Working Full-Time, This Single Mom and Grad Student Is Conquering $30K Debt

A mother and daughter do work together while lounging on their couch.
Dawn Jensen and her daughter Lauren work from home in Oviedo, Fla., Nov. 21, 2018. Dawn used Tally to help pay off her $30,000 of debt. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Dawn Jensen needed a little help. A little relief — a breather.

A newly divorced single mom in her 40s, she was starting her life all over again. She was working hard to keep a roof over her head, but financial struggles kept dragging her down.

With all of her bills, her mortgage and the cost of college tuition for her and her daughter, Jensen couldn’t get herself out of debt. Specifically, she couldn’t even put a dent in her $30,000 worth of credit card bills.

“It was like I couldn’t get out of this hole,” says Jensen, a creative marketing executive and social media business strategist in Orlando, Florida. “For me, it was a lot of anxiety. It simply was suffocating.”

That’s when she decided to try something different. While looking for a solution last year, she signed up with Tally, an app that helps users pay off credit card debt.

She wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s helped her a lot.

Juggling Credit Card Balances

A woman checks Tally on her phone.
In just over a year, from August 2017 to November 2018, Jensen slashed her credit card debt from $30,000 to $24,000 by using Tally. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Like many of us, Jensen has more than one credit card. She has four — a Visa business card, a Discover, a Home Depot card and a CareCredit card for health care costs.

Carrying more than one credit card balance can feel like herding cats. Just when you have one under control, you realize you’ve let a different one slip away. High interest rates and occasional late fees can make it feel like you’ll never get those bills under control.

That was Jensen’s problem. Each month, she found it difficult to pay more than the minimum payment.

“It was a struggle to get ahead because I was always paying ‘minimum-plus,’ so barely anything was going to the principal,” says Jensen, 46.

Tally helped her change all that, starting when she downloaded the free app and scanned in her credit cards with her phone camera.

Here’s what Tally does for her:

  • It manages her credit card payments all in one place.
  • It uses bank-level security to keep her personal financial information safe.
  • It automatically sends each payment at least two days before the due date, avoiding late fees.
  • It attacks her most expensive problems first. It prioritizes paying off her credit cards based on how high their balances and interest rates are.

If she can, Jensen will often make an additional payment on top of her minimum. But she likes the security of knowing that, at the very least, she’ll never have a late payment, which saves her late fees.

“Along with saving money, my credit score is better now because I’m not missing any payments,” Jensen says.

Tally also offers an optional “Tally Advisor,” an automated debt manager. It looks at your income and spending and offers you advice on how to pay down your debts faster.

A Credit Line: Cheaper Than a Credit Card

A mother and daughter take a stroll on a trail in Ovideo, Fla.
Jensen and her daughter take an afternoon stroll in Oviedo, Fla. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Users who have a credit score of at least 660 can get a “Tally credit line” with an interest rate between 7.9% and 19.9% — lower than most credit cards. Jensen uses that lower interest rate to make managing payments easier.

Tally reports that roughly two-thirds of its users are using a Tally credit line, and the remaining third are simply using the app to manage their credit card payments — whether it’s just making payments on time, or helping them figure out how much to pay.

Jensen is using her credit line to cut down her debts faster than she could by herself.

In just over a year, from August 2017 to November 2018, she slashed her credit card debt from $30,000 to $24,000.

“When I started seeing it in action, I was pleasantly surprised,” she says.

She’s got a ways to go to get debt-free. But it’s better than being stuck at $30,000 forever.

Tally Helps Keep Her on Track

A woman poses for a portrait outside of a yellow building in Ovideo, Fla.
Tally has kept Jensen’s finances on track. “There’s a peace of mind I didn’t have before,” she says. “As a single mom, 46, starting life over again and not knowing what that looks like, this has really helped me.” Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Divorce is rough, and her finances are complicated.

I’m in grad school, and I’ve got a daughter in college,” Jensen says. “She’s still at home, and she works full-time and goes to school full-time. I’m going to school part-time; working full-time. It’s just a lot to manage.”

Her daughter, a freshman in college, is working toward a business degree. Jensen is taking executive MBA courses.

It’s a LOT. Tally helps keep her on track.

“There’s a peace of mind I didn’t have before,” she says. “As a single mom, 46, starting life over again and not knowing what that looks like, this has really helped me.

“It’s given me confidence that I can do this on my own. I’m OK to do it on my own,” she says, her voice breaking with emotion.

“And my daughter will be OK.”

Tally is currently available in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s very familiar with credit card debt.

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