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Girl racks up debt on Prada shoes, gets you to pay it off

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Alas, the downfall of many a twentysomething making it in the urban wasteland. With the Gap, Prada and Bloomingdales beckoning the avid shopper and their Visa, it's a slippery slope into the trenches of credit card debt. For the average over-spender, this can mean hundreds, even thousands of dollars in back payments and the occasional creditor on the phone. To others, this can mean a grand total surpassing the yearly income of most university students.

Enter Karyn. Karyn is in debt. More specifically, Karyn owes a handful of credit card companies upwards of US$20,000--at least, she used to.

After posting a joke ad on craigslist.org reading "Wanted: $20,000," Karyn had an offer. Someone read her plea and offered her $5 to get started. To facilitate this new debt-reducing scheme, she set up a Web site and a post office box and savekaryn.com was born.

However, the situation was born long before, over two years of spending other peoples' money.

"Over the last couple years I went to dinner too much, I had a personal trainer, I bought a couple pairs of Prada Shoes, I bought a couple Gucci purses, too much Starbucks," Karyn explains. "I was just behind in everything and it just kind of spun out of control."

As she explains, it certainly wasn't her intention to get trapped this far into debt, but her rampant spending was only accented by her job situation, which didn't allow her much leeway to pay down her debts.

"I was making decent money at the time, so I kept thinking, 'I'll be able to pay this back, no big deal,'" she says. "I went through a period where I lost my job, I moved to a cheaper apartment in Brooklyn, and I couldn't get a job for four months. I tried to get a job in other industries but no one was hiring. I finally got a job making less than half what I was making. I guess I grew up thinking you're always going to make more money at your next job and it wasn't true."

Regardless of how she got here, it certainly looks like her situation is about to change. She's received almost $9,000 from kind souls in cyberspace, and after her own contributions, as well as selling her worldly possessions on E-bay, her $20,000 debt has been reduced to just over $6,000 in just over two months.

Along with money, with the average donation ranging from one to five dollars, Karyn has also received a lot of kind words--among other things--in her e-mail and post office box.

"It's gotten definitely more nice. It's turned from 'you're what's wrong with America' to 'you're so creative, I wish I'd thought of that,'" she recalls. "People are also sending me CDs, mix tapes, beauty magazines. Somebody sent me a little care package. It contained a pencil to erase my debt, a pen to write the cheques, this squeezy thing to work off the stress. Those things mean a lot. People are great."

With over 150,000 hits some weeks, Karyn's debt is shrinking surprisingly fast. She hopes to have everything paid off within the month, and of course she'll be personally thanking every single person who helped out, whether with encouraging words or cold hard cash.

"I've gotten over 4,000 e-mails," she says, adding that she may not reply to all of them. "The mean ones I print and file away and I probably won't respond to, but the nice ones I keep saving. In my mind I'm going to go back and answer everybody that had something nice to say."

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