September 30, 2002 12:00 PM

Karyn Bosnak, who has had a problem with shopping and credit, suggests’ that she learned, in part, by example. Her mother once bought a brand-new Mercedes with a credit card. Though her mother quickly refinanced, says Bosnak, “I saw credit cards as a way of buying things I couldn’t afford.”

No argument there. Bosnak, a 29-year-old New York City TV producer, bought $400 haircuts, Gucci purses and Prada shoes. Her free spending—begun in college on her first Visa—continued until a few months ago, when she found herself out of work and $25,000 in debt. “I felt like an idiot,” she says. “I was embarrassed.”

Her response, however, was unique: In June Bosnak set up a Web site,, which asked visitors to send money to pay her bills. “You are not giving your money to a charity,” the site explains, “but rather a chick who spent too much money.” And, say some critics, a chick with a lot of chutzpah. Bosnak “has no concept of ‘fiscal responsibility,'” wrote Ben Larson of Ohio, so appalled he co-created, one of several sites that sprang up to mock Bosnak.

Still, lots of people—perhaps 2,000 so far, says Bosnak—have sent money, often just a dollar or two but sometimes more. (Her take grew after newspapers and the Today show picked up her story.) One woman sent $100 and a note: “I was in your situation once, but then I married an attorney.”

She has collected, at last count, more than $10,000. She has also, she insists, changed her shopping ways, selling her beloved luxury goods on eBay for about $3,000. “It’s hard to get rid of things,” says Bosnak, who has cut up all five of her credit cards. “I’ll never get this in-debt again.”

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