The Moment: A divorce left Chad Ramage with $35,000 in credit card debt. Though he says his ex-wife racked up most of the balance, Chad was still legally responsible. On a lawyer's advice, he declared bankruptcy to remove himself from the accounts he shared with his wife. He paid off what he could on the debts that were his and developed a whole new attitude about credit cards. In short: "They're evil," he says.
The Method: Chad uses a debit card for most purchases and then downloads the records into MS Money so he can track his spending. But he keeps two credit cards to rebuild his credit, putting just small charges on them and then having the monthly bill automatically deducted from his checking account.
Best Tip: "I struggled with the decision to file for bankruptcy. There was a shame," Chad says. But he sees the silver lining in his experience. "I became a hyper saver. It's amazing how easy it is to save when you don't have credit card debt to worry about. It's liberating."
The New Life: After having less than $20,000 in his 401(k) and $5,000 in savings five years ago, Chad now has $116,000 in his 401(k), $90,000 in an investment account and $15,000 in IRAs.
Earlier this year, he married Ging, 31, an engineer he met at work. They bought a house in May, putting down 20% in cash as a down payment. Chad says he is excited to begin life with his new wife. "Like me, she is a planner, so we will be setting our goals and priorities together free of credit card debt."
NEXT: The Corbetts