Project Debt: Freedom Debt Relief Experts Suggest What Reality TV Can Teach Consumers About Getting Debt Help

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Creating own ‘reality program’ can help consumers find debt relief

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Even if contestants don’t win, they gain perspective on what matters to them. Apply these same values to getting out of debt to come out a winner.

For a decade or more, some of the most popular shows on television have been reality programming. These shows have a voyeuristic element, but they often can offer lessons on how to achieve goals and get a handle on difficult areas of life, according to Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Freedom Debt Relief (FDR).

Here are five lessons anyone can learn from reality TV – and Gallegos’ suggestions for using them to get debt relief:

1.    Focus on one deadline at a time. Every episode of “Project Runway” has the designers focus on a specific challenge. The lesson: Setting goals, and then focusing on them, gets things done. Consumers can have success getting out of debt using a similar strategy: Pay the minimum payment on all credit cards. Apply any additional cash each month to the balance on the smallest credit card balance. “Before you know it, you will eliminate that balance. Then use the same strategy to continue paying off other credit cards, one by one,” said Gallegos. “But stay focused: Do not keep charging while you are paying off debt!”

2.    Fast forward. Contestants on “The Amazing Race” sometimes receive the opportunity to “fast forward,” which allows them to skip a number of challenges and move to a new task in the race. “Think of this opportunity the next time you receive unexpected cash, whether it is a work bonus, a prize winning, a gift or even reimbursement for something you’ve already paid,” Gallegos suggested. Using the windfall wisely might knock out a bill or jump-start savings, taking financial goals fast-forward.

3.    Find inner inspiration. Again and again, contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” reveal that their hard work on the program has surprised them as they become braver, stronger or just better dancers than they expected. By going through the learning process, step by step (literally), they reach their goals. “Paying off debt is a process,” Gallegos said. Consumers can ask themselves why they want to get out of debt. Inspiration can come from visualizing the sense of peace when creditors no longer call, or the pride of helping pay for a child’s college education.

4.    Exceed expectations. Many a dieter has taken inspiration from “The Biggest Loser” contestants who sweat their way through difficult tasks while carrying excess baggage. When paying off debt gets hard, remember that if the Biggest Losers can stick to their eating and exercise plans, anyone can stick to a budget. After challenges like a late fee or an unexpected expense, get back on track with following a debt-paying budget.

5.    Shout out for help. On “Cash Cab,” contestants have the opportunity to get help from outside the cab when they can’t answer a question. Individuals can do the same thing if they run into financial trouble. “Decide what kind of help you need, and then find the right assistance. A financial planner, tax advisor or credible debt relief partner can provide answers and assistance,” Gallegos said.

“The successful contestants on these shows have certain things in common. They are focused and unconcerned with what others think while they pursue their goals. They find meaning in their tasks and try their best, and if they make mistakes, they get up and try again,” Gallegos said. “In the end, even if they don’t win, they have gained invaluable perspective on what matters to them. Apply these same values to your process of getting out of debt, and you can come out a winner, too.”

Freedom Debt Relief (
Freedom Debt Relief provides consumer debt resolution services. Working as an independent advocate for consumers to negotiate with creditors and lower principal balances due, the company has resolved more than $1 billion in debt for nearly 100,000 clients since 2002. The company is a charter member of The Association of Settlement Companies and a platinum member of the International Association of Professional Debt Arbitrators. FDR holds the Goldline Research Preferred Provider certification for excellence among debt settlement companies.

Freedom Debt Relief is a wholly owned subsidiary of Freedom Financial Network, LLC (FFN). Based in San Mateo, Calif., FFN also operates an office in Tempe, Ariz. The company, with more than 500 employees, was voted one of the best places to work in the San Francisco Bay area in 2008 and 2009, and in the Phoenix area in 2008, 2009 and 2010. FFN’s founders received the Northern California Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2008.


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Aimee Bennett