She Made The Most Of Getting Out Of Debt

mary hunt debt counseling
Mary Hunt is in a peculiar position: The worse things get in the economy at large, the more of a star she becomes on the lecture circuit.

"We get stuck in our lives because debt brings us down!" she said.

Hunt knows debt like few people do - and more importantly, she knows how to get out of it, CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports.

"You can start with a dollar, you can start with two dollars," she said.

For years she was drowning in debt. She had a husband and two kids. She was a stay-at-home mom … when she wasn't at the mall.

A blouse here, some shoes there. For 12 years she shopped till she dropped … $100,000.

"When you were really piling up the debt shopping, what did that feel like to you?" Schlesinger asked.

"It was like this burst of energy and euphoria, a high like you can't imagine," Hunt said.

The euphoria didn't last long. But it felt like her trouble was endless.

"It steals your joy, it causes stress like you can't believe," she said.

It got to the point where she had to pay up. Bills had piled up and she knew who to blame.

"It's not my husband's terrible job, it's not that we don't have enough money, it's not that we have bad luck, that we can't win the lottery," she said. "It's me!"

She got a full-time job plus several part-time ones.

"I ironed men's shirts in my home for a while, cleaning," she said. "Anything that I could do to raise money."

The debt that took 12 years to pile up … took 13 to pay off.

When she finally got her bill down to $12,000, she launched a newsletter about how to stay out of debt, Cheapskate Monthly.

Ironically, she now makes a living preaching what she practices.

Hunt teaches three easy ways to stay out of debt, including two you'd expect. First, live on 80 percent of your income and put 10 percent away in the bank.

The third one is a little surprising: she says donate 10 percent of your income to charity.

"It just kind of quiets that greed and says, 'you know what? I've got enough,'" she said.

Hunt now has just one credit card and pays it off every month.

And she's learned self control and didn't even mind being interviewed in a mall.

Are you feeling uncomfortable right now?

"No," she said. "Because as you can see, I have no purse."

She's making sure owing $100,000 dollars will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"