“My counselor taught me how to love me. And how to appreciate that I did have a job and that I could get out.”

As a young girl from Tallahatchie County, Miss., Dianne knew she would become a homeowner one day.

On Nov. 30, 2018, at 57 years old, she and her husband closed on their very first home.

Buying a home might not have happened as quickly as she would have liked, but with resilience and discipline, Dianne worked to climb out of debt and dream a house of her own into existence.

Dianne’s debt reached its peak during her drug addiction. She had a good job, she says, but continued to live paycheck to paycheck because of excessive spending. At one point, she owed 25 cash advance loans and eight unsecured loans.

“I didn’t know how to do anything but spend money,” she says.

Her rising debt didn’t just affect her bank account. It spilled in to other areas; she was lonely, depressed and felt abandoned.

“I felt like I couldn’t get out. I felt like I was in water just drowning every two weeks. That paycheck to paycheck cycle really put me in a state of suicide and depression.”

With a credit score of 404, she was tired of accumulating debt and wanted to see the money that she worked hard for. She received an email through work from the Financial Empowerment Center, a partnership between the Mayor’s Office and United Way of Greater Nashville. Dianne didn’t reach out to them right away, though. She was paying her bills and thought she knew what steps she needed to take, but her debt kept mounting.

Eventually, she made an appointment with a counselor at the FEC, and they worked to set a budget. Whatever she had budgeted for that week was all she allowed herself to spend.

She began to discipline herself. She’d write her gas, laundry and groceries into the budget each week.

“Everything that I knew I had to pay was in that budget. And if it wasn’t in that budget, it didn’t get done for that pay period. I found myself paying off bills and feeling good about myself. I saw those bills going away. I saw my credit score go up.”

Dianne characterizes her journey with the FEC as one without judgement or embarrassment. Her counselor not only showed her the importance of saving and setting boundaries, but encouraged her to have confidence and believe in herself.  

“I think [my counselor and I] cried every time I went there. We could see the progress. We could see the growth. They taught me how to love me. And how to appreciate that I did have a job and that I could get out.”

Now, with a credit score of 700, she says there is no greater feeling than lifting her garage door at her own home.  

“I just want to encourage people to get out of debt,” she says. “Be a dreamer and don’t have any fear. Because fear will stop us from getting out of debt.”

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