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A Rough Patch is NOT Going to Stop Me


After I started coming out of my funk from last year, I knew that this year was going to be my year. Needless to say, it hasn’t been.

Not only have I struggled to find a well paying job, but the trauma of last year took a lot more out of me than even I realized. The healing has been slow with lots of set backs.

But I am determined to go into 2024 with a whole lot of fight and determination to make it not only a great year, but a super productive year as far as my debt payoff journey goes.

Obviously, getting a steady stream of regular income is Priority #1. And I am working toward that DAILY. I am advertising on social media, creating all the digital assets to grow a mailing list, pound the street daily, and reach out to my network on a regular basis.

I know I can do this. I have done it before. And now it’s just me, so I’ve got nothing but time to work, grow my skills, and work some more.

What’s the Plan

So BAD community, you saw my debt update a couple of days ago. Once I get back on my feet, have enough regular income to cover monthly bills, AND have a $1,000 EF saved again. What should my next step be?

I am literally all ears and 100% ready to listen and abide by your wisdom. No trip planning. No crazy adventures. Will see all the kids in just over a month.

I am ready to 100% buckle down and go hard to become debt free. Give me your best advice here.

This rough patch will not beat me. It will only serve to motivate me.


  • Reply Emilie Martin |


    I have been reading your posts since you started on the site. You get a lot of flack sometimes for good reason sometimes simply because your priorities are different than some people. However, you did your job as a mom. While it never ends, you got your kids successfully to adulthood and now its on them to make smart decisions.

    First and foremost I think you need to figure out what you want out of life. Do you want to stay in the small town long term? Is that your dream? If not, now is the time to sell high. If you want to stay there, then of course you need to figure out income solutions but that will be much harder in a small town as you have noticed. It’s just the way the world works. Look at remote options, I would go a little different than some people have suggested and recommend you consider a customer service job working from home. Maybe even in management with your background. Yes, it would mean moving around your part time work or even losing some of it potentially but it’s an option to consider. Another option would be to market yourself in a nearby city for remote work in your field.

    As far as the debt goes, my suggestion is to knock out the fires first. Call every credit card and ask if they will work with you on payment arrangements, settlement offers etc. House comes first if you are not selling it. Then car, electric, water and internet/cell phone. Bottom line, finding consistent income gets MUCH harder without these.

    Defer your student loans as long as humanely possible right now.

    Credit cards, look to the future. If you absolutely have no other choice but to let one default, pick the ones that will not help you pull yourself out faster. The ones you want to prioritize will be ones with a higher available credit, lower interest rate, lower monthly/annual fees and the ability to get a credit increase over time.

    You are already doing a lot to just keep your head above water. Great job so far, now focus on you for the next 6-12 months. You’ve got this.

    • Reply Hope |

      I think you hit the nail on the head, Emilie, and my biggest struggle…What do I want to do with my life? Outside of the need to make money to support my life. I have no idea what I want to do, my purpose. It’s a question I’ve been asking constantly since last fall when my whole world seemed to be ripped out from under me.

      I appreciate the practical advice so much. And the laid out steps, that really helps when I’m feeling so scattered. Thank you.

      • Reply Emilie Martin |

        You’re welcome Hope. I think as you figure out what you want in the big picture the small picture will become much clearer as well. I am confident you want to get out of debt but I feel like in many ways that has been a blurry picture for you off and on. You have had other fires to put out and the debt fire has been a slow burn, sometimes bigger sometimes smaller but overall there have always been bigger ones for you. Once you figure out what you define success as, that will provide you with the backbone to wrap your plans around. Figure out which light at the end of the tunnel is the one you are walking toward and then you can dig the tunnel to get to it.

  • Reply Joe |

    Hope, wishing you all the best from a reader that has followed this blog since its inception. I do think you will have to change how you view numbers in order to make significant progress.
    The debt update was breathtaking, and not in a good way. Three suggestions:
    1. The CC/car loan debt should be looked at as costing you ~$500/month indefinitely, which is the case if you are making only the minimums.
    2. The car loan was, in my strong opinion, a poor financial decision. Yes, it is in the past, and perhaps Gymnast will resolve it in an acceptable way. But if you don’t learn that lesson, even if you don’t agree, it will happen again. I would say that the common thread to almost all the bloggers for this site over the years has been questionable car decisions.
    3. You need to buckle down for the long haul, especially because you now see how fast things can unravel even after things have been going great for a while (e.g. last year). That also means retrospectively realizing that past financial expenses that were easy for you to rationalize and justify (e.g. travel) were in fact luxuries.

  • Reply Shanna |

    I suggest paying off and closing the AMEX first. It will be a good start with a small balance owed and gives you the boost of closing a card. I would then do Frontier or another high interest card you plan on closing next. I would pay off the cards you are keeping (should be 2 max) last. I realize closing cards is not good for your credit, but your credit is shot anyway and you cannot trust yourself with credit cards available to you. I also think an EF of $10,000 is important. I would split any money you have monthly after basics are paid between EF and debt pay off. Once all consumer debt is paid off-get in a holding pattern with your school loan, car, and mortgage and start putting all extra into a higher yield EF until you hit $50K (good start for retirement). Then, and only then, do I think you can have more “fun money” and start up travel, etc.

    • Reply Hope |

      It does seem to be the theme…pay off the credit cards. (Which I know, but I also am super concerned about an EF.) Thank you for the input, it is well received.

  • Reply Cindy |

    Hope, I’ve been following you since the beginning and the only thing that is going to get you out of debt is a total and complete change of mindset. No excuses. No grand plans. Just nose to the grindstone and knock out debts one at a time. What you have been doing all these years has not worked. Not once. When you started writing here in 2014, you listed debts totaling $76,055. It is now more than 9 years later and your listed debt is $61,186. That is a difference of $14,869, which is barely more than $1,600 a year paid off. Add in your mortgage, which you did not have at the beginning, and your debt is now more than when you started. It’s not because it can’t be done. It can. I know, because I’ve done it. But it requires determination and sacrifice and not big new ideas every time you reset. You have to want to get out of debt and I don’t think that’s what you truly have wanted. I wish you the best.

    • Reply Hope |

      You are right. My priorities in the past were definitely:
      1. Kids
      2. Experiences
      3. Debt

      It is truly different now, especially with the kids grown and mostly gone. I appreciate the detail of your comment, it definitely puts things in perspective for me. And I am 100% committed to becoming debt free. If I was, this time would not be hard at all, it would be a breathe of fresh air.

  • Reply Anonymous |

    I think you can go back and look at some of the comments already posted but be open to ideas you’ve previously rejected (most recently buying Christmas gifts for each person). I think it would be helpful for you to keep a daily log of every penny you spend and share it here for accountability and feedback also. It’s easy to think something is just a few dollars but you can’t afford that right now. for example. how much were the stickers in the photo you posted? Fun purchases like that could add up and keep you from paying your electric bill.

  • Reply Laura |

    Increasing your income is great, but you need to be cutting expenses more. You’ve added $20,000 in credit card and personal loan debt since you lost your job about a year ago. You can’t begin to pay this off until you’re living below your income level. The obvious is no more travel and meals out, but look at things like car insurance and phone plans too. Skip Christmas gifts this year. Do not get any more pets and if any of those dogs belong to your kids tell them they have to take them or start paying you to feed and board them.
    I would advise making a budget based on the $2,700 take home from the part time job and put any money you get from contract work towards debt. If you think you can’t live on $2,700 a month think again and get creative. You may have to rent a room out. Sell your car. I promise you, you can get a reliable older car that will cost less to insure and will get you safely where you need to go. I think vehicles are your biggest expense.

    • Reply Walnut |

      +1 to Laura. You need to find peace with a very simple lifestyle that can be sustained on minimal income. You’re so close. The building blocks are there. If you want to keep your consulting business to fund debt payoff now and extras later, fine, but simple and peaceful should be the name of the game and that starts with expenses.

      I suggest posting weekly spending and reconciliations. If you want to make a plan on Monday and reconcile it a week later and post a new plan, that would be great.

      Breathe in consistency, be proud of your children, and take some time for Hope.

  • Reply Kate |

    I’d go right back to an old fashioned debt snowball for those credit cards. Start with the Sam’s club with the lowest balance and just keep going. I know you were doing what you had to do and still those interest rates are obscene.

    • Reply Kate |

      Hope I am also realizing that we are all giving you financial advice but the real work for you, like your friend at the reunion said, is to sit with yourself and how you end up here over and over (the difficulty of being poor in this country not withstanding). Many years ago I started mindfulness meditation which opened my eyes to a lot of my habits. There are lots of free apps and podcasts for it now if you are interested. It’s not so much that you don’t know what to do but that you’re not always able to do it.

      • Reply Hope |

        You are right. The high school reunion definitely set off a sense of healing and reevaluating things from different perspectives. And I’m sure I have much more work to do in regards to my relationship with money and making money and spending money and saving money.
        The question is where to start?

        • Reply Anna |

          Kate just gave you a great place to start – a free mindfulness app! You talk a lot about waiting for God to show you a plan, but when someone blesses you with excellent and actionable advice you ignore them. I’m not sure how much more blatant God has to be?

  • Reply jj |

    Sending you positive vibes – hope this is a big upswing and you go from being in the red to black, consistently for a loooong time!

  • Reply Alice |

    I think you and I are a lot alike. We’re big talkers, big planners. But sometimes have trouble with the follow through. Because it seems that we always end up ( somehow – well, how did THAT happen? ) in the same or worse situation than we were in before. We look back and want to find ways to blame our disaster on anything other than our poor choices during hard times.

    All that to say this, you can do it. You can make the changes you want to change. You are not destined to repeat the same patterns. Take what you’ve learned over the last decade and apply those lessons. Do not create excuses or justify bad money decisions. As in – I NEED a new car because I’m driving blah blah blah. People drive cars every day that aren’t new.

  • Reply Cecilia |

    I mean the advice is the same it’s always been: save for retirement, track your spending, make a realistic budget, take the kids off your car insurance. I guess now I’d add renting out a room in your house.

    Also an emergency fund should be 3-6 months of expenses, ideally.

So, what do you think ?