Heroes at Home: Retired Tech. Sgt. Mischelle L. Prince

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
(Editor's Note: This article is the first of a three-part series by Airmen who have received financial management assistance from the Grand Forks Air Force Base Airman & Family Readiness Center. The series will lead up to the Heroes at Home program hosted by the A&FRC, May 12, 2015 from 1-3 p.m. at the Northern Lights Club.)

I got my very first credit card as an Airman. I didn't know anything about credit cards. All I knew was that I had money on a card and I could spend it. I had a $1,300 credit limit as an Airman 1st class. I went shopping; I bought a whole new wardrobe.

Then I got married and more credit cards came. At one point they were all maxed out.
After getting divorced, I re-enlisted and got my signing bonus. With that bonus I paid off the majority of all my credit cards.

I went to Korea and lowered my debt to less than $3,000. After that I received orders to Langley Air Force Base, Va., and found out the hard way that my pay was lower. My debt went back up.

I received orders to Japan. I still had too many credit cards. My supervisor helped me get completely debt-free.

I decided to start a website and try drop shipping. I basically advertised and sold products for companies online. Then I would send the companies orders to ship to customers. It didn't work out and I got back to maxing out credit cards. I was not a happy person. I didn't realize what I had gotten myself into.

Before I got back into debt my credit score was 720. When I came to Tom Slaughter at the Airman & Family Readiness Center here, it had dropped to 699. We did a budget analysis. I wanted to make sure I was debt-free before I retired.

I never paid the minimum payments, I always paid more. But my credit score still dropped.

I began to pay everything off.

After I paid everything off I came back to tell Mr. Slaughter my credit score was now 800. He was very impressed.

I'm a single mother of three and right now I don't have any worries or stress about money. I don't owe anybody.

I didn't think it could be accomplished because I had so much debt.

It's a stress reliever. I don't have to worry about if I have enough money to pay my bills. I can get whatever I want, when I want it.

If you don't need credit cards then don't get them. Just because offers come in the mail doesn't mean you have to fill them out.

When I arrived at my first duty station there wasn't a lot of available financial advice or support. It has changed a lot since then.

I try to tell young Airmen what I've been through. I've been there.

Why not save your money? Don't waste your money on things that you plan to use once and then never touch again.

I've learned my lesson and I want my kids to learn their lesson too.