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Stop the Auto Payments — for now


Someone asked for an updated budget and I just had to laugh. And then I had to start thinking. My budget is completely out the window. I look at my forecasting spreadsheet every time I get some money and figure who must be paid, at least partially, and made the adjustments to the balances owed and guesstimated dates to pay. Thankfully, I’ve not gotten more than 30 days behind on anything…but I just keep rolling things around and partially paying and re-prioritizing and making phone calls asking for extensions.

I currently get paid from my part time job twice a month. And the amount various based on the hours I was able to pick up. It’s raged from 20 hours per week to a max of 35 per week for the last couple of months. But most weeks are right around 20 hours.

Stop the Auto Pay

Today I called my bank and turned off my auto payments for our car insurance and a few other bills. They were just stressing me out, worrying about having the money in the account on time. The relief was pretty immediate. And as long as I don’t get more than 30 days behind, it shouldn’t affect my credit or put me at risk of cancellation.

So I just keep rolling and looking for work. And frankly, I know I’m not the only one. I see people posting on LinkedIn about being so many months on unemployment and at risk for losing their homes, etc. Even though this is hard, I am okay. And can muddle through.


So here’s my question for the BAD community…should you have a budget when you don’t make enough to cover your basic monthly bills?

I have my bills forecasted out through the end of the year with due dates, estimated costs, etc. And I even have “optional” spending on it still. Although every week when I review what’s coming up, those get removed. But I’m hopeful that I won’t have to remove them through the end of the year. (For example, Gymnast’ 18th birthday is just a few weeks away…per always, I have $200 budgeted in my forecast. We typically have a family meal out and then a gift. Most likely neither will be able to happen this year. He knows that. And I’m sure when I get back on my feet, I will make up for at least the gift part.)

So…what does a budget look like when your income doesn’t even cover your MUST PAY MONTHLY bills? Or as Dave Ramsey would call them, your four walls.

Read more from Hope

Cooking for One – September, 2022

1 wreck, 2 wreck, 3 wrecks in one week – May, 2021

Doing it again – No Spend September – September, 2020


  • Reply Laura |

    You decrease your spending, increase your income, or both. You said you consistently bring in $2000 at the part time job, possibly more with side work or additional hours. That is not a lot of money, but your mortgage is only $650. If you are out of savings you have to find a way to make the other $1,350 work, or consistently bring in more income. Get a part time job in retail or food service if you have too. They are always hiring. Yes it is beneath your skill set but you gotta do what you gotta do. Cut ALL unnecessary spending. This might sound harsh, but I am honestly saying it out of concern. What you are doing is not sustainable.

    • Reply Hope |

      I’ve done all that. But thankfully, I have two more interviews for secondary income jobs this week. One is a second interview so I’m hopeful.

      • Reply Laura |

        Have you tried fast food or Wal-Mart? Those places are always hiring, I would be surprised if you couldn’t get on at a restaurant or retail business. I live in a low COL area too even places like Arby’s and Target are starting at $12-$15/hr because they can’t find workers. Like I said before, I know it would be a step down but you need the income. At some point you can’t keep pushing the bills off. Good luck, I hope your interview leads to something.

  • Reply Ellen |

    Hope, have you considered side gigs at all? Apps like survey merchandiser, mobee, and field agent, allow you to make extra cash on the side with minimal work. For example, merchandiser has jobs where you take inventory of a specific product, restock that product, and send them pictures of everything. They also do it where they will send you coupons or pos signs to place on/by products. oh, they also have it where you can be the sample rep at the grocery for the weekend. They jobs range from $6-$20 depending on what you are doing. some jobs, like resets and samples are $16-$20/hr. It’s not a crazy amount, but I have have been able to do about $300/wk on my free time. Mobee and field agent are pretty easy as well. I just tend to work in merchandiser more. Even living in a small town, you should be able to grab jobs. They have stores like Target, Walmart, Krogers, 711, Dollar General, etc. I hope this helps you in some way. Defiinitely check them out.

    • Reply Hope |

      I will check them out. There are some in this list I have never heard of. Unfortunately, this is more than a tiny town…we have a Dollar General (several) and a Walmart, but none of the other stores on your list. This really is the boondocks.
      I’ll check out the gigs for sure though.

  • Reply Walnut |

    Basically your budget is the bills you pay in priority order with as-minimal-as-possible allowances for variable expenses like groceries.

    I’ll be honest, I’m a little confused that you’d consider buying birthday dinner out, but not pay the car insurance. I’m guessing gymnast would rather be able to drive?

    • Reply Hope |

      I am not paying for birthday anything unless bills are caught up. Maybe I wrote this unclearly…

      I leave the “optional” items in the forecast/budget and then remove them as each week comes and goes based on monies I have received or earned. Or just push to next week. Gymnast knows how tight things are, he’s been great.

    • Reply Hope |

      No, I did at first, but it only pays $375 per week. So anything I earn over $150 per week is taken out. So even earning just $500 per week disqualifies me from unemployment.

  • Reply Cheryl |

    I would worry not paying your car insurance because unfortunately your family has quite a lot of accidents. One of the kids in a accident will not be good.

    • Reply Hope |

      Believe me, I am worried. But all I can do right now is roll with the punches. There are no more reserves.

  • Reply Tebble |

    I would agree, you need to work in Fast Food even to help pay the bills. 20 hours to 35 hours is not covering all expenses.

  • Reply Cass |

    Where is your money going each month? You said you are bringing in 2k a month, and it sounds like just supporting yourself with that, and I saw from another comment your mortgage is 650 a month. Where is the other 1350 going? I ask not to be rude, but as someone who lived in a HCOL area on a 2k budget with a 1k rent

    • Reply Hope |

      Oh, utilities, car insurance, and mortgage eat up almost 100% of that income.

      • Reply Walnut |

        I imagine car insurance is wildly priced with young drivers and accidents. Have you priced out separate policies for kids versus yourself? Maybe there are options through the college for low priced policies? Maybe time to consider going liability on the lower value cars? Each person’s risk profile will price differently with each insurer, so maybe you can at least get it a smidge lower. It’ll also give the kids a more precise number that will be eventually shifted to them when they’re picking up their own expenses.

        • Reply Hope |

          We have and the prices for them alone are much more than under the family plan. And you are right, all the wrecks we have had do not help.

      • Reply Cass |

        How much is your car insurance and utilities a month? Is the car insurance also for some of your children?

        • Reply Hope |

          Car insurance is right around $800 per month for 4 of us (3 younger kids and myself) and 3 cars, all full coverage.
          Utilities used to average $300 per month but have gone up about $100 per month lately.

          • Laura |

            I know you’ve committed to paying the insurance when they are still in school, but I think your kids would understand if you explained the situation and they had to start paying their own part.

          • SMS |

            Hmmm…you should probably get on the phone and find out where that pretty drastic increase comes from. Or, if you know, start getting stingy with water usage or electricity or whatever it is.

  • Reply shanna |

    It sounds like you are paying car insurance for Princess, Gym, and Beauty. Allowing your car insurance to lapse is a bad idea. You don’t want to give them any reason to drop you, especially with your family car history. I think asking the kids to pay at least $100/month each towards the car insurance is reasonable for sure, at least during this time. We paid our kids insurance in full unless they had a ticket or accident. They then had to pay the difference. They also had to maintain the “good driver” and “good student” discounts. Is gymnasts taking a car to Texas? Having him on his own insurance should drop your insurance cost tremendously.

  • Reply SMS |

    Yard sale?

    Could you borrow from your sister or someone else in your family? I know it would be hard. But it is concerning that you might get behind on auto insurance or utilities or even the mortgage. It would be hard to catch up with those things.

  • Reply shanna |

    I had another thought, what about babysitting? You are a very experienced mother and even my 14 year old son makes $20 plus an hour babysitting (admittedly in a very HCOL area). But even making $15-20 an hour cash helps you at this juncture. If not babysitting, maybe house cleaning or elderly companion?

  • Reply Walnut |

    That car insurance number is painful! I know there are some accidents on the records, young drivers, and four cars is just a lot to insure. That said, you’re not far from not being able to pay this bill at all, so you should take a look at dropping to liability only insurance and raising deductibles on some or all of the cars. Different insurance companies have different lookback periods on accidents (some 3 to 5 years is usual). Perhaps chat with a broker who can check multiple insurance companies and come up with the best combo?

    Also, please, please tell me you’ve dropped Verizon and moved over to an MVNO your cell phones?

    It’s a blessing that your mortgage is so affordable. Does that also include your property taxes and insurance? If so, doubly blessed. It sort of feels like car insurance is the major reason you can’t mostly cash flow on your part time job. Obviously there is zero room for extras, retirement or savings, but you’re in a much better situation with being able to keep a roof over your head.

    If there are any local charities available to assist with utilities, you should chat with them. Food pantry for you and the dogs also. I know it’s a tough pill to swallow, but I’m confident you’ll pay it forward when your cash flow improves. A hand up is a good thing.

So, what do you think ?