Debt Paydown Contest Closes Out Successful First Year, Enters Second

By KBJR News 1

January 4, 2013 Updated Jan 4, 2013 at 10:05 AM CDT

Think Biggest Loser meets money management. A northland credit union is wrapping up the pilot year of a debt pay down challenge, and already making big plans for this year's competition.

The presents are put away and the tree has turned brown, but the proof of the Christmas spending binge is still fresh in your mind.

"People get done with Christmas and they're opening up their first credit card bills and they're saying, 'oh my gosh' I need to do something and I need help," says Ann Marie Olson of Superior Choice Credit Union.

Help comes easy at Superior Choice Credit Union, where the first year of the Great Debt Paydown is wrapping up, and another is set to begin.

"Sometimes it seems almost impossible, but it's not impossible. Just with a little help, and motivation that they could win $5,000, it gets them there," says Olson.

For those who sign up for the challenge, they get free financial counseling for one year, and a chance to win $5,000 if they paydown the most debt compared to their income.

For Jolene Johnson, the grand prize was the perfect motivation to jump start her debt pay down.

"I know that when I have a goal out in front of me, I'm a lot more goal driven and when I see that goal, it's a lot easier for me to focus on what I need to do there rather than, 'hey there is an extra $100 in my account, let's go shopping'"

She says having someone track her spending and teach her new budgeting techniques has changed her situation.

"It was the right help at the right time, I don't think I would have done what I did without the accountability factor," says Johnson.

It is success stories like Jolene's that have encouraged a second year of the contest.

"We had 58 this year, but next year we would like to have more, and touch more lives with this program," says Olson.

In 2012 contests had an average of about $7,000 in unsecured debt, but there is no minimum for how much debt you must have to sign up.

In the first six months of the 2012 challenge, participants had an average increase in their credit score from 658 to 682.

For information on how to sign up for the "great debt paydown" contact Superior Choice Credit Union at (715) 392-5616.

Or you can contact Lutheran Social Service at (218) 529-2222.