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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 May 2004, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
'Save Karyn's' charity payback
Karyn Bosnak
Ms Bosnak has now written a book about her experience
A woman who turned to the net to help her clear a $20,000 credit card debt has said she hopes to donate that amount to charity.

Former TV producer Karyn Bosnak set up the site, savekaryn.com, having racked up big debts in the department stores of New York. She quickly got into difficulties when she lost her job.

But 20 weeks after setting up the site, enough people had sent her money to pay off all her credit cards. She has now written a book about the experience.

"It made me very aware of other people. I've been forced to really evaluate my situation - also really evaluate the way that I was living my life," she told BBC World Service's Everywoman programme.

"It was the selfish way, and I have no problem admitting that.

"I've started to give to charity much more than I ever have, and my plan is to give all the money back to charity."

Too much to pay

The New York Times Magazine named savekaryn.com one of the best ideas of the year when it was set up in 2002.

The website now offers advice to others seeking to get out of debt.

Ms Bosnak explained that she had initially got into difficulties "purely just by shopping."

Fifth Avenue, New York
I still love shopping - but I shop on a budget now
Karyn Bosnak
"I moved to New York from Chicago - which is a big city, but nothing like New York - and I just bought clothes, and got my hair done, and went to dinner, and just always assumed that I could pay it back."

She paid only the minimum payments on her cards and soon found out that the debt had mounted considerably.

"I didn't even realise it was that high," she said.

"I thought it was $13,000 or something. I added it up and it was over $20,000, and I was like, 'oh my goodness, what have I done?'"

She had also lost her job and did not find another for four months, making her problems worse.

"I looked in my closet and I had shoes and purses and clothes, but when I finally got a new job I couldn't afford a subway card to get to work," she stated.

"I could barely afford to eat every week, because I had to make payments of $800 to credit card companies every month in addition to my rent.

"I got with a programme and consolidated my cards, but it still was too much to pay."

She explained that she had come up with the idea of a website after her roommate saw a sign in a shop asking for $7,000.

"As a joke he came home and told me about the sign, and said 'why don't you just ask for the money?'

"So I set up a website, and I thought if 20,000 people gave me one dollar, I'd be home free."

Taking control

Ms Bosnak said she had tried to make the site amusing, including a feature called the Daily Buck which highlighted the daily ways she had tried to save a dollar.

But she said she had never "in a million years" expected it to work.

Credit cards
Ms Bosnak's credit card bills reached $800 a month
Less than five months after setting up, Ms Bosnak had received the $20,000, although it was not without a certain amount of abuse.

Criticisms were made that the $20,000 would bring clean water to parts of the world, or set up a school - rather than bail out a shopaholic.

"I got that criticism a lot - that there are people out there, charities, who need this money more than you. I completely understand that," she said.

"I was never in a position for people to truly feel sorry for me - it was joking, like 'today I had drink water from the tap, I couldn't buy a bottle of water' or 'oh no, I have to give myself a manicure.'

"It was never serious, like I was truly needy of the money."

She said some e-mails she received accused her of being "the reason people hate America."

"But for every mean one I received, I would get a nice one from somebody," she added.

"They were from all over the world."

Others would e-mail and say she had encouraged them to take control of their situation, or cut up their credit cards.

She said that she now feels it is better to give than receive, and is a reformed character.

"I still love shopping," she admitted.

"But I shop on a budget now."


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