September 25, 2009 | Diane Johnson | 1 Comment If you are in debt up to your eyeballs, this story can inspire you to take control of your finances. The Hildebrandt family of Wisconsin was able to successfully eliminate $106,000 in personal and credit card debt over 5 years. The family owed $89,000 on a credit card and $17,000 to a family member. They had been current on all of their payments, but their credit card companies started to raise their interest rates. That's when the Hildebrandts decided to take action. They struggled with covering monthly payments and realized they needed to change the way they lived. When many friends were telling the family to declare bankruptcy, Russell and Kandy Hildebrandt decided it would be better to bite the bullet and pay back their debts. They started by meeting with a debt manager, that was able to help the family come up with a five-year plan that would help them eliminate their debt completely. They hadn't lived a lavish lifestyle when they went into debt. They rented a 1,000 square-foot townhome and only took vacations to see family members in the Midwest. Over several years, the family had slowly accrued debt because of unexpected expenses and medical bills. After some time, the family decided and committed to save and pay off their bills although they maintained that they would pay a 10 percent tithe on their income to their church. By eliminating discretionary spending, buying generic foods, purchasing necessities at thrift stores, and eliminating gift exchanges the family was able to send $2,000 each month to their debt management company and, in turn, to their creditors. This amount was about half of Russell's net pay, so Russell took on a second job. The family even made do with one car for a year until the family received a used van from Kandy's family. Even though money was tight, the family continually saved and, while their balances didn't seem to be going down much, they kept their goal in mind to be debt-free.; By 2008, the family only had one more year of payments to go and Russell started looking for a new home. They found a three-bedroom rambler on a rent-to-own agreement and moved in. The family is now free of debt and working on paying their mortgage. Even though the debt is gone, Kandy remains a bargain shopper. The Hildebrandts, through their extraordinary behavior and commitment to repay their debts, won the Professional Achievement and Counseling Excellence (PACE) 2009 Graduate Client of the Year Award. This family showed that through hard work anything is possible. They accepted their debts and acknowledged that they needed to make some changes and they got to work. The Hildebrandts deserved to win the award, because they were responsible and took care of themselves. Congratulations to them! If you're struggling with debt, you can do it too.