hear the good stuff and everyone thinks they are alone in their struggles. Your story may be what it takes to help someone else and to be their inspiration to start the climb back up.

  29. Ariana

    Thank you so much for sharing. Having someone actually talk about not just being in debt but the why and how it does just like and like and pile is really refreshing.

  30. John

    J.

    If it’s credit card debt you can find some good credit counseling services through nfcc.org. Credit Counseling Services work with your creditors to try to get your interest rates reduced so you can get the debt paid down faster. There’s also what’s called debt settlement companies out there that will try to get your total amount of debt reduced. Both of those types of services have pros and cons to them you just need to be fully aware if you’re working with a credit counseling service or a debt settlement company. Hope that helps

  31. Shannon

    Ooh the suspense…can’t wait to read some more! By the way, what kind of wallet is that in your first picture? I’ve never seen one where the cards stand up like that.

  32. SG

    It helps to read the stories of others on this issue. I am a single person with $30k in credit card debt, $50k in student loan debt (down from $130k after paying it off for 15 years), a mortgage, and a car payment. I also have depression and shop all the time…Internet shopping was the worst/best thing to happen to me, lol. Even “deals” aren’t great for me because it makes me feel like I have to buy it right now or miss out (even though it doesn’t end up being a deal logically when taking into account credit card interest). This is why I have enough beauty products to open my own spa 🙂 I took out a personal loan to pay off a lot of the credit card debt–fortunately and ironically, I have really good credit from all my debt because I have a LONG history of on-time payment–and got a low interest loan from Best Egg. The rest is on a zero percent balance transfer. And I am trying out a suggestion from my therapist that seems to be working mostly…when I go Internet shopping I leave my computer for a few hours without checking out, and when I return, if I still want the items, I will buy them. 9 times out of 10 I actually don’t.

    Good luck to all my fellow debtors out there.

  33. Jeannet

    You’re amazing Collin, such a great example, thanks for sharing 😘

  34. Jessica

    Would love to hear your whole story as I think it is powerful for others to see all that you have overcome, where you are and the woman you have become. I knew others that were close to you in high school and am constantly in awe of what you have built! I understand that some parts of our stories arent entirely ours to tell and pieces and parts belong to others as well. Best wishes to you and your family.

  35. Lau

    I applaud you Collin! Your honesty is inspiring and appreciated. I’ve been on your site pretty much since the beginning and it’s not because I LOVE TO SAVE MONEY .. ok it’s some of that lol but also because you’re real. Real with yourself and your followers. Thank u 😁👍🏻🙏🏻

  36. Jacki

    I love you and your honesty. You will help so many people with this post. You truly are an angel.

  37. Sanya

    Thank you so much for sharing.
    I am looking foward to learning on how to bring down my debt as well.

  38. C

    Thank you so much for being so real. I struggle with many of the same issues and it is a relief to hear other similar stories.

  39. BC

    Thank you for keeping it real. We love you more for that reason alone. Nonetheless, love from outside is meaningless without love from the inside so…we wait for the next chapter. Don’t worry though, all life is a work in progress, and all of us aren’t finished yet.

  40. Mary

    Thing is, may people belonging to these savings groups DO tend to over purchase – purchase items that they really DON’T NEED, just sayin. Also purchasing too many of an item. There’s one group I can remember where people were showing how much they had purchased of Downey – they had special shelving for their “score”. It was sick – we’re talking enough of one item that they could have their own STORE FRONT! One ad over 12 dozen tubes of Crest. Now really people, think about this – Downey DOES SEPARATE over time, toothpaste is gonna go bad, at least flavor wise. And please, don’t go in with your coupons and clear out a shelf supposedly claiming it for your local pantry when you know darn well it’s not going there. AND, if it SHOULD be the motive – then go to your store manager and see if they can bring in stuff specifically for YOU – so that you don’t deprive others of the chance of getting something that they may use and are in need of and do NOT have the money to stretch as others do. Nothing like seeing someone go up to the frint of Krogers with a cart full of tide – getting it for .49 and FREE with sale pricing and coupons on top – yes, they allowed it – several trips. I’ve been known to purchase stuff. All I wanted was a couple of bottles – they, from what I was told, had gotten the equivalent of 8 cases – they cleaned out the store! That’s just not right. Anyway, my main point is, don’t be a lil piggy when it comes to scoring your deals – the more you fill up your home with stuff, the smaller your wallet gets and the less room you have IN your home for the good times you’d like to have and the more important things/people in your life. Doing this, will keep more $$ in your wallet :), because while saving on your purchase is a good thing, NOT spending is saving you even MORE. I always think before I make my purchase, will I use it, do I need it, how many do I have, etc. – which helps me to save money as well.

  41. Your Friend

    Very interesting and appreciate you laying that out there for the people who think we all don’t have something we had to work hard for/from. You story is humbling and I’m glad to see you are in a better place. Long time follower since day one. Keep up the great work.

  42. Jamie

    Thank you for sharing this! I can relate in soo many ways. I’ve been following you for a long time. I remember your really old website with the lady wearing a bandanna picture. 😀 I’m very happy to have watched you grow big time. Thank you for your vulnerability.

  43. Alli

    Once again, you’re amazing Collin. So transparent and real. It’s truly appreciated and helps a lot of us feel less alone in our struggles.

  44. Angie

    Wow……I can so relate to part of this. Thank you for sharing your very personal story! I too have struggled with eating disorders of many types (anorexia, bulimia, over exerciser, binge eater). It’s a struggle and is so private, yet there are so many out there going through the same thing. Look forward to reading part 2.

  45. Dara

    Would be a great TED talk. You touch on so many topics: overcoming obstacles, resiliency, self awareness, determination, courage, etc. Thanks for sharing.

  46. c.j

    What an inspiration for others you are, Collin! BLESS you for sharing and helping others realize there can be a light at the end of the tunnel.

  47. Brenda H.

    I also highly recommend Dave Ramsey and his baby steps. We were also nearly 40K in credit card debt. We sold my husband’s diesel truck. We used some of the cash to buy him a used but reliable vehicle for work. Paid off over half of our credit card debt in one swipe and then started a budget. Starting and sticking to a budget is the hardest part of the process. We quickly found that doing so showed us how frivolous we were with our spending. All the sudden we realized that we actually had little over 1K a month of disposable income to put towards our debt. I also found a part time job to get us over that 2K a month. My husband is in the military and he happened to receive a 20K bonus of which he saw a little over 15K. We used all that money to pay off the remainder of our debt. 6 months later we now have no debt (excluding mortgage), have 5 months worth of living expenses in our emergency fund, and have started putting away that extra 2K a month away for our children’s college. We have 5 kids our oldest being in middle school.

  48. nic

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Cannot wait to read they second half. I too had massive cc debt during my college years, 20K. There was no Dave at the time. I used a nonprofit that helped me payoff that debt with payment plans.

  49. Andy

    After college I started spending. Spending money i didn’t have. I kept rolling the balances to new cards and more new cards. I have $8,000 left, but I have managed to get it down from just about $35,000. I started selling stuff on eBay to pay the cards and student loans. It is a LOT of work, but I am DETERMINED!!!!

  50. Brenda

    Looking forward to part 2. My problem is shopping. I am a shoe and purse girl and I have a closet full of expensive clothes I don’t even wear.

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