Getting Out of Debt

In 2004, Tonya Shelton was facing financial ruin. Barely making more than minimum wage and having lost her home to an unexpected family crisis, Shelton and her family were forced to live in a rundown hotel.

Their future seemed bleak. However, armed with a burning desire to make life better for her family, help from Purdue Extension’s Making Your Money Work financial literacy program, the assistance of a Local America Saves campaign Indy Saves, and a savings plan, she began her journey to becoming a good steward over the money she did have.

With the help of Indy Saves, Shelton set a goal – to save $10 a week towards an emergency fund. It was money she felt she did not have at the time, but Indy Saves and Making Your Money Work helped her to commit to a budget in order to start saving. She sealed the deal by enrolling in a direct deposit program. “Having a savings account helped me to understand the value of having a banking relationship,” said Shelton.

At the end of the year, Shelton had saved $520 – a huge accomplishment. That milestone fueled her desire to continue to save. When Shelton received a raise later on that year, she added that to her savings. She also saved money from her tax refund, as well as money freed up from debt repayment. Eventually, Shelton saved enough money that in 2007 she purchased a home, all new appliances, and still had money left in savings. 

Today, Shelton has cleaned up her credit, started her own business, earned a BS in Management, and has been accepted to graduate school at Indiana University. In addition, she volunteers as a “money mentor,” teaching the same principles she learned from Indy Saves and the Making Your Money Work program. Shelton says, “Saving helped change my life in that I now have a plan for unexpected emergencies. It’s good to know that if something major happens with the car, the house, or with my children we have money in the bank.” 

“The hardest part of getting out of debt was working with limited funds. In the beginning, I did not believe I would ever get out,” said Shelton. Her story proves that nothing is furtherfrom the truth.

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