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Great News and Advice Needed

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I found out yesterday that the unemployment audit has been decided in my favor! Win!

I will receive 14 weeks of unemployment benefits. I will also be offered COBRA insurance and anything else that employees receive when they are let go.  Details to come once I know them.

That being said, there are still some processes the Department of Labor must go through to finalize everything. I don’t have a timeline for when I will receive any money, but it will be a bulk payment since my 14 weeks have past.

My closest guess is that I will receive $330 per week x 14 weeks = $4,620.*

Advice Needed

How do I allocate the money? Do I focus on debt? Do I focus on getting ahead on monthly obligations?

My thoughts have run the gamut. But here are what I’m leaning toward as my priorities:

  • Get ahead one month on the monthly obligations.
  • Budget $x toward business expenses, specifically to join the local Chamber of Commerce ($190,) print up some post card sized flyers to hand out as I network and place a couple of ads in the local newspaper ($66 per week.)
  • Put $400 in a slush fund for the summer.
  • Pay down debt?

To be fully informed, I have just under enough to cover the deficit left by my limited income for two more months. I would like to leave it intact. That is the reason why I have not designated any money towards savings in my plan.

So tell me, what are your thoughts? I am listening and wide open. Getting a plan in place before I have the money in hand will make all the difference.

*I have requested that taxes be taken out of the unemployment benefit payout. I’m not sure what rate that will be.

Just a sidenote…I have worked out a barter with Princess’ travel volleyball team for next season. I will be taking over their website and communications in exchange for all fees including tournament, training and uniform costs!  Travel volleyball will only cost us travel costs next season! Woot, woot!


50 Comments

  • Reply Jen |

    1) Taxes will need to be taken out of the money. You will either need to set aside the money, or if given the option, you need to have it deducted before it’s paid to you. I recommend the second if it’s an option. You can’t spend it if you don’t have it.

    2) Your budget has you paying your monthly obligations with credit cards–no two ways about it. You’re $1200 in the hole every month. You NEED to use this money for monthly obligations and stop ballooning your debt. Because if you use this money to pay debt, you’re effectively just paying interest. Either interest you already owe, or the interest you will accrue because you are paying your bills with a credit card.

    Do not use this money for anything other than 1) Keeping a roof over your head 2) utilities 3) groceries. These are the most important things.

    There are ways to advertise your business for free, and frankly they are probably more effective than newspaper ads (newspapers are going out of business because readership has declined so much). Use them. The Chamber of Commerce is nice, but not necessary. You do not need to join now. Business cards for networking events may be worth it, but spend 1/2 of what you were planning on spending.

    I don’t know what you plan on using this “slush fund” for, but if it’s anything “fun”, you cannot afford it. Full stop, no “but…”. You. Cannot. Afford. Fun (that costs money).

    I’ve been on COBRA twice, as a young single person. Both times it was nearing $1000/mo. Yours will be higher because of the kids. You just can’t afford that. If you’re eligible for Medicaid, stay on it. You’re having to choose between two bad options, but the COBRA one is FAR worse.

    • Reply Jen |

      And in anticipation of the “but I”m going to grow my business” response, you have no idea what things will look like a month from now. You have no idea how much money you will be bringing in. You can hope you’ll have enough money in x-months to cover your basic expenses, but you cannot guarantee it.

      Which is why you NEED to be sure that you will be able to cover your two most basic expenses: food and housing.

      I hope you get a bazillion clients, and can cover your bills within the next month or two. But you can’t spend that money like you will. You need to treat that money like your situation in the coming months won’t change.

    • Reply Hope |

      Hi Jen,
      Yes, I’ve already requested that taxes be taken out before I receive the money. I wanted to be ahead of the game in that aspect.

      The consensus does seem to be to just pay monthly obligations with it. It’s always nice to dream about options, but the BAD community is right. I don’t have alot of room for options at this point.

  • Reply Suzanne |

    I want to say this upfront: Put it all in savings, guard it like a hawk and use it pay expenses as they come due. You can’t afford right now to pay down debt above minimums – conserve your cash and stop using the credit card to pay expenses.

    1) Don’t waste the money on newspaper ads or Chamber of Commerce membership. Spend time thinking about your target market and how to reach them – i guarantee you generic outreach isn’t it. A business card from VistaPrint is very inexpensive and can be done nicely. Under $50 here – max

    2) No slush fund – you can’t afford it (just like you can’t afford the Universal passes). That $400 is 1/3 of a monthly shortage – add in the newspaper ad costs and Chamber fee – you easily cover 2/3 of a month. Drop the Universal passes as well and reduce the negative cash flow

    3) COBRA is crazy expensive – stay on Medicaid if you can

    4) Put it all in savings, guard it like a hawk and use it pay expenses as they come due. You can’t afford right now to pay down debt above minimums – conserve your cash and stop using the credit card to pay expenses

    • Reply Hope |

      I appreciate your feedback, Suzanne. It does seem to be the consensus.

      Just one thing I want to point out…so it’s clear. I am paying the credit card and then use it to pay bills. I’m not adding to my debt load at all. In fact, I am saving in interest I would be paying on the credit card this way.

      But my goal is to get it down to $0 and not use it this way as I get back on my feet.

  • Reply Reece |

    SAVE SAVE SAVE. I absolutely agree with the first commentor; only let that money leave your account to cover the necessities of shelter, food and lights/water.

    You are in the hole every month at this point; you cannot spend any dollars on summer fun if you can’t cover your necessities. You just cannot.

  • Reply Sarah |

    I think you need to save all the money you have for your bills. Maybe invest in business cards but you can get those for cheap through Vistaprint. Advertise on Craigslist or other local internet based neighborhood groups. I am a bookkeeper and find that I get most referrals by word of mouth. I have been doing this for 18 years and have never paid to advertise.

    You need to pay for a roof over your head, food on the table and minimums on all your debt until you come out the other side and are making enough in income to pay all this. You also need to be saving money from the income you are making to pay taxes.

    • Reply Laura |

      Advertising on Craigslist is a great idea. Also try Nextdoor and any relevant Facebook groups in your area. Skip the newspaper ads, nobody reads newspapers anymore.

      • Reply Angie |

        I live in a city and lots of people use nextdoor to advertise their business. It’s probably not popular in your rural area, but if you could get someone in a larger city to put out a post on your behalf on their NextDoor I bet you’d get some leads. It’s worked for finding clients for some of my freelancing friends.

        • Reply Hope |

          Great, practical suggestion. Thank you, Angie.
          I will see if the city where Gymnast trains has this offering. I know it’s not here.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thanks, Sarah. Getting my business off the ground here locally has been challenging since many places do not have internet, let alone really utilize it. Thus my thought to put an ad in the paper.

      Thankfully, I do have business cards already. Was wise enough to not put any location specific stuff on them when I ordered them last. So I have plenty. But I do believe I’m going to have to pound the pavement, literally, here and knock on doors and get in peoples faces to start establishing a local clientele. I am ready to do that though.

  • Reply Reece |

    Oh, also– kudos on finding a creative solution to the travel volleyball fees. Good for you!

    • Reply Hope |

      Thanks, Reece, I’m really excited about this in particular. It’s how I’ve managed to keep the kids in sports even in the hardest of times.

  • Reply SMS |

    Is this the total amount GA pays in unemployment or will you receive more weekly going forward?
    You are in a precarious position and I think you need all of this money to go towards living costs – covering the gap between your expenses and your earnings while at the same time working to earn more. But this will help. Congratulations!

    • Reply Hope |

      As far as I know, this is the max GA pays per week. And I will get it as a lump sum rather than weekly because so much time has passed. But then again, I don’t really know what to expect. Nothing has happened as I thought it would or as the DOL said it would. I’m just taking things a day at a time.

      But was super excited to hear they decided in my favor after the battle my ex-employer put up.

  • Reply Kate |

    Great news on the volleyball barter and the unemployment.
    I would pay off your credit card (maybe that’s what you mean by getting one month ahead) and then keep the rest in the bank to make up the shortfall in your budget each month until things pick up. Agree about COBRA too, it’s terribly expensive. Stay on Medicaid while you can.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thank you. I think Medicaid is the best alternative for now as well. Especially since it costs me nothing and gives me a sense of peace in case of a medical emergency.

  • Reply csdx |

    Another in the chorus of Save the Money. You’re operating at a deficit each month, this is an emergency that means you need an emergency fund, so that’s the job this windfall needs to do. When you’ve stabilized and your income can meet all your needs, then talk about spending it (though even then I’d probably still say save whatever’s left of it rebuild your savings fund).

  • Reply Kristin |

    I think you need to consider taking a zero-based budgeting approach. This extra influx of cash would be a great boost to help you get started. I use You Need a Budget, but I know there are free programs out there that may work for you as well. You should not use this money for anything other than immediate needs. Using the money to pay down debt at this point doesn’t make sense. You need to get to a place where you aren’t adding to your debt before you can start paying it down.

    • Reply Hope |

      Thankfully, I haven’t added to my debt at all. I am definitely treading water…barely.

      But the 10 months of dedicated savings really have made a difference. I appreciate your feedback, Kristin.

  • Reply Laura |

    Because it can not be said enough, save the money. You are in crisis mode right now. You aren’t even close to earning what you need to pay your most basic bills. If that summer slush fund is for anything fun, forget it. You need to be saving this money to pay rent, since it sounds like your savings is just about gone. I would also suggest making the minimum on your car payment until you are bringing in enough money to cover your bills, and if you haven’t already cancel the Universal Studios. You have no money for anything fun right now and probably won’t anytime in the near future. I am so glad this came through for you, now use it wisely.

  • Reply M |

    Sadly, Hope will do what she wants and she wont listen to all of you sweet ladies offering advice. I sometimes wonder why readers still feel engage in Hope’s story when she doesn’t seem to respect readers’ opinions, listen to them or at least “pretend” she listens.Hope you are a smart woman that works hard and you will figure it out. wishing you nothing but success!
    Martha

    • Reply Hope |

      I’m sorry you feel that way, M. I have gotten ALOT of good advice here on BAD, and while I do have to process it through the filter and needs of my life and situation, I feel like I’ve taken alot of it and put it to good use.

  • Reply Katie |

    Save, save, save it. Don’t bother with the newspaper, or the Chamber of Commerce. Use the free options that are available to you. Is the slush fund for unexpected expenses? You have no room for error right now, and this windfall just barely gives you a half step away from being in more dire straights. Use it for groceries and to keep the lights on.

  • Reply Jen |

    I know, I don’t know why I bothered to comment. Really, I’m here for the train wreck at this point. Hope will do what she wants, to the detriment of everything, and everyone else.

    She is in complete denial of the reality that she is a single mother with 4 kids, two of which are still entirely dependent on her. She wants to live this fantasy where she’s able to homeschool, let her kids do everything they want, and only work on her terms. Basically, she wants to be a SAHM with a partner that’s covering all expenses—and she does her darndest to live like that.

    There’s a lot of talk about addicts hitting bottom, but what’s Hope’s bottom? She let her kids become homeless, for crying out loud, to live how SHE wants. Her biggest priority is her ego.

    • Reply Meg |

      “Here for the train wreck?” What am incredibly unkind and unnecessary comment.

    • Reply Laura |

      I tend to agree. If it was me I would be worrying about how I was going to pay the rent in a few months. Hope is worrying about how to pay for fun activities.

      • Reply Hope |

        I have learned over the last couple of years that worry doesn’t do a bit of good. If anything, it stalls everything. Freezing me in my tracks and fills me with self doubt on every single decision.

        Faith and hard work and determination go a lot further. And that is what I’m working with now.

        • Reply Laura |

          Worry might be the wrong word. How about planning? You are running at a deficit every month, and if you qualified for Medicaid your savings must be just about gone. You should be planning for how to keep a roof over your head for as long as possible, not prioritizing a summer fun fund and paying on Universal Studios passes.

    • Reply Hope |

      You are right. I wish I could be a SAHM and raise my kids. But that is not my reality. And why wouldn’t I try to live like that, there’s nothing wrong with that. My kids are my #1 priority. So I will do everything in my power to not only support us financially but also be present in their lives.

      Believe me, there is no escaping my reality. And for the record, homeless is a bit of a stretch don’t you think? We’ve never slept on the streets or in our car. Yes, we’ve lived in some non-traditional places, but frankly many do that now.

      My ego? Really?

      • Reply drmaddog2020 |

        No. homeless is not a stretch. And it isn’t ‘non-traditional’. tiny homes are non traditional. self-sufficient-off-the-grid-solar-powered-well-water is non-traditional. living in someone else’s trailer on someone else’s land without, what was it water? or electricity?, is not non-traditional. It’s homeless. And that you choose not to see that is a huge part of the problem. It is the same flawed reasoning that goes into your saying your kids are your #1 priority. First and foremost, children crave stability and security, even if they aren’t consciously aware of that. Spending your few dollars on activities and sports and manicures without having your bills paid, and your pantry full, and your water heated, is not putting them first. Paying for trips and amusement parks before having a robust emergency fund, is not putting them first. My heart aches for them. I almost want to ask them if they have thought about getting jobs so they can at least make sure they can meet their own basic needs.

        To your question, if it matters at all, stash the money. Do not pay your credit card off. That is a minimum-only bill, in my opinion. Keep the cash. For food. For rent. For electricity. Fun is going to be a library card and maybe some board games, crossword puzzles, or a deck of cards you find a a thrift store or garage sale.

  • Reply JayP |

    People on welfare should not be putting money into a slush fund for summer activities.

    • Reply Hope |

      Perhaps I wasn’t clear. It was more of a “emergency” fund rather than fun. Our summer is pretty booked. There’s no room for much else.

  • Reply Angie |

    I’m curious if you were submitting the required unemployment forms each week including income earned on your 1099 jobs. It’s very possible they could reduce the amount for income earned during the weeks of unemployment. Also, you were only working the job for ~6 months, when I’ve received unemployment it was based on quarterly income averaged for the last year. So based on that it may be lower also. There’s also the question of whether the backpay of unemployment will affect your Medicaid and EBT eligibility you just secured.

    There’s a lot of unknowns in your situation. I would put the money in a savings account and not touch it except to pay required bills. It would be awful to get in the situation where months later one agency comes back and demands repayment based on changing info.

    In terms of getting more customers,have you thought about a social media campaign rather than print advertising? Being in a rural area distributing anything physical will be trying and involve time and gas costs. You want to work remotely so why not focus on advertising remotely? I don’t know anyone who reads a physical newspaper, so that would be money down the drain.

    • Reply Hope |

      I actually worked there just shy of a year. And yes, I had to submit weekly job search/income reports. But my weekly income never went over the thresh hold to affect the unemployment benefits according to my conversations with the local DOL.

      Unfortunately, online advertising is not making any headway here locally and I know there are companies and jobs that would benefit from my services here. Thus the idea for the newspaper and Chamber of Commerce…but the BAD community is right. That would probably not be a good use of my limited money at this time. Back to the brainstorming board!

  • Reply Jean Stair |

    Get rid of the debt first and then look at counting the coins and saving the money. There’s no greater source of anxiety other than debt and solving it gives a huge respite. Trust me, I went through few thousand dollars of student loan debt in my early 20s.

    • Reply Hope |

      That was kind of my thinking. If I could get rid of the debt, my monthly obligations are very little.

      But I think the BAD community is right. While I am still pulling from savings to meet those obligations, I need to focus on growing my income and holding on to my limited resources.

  • Reply Jen |

    The only reason you weren’t living in your car is because some friends VERY graciously offered to let you live on their property. Yes, you were homeless. Even if you weren’t homeless right at that second, that is where you were heading.

    And yes, your ego. You are so concerned with being the “cool mom” who lets her kids do gymnastics and competitive volleyball and summer camp and whatever the heck they (or you) want them to do that you sacrifice necessities like food and shelter. I don’t care if you’re bargaining this lesson or those fees, because you’re still paying ancillary things (like travel) towards things you CANNOT afford. You’re $1200 in the hole monthly, on Medicaid and SNAP, and still paying towards Universal Studios passes for Pete’s sake. What possible, non “but I want to give my kids everything” explanation is there?

    It’s admirable that you want to give your kids the world, but you just can’t. It’s your way or the highway, and you’re just hurting your kids.

    • Reply Hope |

      I’m not going to argue with you. There were other options other than the trailer; that is what I chose in order to stay in Virginia.

      I could care less about being the “cool mom”…we are going to have to agree to disagree.

      My way or the highway, huh? Believe me, not much in my life has turned out “my way.” But I have learned to roll with the punches, adjust as needed and my kids are exceptional, definitely not hurt.

      • Reply Lindsey |

        There are consequences to every single life choice. You’ve made a series of ridiculously bad life choices and these are the natural consequences. The real pity here is the kids are involved. The problem isn’t “out there” or with others; the problem is you and your behavior. Live responsibly.

  • Reply dh |

    This is great news!

    But I still don’t understand why you’d rather get assistance than to have your ex pay child support for his kids.

    Even if you’re a single mom Hope, they’re his kids too, and he should be contributing to their upkeep, rather than you paying off his debts for him as you have in the past.

    I’m betting you are wishing you had that money now, the money you paid to pay off his car, etc.

    • Reply Malady |

      I have to agree with this. Failing to collect Child Support and make your ex pay his own damn debts is just so far beyond stupid I can’t comprend it.

      You’re an intelligent woman Hope, but you consistently make bad choices in this area. Child support exists for a reason. To support the children. Your children need to be supported. Stick it on collect and let the state chase him if you don’t have the appetite for it.

      • Reply Katie |

        I agree too. But, Hope won’t respond to this, or act on it. She has made excuses for him in the past, saying that he doesn’t have the money. It’s really inexcusable, and I’m hoping that by signing up for Medicaid and SNAP, that maybe the government will go after him, as she won’t.

  • Reply Sue |

    I can’t remember who said it but I read a quote that resounded with me – “People might not understand your journey….they don’t have to, it’s not their journey.” You will do what is best for your family and while people can give their opinion, ultimately you are in charge of your journey and have to decide what YOU think is best for your situation and your family!!!

    I wish we could all be a little kinder to each other – it is fine to disagree, but it isn’t even about me and I would feel attacked by some of the comments.

  • Reply Shanna |

    Since it is coming up again, can you address why your ex is not required to pay child support by the state since you are on public assistance now? I assumed he would be required to at this point by the state. I am assuming (and my bad if I am wrong) that you are hoping to keep him from getting/requesting any custody by not making him pay anything. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way and even if he has never paid, he could request (and likely get) some visitation or custody at any time if he chose.I know you have your reasons for not doing so that you may not want to share, but I will say, as a tax payer it is really frustrating that my tax resources are going to support children whose other parent refuses to support them (their dad, not you). I think you put your children first to a fault and no doubt they feel very loved and secure, not matter the circumstances, but he still owes them financial support.

  • Reply Been There Done That |

    Guard that money with your life.You are on fire! It is your emergency fund. It has to be allocated for the basics of life–food, shelter, utilities. Absolutely no fun activities can be had with this money. If that is crossing your mind, then you have not made any progress, Hope. Make your own cheap fun. As others have said, do not advertise in a newspaper. Nobody reads newspapers these days, at least not the people you are looking for.

    I myself was a SAHM mom of four children. We lived on a modest income, and our activities were cheap and fun. My children played softball and baseball in almost free city leagues, and we swam at a community pool for $170/year. (This was in Texas). We still lived on more than you do, but did not spend the kind of money that you do on activities and camps. When they were 14-15 they began to work summer jobs too like babysitting, mowing lawns, cleaning a dental office etc. They all had great childhoods. The point is that spending money you don’t have on kids’ activities is not always conducive to a secure, happy childhood. I am always astonished when I read this about you, Hope.

  • Reply Den |

    SAVE the money Hope! You will sleep better at night:)

    And here’s my advice to all the unkind troll commenters – get a life! Seriously, if you can’t make positive and helpful suggestions, please go away…..does it make you feel better, superior, or smart to tear others down? I’m sure you are all perfect people who have made perfect choices, but the rest of us are just trying to do our best. Tough love and advice can still be kind….

  • Reply JayP |

    I have been following your journey for a couple of years. I don’t think that anyone is trying to troll you with their comments, maybe but hopefully they are made to uplift. I probably won’t comment any more, but I will leave you with this. I have a relative who passed recently and they were scurrying around trying to get the money to bury him. I also have a couple of relatives, that, if they passed today would be in the same boat. Try to get a game plan that puts you ahead in the long run, even if you have to forego free time, fun, activities in the short term. I fully understand wanting your kids in competitive sports and all that. Every parent wants the best for their kids. But try to think about where you are going to be in 5 years, 10 years. And you may not be able to work then. Don’t be that person they are trying to figure out how to bury. Good luck and God bless you!

  • Reply Lisa |

    I think it’s great that you are addressing the not-so-nice comments. I think in the past you would just avoid the tougher topics, but the fact that you are willing to discuss them now shows great progress!

    Also, congrats on both the unemployment benefits and gymnast’s gym costs!!

    • Reply debtor |

      you are so right.

      Hope based on your responses, it looks like you are taking the advice of the community which I think is the right choice.
      I would only echo what I have said before. Find some adults who are making good decisions in your own opinion and have them be a sort of finance mentor. Clearly, we readers don’t have the full story of your life because I’m sure there are some things you don’t/can’t share because not everything needs to be a permanent record on the internet. I just think that you don’t have a good baseline or reference point for some of your decisions so you don’t see how irresponsible some of them are as you are only talking it through with yourself.

      I remember when you were so bent on fostering other kids because you wanted to “give”. Thankfully, you’ve moved on from that. Thankfully, you have also stopped being so resistent to public schools as well. So there is progress. I have also said this before but it bears repeating – just becuase something is good or better doesn’t mean you will be able to do it.
      Example

      1) Kids with private tutors probably perform better in school which allows them to go to better colleges and then get better jobs
      2) People that travel internationally probably have a better world view which makes them savvier in the business world and might even make it easier for them to relate to a wide variety of people
      3) Given all the crap they put in foods, it is probably better for your health to eat organic everything.
      4) In 90 degree weather, it will probably be more comfortable to run the ac rather than the fan.

      However, people can not always afford what is better even though the benefit is clear. I think that is the message that people are still trying to get across to you (which probably fueled the Hope will do what she likes comments). Anyway, I do think some folks were being unecessarily rude but I get the sentiment.

      I will say, though – i see the growth. You talk about things before you do them. You reply to comments even if they are contrary. You have made changes. I think as your kids continue to get more and more independent, you will also be able to relax a little bit more. I really hope your business picks up and you can be in steady state for a while.

      I think the bartering is great. Creative solution. I just also hope you have roughly calculated how much the travel will cost for the year and have a plan on how to fund that (not sure if it’s just driving travel or planes which will also involve hotels and outside eating).

      Best of luck with everything

So, what do you think ?