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Hope’s December Debt Update

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It is time for another debt update. But I’m really excited about the one to come in January. You will notice that other than eliminating my Amazon debt, very little has changed in my debt load since my last update. Per my Plan #1, my goal is to pay off the computers by the end of the year. I’ve been paying the very minimum required on all debts in order to meet that goal. I’m still on track but it is going to be VERY, VERY close.

Creditor
Balance

(as of 10/14/17)
Interest
Min. Payment
Car$9,3147.00%$308
Credit Card$4,47517.00%$36
Summer Camp (2018)$3,3750.00%$0
Student Loans$34,3492.88%$307
Computer Equipment$2,71322.90%$84
Taxes (State)$5,8000.00%$100
Self Lender$97010.57%$97
Collections 1 (Medical)$618
Collections 2 (Apartment)$499
Collections 3 (Ex-husband)$6,2606.25%$246
Amazon$026.99%$0
Total$66,273$1,178

Meeting My Deadline for Plan #1

To make it happen, I have stopped paying on the kids’ summer camp. We’ve also continued to mostly eat through out pantry which means other than canned veggies we are down to almost nothing in our kitchen.  The kids are not too thrilled with me right now.

empty pantry
Today I will surprise them by restocking our kitchen in preparation for Christmas. They are going to be thrilled. We’ve had a white board going with a grocery list of all their wants and needs.  I’m hoping I can get everything for right at $150. And if we can make it to the end of the year with those groceries…that will be $200 spent this month on groceries and an extra $400 towards my end of year goal.

We won’t be able to do this again because we really have cleaned the pantry shelves, but it is has really helped this fall with paying off some debt and getting ahead on other things.

Next Steps, New Year

I will review my overall financial plan after the new year. I’ve had some more changes on the job front, but I’m not ready to publish them.  I’ll have a better idea after January on how my income is going to look.

It’s stressful, but I’m making good headway in picking up odd jobs and at least part time stand alone clients.


Ashley’s Credit Card Debts

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I know I’ve been promising a full debt update for awhile now. It’s been harder for me to put together than I had imagined it would be (in terms of psychological distress), so I’ve come up with a “compromise” offer. I’m presenting here today my current list of Credit Card Debts. No, it’s not my full list of debts. But adding in the student loans and IRS – ugh! It just feels too overwhelming right now. I need some “easy” wins.

Unfortunately, our list of credit card debt has grown ridiculously long.

It started early in the year when I got a credit card to do a balance transfer for a student loan (Citibank). This was back when we had $0 credit card debt. I had successfully used balance transfer offers from credit cards in the past for previous student loans and it worked fine. I didn’t think this transfer would be any different. So I transferred $4460 in January 2017 to Citibank. I got a 0% APR offer for 21 months. Since the transfer initiated January 2017, it will be due by October 2018. I don’t want to miss that date, otherwise the interest rate soars!

Summer 2017 Happened

I’ve talked many times about the perfect storm of issues occurring in summer of 2017. I stopped my part-time job; hubs’ business shut down, I was weathering some tough personal issues, etc. A mixture of a much lower income than that to which we’d become accustomed, lifestyle creep that had become unsustainable, and sloppy or nonexistent budgeting. Basically just a whole falling-off-the-wagon thing going on in terms of personal finances. I turned to my credit cards that had long been tucked away in a filing cabinet. First it was Target, then Wells Fargo, Capital One, a Home Depot up in the mix. Things just snowballed out-of-control and before August hit, we were swimming in credit card debt up to our eyeballs. This is also when I fell off the blogging train HARD (if you go back and read old posts, you’ll notice posts from me were few and far-between at this point).

Time to Get A Grip

Things still aren’t where they need to be. Hubs has finished his personal training course and has been applying for jobs. Luckily, it’s a good time of year (what with all the New-Years resolutions and so-called “January Joiners” at gyms). There look to be a lot of openings. He’s also picked up some random side-gigs to earn a bit of money the past couple months. Plus selling things online, etc. Every little bit helps. We’re not where we need to be in terms of income OR outflow. But we’re taking some baby steps and laying out our credit card disarray is a good place to start.

Credit Card Debts

Here is our current list of credit card debts, listed from smallest balance-size to largest balance-size.

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRMinimum PaymentDecember Payment
Home Depot CC$12290% (through February 2018)$40$400*scheduled
BoA CC$24108.24% ($26$300
Capital One CC$299218.9% ($59$100*scheduled
Balance Transfer Student Loan (Citibank CC)$37130% (through October 2018)$55$55
Wells Fargo CC$15,17813.40%$360$400
Totals$25,522$540$1255

Adding up all the numbers for this post caused a sickening feeling. I really can’t even focus on it too long without getting a migraine. I know some of the “yucky” feeling is good because it is what will ultimately keep us from going back to this spot again. But for right now, I have to push it aside because I find my resolve to be too fragile to become bogged down with the “yucks.” I’ve talked before about how much of debt-reduction is psychological in nature (or, rather, how much psychological issues can impact debt payoff). If we are to succeed with digging out of this (again), I need to feel hopeful.

Hope is Ahead

Luckily, I do feel hopeful. I didn’t include it in this spreadsheet because it happened at the end of November, but I recently paid off the remaining balance of our Target credit card. At it’s peak, it reached about $3500 in the summer. Not our highest balance by a long-shot, but the card was maxed out and I had just been making little “chips” every month when the bill was due. In the last couple months, I paid a bit more and was thrilled to send in the final payment late November. It’s such a great feeling to make these tiny wins! The next three cards (Home Depot, Bank of America, and Capital One) shouldn’t take too terribly long to knock out. Then attention can turn to the beast. Can you imagine – my limit was previously set at $14,000. We accidentally went over that limit. And what did Wells Fargo do? Oh, what any reasonable lender-of-credit would do…..they extended more credit. Upped my limit to $17,000. And obviously some of that additional credit has been used (since we’ve now got over a $15k balance). So they’ve won on the battle. But I’m determined to win the war. We’ve been down this road before and kicked ass last time; we will just have to pull ourselves up and do it again.

Thank you for your support and encouragement! I know things look bleak, but I hope you’ll stick by my side as we pull through this mess all over again!


Update to Plan #1: Pay Off Debt

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At the end of October, I revealed my initial plan to pay off debt after being so focused on saving since I started my new job this past March. It had been a long time since I could focus on that goal with so much of my energy focused on keeping us housed and fed during the time I was unemployed or at least under employed. This plan had three goals:

  • Pay off my Amazon line of credit
  • Pay off my computer line of credit
  • Settle one of my collections accounts (the largest one at the time)

Dec 1 Status Update

Amazon – As of Nov 1, I paid off the Amazon account and have not used it since.  Doing a happy dance for debt pay off and celebrating self control!

Computers – I have continued to pay the minimum due on most of my bills and we have focused on not spending unless it is a need (with the exception of our Thanksgiving trip to Orlando) and as a result, I believe I will be able to pay off this debt in whole the week after Christmas.  I will make my end of the year goal by the skin of my teeth, barring any emergencies. I will pay off this debt! I will keep you posted.

Collections – I made the call to this account to discuss a settlement or pay to remove situation and they were not willing to negotiate much. I got angry and hung up.  And to be honest, with the goal of paying off the computers, I am not sure I could have done this too.  BUT…the other collection account (several smaller bills held by one company) is willing to negotiate and remove the items from my credit report once paid.

Making Money

I mentioned recently about my W2 employer’s “notice of firing” for lack of a better description. I could write a really long rant on that situation, but I am controlling myself. Anyways, I have been applying for jobs like a mad person and spending a lot of time looking for freelance work as well.  I am happy to update that I have had several nibbles at freelance work, good work. I am in the middle of the interview process with several companies and am doing some introductory work for a couple as well.  I feel good, at least better, about the situation.

With that being said, if I can bring in some extra money in December my goal is to tackle goal #3 with the collection account, just not the one I originally planned.  With that being the goal and I’m hopeful I will be able to make it happen. I guess it’s time for me to come up with my next steps in my paying off debt plan!

I’ll get a debt update posted in the next week or so. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your suggestions on what my next goals should be.  I won’t be able to focus on anything else until the new year and will have to temper that with what my job situation is looking like, but right now, today, I’m hopeful and proud of the steps I am taking.

 


Ashley’s Bloated Budget

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I have to be honest. I’m totally nervous about this post.

When I first started blogging here back in early 2014, I experienced a lot of backlash. It’s tough to put your entire financial world out there on the internet for a bunch of strangers. And tougher, still, to take in the comments and criticism of very personal financial decisions.

But then the tides changed once I started experiencing some success.

Within 3 months of beginning to blog, I paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt. In total, I paid off just over $25,000 of debt in 2014, just over $26,000 of debt in 2015, and over $30,000 of debt in 2016!!!

Once I was winning with money, the criticisms mostly melted away. I felt more support and encouragement. Not as much judgement or negativity.

Then the summer of 2017 occurred. Poor spending decisions have been made. Income has been reduced. Outflow has increased. I’ve been struggling with some personal mental health issues which have prevented me from spending as much time and attention with our family budget as I should have. Things have just spiraled.

There’s no one single “thing.” It’s more like an avalanche of smaller stuff. Death by a thousand cuts. And all the sudden I look up and realize that our minimum monthly debt payments are so out-of-hand that I don’t know what to do. We’re nickel and diming ourselves to death. To the point that we have no money for food. We have to rely on credit to buy our groceries.

I tried to start over from scratch. I’ve been using YNAB, but I haven’t been able to make the money work for several months now. Our expenses exceed our income, no matter what I do or how I try to shuffle things around, there’s just not enough. So I opened a simple Excel spreadsheet. I wrote my monthly take-home pay at the top and started listing expenses in order of importance. Here’s what I got:

We’re down to $1264 to spend on all of our monthly needs in terms of food and clothing, savings, and/or additional debt payments.  It doesn’t feel like enough….especially since the debt figure ($1098) does NOT include any student loan payments, given that they’re in deferment currently.

On my post about increasing student loan payments, many people tried to give me encouragement that we COULD put $1,000/month toward student loans. That it was totally possible.

Well…..not with only $1264 at the end of the month. Not when we don’t have enough money to buy food or gasoline for our cars. Not when there’s zero wiggle-room because we literally don’t have a single penny in any emergency fund. Not when Christmas is coming up and we have no way to buy gifts for friends or families. Not when our property taxes are coming due!

Can we decrease our fixed bills? The “utilities” line item ($650) includes water, electric, HOA, cable, internet and phone. We can try little things to save on energy, but we’re in a contract with the cable/internet company and same with our phones. HOA is also “set.” So not a lot of wiggle room there.

We do have some debt payments that have lower balances – once we knock them out we can reduce the monthly minimum. But we can’t just be paying minimum payments – we have got to be paying as much over minimum as possible in order to make any headway.

I’m preparing a full debt update so you can see a larger financial picture (give me a couple days to get it posted). But it seems pretty clear to me – we have to find ways to increase our income. $4880/month is not enough for us to achieve our financial goals.

My sister recently added me to a Dave Ramsey Facebook group. It’s been a huge motivational boost to see so many stories of sacrifice and determination. So many debt-free success stories, pictures of fully paid homes, etc. I know we will get there. Our path hasn’t been linear and I think that’s okay. Sometimes “life happens.” Sometimes you have to take a step back and focus on yourself or your family. But we don’t want to live in a state of debt like this forever. The only way out is to put our heads down and plow forward. And that’s just what we intend to do.

As always, I welcome and appreciate your constructive criticism. I’m back to square one here. Googling sample budget plans and just trying to figure out how to survive without taking on additional debt. I’m a little nervous and scared of the path ahead. Our first 2 years of debt-reduction were totally bare-bones. I remember the days well. That was back when I was working part-time from home so it was easier to cook from scratch, meticulously research and shop sales, etc. We’re in a totally different situation now.

It wasn’t easy then. It won’t be easy now. But nothing worth having ever is, now is it?

Give me all your tips! Link to web resources, give me book recommendations. Even just a word of encouragement is appreciated. Thank you all, especially those of you who have been around and seen my story evolve over the past nearly 4 years! It’s been quite a journey and we’re only half-way through it!

 


My Amazon Debt is GONE!!!

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My Amazon Debt is gone!!!  I moved the payment date up to today. I couldn’t resist. As of today, my Amazon line of credit is GONE! Paid in full.

amazon balance screenshot

Doing a happy dance over here and breathing a deep sigh as I set my sights on my other immediate goals.

New Budget = More Work

I spent a lot of time this weekend working on a new budget since I have voluntarily taken a temporary cut in pay. And I hate to say it, but we cannot maintain our current life without those addition hours or an equal amount of income. I am on the project hunt, applying through Guru.com and reaching out to past and current clients who might have some project work they need done.  I know from past experience I can either get really busy this time of year with one off projects or it will be really dry. Please send up a prayer for me.

New Sport = New Expense

Before I say this, I will admit, I am crazy and obsessed with providing my kids with every opportunity.  I get enough flack for that, so don’t think you have to tell me too (my attempt to stave off the whiplash I believe will come with this news.)  Princess recently tried out for a competitive volleyball team. She made it!  This team costs $1000 for the season. The fee includes all uniforms, tournament fees, training and so on. I reached out to her dad for financial assistance, we will see if he comes through.

Conclusion

I have one less monthly debt payment, and I plan to keep it that way – yeah!!!

I have a larger than manageable gap in my budget due to the cut in my regular 1099 hours.

I have a new substantial bill for the next few months ($300 due this week and then $175 monthly for the next 4 months.)

I’ve got my work cut out for me. And I would love some suggestions, specifically regarding making up the income as I really do not see anywhere I can cut in my budget, although I am still evaluating that.

Save

Save


Increasing Student Loan Payments

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Nothing like being kicked when you’re down, right?

Well, I’ve had a good run. After 3 years of Income Based Repayment where our student loan payments were only a couple hundred a month (it varied, but was never over $300/month in total), I knew there would be some changes in store after updating our income info using last year’s tax information (this update is required annually). What I did not know or expect, was that the change would be SOOOOOO extreme.

Overnight, we went from a minimum payment of $300….to a minimum payment of over $1,000. THAT’S MORE THAN OUR MORTGAGE!!!! My take-home pay is under $5,000/month, so we’re talking over 20% of our income!!! AHHH!!!!!

After my update, I was notified that we no longer qualified for IBR based on last year’s income. Unfortunately, this occurred during summer when all our finances just went straight to hell so I didn’t give it much thought like I should have.  No thought, that is, until the payment was auto-drafted and my account ended up being overdrawn.

To say I “freaked out” would be an understatement. It was my own fault for not paying closer attention, but I felt totally blind-sighted!

So I did something that maybe (probably?) messes up my credit. But I felt I had no option. I called and asked for my student loans to go into forbearance status for a few months. It was approved the same day. I’ve continued making smaller-sized payments (in the $200-$300 range), but no payment is actually due until January. I’m trying to reapply for IBR with our current income (since the update was based on our tax information from last year, it showed a much higher salary than what we have this year given that hubs no longer works and I dumped my part-time job, too).

Re-doing our current income paperwork is a whole process, as you can imagine.  I haven’t completed it yet but my hope is that this voluntary forbearance gives us the time to get all the paperwork submitted and processed and – fingers crossed – maybe we can get approved for a more reasonable-sized payment. It will still likely be larger than in the past. But we just cannot afford $1,000/month right now as a minimum payment. We’d be much more comfortable in the $300-ish range. I did talk to a representative who said there are other programs available, too (e.g., I was told we could apply for the “standard extended payment”). I’d love to get back on IBR if we can qualify but, if not, I’m glad other options exist. The one problem is the TIME it takes for all that stuff to be processed. I felt backed into a corner with the forbearance because I needed a lower payment NOW and didn’t have time to wait a month (or however long) for a new application to be processed and approved (or potentially rejected).

So that’s where we’re at with my student loans. Another piece of the messy financial puzzle.


Plan #1: Pay Off Debt

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I truly appreciate everyone’s thoughtful guidance and feedback to my last couple of posts on my Current Debt Load and desire to Increase my Credit Score. I am still working through all my lists of tips and suggestions. And frankly, it is too overwhelming to me to come up with a master plan. Thus, I’ve come up with a few bite size plans that give me immediate action AND immediate gratification! The OVERWHELMING advice that stood out, as expected, is pay off debt.

Thanks to our mostly No Spend Month, I have some extra money sitting around here at the end of the month. And it is burning a hole in my pocket, let me tell you! That leads us to the first plan.

Pay Off Debt

I will be tackling three debts with everything I’ve got with the goal of $0 balances on all three by the end of this calendar year.  Here’s my plan:

  • Amazon (current balance $527) – pay in full November 3rd with $$$ saved through No Spend October. This will bring it to a $0 balance before the statement date for the month of November. Question: do I leave the account open or close it? Bearing in mind the affect on my credit score.  Guidance please.
  • Computers (current balance $2,655) – pay $500 the first week of November with $$$ saved through No Spend October. And review November and December budgets to see if I can find a way to bring it to a $0 balance before the end of the year. Maybe a modified no spend month…we’ve still got quite a bit in our pantry. This will drop the balance quite a bit before the statement date for the month of November (yes, I’m still thinking of my credit score, but only as a benefit of making wiser financial decisions.) Question: do I leave the account open or close it? Bearing in mind the affect on my credit score.  Guidance please.
  • Collection Acct (Apartment) – call and see if I can negotiate a 1) pay to remove arrangement and 2) settlement amount, effectively decreasing the amount I must pay. Again, I will attempt to close this account out by the end of the year.

What about my credit card?

For the time being, I am going to keep using my one credit card as a revolving line of credit, effectively paying it off every month so I do not accrue any finance charges and using it to pay all my regular budgeted items.

I think this plan is very do-able for me. It’s definitely trackable. And if I could eliminate these three debts over the next 2 months. Well, that would be AWESOME!!!!


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