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Credit Repair – Help Me Find the Best Methods

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Last year, without consulting the BAD community, I moved forward with a paid credit repair place to the tune of $400….over a year later and nothing has changed. In fact, it has mostly gotten worse.

$400 down the drain!

Now, I am wiser, I hope, and way more cautious. But I desperately need to make progress on my credit score. With that being said, I have been doing quite a bit of research.  That’s where the Self Lender loan idea came from.  I am looking at 609 letters, goodwill letters, paying things off and so on. But I want to make wise decisions and use my time and efforts wisely.

Credit Warriors

One place I have found particularly helpful, and no, I have not spent a dime, is Credit Warriors. I especially like their Facebook group. It’s good to hear about other’s successes in traveling the path I am just now started. My number one goal is get to my credit score up significantly. And in learning more about it, I want to teach my kids more about it.

So BAD Community, here I am asking for your best tried and true guidance for credit repair: links, first hand stories and so on. I am game to hear it all.

 


Hope’s Debt – October, 2017

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Creditor
Balance

(as of 10/14/17)
Interest
Min. Payment
Car$10,0007.00%$308
Credit Card$5,00017.00%$36
Summer Camp (2018)$3,3750.00%$500
Student Loans$34,3492.88%$307
Computer Equipment$2,73822.90%$84
Taxes (State)$6,0000.00%$100
Self Lender$1,01310.57%$97
Collections 1 (Medical)$618
Collections 2 (Apartment)$499
Collections 3 (Ex-husband)$6,9546.25%$246
Amazon$52726.99%$25
Total$71,073$1,703

Credit

Car – I recently wrote a post on this new debt. You can read it here. My goal is to pay this car off in just at two years, by paying $500 per month.  My first payment of $400 will be paid this week.

Credit Card – For the last several months, I have been paying this card off every month and then charging everything I could to it…monthly bills, groceries, gas and so on. In doing that, I have paid less than $10 in finance charges. The problem is that I can’t get it to a $0 balance. And this bothers me. I am literally paying it and then using it. I don’t think this is wise and I want to get it to a $0 balance. The nice thing is that I do earn points with every dollar spent that I can convert to cash.

Amazon – this is a line of credit with Amazon that I typically pay off every month. I use it frequently for household items, etc. But now I am at the point that I would like pay it down to $0 and keep it there rather than rolling it every month.

Computer Equipment – I know this was a dumb decision, but it’s one I cannot regret. All three of the kids have new laptops. With me being gone some much, a lot of their schooling is online. It makes it easier for me to track their time, help them remotely and they have Skype classes specifically with a Spanish tutor. And, of course, the majority of Sea Cadet’s 11 college hours are online. This is my personal number one priority to pay off.

Chosen Debt

Summer Camp – I mentioned this in my recent budget update, technically I could stop paying this at any time or wait until next summer and pay it in one lump sum.  But paying every month, with a pay off in April makes me more comfortable and assures that my kids have a plan for next summer without me scrambling. The total amount covers 6 weeks of camp next summer.

Self Lender – this is also a “chosen” debt. It’s actually a CD that I will gain access to next September when paid in full. They report to the credit agencies which was my motivation for opening the account. I need massive repairs to my credit and this is essentially forcing me to save (thinking Christmas next year.)  Have you heard of it? Thoughts?

Collections

Collections 1 – I will argue to the day I die that I do not owe this debt. This is medical debt from the twins which the state is supposed to pay in full via the provided medical insurance. A couple of years back, the state inadvertently cancelled the twins insurance, and while they turned it back on the next business day, this fill fell through the loop.  I have called medicaid, the state, the twins caseworker, and so no to no avail.  In order to get it off my credit I may have to pay it, but I definition do not owe it!

Collections 2 – Evidently our apartment charged me for damages to the apartment we moved out of a year ago this past April. I NEVER received any notice of that, it just showed up on my credit report. Two things regarding this…they kept my entire deposit. No problem, we had animals, I respect that. But two, our apartment was as spotless as an apartment can be after people live in it for almost two years. The carpet was clean, the apartment was clean, we hadn’t hung stuff on the walls so there was no wall damage.  But as it has been so long and I have no “proof” I am probably going to have to pay this one too.

Collections 3 – Another unknown debt that appeared on my credit report, again from my marriage. It has to do with a line of credit on our old house, which he bought me out of 8 or so years ago. I am working on fighting this one too, but for now, I have made payment arrangements with them and they have removed it as a derogatory statement on my credit report.

Taxes – This is a placeholder debt. With all our moving around, mail is just starting to catch up with me. This state tax debt is from the year my ex and I divorced. While I have filed every year, he may not have. I have arranged a payment plan of $100 per month while I track down tax filings, etc. to defend my “lack of liability” for this debt. We will see how it goes.

With all this on out on the table now, what do you recommend as my plan of action? What should my priority be?


3.5 Years Into Debt Repayment: Reflections & Looking Ahead

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Let’s get brutally honest. I never thought I’d still be blogging here right now.

When I first started blogging back in February 2014 (see my introduction post here), my goal was just to get out of credit card debt. At the time I had nearly $150,000 in total debt, and that amount seemed totally insurmountable. (See my first ever debt post here or read about what lead me to start my debt-reduction mission here). I had over $10,000 in credit card debt, so that was my original goal when I started blogging here. With a household income of about $45,000/year, I thought it would likely take 12-18 months to pay it all off.

I shocked everyone (myself most of all!) when I somehow managed to pay off my final credit card (over $10k in total credit card debt), in just shy of 3 months!!!! 

Where had all that money come from? It didn’t even seem mathematically possible, but the second I put my mind to it, things just started happening. Hubs’ got some big checks, I got some big checks, and we absolutely slashed our spending and expenses  down to next-to-nothing.

We ended up paying off over $25,000 of debt (+interest) in 2014.

We went on to pay off over $26,000 of debt (+ interest)  in 2015. 

And we kept the train rolling, paying off over $30,000 of debt (+ interest) in 2016!

Source

After just shy of three (long and hard-fought) years to get to this point, I finally reached the half-way mark in my debt-eradication journey in February of this year.

I received a lot of encouragement around that half-way point:

“The debt will just start melting away”, they said.

“It will start going so rapidly”, they said.

“It will feel so easy in comparison to the start”, they said.

“They” lied. Or maybe not lied, per se. But they were wrong. It’s not any easier. The debt is NOT falling away. And I do NOT feel like it’s a downhill run, easy in comparison to the start of the journey. If anything, it’s the hardest now that it’s ever been.

Why? What’s changed?

At the beginning of the year I’d set some pretty lofty financial goals for 2017 and beyond. My goals included:

  • Pay $30,000 toward debt
  • Fully fund a Roth IRA ($5,500)
  • Take a Mom & Dad Getaway trip

One goal about debt eradication, one about saving, and one that’s just a total splurge.

Guess which of the three actually happened? Just the splurge. That’s it.

We will likely have nothing to put into a Roth IRA this year. No extra money for savings of any kind really* (*caveat: my employer requires a mandatory 7% retirement contribution and provides a full match,  so I do have a pre-tax retirement account that’s being funded. But no additional savings of any kind – no liquid cash in a savings account, no Roth, etc.).

In terms of debt, we’ve managed to actually increase our debt burden. Things have been rough since April – first discovering a HUGE tax liability we had (still have), and then when my part-time job ended, hubs’ work ended, and the entire summer (May-August) we kept on spending like we had this phenomenal income (we’ve grown used to an income around $10,000/month), but my first full-time paycheck at my new rate of pay indicated that I’d likely only be bringing home around $4,500/month. It was a HUGE wake-up call. HUGE.

We’re still making pretty hefty debt payments, but it’s to the IRS and credit card companies in addition to the student loans I’d finally thought were starting to get under control. We’ll still have paid a good amount toward debt this year, maybe $20-25,000. But I doubt we’re going to hit that $30,000 mark that we’d planned on. Oh yeah…..and now we’re starting off in a worse place than we were at the start of the year because of all our new debt that’s been tacked on for the ride.

I have lots more to share about how our debt increased – all the over-spending we’ve been doing (and some unavoidable medical expenses, as well). But I’m going to save the nitty-gritty details for another post.

Right now, I just wanted to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we hope to be in the future.

Getting out of debt is hard work. Especially with the amount of debt that our family was grappling with. $150,000 is no joke. No small stuff to scoff at. It’s the real-deal, legitimate, takes years and years and lots of hard work and persistence type of debt to get out from under.

Life continues to happen. Life doesn’t care about our financial goals and our hopes and dreams and what we’ve got planned. Life just comes right at you full-force with job changes or job loss, unexpected health issues, costly car repairs, etc. Kids grow up! When I first started blogging here my twins were 18-months old! Now they’re five and entering kindergarten! Life doesn’t just “pause” and allow us to get out of debt real quickly so we can take our kids on fun trips, make lifelong memories, and  allow them to participate in all the activities and extracurricular that I would prefer None of that stuff happens.

Kids grow, parents age, emergencies (of the major + minor kind) occur. All while just trying to scratch and claw and slooooooowly climb out of the giant hole of debt that is our financial life. It’s tough. And it’s not fun. But I also cannot wait. I want to scream it from the rooftops: I CANNOT WAIT TO BE DEBT FREE!!!!!

Back when we made our financial goals for 2017 we were anticipating being debt free by early 2018.

Sorry to say, but it’s going to be longer than that, folks.

Hubs is back in school (= no income currently and only the possibility of part-time employment at best) and my income is pretty well “set” without a lot of room for flexibility. I just got a huge raise, but had to sign a non-compete for the next 3 years (lucky I love my job and where I’m at, but it means no chance of additional or outside employment in my current field for the time being). Without a chance for any significant increase in household income for now, our only option is to get our spending down. Spending, which has been a HUGE issue this summer.  This, to undoubtedly be the topic of several blog posts in the future.

I have to be honest. I don’t feel as much excitement as I used to. I don’t feel the same level of passion and enthusiasm. Right now, I’m just worn down and tired. We slacked off big-time this summer – I must admit. So it’s not like we’ve been living the rice-and-beans life for the entire 3.5 years. We did for the first 2 years, but our spending as of late has been unacceptable. So there’s certainly room for improvement.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

So right now I’m just going to put out the big “pie in the sky” type of goal. We’ll get around to all the numbers and the concrete financials. But for now I just want to declare: 2018 will be our year!!! I don’t know that it’s possible. In fact, I think it’s likely a mathematical impossibility right now. But so was that $10,000 of credit card debt. And somehow, someway we managed to pay it off in 3 months. So I will keep the hope. We may not be done in early 2018 as originally projected, but I’m going to make it a personal goal to figure out how to sell any and everything of excess, how to totally scrimp and save and cut out all unnecessary spending and once and for all just GET OUT OF DEBT BY THE END OF 2018. December, I’m looking at you! What a wonderful Christmas present it would be to our family and ourselves to make a final debt payment in December 2018. It’s happening, folks. This debt is going down!

Who else is with me?

What are your current debt-reduction goals? When do you plan to be fully debt-free?


Thoughts on Increasing Debt

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Hi all! Sorry for the long hiatus! I’ve missed this site and am glad to announce that I’ll be staying and continuing to blog here under our new blog ownership! Hope you haven’t gotten sick of me yet! 😉

It’s been awhile! I plan to do a little “coffee chat” update post soon. But I wanted to jump right back in to talk about some of the things I noticed while we’ve been moving in the wrong direction with our debt. The summer months were rough on our budget and our finances. It was the first time in my 3+ years of blogging here that we’ve gone in the WRONG direction with our debt. Yep, it’s increased.

I’ll be posting some numbers soon. A whole “starting over” series to come. But in the meantime, I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve had these past couple months as our debt has started to slip the wrong direction.

  1. I’ve never seen so many credit card offers in my life. It’s smart, I guess. But it appears that all the credit agencies in the world were tipped off (or following credit reports) and have pounced the second that they realized we’ve accumulated a little bit of debt (meaning, we’re now paying interest to credit card entities instead of paying cards off in full at the end of the month). Seeing the opportunity to make some cash, every company and their mother has been sending me mailers with credit card offers. Kind of creepy, really. And sneaky, too.
  2. “Don’t forget about us” cards. My rarely used/unusued credit cards started showing up in the mail, too. They were sent along with different credit offers, cash advance checks, etc. The new cards were sent even though the old ones haven’t expired. It feels a little predatory, in my opinion.

Source

These credit-lending places sure JUMP at the chance to capitalize on our increasing debt load! They’ve got a business to run and all, but it sure feels a little grimy. Leaves a bit of a dirty taste in my mouth.

Meanwhile, we haven’t had a penny of credit card debt in over 3 years (since we paid off the Bank of America card back in June 2014). Here we are, now September 2017. We have a significantly higher household income than we did back in 2014; back when I swore we would absolutely never ever go back into credit card debt again.

How did this happen? How did we get here?

It’s all a little overwhelming. It’s also frustrating and disappointing. But here we are.

I’m not a quitter. I don’t plan to give up. Instead, I think this little detour just goest to show that not everyone’s debt-eradication path is in a straight line. We’re fighting the good fight and it’s full of curves, ups and downs, unexpected issues, etc. We’re normal.

I hope you’ll stick around and continue to cheer me on as I dig deep and re-commit to finally – once and for all – getting out of debt for good!!!

 

PS: Stay safe out there for all affected by the horrific storms/earthquakes/etc impacting our world right now!


Rock Bottom

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After our bankruptcy was discharged, I thought we were through with financial irresponsibility. We had two paid off cars, and no debt except a 40 year 7.5% mortgage of $130,000. On a house what once was worth $125,000, now was valued at $65,000. We said we would never go back to the way it was.

Our road started off with a bang, I decided I wanted a new car. I was tired of driving the small Chevy Aero, and wanted something bigger. By then my husband had gone back to work, so we had the income for a car payment. So I thought. Because we were so close after our discharge, the bank loan came back at 18%. Yet idiot me took it. Thankfully, I got our credit union to refinance it at 3.75 within 6 months.

The credit card debt kinda of snuck up on me. Again our local credit union started me off small, and kept raising the credit limit for me. I just kept spending and spending. Sometimes, it was for luxuries that we really didn’t need, but other times, it was for the necessities that we needed. We again were living outside our means.

The House

Last summer, my husband and I decided to move closer to our jobs and to a better school district for our girls. I took 6 months, but I found a house that is 2 miles from my job, 10 minutes from my husbands job, and a much better school district. It was a for sale by owner, and what we considered a perfect fit. I’m not proud to say this, but I promised to be 100% honest, so I will admit, we walked away from the old house with the 40 year mortgage. We were allowed to as the debt was discharged in our bankruptcy. We convinced the owner of the current house to do a lease to purchase, and moved in the beginning of February . We are paying her 5% APR (she holds the note) and have a refinance deadline of November 2019. Yes this stresses me out.

A few weeks ago, I finally hit rock bottom. I had convinced my local credit union to do a debt consolidation on some of our credit cards. I swore I would cut them up, and start living like a responsible adult. I failed. Two of the cards lowered my credit limit so they are not as high, but the rest are right back where they were. I am very ashamed to find myself in such a low place again however this time its different.We are not walking away from one red cent of what we owe. We can and we will pay down our debt. It won’t be easy, in fact, I’m sure its going to be very hard. But for the 1st time, my husband and I are on the same page, and there are no secrets.

The Future

The future is now. We are cutting everything we can to have more to throw at debt. I am working on a post explaining our income and expenses. We are signed up to start Dave Ramsey’s class in the middle of September through our local habitat for humanity. I’m excited because at the same time we have our class, they are also holding a kids class that follows Dave’s class for kids. Hopefully, that will give our girls the foundation to be smarter with money then their parents are. Its something I wish I had as a kid.

Thats our full financial story. Like I said, I am working on an income and expenses post that I am sure everyone will help me whittle down. I do promise to be 100% truthful in my posts, and I have thick skin to read the responses to them.


How it All Began

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How it all began……

I was never good with credit. When I was 16, Lane Bryant sent me a credit card. I had ordered from there catalog for several years. I don’t remember filling out a credit application, just this very pretty purple piece of plastic coming in the mail, and I then could order clothes and pay a small $25 a month until they were paid off. Easy, right? I had my first charge off on my credit report at 18.

I was a single mother at the time, and on welfare. The next step was to go back to work, and I needed a car. But with a new job and a small awful credit file, I needed a co signer. I don’t know how I did it, but I talked my Dad into it. I bought a 1990 Ford and went to work 3rd shift.

I behaved at 1st, making payments on time, and then I moved out on my own. I lived in an apartment with my son, and my soon to be husband. (now my ex husband). Living on my own was hard, and things started to slide. First my car insurance didn’t get paid, then it was canceled. So the finance company added their insurance to the car. Then I fell behind in the payments. Eventually I had to give the car to my Dad, and borrow his paid off car to drive back and forth to work. He was nice about it, but swore he would never co sign for me again, and he never has. Not that I would ask.

When my ex and I got married, we moved south with the military. He then took over the bills. I had given my Dad his car back when we moved, so we were down to one vehicle. We decided to trade his truck in and buy 2 cars, one for each of us. His credit was good, so it was no problem.

Fast forward a few years, and we are out of the military and permanently living in the south. Thing are tight, and my ex and i fight about money a lot. Eventually we end up splitting the bills 50/50, and each of us have to pay out of our own paychecks. He doesn’t care about any credit cards, just that if they are in my name, I have to pay them myself. Me, having no self control with money, rack them up. We split in 2001, and he walked away with a paid off truck. I was left with 10,000 plus in credit card debt, student loans, and a single wide mobile home with a 20 year mortgage.

I then decided that I wanted a new car. The one I had was with a credit union, and I was upside down a lot. But it was in my ex husband’s name. So, I let it go back, and bought a car on my own. Took out more credit cards. Move to a rental house that was $250 more a month and let the single wide trailer go back to the bank.

Are you starting to see a trend?

Don’t get me wrong, I was making it, but by the skin of my nose. By then I was at my current job but a single mom of 2 kids. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have collection agencies call you at work, while you are a bill collector for your job? One time, they even faxed my boss about my debt. I blamed my ex husband, and prayed that they would stop one day.

Then the rental house caught fire. Thank goodness I had renters insurance. I had a ton of cash, and a spending habit that I had not fixed.I found a new place to live, a rent to own house. I had one year to rent, and I had to get the mortgage in my name. I did it in 6 months. That was the height of the housing bubble, and I got a 11.75 % variable APR mortgage on a $125,000 house. But I had a ton of money from the insurance, that made it easy. My spending habits didn’t change. My kids and I had more stuff then we knew what to do with.

I then met my current husband. He is 6 years younger than me, and still was living at home. We has a speedy courtship, 4 months from our 1st date to our marriage. The money from the fire had run out by then, and he didn’t have a well paying job, so I robbed Peter to pay Paul to pay for the big wedding we had. The mortgage company did the 1st loan modification on the mortgage within 6 months. They lowered my payment and my interest rate to 7.5 % fixed. I thought everything would work out.

Traded and bought a few vehicles, and racked up more debt. Was kinda of keeping my head above water, then my husband got sick. We then had huge medical bills that included a bill for a cornea transplant. Everything got past due, even the house again. We went and filled out the paperwork to file chapter 13 bankruptcy but didn’t have the filing fee until we got paid on Friday. Thursday, I went out my front door to goto work, and my car was gone. It had been repossessed in the middle of the night. So, I borrowed the filing fees to file a day early, and the next day, the lawyer got my car back from the bank.

Again, things were fine for about 6 months then hours were cut. My husband had to find a new job, and took a $2 an hour pay cut. That hurt. Our Chapter 13 payments were self pay, so we stopped them. And our plan was dismissed.

We went back to the attorney, and asked what to do. He said to keep the house, we would have to file chapter 13 again, but reduce what we were paying in the plan. We gave back my car, but kept my husbands truck. I went out and found a mini van on a buy here pay here lot and got that for transportation as our family by then had grown by our twins and we didn’t fit into the truck by then. This time my pay was garnished for the payments, and my take home was about $250 every two weeks. My husbands was about $600 every two weeks. Everything else went to bankruptcy. It was very tight. So tight, that I even went behind my husbands back and got 4 credit cards while in bankruptcy. See the trend.

Then the layoff. My health insurance at the time was 100% paid by my employer, but my husband carried the girls and himself. To add him and the kids to my heath insurance was $300 a paycheck. His unemployment was $115 a week, and I only was clearing $250 a paycheck. The bankruptcy payments had to stop. My attorney got the trustee to stop the garnishment, and I put everyone on my health insurance. We saved up and filed income taxes, and converted to a chapter 7. We bought 2 salvage titled cars, and let the truck and van go back to the banks. We did another modification that included stretching the mortgage to 40 years from 30 years, and kept the house. We were discharged from chapter 7 in July 2013.

Stay tuned for part two…


Dawn of a New Day

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Hello, I’m Marie. I’m here to get honest about my debt. Yes, I have a lot. So much, I am in denial about how much. That’s why I’m here. To be open, honest and get rid of this debt.

A little background about me. I am a 45 year old married mother of four and grandmother of four. Two of my children are grown, and I also have nine year old twins. My husband and I are coming up on our 11th wedding anniversary.

I grew up in New England, but I now live in the south. I moved here in the 90’s with my ex husband, and stayed after the divorce to raise my two children here. The cost of living where I grew up verses here is so much less and by then, my extended family was all over, that it made no sense to move back.

I grew up with a mother who was single most days, and struggled a lot. She would would work her tail off and then buy us with “stuff” when things got bad. To this day, she still likes to fill her space up with “stuff” and still struggles herself to make ends meet.

I have been at my current job for sixteen years. I am the Credit and Collections manager for a home heating fuel company. I handle not only the extending of credit to our customers, but the day to day collections of our accounts.I think that its ironic that I work as a bill collector, yet manage mine so poorly. I adore my job, yet wish I made more at it. Don’t we all?

My husband also works, he works for an automotive manufacturing business, He has been there about three years, after an eighteen month layoff from his previous job. He just was promoted and received a raise, yet his overtime has been cut in the last few months.

I handle 100% of our bills. My husband has no idea even how to handle a budget. We are scheduled to start Dave Ramsey’s class the middle of September. I think it will be a good tool for us, motivation for me, and a real eye opener for my husband. We our out of balance when it comes to money, I stretch it as far as I can, and he thinks as long as the debt card works, its ok. I won’t lie, I have gone through times that I have turned into my mother, and enjoyed my “stuff”. We have been through major medical expenses, a layoff and even bankruptcy. I’m not proud of that last thing, and I am determined never to go there again.

Like I said before, we have a ton of debt. I don’t have specific numbers yet, but around $20,000 in credit card debt, $10,000 in personal loans, two (just bought in the beginning of 2017 )vehicles (about $30,000 each), a $15,000 in student loans, and in February we bought a new house. So if I had to ballpark it, we are talking about $105,000 in debt, not including the house. The house is owner financed, and we have to re finance it through a bank no later than November 2018. That is a whole separate blog post in itself.

We have huge hurtles to overcome, but I have faith that we can do it all. Today is the dawn of a new day.


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