Author Topic: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?  (Read 20311 times)

NCoffey

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Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« on: June 24, 2013, 06:19:18 PM »
Hello. My name is Nathan and I am new here. Really enjoy the reading here and was wondering if anyone could help me find places to cut/change about my income/spending. I will lay it out now.

Income - $750 biweekly after tax. Wife brings in about $200 biweekly from Child Support.
I also have about $2200 in a retirement plan from work. It doesn't really make anything beyond what I put into it and at the moment I contribute just 3%.

Rent - $400/mo
Electricity - $120/mo
Car Payment - $320/mo (Very bad credit, this is used vehicle at buy here pay here. $8000 total cost, 11,000 with finance charges. Hope to pay it off early to avoid those.)
Car Insurance - $130/mo (require full coverage due to financed vehicle)
Cell Phone - $50/mo (Wal-mart plan. I am very curious about the $20/mo phone/plan I read about on here but I can't afford the phone right now.)
Wife's Cell Phone - $50/mo (Want to cancel this as it is not really needed)
Internet - $60/mo (Want to cancel this once my contract is up. If I get a smart phone I can just use the WiFi at work to check things.)
Satellite TV - $60 (Want to cancel this once contract is up too.)
Gas for Van - $200/mo (Lots of gas for work and getting kids to and from other parents. Me and my wife both have kids from previous marriages.)(I am trying to get into electrician apprenticeship as well. It will require traveling longer distances than I can bike and will most likely require my hauling supplies.)
Food - $350/mo (I don't think this is all that bad considering we are feeding 4 children as well. We could probably cut more by eating spaghetti and Ramen more often but I don't know how much that will really help.)
Trash removal - $20/mo. This is required by my residence.
Laundry - $30/mo (We have to use coin operated washer but we have no water bill in return.)

We also both have a tremendous amount of debt. More debt than we could possibly pay off in 8 years so we are probably looking at bankruptcy this coming tax season and then trying to dig our way out from there. I have some debt from college as well.

I am concerned that my wife, who is stay at home mom, will struggle with not having electronic stimuli throughout the day. It's hard to read with the little ones being loud and attention hungry. We have talked about her getting a job but the daycare costs would be more than she could make at the job.

Another possible money-making idea is through my health insurance at work. Currently I have a high-deductible plan that runs me about $40 a month and it only covers me. If I can find a better plan outside of work for a similar cost, I can take that to my job and they will give me a 16% raise due to them not having to pay the large premium. I make $12.50/hr, that would take me to $14.50/hr. That is an extra $160 a pay check before tax. 

That's all I can think of at the moment.

mpbaker22

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2013, 06:46:30 PM »
Try to earn more at your job or switch jobs, but that is far easier said than done.  Also, I couldn't tell if you make $750 or $550+$200 child support

You apartment cost is wonderful, I'm glad to hear it's $400/month.
But you pay more for your car than you do your rent.  With the gas for the van, you're spending $650/month which is almost half your income!

You should be able to use electricity less and get it to $80.
If it's cheaper per month buy the phone for $20/month, but only if you're going to pay it off before incurring more cc interest charges.
cancel internet and cable, and you might be able to get cheaper internet instead of canceling it.

Your only outrageous expense, other than cable, is the gas for your van.  You've gotta find a way to cut this.  If work is making you drive on the clock, make them pay for it

Frankies Girl

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2013, 08:57:46 PM »
Honestly, I would be freaking out with a family of 6 making what you're making and with just the debt you're mentioning. If you have a degree, you're getting paid pretty low and to me, finding a better job or even getting a second one to dig out of the debt would be a big priority. I'd also cut everything to the absolute bone - food bill could be much lower and I'd be cooking everything at home (beans and rice, soups, etc. are cheap to make and filling) and would be throwing everything I've got at paying off the debt.

You don't say how much on board your wife is with being frugal, but I'd like to hope that she's with you on digging out of this. If not, you're not going to get very far. You have a major debt emergency and it's not going to get better unless you both work on this together. Declaring bankruptcy is an extreme move, and won't absolve your school loans along with completely screwing your credit. It may be an option, but if you can't address the issues that got you in debt, you'll just be worse off and back in debt pretty fast...

Definitely downgrade your phones to a pay as you go (talk only - data plan is an expense you can't afford right now- but me personally, I'd get rid of them both), and drop the cable and internet (As soon as you can cancel). I would also start shopping around for your car insurance, as $130/month seems high.

Entertaining kids isn't that hard, and as long as you have a television and a dvd player (which you probably do have) you have mindless entertainment. There's also lots of other free/low cost things like arts & crafts and going to the park or the library.... there are tons of things she can do without internet and cable.

It also sounds like you don't have any emergency funds and your wife and possibly your kids don't have health coverage. That is scary. If your income is that low, it is possible that your family might be eligible for public assistance and basic healthcare for the kiddies. Might be something else to check into as well. If you can get it, use it. If you make under $31K, you're at or below the poverty line in the US: http://www.irp.wisc.edu/faqs/faq1.htm  There's no shame in getting help until things get better.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2013, 12:58:21 AM by Frankies Girl »

marty998

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2013, 01:39:31 AM »
1) you gotta get a new job. Invest in yourself and aim for a decent paycheck
2) sounds like your wife is getting cheated on $100 a week child support. Can you get that increased?
3) I hate to say things like this but either you need to get the snip, or your wife needs some permanent contraception. Another kid is going to be a poverty trap until you earn a decent living. (feel free to hurl pages of abuse at me for saying this, I'll cop it). If you and your wife don't yet have one that is biologically both of yours then I can understand that and I'll retract (3)
4) Never ever ever again sign up for anything that is a "pay by the month" or a "plan" or has a "monthly" cost.
5) refer to (4)
6) refer to (5)
7) Make sure this marriage lasts....ok this should probably be (1). So many on here have spoken about costs of divorce. You've been through it, don't do it again.
8) Get wifey out of the house. The reason why the kids are giving her grief is because they are bored sitting in the living room all day. Playground/mums groups etc. you know what I mean

etc

Vilx-

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2013, 01:59:30 AM »
I'm curious - you haven't said which country you're from. Income like that is pretty average in my country (and 4 kids, while not common, are not rare either). Perhaps you are from somewhere nearby?

Otherwise, if it's the 'states, then you should really look for a larger income. Jobs can be difficult to find, but good specialists are always valued. Are you good at what you're doing? If not, can you improve or maybe change to something else you enjoy? It's difficult to become a good specialist in something you don't like, so aligning your interests and work is highly recommended. Since you're making so little at the moment, starting over at a different career would be less painful right now than it would if you would be making more.

Villanelle

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2013, 03:33:10 AM »
You need more money.  It is going to suck, but it must be done.  You won't need childcare if your wife finds a job working opposite hours of yours.  Yes, it will be a little painful, but it is necessary to dig yourself out of the mess you made.

Instead of your wife working, you can get a second job, if that works better.  (Or better yet, you can do both.)  A job as a server on weekends can pick up a surprising amount of cash.  Does your wife have any skills she can parlay into a side job?  For example, if she sews, she could make money taking in sewing projects, which can be done while she's home.  She can easily hem a pair of pants while she's watching the brood.  Do you have any skills you can use?  Even if they aren't all that specialized, anything that you can do would help.  Painting houses on the weekends would pay pretty well and doesn't require advanced training or knowledge.  Put an add in Craiglist for whatever you can do.  If you have any senior living communities near you, find a way to advertise there as a handyman.  My parents live in a 55+ community and people will pay for shockingly basic things, like having someone come in a change light bulbs if it requires climbing a ladder, or having someone assemble furniture.  Some even pay for a person to buy their groceries weekly, which it seems like your wife could do in conjunction with her own grocery run.  (Do you only have the van?)

Sell stuff on ebay, Craigslist, etc. Whatever you have that isn't required for basic existence need to go if it will bring in even $1.  You are in a red alert emergency situation, so start purging whatever you can and use that money to whittle down the debt. 

Do some research and make sure the amount of child support your wife is receiving is far.  If not, get it increased.  The legal fees will likely be worth it.  Also, you don't mention either paying or receiving CS for your kids, but you likely are doing one or the other.  Again, make sure that amount is fair and is not, get it adjusted if you can.  Also, if the custody agreement allows it, see if you can get the other parents to pick up more of those transportation costs.  You agreement may stipulate that you have to do the driving, but if not, then see about meeting half way to hand off the kids, alternating who does the pick up and drop off each visit, etc. 

Contact all of those monthly plans and see if they can budge at all.  Even if you have to pay an early termination fee, if it is less than the cost of the rest of the contract, do it.  It might seem like paying for nothing, but in fact it is paying for the money you won't have to spend on the rest of the contract. 

Your comment on the food bill is very telling. You'd do it, except you don't know how much it will really help.  Guess what; in your situation $5/mo would really help.  So if you can shave $100 or even $50 off that food bill, do it.  You created a situation where you don't have the luxury of deciding that a few dollars isn't worth the effort.  So eat spaghetti at least once a week, and rice and beans at least once a week. 

Also, it is crazy that you are driving that much for a job that pays shit.  Look for something much, much closer to home.  It isn't like you need to replace a 6 figure job, so finding something with comparable pay but a cheaper commute shouldn't be that difficult. Start looking now, and don't be all that picky.  You can't afford to be picky.  IMO, the thing you should be most picky about is whether the job has room for advancement and raises.  Doing what you love is a great goal, but right now, you need to do whatever puts out some of these fires, and worry about feeing your passion when you can afford to do so, or with your second job. 

Personally, I think bankruptcy is a cop-out unless and until you've tried everything.  Opinions vary on this, but to me, when I commit to paying something of, deciding down the road that I don't want to pay anymore because it hurts is a cowardly, bullshit decision. It doesn't matter what the baks do, or what other people do.  My word and my honor s about my choices, not about my choices compared to the bad choices of others.  It sounds like you *can* pay your bills, you just don't want to because it will take 8+ years and more sacrifice than you like.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2013, 10:20:36 AM »
It's great that you are looking at how to manage your expenses, but I don't think it's a good idea to cut out your wife's internet and phone while she's home with 4 children. Instead of you having a smartphone so you can "check things" on your work's WiFi, I recommend that you not cut out your internet at home and instead get "dumb"phones on a cheap plan. Your wife should have access to a phone, at the very least, in case of an emergency.

What types of debts are you hoping to discharge in bankruptcy? I noticed that you didn't include them in your monthly expenses -- is that because you are not paying them?

Why are you contributing 3% of your income to a retirement plan that isn't doing anything? Does your employer match your contribution? If not, you should throw that 3% towards a debt -- particularly your highest interest rate debt or, if you are actually going to declare bankruptcy, your student loans (they are not dischargeable in bankruptcy).

mgreczyn

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2013, 10:50:24 AM »
I think you have a debt emergency here.  I see you are contributing 3% to a retirement plan, but you have high debt levels.  Even assuming you are getting an employer match, that 3% is needed to drive down your debt levels.  I would put that on hold until you get the rest of your financial house in order.

I would be absolutely freaking out if my family didn't have health coverage.  I would change that immediately, despite the fact that it would actually increase your costs. 

How much is daycare in your area?  You get a tax break if your kids are in daycare so both adults can work or go to school.  With 4 kids it's probably not worth it for your wife to take a full time gig. 

I would consider axing your cell phone entirely (you have phones at work, right?).  Your wife needs a phone at home with the kids.

What are the cancellation penalties for the cell phones, satellite TV (are you KIDDING me?) and the internet be?  If they are less than you will pay in total to ride out those contracts you might consider cancelling early and eating the fees. 

Is the "van" the same thing as the "car"?  If you have 2 motorized vehicles you should think about selling one.  Can you sell your car and walk / ride to work?  Hopefully you're not underwater in that thing. 
« Last Edit: June 25, 2013, 10:56:08 AM by mgreczyn »

ChiStache

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2013, 12:43:49 PM »
I agree with all the comments above and also note the following:

Given your family size and income, you should be well within the eligibility requirements for food stamps. You should definitely take advantage of that program, and then divert the $ you were spending at the grocery store to debt repayment. 

andrea-stache

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2013, 12:54:02 PM »
What if your wife got a job in a daycare....kids get to go for free if their parents work there!  Extra income, little extra expense (transportation), bored kids problem solved!

NCoffey

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2013, 02:39:15 PM »
Some answers. All the kids are from previous marriages. Wife has one from previous, and I have 3. A set of twins took me from 1 to 3 so that was not intentional.

I am looking for another job. I hate the place I am at as well. I am trying for an electrician apprenticeship. It starts at $3 an hour more than I make now and after around 6 years I would be up to $35/hr.

I chose to move far away from work (20 miles) because housing in Town (Terre Haute, IN) is more costly. To rent a place in town would easily be more than the extra gas I spend to drive it. My ex meets me halfway for the kids. Wife's ex doesn't drive so we have to drive the whole way (about an hour there and an hour back). I complain about it frequently.

Debts include old credit cards the ex ran up. A foreclosure that is partially my fault and me trying to make a better decision. Old utility bills. Some old small medical bills. Probably more that I can't think of off the top of my head. I do not pay them as I do not have any extra money to do so. The $1700 for bankruptcy would be FAR cheaper.

Van is only vehicle. I often use "car" synonymous with "vehicle".

Employer does not match my retirement contributions but I don't know if we can opt out. I will look into it.

Daycare here is about $70/week/child on the cheap end.

My cell phone is an old flip face from walmart. The only reason I got it was because my work requires me to be on-call frequently. If my wife let her phone go I would leave mine home while I was at work.

My student loans are around $30,000. My other debts are probably around $20,000 combined. My wife has about $10,000 in debt that would also go away with bankruptcy. I don't think that looking at bankruptcy in this situation is a "cop-out". I currently pay nothing on my debt.

Also, kids have medicaid for insurance. My wife is the only one without health insurance.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2013, 02:44:49 PM »
How old are your old debts? It's possible that the statute of limitations for collecting them has expired. Except, of course, the SLs. Those never expire.

footenote

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2013, 03:07:37 PM »
1) Agree with other posters that you just plain need more income. Childcare services is a great opportunity for your wife. If childcare is $70 per week per child in your area, and if your wife can take in four kids, that equals $1,120 monthly income. She will have modest costs and taxes of course, but it's significant income given your situation.

OP said you take home $1500 per month. That totals low $20k per year, correct? In your latest post you said electrician work would get you up to $70k per year ($35 / hr) in six years. That's an enormous increase in income over six years. If I got that correct, go for it. That plus additional income from your wife working can make this manageable.

2) Lack of health insurance for your wife means your household is one major illness or accident away from disaster. Check out the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it comes on line in January. Exchanges will open in most states in October. Here's more on ACA in Indiana:
http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/bystate/in.html

Given your current income, she will qualify for a substantial subsidy.

3) Find a legitimate, local debt counseling agency who can help you understand your debt, debt options, and bankruptcy advisability. One way to avoid exploitive debt management agencies is to get referrals from your local United Way: http://www.uwwv.org/
(Click on the 211 link.)

Congratulations on taking the first steps, Nathan. You've gotten a lot of advice here. Prioritize, plan and gain control. And keep us updated!

StarryC

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2013, 03:34:11 PM »
There are rules about taking kids in as at home daycare.  If the family has 4 kids at home already (under 6!) then took 4 more in that would be 8 kids to one adult.  That seems like too many kids under 6 for one person to handle. 

mgreczyn

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2013, 03:34:46 PM »
Sounds like you are trying to make the best of a tough situation.  It seems there are three huge headwinds you face: a debt problem, an income problem and a problematic driving situation.  Your spending has some room for improvement, mostly around the margins with cutting cell phone and satellite TV expense.  There are other options for cell phones that don't require you to pony up $250 for a phone.  Search the MMM blog.  You need the absolute minimum you can get away with RE cell phone, so I would get rid of one and leave the other at home for your wife to use.  Ditch the cable ASAP.

For the debt problem, bankruptcy I think will get rid of all but the student loans.  Those cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, but perhaps you should look at trying to have them forgiven (very rare, but maybe worth a shot in your case).  Even if you don't go bankrupt, not paying anything on the student loans is just stealing from your future; the interest gets added to the balance, basically accelerating the debt higher and higher. 

If the electrician thing works out, score one for income, but you will clearly need to drive.  Could you trade the van for a more economical car?  See MMM's "cars for smart people" post.  Having your wife work as a daycare provider sounds like something to consider for income as well.

On the driving problem, your wife's ex doesn't drive, but could you convince him to kick in some gas money?  Seems only fair.  Or maybe he is required to by law but is getting away with not doing it?  Does the ex live in Terre Haute?  If all of your driving is to Terre Haute for work and kids, moving there could definitely be less costly then driving as much as you do.  I'm not sure I'm convinced that you're saving money by living 20 miles from work.  At 50 cents a mile, you're spending $20 a day just for driving back and forth.  Even if we assume only gas expense, with a van you're spending at least $6 or $7 a day at 15 miles to the gallon to do that.  Are places in town really $120 - $140 a month more than where you're living now? 


footenote

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #15 on: June 25, 2013, 04:13:31 PM »
There are rules about taking kids in as at home daycare.  If the family has 4 kids at home already (under 6!) then took 4 more in that would be 8 kids to one adult.  That seems like too many kids under 6 for one person to handle.
I gave that number simply as an example. Here are Indiana's adult:child ratio rules: http://daycare.com/indiana/

She could take in 4 or more three or four year olds.

NCoffey

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #16 on: June 25, 2013, 05:05:59 PM »
The kids are 2, 2, 3, 5. The youngest 3 all have birthdays in the next 2 months.

My ex lives about an hour away passed Terre Haute. She usually meets me on my side of Terre Haute reducing my commute to 30 minutes. That helps a lot. My wifes ex lives about an hour in the opposite direction. So if we move closer to one ex, the other is farther away. Quite the dilemma. We exchange with both about twice a week. Once to take them and once to pick them back up. He does chip in gas money on occasion after I hound him. He works a minimum wage part time job though and his child support rarely gets paid in full even though the state takes it directly from his check. They can only take a certain percentage.

I currently pay no support and receive no support. I got custody of the kids temporarily because my ex got into trouble with prescription drugs and went to jail for a few weeks. After all of her court stuff, if she doesn't get jail time, I expect the judge to give custody back to her. I will fight it as I think they are better off with me. When she had custody before that though, I was being forced to pay $520 a month in support to her because she refused to get a better paying job.

I also forgot to mention I am stuck in a "payday advance" cycle with my bank. 5/3 lets you borrow money until you get paid for 10%. Wife wrecked my car (was a good car that got great milage) and I had to borrow to get a new vehicle to get to work. I basically get charged $75 biweekly for that. I did manage to get it down from $1000 to $750. I just need to do that a few more times to get out of it. I worry I will struggle until tax season can get me caught up.

Thank you all for the advice. It is a great help and I really do enjoy knowing that the forums are active and people care enough to give advice.

Nudelkopf

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #17 on: June 25, 2013, 05:37:18 PM »
When she had custody before that though, I was being forced to pay $520 a month in support to her because she refused to get a better paying job.
Holy crap, that's a third of your income! I feel for you - my brother & his wife spent months in & out of court trying to maintain custody of her children. Even just gathering all the evidence to support their claim was a nightmare. Their lawyer told them to hurry up and have some biological kids together, so that the court was less likely to split up a family with other children in it. Even from this front, I think you should definitely improve your income - it'll look better to the courts if you can support your family better than the ex can! (IMO, of course)

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #18 on: June 26, 2013, 07:43:18 AM »

I also forgot to mention I am stuck in a "payday advance" cycle with my bank. 5/3 lets you borrow money until you get paid for 10%. Wife wrecked my car (was a good car that got great milage) and I had to borrow to get a new vehicle to get to work. I basically get charged $75 biweekly for that. I did manage to get it down from $1000 to $750. I just need to do that a few more times to get out of it. I worry I will struggle until tax season can get me caught up.


So, you are pay $75 biweekly for borrowing $750? That is a 200% APR! Time to have a yard sale / pick up a side job / do whatever you can to get the $$ to pay that off ASAP. That kind of rate is shackling you to your debt. How long have you been paying that? Every 6 months, you would pay as much in "interest" as you have sitting in principal. (though I imagine they don't call it interest -- they probably call it "fees")

Sell the baby gear that the twins have grown out of. Clean out everything you don't use from the house and sell it to the highest bidder. Start delivering pizzas in the evenings. Do whatever you legally can to get that payday loan gone!

mgreczyn

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #19 on: June 26, 2013, 12:00:56 PM »
It sounds like you're trying hard to move in the right direction, though you've taken some lumps and you may soon be faced with some very difficult choices.  Good luck with the efforts to become an electrician; increasing your income would solve so many problems, and probably boost your case for keeping custody.  Thank you for being willing to share your story with the forum.  I think that took some guts right there.

Forcus

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #20 on: June 26, 2013, 12:23:03 PM »
I don't have much to offer that others haven't already.

Rangling 4 young kids is tough but there might still be something that can be done from home by her durings the day for extra money. I've noticed that when ever I send in a rebate form or magazine subscription, they go midwestern small town PO Boxes. I believe this is a variation of stuffing envelopes for large companies. If so this might be something that can be done during nap time or open spaces during the day. It's something that can be done during family time too without thinking or too much disruption. Just a thought.

I agree with others that food stamps / LINK / whatever it is called might be especially helpful here. I'd much rather some of that money went to folks who are trying vs. generational users / abusers of the system.

Is there any way you can downgrade the car? I overuse this example but I have a 2002 Focus ZX5 (5 door hatchback) and it costs me virtually nothing to operate. For about 4k it is much cheaper but I understand you don't have the money laying around, a loan is impossible to get, and you might be upside down on your current one.

I can't speak to bankruptcy. I know the laws are not as favorable as they once were.

NCoffey

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2013, 08:01:24 PM »
I can't move because of the kids. I have to take them to their mother each weekend. She meets me halfway now, but if I moved that far she would not. I am also stuck with the van. It was the cheapest I could find, and afford that can transport 6 people (Me, Wife, 4 kids).

This is my tentative plan now. Tell me if it is jacked up.

Cancel a phone.
Cancel TV/satellite
Cancel Internet (maybe*)
I am going to try to cash out my $2200 403b/401k plan to file bankruptcy. I already have numerous collection agencies threatening garnishments. I reduced my contribution level to 0%, my employer doesn't match.
If I can get the bankruptcy my wife can get her license back to drive (insurance debt from an uninsured crash before we met).
I am hoping to get on the electrician apprenticeship soon which will increase my pay and has a much greater pay scale progression than my current employer.
I had also thought about joining Air Force Reserves. Some extra money and better outlook for the future.
I plan to pay off the Van with my tax money next year and that will allow me to also reduce to just liability insurance.
Subsequent years I plan to pay student loans with tax money. We typically get close to $10,000 back each year federal and state combined.

*The maybe on the internet depends on what a new job requires of me.*

My college loans were a stupid mistake. My schooling only cost me about $4k a year, I borrowed the whole $10k a year to pay off other debt like credit cards in favor of the better interest rate. Had I thought about it then, I would have not done this and just discharged old credit card debt with bankruptcy. I went for Nursing. Got the degree for RN. Failed the NCLEX first take and can't afford the next. I may have timed out for a retake again now and I really really don't want to do nursing. I have worked in a hospital for almost 4 years now and have grown to hate the medical field. I regret the schooling as I did it for my family instead of myself.

Villanelle

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2013, 07:05:57 AM »
If you can't bring yourself to get rid of internet, can you talk with a neighbor about splitting the cost and sharing a Wi-Fi connection?  Assuming this is legal, it would at least cut your cost in half, which is better than nothing.


Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2013, 07:16:52 AM »
Before cashing anything out, speak with a bankruptcy attorney first. A reputable one, not someone who might be affiliated with an attorney (there are some scams out there). I would find one by first contacting your Legal Aid and seeing if they have any programs that provide free bankruptcy assistance, and if that doesn't pan out, contact your state bar association for their lawyer referral service.

As for canceling internet, I wouldn't do it. Not with 4 kids and your wife at home.

herisff

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #24 on: June 28, 2013, 07:27:39 AM »
I would not cash out retirement savings. A friend did that even though she knew she shouldn't, and now that she is disabled she has essentially nothing but Social Security. The amount she cashed out, while not enough for survival alone, would make her current life much much easier. My understanding is that retirement savings are usually left untouched in bankruptcy (but double and triple check this). Definitely speak to a reputable bankruptcy attorney before you do anything.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2013, 08:22:28 AM »
Oh, and a quick note on the possible garnishments. Collection agents will threaten you until they're blue in the face but my understanding is they can't garnish your wages until they will a court case against you which takes time and money from them. So don't let them scare you into bankruptcy. I would at the very least wait until they have actually won a court case against you before filing because you might be able to avoid that mess.

Also, are your student loans in forebearance? If you're behind on them without a forebearance approval the IRS can take your refund to pay them back. So if you're not already please make sure you get a economic hardship forebearance on them or you'll get a nasty surprise next spring

+1. Except that the payday lender has your bank account. (And it's your bank? Is that right?) They will withdraw the money whenever they damn well please. They are probably already flouting 10 other laws. Pay that fucker off the first chance you get.

Moreover, depending on the type of debt and how old it is, if anyone files suit against you to collect it they might be too late because the statute of limitations has expired. This depends on the state though, and the judge won't consider it unless you show up in court and bring it up (i.e.: don't ignore any court papers served to you). If you talk to a real bankruptcy attorney, or a consumer program out of a legal aid, they should give you the nitty gritty on your rights there.

chatsc

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #26 on: June 28, 2013, 08:29:14 AM »
I think staying the course and getting the electrician's apprenticeship is a good idea.  In the near future, the trades will rule the world, methinks.  The apprenticeships are hard to get in my neck of the woods, so make sure that your lead is solid though and not just wishful thinking.

MsSindy

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #27 on: June 28, 2013, 09:46:19 AM »
You've received a lot of really good advice here.  And it looks like you're trying to take control of your life.

The one thing that I see is that you say you receive $10,000 back each year on your tax return?  Did I read that right?  BK is probably the right course for you, but if I'm interpreting things right, you're wanting to cash out your 401k because you don't have the funds to pay for an Attorney...or you have to wait until tax time.  You are paying WAY too much to the federal government through your paycheck.  You need that money now, not in April of next year.  Adjust your withholdings through your employer and claim a few more dependents - this will greatly increase your take-home pay - then payoff that damn payday loan first, then save to put a retainer on an Attorney.

Also, if you can get the Electrician Apprentice position that would be excellent, but I really think you need to come up with a Plan B.  What if you don't get it, then what?

footenote

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #28 on: June 28, 2013, 10:09:22 AM »
Speaking of Plan B, what about leveraging your nursing education through a job that requires that knowledge, but isn't nursing per se? (Ie, doesn't require that you passed NCLEX.) There must be many jobs where nursing knowledge is very valuable. And you could be working in an office environment, not a hospital. I thinking insurance claim processing, etc.

Forcus

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #29 on: June 28, 2013, 10:29:13 AM »
Just another thought. If you do bankrupcty it might hurt you when looking for another job (if you do). I've heard that employers are starting to run credit checks as insight in to character. Don't know the truthfulness behind that but if it's true might be worth considering.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #30 on: June 28, 2013, 10:38:18 AM »

The one thing that I see is that you say you receive $10,000 back each year on your tax return?  Did I read that right?  BK is probably the right course for you, but if I'm interpreting things right, you're wanting to cash out your 401k because you don't have the funds to pay for an Attorney...or you have to wait until tax time.  You are paying WAY too much to the federal government through your paycheck.  You need that money now, not in April of next year.  Adjust your withholdings through your employer and claim a few more dependents - this will greatly increase your take-home pay - then payoff that damn payday loan first, then save to put a retainer on an Attorney.


I am going to guess that's from the EITC, and adjusting withholdings isn't going to get the money in his pocket any faster.

NCoffey

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #31 on: June 28, 2013, 05:39:52 PM »
I will tell you my problem with vehicles. I know almost nothing about the. I just had a van that I got because I needed it short notice. It was $1600. Got it from a family car lot advertising on craigslist. It was a dud. I had to put money into it immediately to make it street legal and the cost got up to $2100 within a month. Transmission was going out, had a vacuum air leak leading to very inefficient fuel mileage, and I am pretty sure a head or gasket or both blew in the last couple days I had it. I had that van for approx 3 months before trading it in. I got $1500 in trade out of it. I don't trust cheap vehicles and especially from craigslist. I just don't have enough knowledge to make a smart purchase that way.

I don't think I can cash out  my 403b after looking at it. It requires a hardship which needs to be specific and what I need it for doesn't fall into any of their categories. I did reduce my contribution to 0% until I can get into a better situation.

The tax refund is a lot EIC and a lot child credits. My wife actually has 2 kids, but one doesn't live with us. She still claims him every year though. So each year we claim 3 kids. I alternate mine 2 one year and the third child the next year (Ex and I figured it was a more fair split than 3 one year and zero the next). Kim alternates 1,2.

That is a good idea on the internet. I will see if I can get a cheaper plan or if the neighbor (our friends) will let us leech. I really only use it for forums and facebook and will need it to accept jobs if I get the electrician thing.

A note on the electrician apprenticeship. I just got a letter telling me I scored 9 out of 9 on the aptitude test. Scored "HIGH" on both sections and it stated that I will be contacted in writing about when my interview will be as soon as there are enough qualified applicants to interview. I guess they do these things in groups. There were only 8 other people when I took the test. :/

I will look into jobs that can use my nursing degree without the license. That is an interesting idea. My current plan B was Air Force (reserves maybe) but that sucks with young family.

Villanelle

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #32 on: June 29, 2013, 09:55:17 AM »
Why will you need internet to accept jobs.  Your library has free internet access, as, in all likelihood, does any coffee shop in your neighborhood.  (No coffee purchase required, and if that embarrasses you, you can park in their lot and access it from there.

You don't *need* internet.  Your kids don't need internet and your wife doesn't need internet.  Your situation is pretty damn dire.  It's time to gut-up and do what needs to be done.  It might not be the most convenient, but you can't afford convenient right now. 

I think the military might be a good option.  Sure, it sucks a little with a young family, but many, many service members have young families. If you can get accepted, you get amazing (and free!) healthcare for everyone, a steady and reliable paycheck, job training, housing for your family (with 4 kids, you'll get a large house on base in almost every situation, if you have primary custody of them).  Since you have a college degree, start with an officer recruiter, which is not the same as an enlisted recruiter, no matter what the latter might tell you. 

You seem to be posting a lot of plans, but why aren't you actually *doing* these things.  In your situation, it is crazy to me that you haven't canceled the phone and TV today.  Or yesterday, really.  It's a "tentative plan"?  Really?  No!  Do it.  Do it right now.  Then call a neighbor right now to ask about internet.  Then call a recruiter if you are at all serious about that, etc.  Stop planning--which gets you nothing and changes nothing--and start *doing*.   Right now.  Stop reading these forums, right now, and start making calls and moving forward.   

Inquizator

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #33 on: June 29, 2013, 01:17:44 PM »
I'll apologize in advance if the incoming facepunch is a bit harsh...

My college loans were a stupid mistake. My schooling only cost me about $4k a year, I borrowed the whole $10k a year to pay off other debt like credit cards in favor of the better interest rate. Had I thought about it then, I would have not done this and just discharged old credit card debt with bankruptcy.
I have to say, it sounds like a lot of excuses and complainypants in here... Thinking back, the regret you have is that you didn't file bankruptcy sooner!? You think maybe you could have lived on less than you made? Worked through college? It's one thing to make mistakes, it's another not to recognize the mistake. If you don't realize that spending (at least in proportion to income) was/is your problem, then you're doomed to repeat the same mistakes (as is happening currently).

Debts include old credit cards the ex ran up. A foreclosure that is partially my fault and me trying to make a better decision. Old utility bills. Some old small medical bills. Probably more that I can't think of off the top of my head. I do not pay them as I do not have any extra money to do so. The $1700 for bankruptcy would be FAR cheaper.
Bankruptcy is saying that you're not a man of your word, you don't fulfill your obligations, and can't keep promises. Again, if you've truly recognized and accepted your past mistakes and are changing, maybe bankruptcy is your best option. But if you don't realize that this is your fault first, then you'll be back in the same place a few years down the road. Bankruptcy should feel bad and be a hard choice to have to make. You seem much too nonchalant about it and that makes it seem that you don't fully accept your role in all this (and will therefore have difficulty changing your behavior).

I am trying for an electrician apprenticeship. It starts at $3 an hour more than I make now and after around 6 years I would be up to $35/hr.
This is a damn good plan. The immediate $3/hr increase is around $6k more a year. That alone is only 5 years to pay off the $30k of debt that would go away with bankruptcy (even faster with the raises you'll get). And by year 6 when you're making $70k-$75k a year, that $30k is only one year of savings, if you avoid lifestyle creep (so there's the rest of the student loans gone if they aren't already). Why do you think it's going to take 8+ years to pay off the debt? You've got the way out, you'll be free in a few years and not even need the black mark of a bankruptcy.


Also, I have to second the Dave Ramsey recommendation. He's not great after the debt reduction phase and so isn't very helpful for most people here, but IMO he has the perfect message for your situation.

NCoffey

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #34 on: June 29, 2013, 04:41:44 PM »
I'll apologize in advance if the incoming facepunch is a bit harsh...

My college loans were a stupid mistake. My schooling only cost me about $4k a year, I borrowed the whole $10k a year to pay off other debt like credit cards in favor of the better interest rate. Had I thought about it then, I would have not done this and just discharged old credit card debt with bankruptcy.
I have to say, it sounds like a lot of excuses and complainypants in here... Thinking back, the regret you have is that you didn't file bankruptcy sooner!? You think maybe you could have lived on less than you made? Worked through college? It's one thing to make mistakes, it's another not to recognize the mistake. If you don't realize that spending (at least in proportion to income) was/is your problem, then you're doomed to repeat the same mistakes (as is happening currently).

Debts include old credit cards the ex ran up. A foreclosure that is partially my fault and me trying to make a better decision. Old utility bills. Some old small medical bills. Probably more that I can't think of off the top of my head. I do not pay them as I do not have any extra money to do so. The $1700 for bankruptcy would be FAR cheaper.
Bankruptcy is saying that you're not a man of your word, you don't fulfill your obligations, and can't keep promises. Again, if you've truly recognized and accepted your past mistakes and are changing, maybe bankruptcy is your best option. But if you don't realize that this is your fault first, then you'll be back in the same place a few years down the road. Bankruptcy should feel bad and be a hard choice to have to make. You seem much too nonchalant about it and that makes it seem that you don't fully accept your role in all this (and will therefore have difficulty changing your behavior).

People keep saying this but when I went to purchase the house I had 0 debt as I worked more to pay it all off. Some bad shit happened through the divorce and a couple months of being laid off. The old house was purchased for $58,000. After a few years and the "housing bubble burst" my house was then evaluated to be worth about $33,000. On top of that, the judge awarded my ex wife temporary custody of the house during the divorce, in which she stripped the house bare and left a caved in roof and ceiling in the kitchen leaking water. She filed the insurance claim on it (house was my name only as was insurance) and they actually gave her the check for it which she promptly spent on other shit. So then when I did get my place back, it was barren and the wood in the kitchen (floor and ceiling) were rotting. It was already severely devalued without that part even being calculated in.

The credit cards were both of our faults. My being laid off and our not looking for cheap used appliances/stuff for whatever broke and needed replaced. Its easy to say in hindsight but when it is happening, it is awfully hard to just deny your spouse expenditures. I wasn't as money conscious then either. I was also making more money back then before the layoff. Also, she worked. We made well enough to pay our bills before I got laid off and could have even after had my ex helped me. I spent every cent of my income paying bills (mortgage and utilities. I had no phone then, or tv). She was one of those people who thinks that she worked for her money so she should be able to do whatever she wants with it. Usually it was manicures, pedicures, new coach purses, going out drinking, etc. The only bill she paid was her cell phone. That was actually a huge part of our ending in divorce. I wanted to be cheap and pay bills first. She wanted her things first. :/

So yes, my fault for a great deal of it. Not all of it.

I really don't want to file bankruptcy. I am a little worried if I don't though. The bankruptcy attorney got mad at me last tax season for paying some stuff off before I went to her because I didn't want to "rip off" some of the people owning my debt. I just worry that it won't work if I don't. I am trying to look at it in the most profitable way. $1700 seems a lot less than the $30-$40 thousand I owe in non-school loans.

I would also wager that I live on less than a lot of people on here, just by the fact that I make a shitty wage. Not saying it can't be cut more. This is really the first time I have had more outgoing than incoming. I mean, I see that people say they can live on $7,000 a year, but I am pretty sure they own their house and vehicle free and clear. Live close enough to work to bike and have no debt. I am sure I can get there. I just have a different starting point. I am already 33 and have lots of debt.

Also, I did work through college. I didn't live at home with my parents. I had bills to pay with my paychecks.

Anyway, probably another post of excuses. I just feel like my situation/history is not understood enough and there are a lot of assumptions. I can take the facepunches as long as my reasoning (whether it makes it more acceptable or not) is known.

Inquizator

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #35 on: June 29, 2013, 05:06:05 PM »
$1700 seems a lot less than the $30-$40 thousand I owe in non-school loans.

Mathematically $1700 is a lot less than $30k-$40k, you're right. Just make sure you completely understand all of the consequences and future difficulties that come with filing bankruptcy. Those have to be weighed in as well. In the end though, do what's best for you and your situation, just make sure you get good counsel on the process of bankruptcy and it's after effects before you make a final decision.

The primary point I really wanted to make though, is that your situation is not as dire as it looks. You asked for advice, so my primary advice can be summarized as: take a nice healthy dose of MMM's Optimism Gun: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/03/the-practical-benefits-of-outrageous-optimism/.

Dave Ramsey would say (and I have to agree in this case) that above all else you have an income problem. And, good for you, you've got TWO potential paths to higher income! Both the electrician apprenticeship and going back to do whatever you need to do to use your nursing degree are decent paths. Pursue those options and get your income up. Once that happens, resist lifestyle inflation in order to pay the debt down and you'll find you're not in such dire straits. Don't let fear strangle you, see the promise you've got in front of you.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #36 on: June 29, 2013, 10:26:49 PM »
A lot of us come to this forum with regrets about our past decisions, and some of those people are in shitty situations partially because of someone else's actions. If you dwell on that without taking action, you're going to regret it in the future as well.

That said, what type of legal action did you pursue against your wife / the insurance company who wrote the check to someone who didn't own the house? This seems (a) like negligence on the insurance company's part and (b) like stealing, on your ex-wife's part. Other than pursuing a remedy to things that have happened in the past, it's best to keep your eyes facing forward.

Bankruptcy might be your best option for getting a clean slate, if the downsides don't outweigh the positive. I'm curious why you have been in touch with a bankruptcy attorney already, but have not started the bankruptcy process yet? It seems to me that you have a lot of indecision. Something that I learned from MMM is to establish a plan and stick to it. Sometimes the first step is the hardest.

Time to look ahead of you and start taking those steps forward.

Zamboni

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #37 on: June 30, 2013, 06:19:13 AM »
Quote
$1700 seems a lot less than the $30-$40 thousand I owe in non-school loans.

Yes, it's less, but it's really not THAT much less.  I don't think it's enough less to be worth the black mark of a bankruptcy.  My Dad's current wife had to file bankruptcy when her late husband was dying of cancer; they were hundreds of thousands in debt.  She realistically had no other way out on any time frame, but she advised me very strongly against doing it myself when I was getting divorced.

Yes, ex's can do crappy things to each other.  Here's one of the things my ex did:  in the last month we were together, when we knew we were separating but before we had separate places, he wrote himself not one but TWO $10000 cash checks on my credit card using those little "convenience" checks the credit card companies send in the mail.  One of them I caught before it cleared because he forgot to endorse it when he deposited it and it got returned in the mail (thankfully.) The other one went through, but I was able to get paperwork from the credit company and eventually he was found responsible for that alone and it was not counted as part of the marital estate or debts.   I ended up having to close all of our credit cards, which made him really mad and left me without a card other than a debit card for a considerable time because my debt to income ratio was so bad.  So, after you take the other steps outlined above, take her to court and get that insurance money awarded back to you.  How much is it, anyway?  More than $1000?  More than $10000?

Have you thought about taking out a notepad of paper and making a list of all of the advice in this thread?  Then rewrite it in the rough order you plan to do it and start doing it.  Put the long-term stuff like taking your ex to court way down at the bottom.  Each time you do something you'll get to cross that off the list.  Won't it feel good to actually CROSS "pay off the payday loan" off the list?  Progress right before your eyes!  Good luck, and I am cheering for you and your family!

NCoffey

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #38 on: June 30, 2013, 06:23:50 AM »
I tried to pursue something on the insurance because I thought it was fraud. The insurance company told me it doesn't matter who's name is on it, they give it to the person in the house, even though her name wasn't on that either. Then the divorce judge basically said she was only liable for half of the amount she stole because the judge believed that "she probably spent that much of it to take care of bills/kids). She paid 0 bills while in the house and I ended up with a $500+ electric bill for the house. She said she could only pay $5 a month to which the judge agreed and she has never paid even that. Not much I can do there I don't think.

I have to admit I am still a little bitter over it. I don't stew over it, but I want everyone to know how shitty of a person she was. She is better when she is not looking to get something, like right now, but I fully expect her to go right back to it when money is on the table (custody of the kids). She wants me to take the kids as much as possible but when in court she wants as much custody as possible, presumably for the money.

The bankruptcy thing changed because there was an unexpected expense that took the money that was going to pay for it. My wife was in a wreck that totaled my car. I had to get another vehicle on short notice and that took the $1700 that was going to pay for the bankruptcy. With money the way it is for us, we basically had to put it off for a year then.

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #39 on: June 30, 2013, 06:50:03 AM »
You couldn't afford to file for bankruptcy? O.o

Look, you've got a lot of baggage.. some of it bad luck and some it your fault. We have a mantra here from YMOYL of "no blame no shame". You know better now, because we've told you!  Try to move on.

When we do facepunches here, its not to be mean and assert how much cleverer we are than you. Its to try to help you with your thinking: the consumerist society has led you to believe all manner of wrong thinking.

When you say ramen once a week will make no difference...you are wrong...it will. There's a very old saying "count your pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves."

Read and re-read the "best of MMM" on the forum, and preferably the whole blog.

As others have said your debt is an emergency...your hair is on fire and you have a swarm of killer bees stinging you to death

1. Earn more: you and your partner. Now. Alternate shifts
2. Registrar for food stamps or whatever govt support you are eligible for: its cheaper on the nation than going bankrupt
3. Eat ramen. Try "no spend week"  or at least no spend on groceries ..eat your pantry etc. Cut those expenses. you're right, your expenditure isn't that bad...but your pay is and your debt is very bad. So knuckle down.
4. Put everything on that pay day loan sukka.
5. Then do the debt snowball thingy or Dave Ramsey.
6. Throughout all this keep reading the blog and forum and change your thinking... if you do bankruptcy without changing your thinking you will be back where you were before you know it.




grantmeaname

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #40 on: June 30, 2013, 07:20:11 AM »
This entire thread is just you explaining that you won't spend less on groceries, internet, expensive TV that comes over the air FOR FREE, your cell phone, your wife's cell phone, or your ridiculously antimustachian $650/mo vehicle spending because doing any of those things requires minor inconvenience.

You spend more than you make, for fuck's sake! It doesn't matter if it's inconvenient to change your lifestyle!!

If you declared bankruptcy you'd be in the same place is less than two years, because every month you spend borrowed money, and every month you don't pay the required payments on the debts from doing the same. You started the thread with "was wondering if anyone could help me find places to cut/change about my income/spending", and every time someone makes a suggestion you calmly explain that there's nothing you can do about it and then you wonder if you should just keep on spending more than you make for the next 10 months until you can file for bankruptcy, because paying $1750 to ignore some of your problems is cheaper than realizing that you don't have the willpower to live within your means! If you declare bankruptcy next April, nobody is going to give you the extra cash you want to spend in May rather than tighten the belt a little! Quit making excuses and face reality. Trim your budget, now! It's the only answer.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 07:26:52 AM by grantmeaname »

Villanelle

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #41 on: June 30, 2013, 08:00:56 AM »
We get it  You married a bitch.  b=Bad things happened to you.  Life is hard.  You don't make much.  We get it.

You seem more interested in laying out your case or martyrdom than you do fixing your life.  Which is fine.  If you want to spend your time explaining yourself and establishing a case for why you aren't at fault, or aren't completely at fault, that's cool.  It's not one here's problem if you continue on in your crappy financial situation, so by all means, feel free to continue to do so.

But in the time it took you to write that post, you could have canceled a phone, and made a call to a neighbor to ask about shared internet.  Instead, you used that time to tell us your ex-wife sucks, a lot.  Look at that choice; do you actually think, in retrospect, that it was a wise decision about how to spend that time? 

So, again, either do something, or STFU.  Having a "plan" to cancel a phone is just fucking stupid.  That isn't something that takes weeks or months to accomplish.  If you intend to do it, then do it.  If not, then quit lying to yourself and just admit that you have no interest in fixing your finances and your life if it means actual effort or--gasp!-- sacrifice on your part, and that you are content to wallow in the mess you've made for as long as you can.

Either one is fine, but recognize that every time you do nothing, you are actively choosing the latter.  Ever moment you don't call to cancel a service, you are choosing to continue to fuck up your finances and perpetuate an unstable financial environment for you and your children.  You aren't just doing nothing; you are doing things that make life worse for yourself and your kids.  If that's okay with you, vaya con dios, man.  If not, then stop fucking doing it.  Now!



NCoffey

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #42 on: June 30, 2013, 08:49:47 AM »
Phones are done. Wife isn't going to re-up her minutes when this one expires and I am going to go prepay for a very small amount (I have to have some to be on call). It should be quite a bit cheaper than the $48 a month I spend now.

Working on TV and Internet. DirectTV has not been very friendly and I still have to do the math on if it will be cheaper to cancel out of our contract or ride it out. We have about 9-10 months left on that one.

Internet ends Feb 2014 and I will have to do the math on that one too.

The van is that expensive because they only go out 2 years 9 months on financing. The Van is a no budge issue as I am required to have transportation for 6 and reliable transportation for work. It will get paid off with tax money and insurance will drop by more than half. I am shopping around for better rates on it now though.

I actually eat ramen about everyday for lunch at work. It is what I take. I get a 6 pack for a dollar. :D Wish I could find my mushroom flavor though. My meals right now are basically 2 hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. Ramen or Rice and Tuna for lunch. Chicken and a veg for dinner. Trying to be as cheap as I can and attempting to still be healthy/get into shape. I drink water mostly, and sometimes I have a glass of milk.

There has been some good advice here. I guess I was just hoping for something I hadn't thought of yet. I have been trying to talk my wife into canceling some stuff and that is actually where the "trying" part is. It's not that I have a plan and haven't carried through. I don't ever watch tv, that is hers. She is still floundering a bit on the phone too but I think I am getting through that we don't really have much of a choice. I have got her to be a bit more of a hardass on her ex though so he is giving us gas money for driving the entire way.

The increase in pay is not something I can will to happen immediately. I am in the system/process with the electrician union, I am waiting on them.

We may look to move into town when we get our tax returns (for moving expense and deposit although we should get our deposit back from this place). If work is close enough then, I could bike.

I guess if I plan on filing bankruptcy, I could just stop paying Frontier and DirectTV. Put that money toward the payday loan to get out of that too.

Getting birth certs tomorrow so I can try to get food stamps. (ex refused to give me the birth certs so I have to go pay $10 each to get copies from annex).

Zamboni

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #43 on: June 30, 2013, 09:18:25 AM »
Man, you are getting face punched hard here!

Congrats on cancelling things!  Hooray!  I vote for cancelling the DirectTV and Frontier now.  Ask to speak to a manager, tell them you are cancelling and that you can't afford the cancellation fee and are considering backruptcy. Say at a minimum you need a payment plan for the cancellation fee.  If they won't help on the phone, then send this information in writing as a signed, dated letter with the next bill (keep a copy of the letter for yourself.)  Say in the letter that you will dispute any further charges and late fees.  Make another copy of this letter and put it in with each new bill that arrives.  If they call you, tell them the charge is in dispute and that you have notified them of this in writing on X date (whatever the date is of your letter.)  You might have to pay them eventually, but you need to pay that payday loan off first. 

Write down your tasks and put them on the refrigerator with a magnate.  Cross them out with a big fat marker when you accomplish them.  Have you shown your wife this thread?

Thank you for the details about your ex and the insurance; I did ask, and I appreciate the answer.  Sounds like that wound needs to just be cauterized; you have to keep dealing with her through the courts bc of the kids, but try to limit your exposure to that and move on otherwise.


There's actually a name for the kind of thinking you are using for DirectTV and Frontier:  the "what the hell" effect. 

Here's an example:  you are on a diet, and know you shouldn't eat sweets and candy.  Then you walk into a room all by yourself and on the table is this awesome cake, your favorite kind, and it's perfect!  No one has even cut into it.  So you think to yourself "I'll just have a little cake."  So you cut a little slice and eat it.  Now you feel a little guilty, and think maybe you won't be losing weight this particular day, but the cake tasted good.  So you eat a bigger second piece.  At this point you really feel guilty, and decide "I've already blown my diet today anyway" so you eat the whole fucking cake. 

Same for the ramen.  "I know ramen is cheaper but what the hell!  I'm already in so much debt that I might as well just order a $10 pizza."  But now I see that you are very conscious about food spending.

It's not just you.  People use the "what the hell" effect all the time to rationalize things.  It's like the opposite of mustachianism, though, so doing it here is going to get you face punched, as I'm sure you've noticed.

You can control your thinking and behavior by recognizing when this effect is kicking in.  I've never heard of someone waiting for nearly a year with a plan to file bankruptcy, and I can see how "planning" for backruptcy would seriously trigger the "what the hell" kind of thinking.  I mean, wtf, if you are going to file for bankruptcy anyway, you might as well charge up a vacation for the whole family to Disneyworld!  That kind of thinking is your ENEMY!  Bankruptcy is something one does when there is no hope of recovery.  You can recover:  of this I am certain.  But you have to start with your mentality first.  Only you can control that.

I'm cheering for you.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #44 on: June 30, 2013, 10:03:18 AM »
It is great to see you taking action. Didn't that feel good? I know when I made my first extra payment on one of my debts, it felt SO GOOD to take that step. Really, the first step felt like the hardest. Once you start aggressively paying down that payday loan, you are going to feel better. Each payment to get that off your back will feel great and at the end of it, you will see that you can in fact squeeze $750 out of your budget -- so then you'll tackle the next one. That's how this thing works.

By the time you get your tax refund, instead of thinking "where can I spend this?" you are going to start imagining all the debts you can pay off with it. IDK what kind of non-school debts you have, but once that PDL is paid off, get on the phone with those collectors and strike a deal for paying off that debt for half price -- that is, ONLY if the statute of limitations hasn't expired! (If the statute of limitations has expired on a debt, it's best to not strike a deal at all because you might start the SOL clock again. They snooze, they lose.) We can help you prioritize your payments on those debts if you post the balances and interest rates.

If you haven't already, move the school loans down to the lowest possible amount to repay them without defaulting. Include them in your list of debts you need to pay down and we can help you prioritize where to direct your payments. But at a minimum, you really don't want to default on those. If you've already defaulted, then that's a whole separate post, and I'm sure we can point you in the right direction but it's hard to dig yourself out of default and you don't want to start trying to unless you're fully committed, because you only get 1 chance to do it right.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #45 on: June 30, 2013, 10:07:30 AM »
Just another thought, on the DTV. I think they have a 6-month forbearance-type of plan, where you can put the service on hold so you don't pay anything, and don't get anything. You can put off the cancellation charges (interest-free) for 6 months that way, and it will help everyone get used to not having satellite TV before you plunk down the money.

Zamboni

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #46 on: June 30, 2013, 10:31:03 AM »
^Yes, this is an excellent plan for the TV!

I wonder if Frontier has a similar deal of suspending service for some time? 

NCoffey

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #47 on: June 30, 2013, 11:19:02 AM »
I don't really understand Stan. So I cancel the service and try to get a forbearance on the cancellation fee? Or is it something else?

Also, I got a deferment on my school loans for a year around feb this year. Interest was capitalized.

I will have to try to get a free credit report. Anyone know of a place that will get me a free report that is itemized other than through the mail? Most of the free credit report sites that I know just give you a generic score and require you to sign up for something to get a real report.

edit: I looked up the Dave Ramsey/Snowball thing. Is that still applicable even if not making minimum payments on the other debts? If you are just paying one at a time, is it better to then go for highest interest?
« Last Edit: June 30, 2013, 11:37:54 AM by NCoffey »

Inquizator

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #48 on: June 30, 2013, 12:50:02 PM »
edit: I looked up the Dave Ramsey/Snowball thing. Is that still applicable even if not making minimum payments on the other debts? If you are just paying one at a time, is it better to then go for highest interest?

Dave Ramsey's advice to tackle debts from smallest to largest regardless of interest rate is a psychological decision aimed to get the person some quick wins and excited about the process.

Personally, that doesn't appeal to me, I'd pay largest interest rate first. But, whatever works for you. The primary message is to get focused on killing the debt, regardless of order of attack.

Sweet Betsy

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Re: Struggling with debt and bills, advice?
« Reply #49 on: June 30, 2013, 01:14:38 PM »
Go to annualcreditreport.com for your free annual credit report.  At this point you don't need to worry about what your score is...and I certainly wouldn't pay for it if I were in your shoes. 

You are starting to make progress.  Good for you.  Keep at it. I know that sometimes small steps are the best ones to make especially when convincing your family that the changes are necessary. 

I don't know how much you use your phones but as long as you aren't big talkers/texters you should be able to reduce your spending significantly on your one remaining phone.  Look on this forum for information for all the MVNOs out there.  Find a plan that you won't have to switch phones.  To get the deal that works for you, you'll need to look at your past usage and do your homework as to what plans your current phone will work under.  Give yourself a couple of hours to review the forum postings on here as well as make some phone calls/send e-mails. 

I know that your wife works really hard all day with the kids. I can't imagine being home with 4 kids without a car.  Nevertheless, is there anywhere within walking/biking distance that she could work a few hours a week in the evenings or weekends?  Bringing in any additional income will make so much difference in your lives right now. 

I do have to chime in that Dave Ramsey would be a fabulous influence on you and your wife right now.  Seriously, find which radio station his show is on...check out one of his books at the library.  It will really help you see that the hole you are trying to dig yourselves out of is so possible.  Pay attention to his religiosity if you want or ignore it if that doesn't ring true for you.