Debt

I have some fabulous news. As of March 29th, our insurance is officially being covered by Mi.Vida’s employer. This is very fortuitous, as we find ourselves in dire financial straits. The combination of my part-time employment and 3.5 month maternity leave has left us in great financial difficulty.

For the first time in my life, I have credit card debt. Quite a bit, actually. In two short months, I’ve accumulated as much credit card debt as I have student debt. This is… alarming.

Having an extra $1,500 a month will definitely help us climb out of this debt, but it won’t be enough. I’m hoping our tax return will make a considerable dent in how much we owe, but that might not suffice. I suppose, worst comes to worst, I will just continue maintaining the balances on my cards until I can eventually pay them off, and pay the interest as it accumulates. It is not the ideal situation, but it’s necessary, for the time being.

In the meantime, Mi.Vida and I are taking a long, hard look at our finances. We’re writing down EVERY PENNY we spend this month in hopes of having a better understanding of where our money goes. Our monthly bills come close to our monthly income, so it’s no surprise we’re struggling. We need to stay within a strict budget to avoid racking up debt, and right now we’re just not doing that. Hopefully, after an honest investigation this month, we’ll starting making financially sound decisions.

Ugh. This is all so stressful. The mounting debt, coupled with the fact that our house appears to be coming a part at the seams (we have THREE separate water leakage issues that threaten to cost us tens of thousands of dollars), has me in quite a state. I know it will all work out in the end, but it’s going to be difficult getting there.

Gah. I hate money. I really, really do.

I’d ask about your financial situations but that is very poor manners, so I won’t. Instead I’ll ask for any advice you may have for a girl who needs to pay off many thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and fast, while working part-time and paying full time childcare for her daughter.

18 responses

  1. Ugh, I totally get this. If you want I can email you the excel spreadsheet I use a couple times a year when I need to get us back on track. I used to input everything monthly, but with two kids that just doesn’t happen. It’s great to break down what are set necessary costs, kind of necessary costs, and unnecessary costs…

  2. So when B and I met, we weren’t honest about our debt. We were both ashamed, never having debt before, and told each other we had none. Then, it was coming time to do our pre-nup and unless we wanted to include our debt, we had to get it paid off. We still hadn’t told each other about it. Between us, we had $6,000+ in debt. Some how, some way, we each got our debt paid off before having to disclose it. Then, after all that stress, I told him about it anyway and he came clean too. We vowed then and there to never be in debt again (besides house and cars). We had to figure out how to not let that happen again.

    Here is the key to our financial freedom. We inventoried EVERY bill, including things like iTunes costs (since they occurred monthly) and categorized them as necessary (mortgage, cars), convenient (cable, massages), and stupid (iTunes, my training program I never used). We immediately cut the stupid bills and many of the convenient ones (so freeing to dump cable!!!) and built a budget from there. We did NOT itemize every penny, but figured out how much we wanted to save (or in your case and our earlier case, how much to pay off each month in debt) and then added that to our budget. After that was in there, we took what remained and split it fairly into each of our own “spending budgets” which would go on our credit cards and be paid in full each month. Bs budget was bigger since he usually paid for meals out and groceries, and Amazon stuff. We force ourselves to stay within those budgets, and I watch them weekly. If we’re getting close on his budget, then I’ll buy groceries, etc. This way, you still have freedom, but knowledge of where you stand on your budget. Looking at every penny will just make you resentful (he gets mountain dew every day, she gets Starbucks twice a week?!) and I don’t think it works. YOU can look at where every penny you spend goes from within YOUR monthly spending budget, but I don’t advise looking at this together. I really don’t.

    I hope that helps. I know it’s saved us.

    • The thing is, we are BARELY making enough to pay our monthly bills. Which means that little things like Mountain Dew and Starbucks are going to really add up. We seem to know this intellectually, and yet we keep buying that stuff. I think we need to, at least for one month, really track all that, so we can see what it adds up to, so that when we’re tempted to get those things, we can remind ourselves of how much we can spend on that shit in a month, even if we’re only getting it every once in a while. My biggest problem is that I make almost exactly what I have to pay in bills every month, so I tutor once a week to give myself a little spending money. Then when I want a little snack or something, I say, “oh, this is tutoring money.” But then I spend 1.5 or 2 times that tutoring money, because I’m not keeping track of it. So I really need to see how I spend that $60 a week super fast, so I make better choices.

      • I totally agree that little things like soda and coffee matter. I just wouldn’t scrutinize over each others’ little costs because I’ve seen that cause serious problems in a marriage. Definitely scrutinize your own. And tell him you’re scrutinizing your own.

        B and I don’t get into each others budgets, even though we share 100% of the money. I watch transactions in both accounts heavily, because his CC# has been stolen so many times. WHEN the conversation of money comes up (once a quarter, I’d say), we both look at our own transactions and present what could/should have not happened. Never a fun convo. I have a problem with buying the kids clothes, and it comes up every quarter. And he’s right (and I’ve gotten way better). He spends too much on lunches, and that’s been curbed. Never fun, but always necessary talks. I do hate them.

      • Haha. We have similar weaknesses. MV’s is most definitely lunches. Mine is most definitely things for the kids, not clothes so much but books and movies and little treats. I rarely by myself anything, but stuff for them is a weakness.

      • Yeah, I NEVER buy things for myself… Except when I got too fat and needed a couple sweaters ($17 each). B just said the other day, “we need to be more conscious of money. Every trip to McDonalds, chick f a, etc adds up.”. Of course he pointed out MY lunches, so I said, “yeah, two trips to Chick f a for M and me is less than your one lunch out downtown. I’ll stop my lunches out if you start packing your lunch.”. End of conversation!

      • Ryan is hopeless with lunch but I rationalize it as it’s really his only treat these days! I am a little shocker with clothes but have pulled back loads lately!

  3. “Instead I’ll ask for any advice you may have for a girl who needs to pay off many thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and fast, while working part-time and paying full time childcare for her daughter.”

    Um…my advice to her would be either work full time (or even overtime if she can swing it) or put her daughter in part time daycare and look for a lower cost provider (maybe a SAHP who wants to watch another kid )

    Unless there’s more to the story. But, honestly, for most people, day care is the biggest monthly bill after the mortgage and paying for full time daycare when you’re only working part time makes no sense.

    • I work part-time because my in-laws are willing to watch my infant son (for free) only if I work part-time (I need to be there to pick him up by 1pm). The amount of money we lose with me being part-time (about $900/month) is much less than it would cost to find him full-time infant care (about $1700/month). There is no part-time option for my daughter’s daycare, and her “school” is actually really reasonable ($1150/month)–I doubt we could find even part-time care as affordable as the full-time care we get for her.

      If we got a full-time nanny it would cost us about $2,500 a month and we’d have to send my daughter to at least some pre-school (she is almost four), so what we’re doing now is the “cheapest” combination of care that covers both kids.

      • Well, if that set up works for you, great! And there are obvious non-financial advantages. (I don’t really read your blog so I don’t know the backstory)

        Still, if your finances are that tight, I would at least look into other arrangements (a nanny-share with a couple of other families, a home based day care) to make absolutely sure you’ve got the best option.

  4. My Husband likes to call it a debt downfall…you’re in debt already, why not get into more?! So easy to do it as well. I know, we’re in it.

    One thing that has really helped me, is use cash. Put away the debit/credit card & use cash. If I run out, I’m done. I do give myself a montly allotment of $25 a month for Starbucks. I add to my App & if I don’t use all of it that month, I don’t reload it unless I want to. Not a need, just a want. So I choose when I want to go.

    Another huge thing that helped us make a dent in our finances (I have student loan debt & credit card debt as well) was…get a better higher paying job. I know so easy to say but I had to. If I determined to pay off MY debt, I needed to do something about it.

    Hope this {somewhat} helps!

  5. I wanted to encourage you a little and tell you that the majority of Americans are in some kind of debt, and that this is NOT going to last forever. Life and shit happens, don’t beat yourself up about it, but instead focus your energies/moneys into fixing this and getting out of debt. You guys can 100% change things!

    My husband and I just led a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class at our church. When we went through the program ourselves (4 years ago), it completely changed our lives and the way we look and handle money. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend it! If all you can do right now is buy his book, buy the “The Total Money Makeover”, but the class is WAY BETTER! (I think costs like $99 or $120 maybe?) Check out his website and see if there is a class in your area. Anyways, we’e been able to pay off $110,000 in roughly 4 years following his program and using a class and budget system. We only have $20,000 left then are debt free! This year alone, we’ve paid off $43,000 and I stay home and hubby is a teacher! It’s not a gimic or get rich quick type program. It takes LOTS of hard work and dedication, it takes both partners being on board and taking an honest look at your finances/goals. If you want more details or have questions, here’s my email: hoslen85@gmail.com

    Also, I’m SOOOOOOO sorry I haven’t been commenting recently. Since I’m back to watching 5 kids again, I rarely have computer time. I read, but don’t comment. 😦 I am still following along though during those several night feedings!

  6. Sigh. As you know, I have totally been there. For credit card debt, I’d start by calling the card and asking if they can lower your interest rate or if they have an internal debt-management plan. We did that initially, and it did help. But we ended up going to a debt management plan through a third party. We had to cancel our cards (could be a problem if you still use yours; in our case they were maxed out so we weren’t using them), but we got the cards to be interest-free, and we have a monthly payment that’s fixed for 5 years. So far, we’ve paid off 40% of our credit card debt.

    This is part of the reason we’re so often behind on our other bills, I think. We don’t have the credit cards as a cushion. And we make a large monthly payment, so it lowers our overall money for other things. So, it’s not great for our credit or savings. But when I look at the thousands we’ve paid off, it is so rewarding to me. In 34 months, we’ll be done, and I will be so proud!

    Also, my thoughts on incidentals is that being too frugal causes you to be stressed and feel deprived and can make you cheat (it’s kind of like dieting that way). Rather than “no takeout”, limit it to pizza only. Rather than “no buying lunches”, limit it to once a week. I recently discovered buying cheap jewelry on eBay (cheap, as in $2). It is making me so happy! And makes it easier to not have money for larger purchases. It’s not easy, though.

  7. Look into mint.com to track your spending. It is sooo much easier than writing everything down and cataloging it yourself. You can quickly see where the money goes each and every month and make little adjustments from there. While we are not in debt, except for the house, however we are in a similar situation where what we bring home per month is just about equal to what goes out. Not a good long-term plan. When we started with mint, I was shocked about how much we were spending on food and we have been much more conscious of spending money on food since then and it has helped.

    Good luck!

    • This is so true. We use mint.com and get weekly emails and texts (you set what you want to get) telling us where the money is going. B setup texts to be sent any time $200 or more is spent (helps us monitor cc fraud, and also keeps us in check). Its a very handy tool!

  8. I would check to see if your bank offers any financial counseling to help you pay down debt…I know the first thing they’ll suggest is what you’re already doing this month, tracking what you spend, but they may be able to come up with some strategies to change your spending habits or have resources to help with talking with those you have debt.

  9. My ex-husband and I accumulated a ton of credit card debt (like $15,000) over the course of a couple years. We spent the two years after that working our way mostly out of it. (He ran up a bunch more on one of my accounts while we were separated, including the engagement ring for his next wife even though he was refusing to sign the divorce papers.) The way we did this was by paying cash for everything we possibly could so that we weren’t constantly adding to our credit card balances, and continuously transferring those balances every time we got an offer for a new, interest-free-for-12-months card. Of course, this was before the financial crisis, so I don’t know how many of those offers come around anymore. Still, it’s what we did and it worked.

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