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Digging My Way Out of $40K in Credit Card Debt

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collin holding up a stack of coupons

Debt is scary, but it IS possible to get out.

Financial struggles have been a big conversation between me and my team lately. So much so that we’ve decided to launch a series of posts dedicated to this topic. In fact, I recently opened up about how I found myself $40,000 in debtyes, that’s a 5-figure number!

To leave off from where I was in the first part of the series, I had officially hit rock bottom. I was pregnant with my daughter Piper and truly wasn’t taking the best care of myself. I was struggling with bulimia and the vicious cycle continued even though I was pregnant with my third child. The weight of the guilt and shame I was carrying seemed to be getting heavier and heavier as I continued to numb the pain with bulimia. Binge, purge, binge, purge…  my daily life was wrapped up in this vicious cycle.

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 towards 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.


Stay tuned as there’s much more in this series!

We’ll be posting ways to earn, ways to save, and ways to be smarter overall when it comes to your money.

Join The Discussion

Comments 117

  1. Jiml

    A couple of tips that may help coupons: Use recycled paper you get in mail with the back being clear. Block out information you do not want anybody to see by putting scotch matte finish tape over and marking out info with a good size sharpie. This will keep ink from bleeding thru. Buy a laser black only printer for printing coupons. The laser cartridges last a very long time. The inkjet are too expensive and run out too fast. Happy coupon everyone.
    Jim

  2. sharon

    Thank you for sharing such a person part of your life with us. It just means we all have things to strive for and work on. Thank you

  3. mrbrocks

    Love hearing your story. What an amazing life turnaround. My wife and I have been following you for about 10 years. You have taught us how to coupon and find great deals. I want to thank you for saving us so much money and improving our quality of life.

  4. Eva

    Thank you for sharing your story. As a single mom of 2 in law school, I have no money and only debt. But, your site helps so much to still be able to get things for the family. I know even when I’m a successful (hopefully) attorney one day, I’ll still be using your site for awesome deals!

  5. patricia

    Have been following you for years,I watch the video that you talk about what you went through a couple times a year. Thank you Collin and hip2save for all you do. 💜💜💜

  6. Rose

    Beautiful story. Thank you for being vulnerable! I’m a shopaholic too and my couponing journey must have started about the same time because it was also 2008 for me. The amount of hours a I spent in Walgreens with 4 children in tow was astronomical. But they did so well and mom was having fun spending only cents per transaction. What a thrill walking out and calculating how much I spent with how much stuff I got. So sad it has all changed so much. But I totally understand why the stores had to change it. I still love to coupon but we don’t use any household cleaners anymore, I don’t buy laundry soap from a store…the things I used to get we dont use anymore! So it has slowed WAY down for me. But it’s still a hobby when I have time between raising 6 kids and working my home biz.

  7. Marion

    Hello Colleen
    I have been following your site for many years, and you helped me get some great bargains. It is not always easy finding the right balance of how much you should spend versus how much you actually do spend. Many of us, me included have our hurdles and I can’t thank you enough for your earnesty of writing this post, we all can change our habits. Looking forward to all the posts you and your team are doing on a daily basis, whenever I run to the store I check your site first,I am although a fan of your Keto posts. Keep up the great work, and thanks for all you do.

  8. Kathy

    I love your site and it has been my go-to place to start my day!! Thank you so much for being so down to earth. You have helped so many save so much, I have definitely saved a ton because you had this idea, this passion. You rock!

  9. Kathy S.

    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Nicole S.

    I have been following you since 2008 I was looking for something to do since I was on workman’s compensation and had just lost my father then five months later my only sibling my brother passed away so you were really therapy for me to save money and take my mind off my grief. I had no other family to occupy my mind so you really do not know how much you have helped me and I was very grateful to have found your blog. I am in a lot better place today but I want to thank you for all you have done and time you have given up with your family to give to us your followers and the wonderful deals we have gotten over the years due to your hard work and your teams hard work.

  11. shelley

    I love this post! I don’t like blogs, but I have followed you since 2008. Checking the site daily. Like you I had to learn to buy what my family needed and not because it was a deal. I started following you in college, and would buy items for my parents, grandpa, and brothers in college. Several Christmas/birthday gifts were boxes of toiletries that I scored on a deal from the site! I never felt the pressure of a broke college student because this site helped me be able to afford what I wanted when I didn’t make much money. Thank you for all you and your team do!

  12. Jean-Marie

    Negativity towards others perpetuates one of the many problems we have in this world. It’s a shame everyone wasn’t taught as a child if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all. We live in a hyper critical time right now, peoples fingers have become weapons and we hide behind screens, casting shadows and doubt. There is no reason to bring someone else down if you are feeling low. The laws of attraction are real- we get what we put out in the universe. Positivity will bring joy. Try it !

  13. Mod Mom

    All those experience made you the person you are today. Not only did you change your life and those of your friends and family but you changed the world. I can’t tell you how learning to coupon (I think we have all made the mistake of chasing the deal for items we don’t use) has been a blessing. All those deals generated lots of products that I donated to our homeless network at church. I was also able to donate lots of needed food, household and personal goods to family, friends, and especially elderly folks who are on extreme budgets. And I was able to do ALL of this because of your website. Our world has been transformed during hard times: illness, job loss, etc. because of coupons?! I never would have believed how much it would improve our lives when I decided to leave a very lucrative manager job to save home with my baby. I don’t feel like I am doing without experiences or things because I am focused on what’s important to me. I can’t get back my kids childhoods they only have one and it’s been so nice to make a hot breakfast for them before school (something I never had growing up), volunteer at their schools, and most importantly be home when they come home from school. Thank you for being so brave to share your story and share your deals. I feel that this site helps me stay positive, creates change in me (good change), and do it with integrity. I love you and your team!

  14. Mod Mom

    stay home with my baby

  15. Amy

    You are such an inspiration, Collin. And you have made such a big impact on our family. I have been following Hip2Save for 8 years and it got us through college, losing jobs, and saved us soooo much money when our twins were born (diaper deals = <3.) I already have shopping done for their Sept birthday and Christmas presents! You taught me how to shop and search for deals in a way I hadn't learned from my family. Thank you for all the work you and your wonderful team do!

  16. Adriaddiemom

    I first found your site when I was at home on maternity leave in 2010 looking for ways to save money on diapers! It is still my go to place for money saving ideas. You’re absolutely right, though. A deal is only a deal if it’s on something your family actually needs (or wants). I too had a giant stash of “free” items I bought with coupon deals. Your picture of all of the hair products made me laugh because I’ve been there, too!

  17. C

    Thank you for sharing your story, Collin. I’ve been following you since 2011 when I first graduated college and in search of a job. It helped make ends meet and eventually was able to pay off student debt. Thank you for all you and your team do!

  18. Patricia Goff

    I have fallen into that trap too. Buying things because they were free or almost free but at least I donated them or gave them to friends and family. I have gotten more picky about what I buy now. Even if things are free but my family refuses to eat them (like all the new sugar free foods or drinks) they are a waste of time and money. If I do get them I give them to my boss as he eats healthy all the time as he is a runner. He brings us both lunch all the time. LOL I am working on getting my debt down now that my daughter has finally moved out. Supporting two disabled brothers and her and three kids was really hard on one paycheck. I couldn’t have done it without Collin. Thank you Collin. My debt is less than 6000 so it will go down quickly now that I can make triple payments instead of just one and a half payments. LOL

  19. Alma

    Collin, you are an inspiration indeed. And I want to echo your point about not buying stuff just because it’s ultra cheap or free. Unless you are buying it with the sole purpose of donating it, keeping all that stuff organized will drive you nuts. I have an addictive personality like you so I’ve found myself often buying things I don’t need or use just because they are a great deal. They might be a great deal for other people but not for me.
    So I finally got some discipline and I don’t click on your every post, just the ones with items or services I actually need. And I’m successful at it about 70% of the time. The rest of the time…well thank God for the generous return policies of most stores. Although returning takes a lot of time and effort. Just now my car is almost full of items I need to return ASAP. So I would urge everyone to ask 3 questions before buying something “Do I need it”, “When will I use it”, and “Where will I store it while I use it”? These have definitely helped me curb my spending habit.

  20. couponkay

    Thank you so much for your honesty. You are so pretty, cute, and petite; no one would guess your struggles. We are all uniquely and beautifully flawed and that’s what makes our world interesting! And it makes you even more relate-able. I have struggled with Binge Eating Disorder for years. I also love the thrill of a good deal, but donate things I can get for free or nearly so. But I find that getting great deals on candy is a trigger and excuse for me to binge. When I first started couponing, I bought yummy stuff super cheap, but I was the only one in my house eating it. Not good! I’m much more selective these days after lots of therapy. I love how peoples’ intelligence peaks at different times. School was really tough for you, but now the girl with the learning disability writes for a living! You are an inspiration for so many who feel average or less-than. I hope as your children grow that you share your struggles with them and how you overcame. Since you are sharing so much, can I ask how, when, and where you met your husband during all this? He seems like a total gem(and handsome, too). Thanks for creating a blog that has something for everyone! Great job!

  21. Hanna

    You are sharing your heart in this post which is so brave. Thank you for all that you do for so many families!

  22. Lisa

    I have been getting out of massive debt slowly but surely with coupons, frugal recipes, frugal shopping, and various website like yours. Working a lot as a mystery shopper & now a call center at home. I am now a savings guru. We had $100,000 in debt. $50000 in student loans and $400,000 mortgage. Paid off 10% of the mortgage. Student loans are going down & cc debt is almost done. It’s taken a few years & tons of hours but getting there. Makes you feel in control of your life (the debt was from buying a mansion in bad condition & fully restoring and now it’s doubled it’s value so it was an investment & calculated decision)

  23. Brittany

    Thank you for sharing your story! I know it’s not easy opening up to people when so many people like to criticize. You’re site has helped me before and during my financial situation.

  24. Sheri

    Wow…I’m speechless. In awe. I didn’t know I could adore and respect you any more than I already did. Pure Strength

  25. Sheri

    Wow…I’m speechless. In awe. I didn’t know I could adore and respect you any more than I already did. Pure Strength

  26. Karen Wimmer

    Collin, your story is so inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing it. I know you’ve really helped me and I know so many people truly appreciate what you do.

  27. Holly

    Collin, Thank you for sharing. I have followed you and your site for years! I have always looked at you as so put together and having it all. It sometimes has made me feel odd as a single parent. It’s not to say I feel great that you have struggled but now I feel more relatable to you if that makes sense. I know it’s hard to share struggles so I appreciate that you opened up in order to help others. In general you have helped me a great deal over the years with being able to get my child things at great prices and also be able to meet the needs of family/friends for presents on a one-income budget. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

  28. Amanda

    I love that you have posted your story Collin. How truly inspiring! I have enjoyed using your site for years and I feel like you are this happy, bubbly and positive influence even through the computer. Your target videos were always my favorite. I have always loved that you make your blog so personal with pictures of your grandma, mom, kids, sister and employees. Thanks for being our life cheerleader and providing us with money saving tips!

  29. Bridgett

    Ah, Collin, you are so very brave! I, too, found you in 2008 and have been with visiting you daily ever since. I had gone through a devasting divorce and found myself a single mom in 2003. I had always been a thrifty shopper and couponer, however, at the chapter in my life while working full time and going to school full time, you were such a blessing. I was able to take advantage of money saving deals through your blog that I didn’t have time to search out on my own. My older 2 children were out on their own, and I was no longer shopping for 5, but 2. Most of the time I don’t benefit from most of the deals in your post, but when they apply, I am all over it. As soon as I got my 2nd masters, I continued to teach full time and started working full time, as well, at Sprouts Farmer’s Market. I continued to do that and am now a vitamin department manager. I wish I had known in 2003, that blogging would be lucrative, or if it was even a ‘thing’ at that time. Right up my alley, for sure. I contributed to another blogger’s posts with the weekly specials we had, but didn’t realize I could profit monetarily. I eventually lost contact with that blogger. You, however, have been my hero, my savior, my inspiration. Love, love, love Hip2Save! Thanks so much for your dedication, hardwork and passion. You’re the best, dear Collin!

  30. Rocky

    I am a divorced, single father of four and I am trying my best to keep up with the deals that all of you great folks post on Hip2Save. I focus on clipping coupons, rolling Kohl’s cash to provide my kids with clothing, and during Christmas just really working hard to find great deals to share with Santa. I am in debt and have instituted Collin’s cash only shopping trips.
    What really hit home here was I am doing the same thing you were doing Collin. I have been depressed the last several years of my life and have always been an “emotional” eater. I have been binging and purging for the last year, maybe more…but this post has really made me take a longer look in the mirror. I have a lot more work to do and I need to do it for myself and my kids. Thank you Collin for sharing! I really appreciate it.

    Kind Regards,
    Rocky

  31. KD

    Collin- I read this by happenstance 9 days ago…and it has been on my heart at moments every day since. I am trying to craft the “perfect response” but still typing/backspace/typing/backspace…overwhelmed and without the words, but know if I don’t express something, anything now it will never happen.
    Beneath it every draft of my post was a thank you. Thank you for your vulnerability.
    I have lived many of your struggles and I stumbled upon this site at an exceptionally difficult trying time many years ago. And I didn’t know your story, but something spoke to me and I knew there was authenticity and good intentions behind it all. Grateful for you-for the awesome, amazing women and men you have helped not just financially but in our walk through life. Hugs! Cheers! Blessings to You and Your Family! Kristy

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