Author Topic: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here  (Read 3116 times)

PattiCake$

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Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« on: September 01, 2017, 01:04:13 PM »
I am 40 years old, single, and after years of working social work jobs that paid below poverty level, I've finally finished a master's degree and am working in a job with full benefits and a decent salary, something I've never had. Due to a medical emergency while in graduate school, I was unable to work and since I was a student had no disability or unemployment insurance, so I've racked up some credit card debt from that time period. I can't figure out how to cut costs any more, and am hoping for some insight from the community. I currently live in Washington, DC, but for my field which is global this is pretty much where all of the jobs are. If not they are in other expensive cities like Boston or New York. I don't think I can cut back on housing costs, I current share a house with 5 other people and even share a bedroom. I don't have a car. Based on how intense my job is, I can't have a side hustle. I've also hustled in the past, working multiple jobs and 7 days a week and it took a toll on my health so I'm trying to take care of myself at this age. My only travel is rare, and that is taking a $200 round trip train to visit my family, usually once a year. Here is a break down of some of my expenses:

$125 on my Metro card each month for transportation, taken out of my paycheck pre-tax.
After all taxes and deductions my monthly take home is $2520, this is the most money I've ever made. This should go up as this week I stopped most of my retirement investment so that I could have more $$ to pay off CC debt. For my field I also have a good chance not to be rich, but to get raises and rise to more responsibility long-term, but nothing in the immediate future.

Expenses:
$30 - I pay about this much for Lyft/Uber when metro is not an option.
$200 - monthly savings - just started this - have paid off thousands of dollars in medical bills and finally can start savings. Have $600 in savings currently.
$60 - cell phone, this is one area I know I could cut to about $30
$600 - rent
$100 - all utilities
$490 - student loans - this is on a 20 year repayment plan - it is income based repayments
$250 - tithing - this is one expense I will not cut as I feel strongly about my personal faith
$160 - food - I shop at Aldis and make all my food, pack my lunches, plus a couple of times a month a hold dinner parties for friends
$80 - miscellaneous expenses - something always seems to pop up here, I was using this category previously to help pay down medical bills, but now I am caught up and hope to apply it to credit cards
$100 - recurring medical costs
$100 - clothing - this includes shoes, underwear, work clothes, everything, I only buy on sale, nothing fancy - mainly TJMaxx, Marshalls, or sales and cupons at DressBarn, etc. For example, I will need to buy a new winter coat this fall. I've been wearing a "free" coat I picked up from a donation pile from 4 years ago, and it has just about had it. So I try to find things from clothing swaps, consignment, etc, but I've found that to have basic reliable shoes, coat, etc., it can be hit or miss.
$40 - prescriptions
$40 - holiday savings, covers Christmas travel and gifts
$30 - gym membership - this is the only way i'm motivated to work out, and after my health issues I need to do intense physical therapy regularly
$220 - credit card payment - this pretty much only covers interest and it is a major problem
$20 - renters insurance - mainly because I don't live in a great neighborhood, and I don't have funds to replace things I need if they are stolen, mainly computer and jewelry I inherited. It would also cover me in case of fire - including hotel to stay at, etc. I had a roommate who worked for the Red Cross. It was her job to help people in the city, and so many were destitute without insurance. I live in a very old city row house, so it is not something beyond the realm of possibility.

Credit card debt: $9,000.00, interest rate of .025%.
Student loan debt: $140,000.00.
Retirement: This is my first job with a 401(K), I was putting 8% in it for about 7 mos. Total I have about $4,500 in the 401(k), however, I just decided I want to knock out my credit card debt and just changed my 401(k) investments to 1% so that I have more in my paycheck to pay on credit cards. My company matches 3%.

I own very few belongings, my room is furnishes, basically books, clothes, and photos/mementos, and they fit in half of a master bedroom. I've sold anything I think I own of value - a fancy book I had, jewelry I don't wear. I do need to buy clothes as I've never been a clothes collector - I have about 2 weeks worth of outfits that I rotate and that is it, and they usually wear out after a few seasons. My biggest frivolity is books, but I usually buy two used books a month, and that is what I consider a cheap hobby/cheap entertainment, it would cost me the same amount to take the metro to a library and back home and check out books.

Another scary option is that my company will be laying off 1/3 of its employees at the end of September. I don't know if that will include me, but my small savings will be needed just in case.

I'd like to have a plan, where I can one day, I understand it will be hard work, but be able to afford property, pay off my student loans sooner than 20 years from now, etc. and right now it seems that waiting for a raise is the only option, and that not going to put out the fire in my pants I know I have. Other than phone, I don't see many places I could cut, and don't see where I could increase my income. I think there must be creative ways to deal with this. If anyone has any insight into ways that I can improve my finances, I am all ears. Thank you!

Thanks to those who have answered - I've tried to answer most of your questions through modifications and will do so for future comments.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2017, 05:33:50 PM by PattiCake$ »

Laura33

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2017, 01:26:12 PM »
What are the interest rates on your CC and student loans?  Are you eligible for any loan forgiveness or income-based repayment?  Does your 401(k) get a match?

Other than the phone, the low-hanging fruit here seems to be the $360 for clothing/toiletries/gifts/etc. -- that is almost 15% of your take-home pay on mostly discretionary items.  I would suggest re-thinking everything that is in this category -- can you do homemade gifts? can you switch to generic toiletries and/or cut back on some of the things you use?  I have to say, my pertually-broke teenage DD has gotten very, very good at making her own face masks and hair treatments and scrubs and the like from basic kitchen ingredients.

You are right, at $2500 take-home in an expensive city, your budget is tight -- especially when almost 1/3 of that is already committed to paying for past needs.  If you can free up any cash by refinancing those loans, or switching to IBR, etc., that will help.

Otherwise, I would recommend a two-step approach here, assuming your CC rates are high compared to your student loan rates.  First, treat that CC debt as a true emergency.  Stop contributing to the monthly savings; cut all of the discretionary spending on clothes and gifts and the like; cut Uber/Lyft and rely on the Metro or your feet; etc.  Then throw all of that extra money at your credit card debt.

Once the CC is paid off, resume saving for that emergency fund until you have at least a month's expenses.  And resume your 401(k) contributions -- you are already behind starting at 40, so you need to throw as much in there as you can.  Once you get to this step, you can free up a little bit of money for things like gifts and travel.

Note:  if you have a 401(k) match, you probably want to be investing enough to get the full match even now, because that is free money that you can never get back.
Laugh while you can, monkey-boy

4alpacas

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2017, 01:28:23 PM »
If anyone has any insight into ways that I can improve my finances, I am all ears. Thank you!
$30 - I pay about this much for Lyft/Uber when metro is not an option.
Lyft and Uber are no longer an option while your hair is on fire with credit card debt.  Figure out whether you can walk, change your schedule, use the city bikeshare ($8/month)

$200 - monthly savings - just started this - have paid off thousands of dollars in medical bills and finally can start savings. Have $600 in savings currently.
Depending on the interest rate on your credit cards and the stability of your job, I would consider funneling this money toward your credit cards.

$60 - cell phone, this is one area I know I could cut to about $30
This can be easily cut and it pays off every month.  A few years ago, I switched to Ting.  I've been saving a ton every month with just a few hours of effort two years ago.  Do it.  Ask the forum for help.

$250 - tithing - this is one expense I will not cut as I feel strongly about my personal faith
What if you stop tithing, but keep track of the amount you "owe." Pay your credit cards off, then pay an extra $100/month until you're square.  Tithing is costing  you a lot of money in interest.

$160 - food - I shop at Aldis and make all my food, pack my lunches, plus a couple of times a month a hold dinner parties for friends
I think you can get this lower, but it would take more effort.  I would save this until after you handle everything else. 

$360 - clothing/toiletries/gifts/holiday savings/miscellaneous expenses
This is CRAZY!  This should be under $100/month.  I would shoot for $50/month.  YOUR DEBT is an emergency.  I totally understand the shift from graduate school to working world.  My advice: second-hand clothing stores.  It takes a bit more effort, but you can find high-quality items for a fraction of the price of something that will "wear out after a few seasons."  I'm also a fan of buying used clothes on eBay.  I buy all of my jeans there...retail: $130.  I pay <$10 including shipping for like new items (I set an alert).

$30 - gym membership - this is the only way i'm motivated to work out, and after my health issues I need to do intense physical therapy regularly
What types of exercises are you doing?  Is there a way to cut this cost?  I understand if the answer is no, but you need to at least brainstorm about other possibilities (at least until you pay off your cc)

$220 - credit card payment
You've got to up this amount. 

$20 - renters insurance
I would try to shop around.  For a shared space and not many possessions, I'm surprised you can't get something for half the amount.  And the nice thing about recurring costs is that you handle them once, but you save for months/years to come.

Good luck!

4alpacas

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2017, 01:29:26 PM »
Note:  if you have a 401(k) match, you probably want to be investing enough to get the full match even now, because that is free money that you can never get back.
+1

scantee

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2017, 01:40:44 PM »
Since your field is a global one, I strongly suggest that you consider looking for jobs with the federal government or NGOs that provide higher salaries and coverage of living expenses in exchange for working and living internationally. These types of jobs are often located in places where the cost of living is extremely low. I've known people who've gone this route and were able to pay off $100k student loans debts in two to three years simply because they were living in places where it was near impossible to spend much money!

Do you have kids? A life partner? Based on your post it sounds like no. If that's true, then you have very little keeping you here and tethered to a super expensive city like DC. Why not take this opportunity to have an amazing life adventure for a few years that also allows you to erase your massive debts?

PattiCake$

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2017, 01:50:56 PM »
I agree, living abroad could be good for my career and finances. I know I could live abroad, and I was living abroad for about 4 years before graduate school. I wasn't rich, but my finances were the best they have ever been due to low cost of living. I am single, but since I'm still getting back on my feet after medical issues, I didn't have the mental and emotional bandwith to start over in a new culture yet. I had some pretty serious health problems to deal with, and haven't totally bounced back yet. I also was in conflict areas and burnt out, and wanted some American safety and stability for a while. I'm currently looking for a new job, and have been applying to positions, scheduling informational interviews, working on my resume, etc. so I am looking for opportunities, but that is why I am staying stateside, at least until I feel a bit better.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2017, 01:52:44 PM by PattiCake$ »

jax8

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2017, 01:58:53 PM »
If anyone has any insight into ways that I can improve my finances, I am all ears. Thank you!

$250 - tithing - this is one expense I will not cut as I feel strongly about my personal faith
What if you stop tithing, but keep track of the amount you "owe." Pay your credit cards off, then pay an extra $100/month until you're square.  Tithing is costing  you a lot of money in interest.


This is a really, really good idea. When I've come across a person with a genuine need--for example, coworker of a family who lost everything in a housefire and also lost the father, who ran back into the fire to try to save expensive medication for his sick baby--I diverted my tithe for that month directly to that family. I see the point of tithing as being giving, generous, and loving to those in need around us rather than paying dues at church, so to each his own in that area.  I would suggest praying about it, and doing your own Bible research on tithes and giving, and see if this is something you would feel comfortable with.

As a social worker, with $140K student loan debt, renting a room, barely making ends meet and a possible layoff looming on the horizon, you need to take care of yourself.  You can't help anyone if you're drowning.

***Speaking as a wife of a LCP who JUST NOW made it to $65K salary at age 45 with $62K of student loan debt left from 7 years at a private Christian college.

FINate

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2017, 02:18:06 PM »
Unless required by your landlord cancel the renter's insurance. You have meager possessions so little to lose.

You should be able to drop your phone to about $15 (plus taxes) by going with Republic Wireless on their no data plan, or a little over $20 for 1GB per month. But to do this you'll need to buy a phone up front ($99 for the Moto E).

At $1200/year your clothing costs are high. This can be cut by buying what you can at thrift shops (Goodwill, etc.). That shirt you get for $20 on sale can be purchased second hand for $5 or less.

You are putting aside $480/year for Christmas/gifts but your travel home for the holidays is $200. You're friends and family will understand if you call a gift truce for a couple of years while you dig out of debt.

You are right to scale back your 401(k) to pay off CC debt which should be paid off ASAP.

Are your student loans on Income Based Repayment?

Finally, let's talk taxes. What is your pre-tax income and how much is being withheld? Wondering if you're withholding too much, your taxes should be quite low.

Raenia

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2017, 02:24:45 PM »
$30 - I pay about this much for Lyft/Uber when metro is not an option.  Why does metro become not an option?  Consider if there is another solution when this comes up.
$200 - monthly savings - just started this - have paid off thousands of dollars in medical bills and finally can start savings. Have $600 in savings currently.  I would get this up to 1k and then divert to CC repayment.
$60 - cell phone, this is one area I know I could cut to about $30  This is an easy, quick fix.  Do this first.
$600 - rent
$100 - all utilities
$490 - student loans - this is on a 20 year repayment plan
$250 - tithing - this is one expense I will not cut as I feel strongly about my personal faith  4alpacas's suggestion is very good.  Could you lower it to 100/mo but keep track of the difference to pay back later?  That will make a huge difference to your cashflow.
$160 - food - I shop at Aldis and make all my food, pack my lunches, plus a couple of times a month a hold dinner parties for friends  Doing pretty well here, some room for improvement but no lowhanging fruit.  Lower priority.
$80 - miscellaneous expenses - something always seems to pop up here, I was using this category previously to help pay down medical bills, but now I am caught up and hope to apply it to credit cards
$100 - recurring medical costs
$100 - clothing - this includes shoes, underwear, work clothes, everything, I only buy on sale, nothing fancy - mainly TJMaxx, Marshalls, or sales and cupons at DressBarn, etc.  This is very high, you shouldn't be needing to replace so much clothing every month.  Make sure you're only replacing items that wear out, not buying things because they're on sale.  Shop thrift stores as much as possible.  You can easily cut this in half or more.
$40 - prescriptions
$40 - holiday savings, covers Christmas travel and gifts  Consider homemade gifts this year, or a gift of your time.  For example, one year my gift to my dad was to clean out his garage and help run a yardsale.
$30 - gym membership - this is the only way i'm motivated to work out, and after my health issues I need to do intense physical therapy regularly
$220 - credit card payment - this pretty much only covers interest and it is a major problem
$20 - renters insurance  Shop around, you should be able to get decent coverage for about half this.

Credit card debt: $9,000.00, interest rate of .025%.  Is this interest rate correct?  Looks surprisingly low for a credit card.
Student loan debt: $140,000.00.
Retirement: This is my first job with a 401(K), I was putting 8% in it for about 7 mos. Total I have about $4,500 in the 401(k), however, I just decided I want to knock out my credit card debt and just changed my 401(k) investments to 1% so that I have more in my paycheck to pay on credit cards. My company matches 3%.  If you can possibly swing it (which, once you've made the budget cuts above, should be do-able) get this back up to 3%.  Company match is free money you're leaving on the table.

Your priorities should be:
1) Shop around phone plans
2) Shop around renter's insurance plans
  -Both of these you can do right away
3) Stop buying clothes, except at thrift stores.  Two weeks worth of outfits is fine, no one will notice you repeating at that rate.  Only buy to replace items that are worn out beyond acceptability.
4) Reassess holiday gifts and emergency fund savings

These should save you at least $100/mo, which you can put toward your debt.

PattiCake$

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2017, 02:39:16 PM »
Renters insurance - it is less about my meager possessions, and more that I don't have the means to cover for them if something happens. My most expensive possession is my laptop, and I need that for life/job searching/etc. and couldn't replace it if it was stolen - I don't live in a great area. I also have some expensive jewelry I inherited that is worth a lot, if it was stolen I'd like to be compensated.

Yes, student loans are income based repayment.

I am paying a lot in taxes as I was working as a consultant before I was employed full time. I will owe major taxes on that money, probably more than is currently deducted.

4alpacas

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2017, 02:54:00 PM »
My biggest frivolity is books, but I usually buy two used books a month, and that is what I consider a cheap hobby/cheap entertainment, it would cost me the same amount to take the metro to a library and back home and check out books.
The great thing about libraries now is the option to do an eBook.  No need to travel to the library to check out a book!  I also download audiobooks and magazines through my library.  ALL FREE!

FINate

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2017, 03:39:05 PM »
Renters insurance - it is less about my meager possessions, and more that I don't have the means to cover for them if something happens. My most expensive possession is my laptop, and I need that for life/job searching/etc. and couldn't replace it if it was stolen - I don't live in a great area. I also have some expensive jewelry I inherited that is worth a lot, if it was stolen I'd like to be compensated.

Yes, student loans are income based repayment.

I am paying a lot in taxes as I was working as a consultant before I was employed full time. I will owe major taxes on that money, probably more than is currently deducted.

One of your goals should be to save up an emergency fund such that you can survive the loss of possessions or temporary unemployment.  As things now stand you're paying $240/year primarily to insure your laptop...that's pretty expensive.

I realize you're in a tough spot and there are no short term or easy fixes. It's going to take time and ingenuity to dig out. Kudos to you for being willing to ask for help and take steps. I want to encourage you that every little bit helps, and the important thing is to keep moving in the right direction. Keep cutting and optimizing, get that CC debt paid off, build up emergency savings (then cut the renter's insurance), then figure out if you can reduce your tax withholdings next year.

DCKatie09

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2017, 03:59:41 PM »
Keep an eye on Freecycle, the free section of Craigslist, and see if you can join a Buy Nothing group on Facebook - those all might be helpful options on your clothes/misc spending as well. DC is a super transient area and people are turning stuff over all the time. I actually organized a clothing swap through my Buy Nothing group earlier this year and picked up several nice new-to-me pieces.

Good luck - it's a lot, but it's great that you're thinking through what's in front of you and how to tackle it. I'm glad to hear your health is better, and I hope everything keeps looking up!

former player

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2017, 06:50:02 AM »
You also sound like a candidate for a UN job - keep an eye out for anything suitable on UNjobs.org
Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

PattiCake$

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2017, 01:31:49 PM »
Thanks so much to everyone who gave your thoughtful feedback. Just writing and reading this motivates me to update my cell phone plan. Now on the the career planning to see if I can get that salary up!!

jodelino

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2017, 01:21:23 PM »
Dear PattiCake$--

Please forgive me if this is an insensitive and unwelcome response, but I really feel for you and want to question your $250 tithe--or at least provide an outsider's perspective on it. You write that your faith is important to you and that the $250 tithe is something you are not willing to cut.

From my perspective, you are already a saint: you have worked as a very underpaid social worker for many years. Now it sounds like you continue to work in a profession that helps others. I imagine that you give of yourself in many ways every day. You are tithing 10% of your paycheck, but it seems to me that your paycheck is already spoken for, by your own basic needs and by your debt. You are living in poverty. You are deeply in debt. Your financial networth is in the negative. It seems to me like you yourself were a deserving candidate for charity or social support or government support for your tuition and medical bills, but that help did not come your way, and so you shouldered those burdens alone--leaving charity dollars that might have come to you on the table for someone else.

You know how, during the safety speech on an airplane, passengers are instructed to apply their own oxygen masks before they apply them to children traveling with them? I think that you are in that position: you need to apply your own oxygen mask first, and pay off the credit card debt that is eating at you, establish an emergency fund, and restore your retirement account contributions at the very least before you are in a position to give so substantially. I know I am speaking from ignorance here, but what kind of religion asks someone as underwater financially as you are to fork over so much cash? If the people receiving this money knew your true circumstances, would they still be asking for it? Can you re-adjust your interpretation of the tithe, to be, not 10% of your paycheck, but 10% of your disposable income after your basic bills are paid?

Charity is a wonderful thing, and giving feeds the soul. I am grateful that I'm in a position to be charitable, and to give quietly and substantially to many organizations and individuals. But, when I, like you, was in debt from student loans and medical expenses at age 41, I felt that, well, charity begins at home, and that I had to get out of my own hole before I could help others.

I know that could be just me, and you are you. Wishing you all the best.


« Last Edit: September 05, 2017, 06:08:30 AM by jodelino »

zoe2dot

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2017, 07:44:26 PM »
Well said, jodelino. 
Patti, look into clothing swaps on meet up. There is an entire community  in NYC who share info on swaps and I'm guessing  there is something  similar in DC. And I second the post about two weeks wardrobe being sufficient. 
Good luck! I've just started my own reassessment and I'm starting w my phone plan.

**Edited to add that there are several swaps upcoming in the DC area on Meet Up.  One looks really well run (Alexandria's Frugal Fashionista Clothing Swap Oct Swap) for $15.  There is also an early shop event at the Rockland Goodwill that includes breakfast.**
« Last Edit: September 07, 2017, 10:42:36 AM by zoe2dot »

Rubic

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2017, 10:35:36 AM »
I don't live in a great area. I also have some expensive jewelry I inherited
that is worth a lot, if it was stolen I'd like to be compensated.

Probably not an option you'd consider, but I'd sell the jewelry and use the
proceeds to pay down my debt, killing two birds with one stone: 1) credit
card debt; and 2) storing high value stuff in a sketchy neighborhood.

reeshau

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2017, 01:18:13 PM »
Patti,
If books are a key way that you relax, you may want to get a copy of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.  All of the suggestions here are valuable, but I do think Dave's method gives a sense of order to the big task ahead--it is difficult to do it all at once.  I also think it may be helpful that Dave, his organization, and method are faith-based, and that spiritual support may be an additional source of motivation for you.

If you want a jump start, they do have a youtube channel with segments on specific topics to get started, as well as episodes of discussions with many others in circumstances similar to yours.

wonkette

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2017, 01:32:15 PM »
I live in DC too so I'll chime in.

Is all $125 on metro necessary? I used to stay at work until after 7pm to get off peak fares when I lived in Alexandria. Have you tried the bus? Even better if a $1 circulator commute is doable.

$20/month on renter's insurance is a lot, I pay $140 for the year and I'm not living in a ritzy neighborhood. Keep in mind that most policies have deductibles, what's yours? Is it more than your laptop is worth?

The secondhand clothing market here is great. I especially recommend the Goodwill near Costco and Current Boutique on 14th. And I second the advice about seeking out clothing swaps. Really, considering how few categories are in your budget, I suspect you're shopping for entertainment. STOP.

PattiCake$

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2017, 03:45:08 PM »
Thanks so much for all of the tips!! I'm new to DC so didn't realize I would save after 7pm!

Feivel2000

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Re: Need to Turn Around Finances, Not Sure Where to Go from Here
« Reply #21 on: September 11, 2017, 03:25:38 AM »
Do you pay 25% of credit card interest? That's absolutely crazy! You have to attack this full body on fire emergency first!

* don't save $200, use them to pay the debt. You always can use the credit card again in an emergency. Not recommended, but still better than paying interest for debt while getting no interest for your "savings".
* can you find a 0% promotional interest rate credit card and transfer the balance? This would give you $180 every month to pay down the debt.
* "borrow" money from the tithing

And looking for an international job seems to be a good idea.