Category Archives: Debt Management

I’m In A Pickle

G.G. wrote with the following situation

About 4 years ago, I bought a mobile home with a partner from what turned out
to be a real rip-off company. We had planned to basically “rent” from each
other for several years, and then sell when we both reached a time for moving
out of state. The plan was to use her income and mine to keep up the home and
pay expenses.

It took a few years, but when I was finally able to refinance with a regular
bank, my home-partner was back in school for a master’s and not working, so I
refinanced in my name only. You can no doubt guess what happened then – after
she was done with school she bailed on me (and also moved out) and I have only verbals that she ever agreed to be part of this.

On top of that, the local housing market for mobile homes has crashed, and
though I owe about $32,000 still on the home, I’m told by realtors that unless
I can sell for $12,000 or so, it’s not even worth putting on the market. An
additional problem is that since it’s only MY income maintaining the place,
frankly it’s falling apart. Last I estimated, it would take at least $5,000 –
and perhaps as much as $10,000 – to make even basic repairs such as reroofing and so on.

I’m also paying 2 credit cards (one $4,000, the other $3,000), the balances of
which grow as I have to make small emergency repairs (for instance, the hot
water heater went out last month).

I spoke briefly with a few bankruptcy attorneys, and they told me under the new
bankruptcy laws, I “make too much” to file anything but Chapter 13. I’m not
sure if Chapter 13 would do me any good anyway, but I guess it would at least
prevent the bank from sueing me for the balance of the mobile home (since I’m
told mobile homes aren’t treated like stick-homes legally, and if for some
reason I can’t or won’t keep up my payments on the home, they will foreclose on
it, sell it for a few thousand dollars just to get it off their books, and then
come after me for the difference – including wage garnishment).

I’m really feeling stuck! If I try to stick it out and pay down the $20,000 to
sell it, by then it will be such garbage from lack of major repairs that it may
be unlivable and unsellable. I’m making my payments now, but if I borrow
$5000-10000 to make repairs, I won’t be able to make payments anymore. If I
file Chapter 13, I’m not sure what will happen, actually. The job I have now is
a union job paying WAY WAY over the wage-market for the work I do – meaning
that if at any time I get laid off, assuming I CAN find another job, my income
will drop by half – at which point I also won’t be able to make any payments.

Any ideas? I’m feeling really stuck, like there’s nothing I can do except wait
for one of several axes to drop. And that’s how I’ve been living for about 2
years now.”

Our advice went something along the lines of

This is a real pickle indeed. Whilst it is good that you decided to invest your money, you chose the wrong vehicle for that. But that is hindsight, and it will fix nothing.

It is time to look to the future. You need to concentrate on getting out of debt.  I would suggest that you get rid of the credit cards first, through debt settlement, then use that extra cash for a savings and paying down the mortgage. Debt settlement will have a negative impact on your credit score (but I hate credit anyway) but it can be easily repaired…and quickly, depending on you.

Also, don’t try any quick money schemes to bail yourself out. Many people get desperate and go for a quick fix. The real fix is to spend less than you earn and pay regularly on your debt until it’s paid off. Then, learn from your experience.

I like to listen to Clark Howard and he has some wonderful resources at
www.clarkhoward.com. Also www.stretcher.com will show you how to make even a tiny bit of money go a long way — or at least further than it does for most folks.”

Hi, I’m in debt up to my ears! Please help!

That was the headline to another email that arrived a month or so back. The writer went on to say

“My husband and I are way in debt, barely able to manage our bills and have no
idea what to do! Please help? Debt is approx. 9730!”

Once we’d asked for some more details, we were able to appreciate just what a mess this sensible young lady was in. Nothing seemed terribly irresponsible but hey, read what she told us

My mother and I share a cell phone plan that runs thru Feb 2012. Neither of us
can afford the cancellation fees. There is no home phone, just the cell phone.

I’m having a family meeting tomorrow night to discuss options and Netflix is on
the list of things we need to change.

Because my ex is a jerk I’m stuck paying for the vehicle we bought together
during our marriage. To stop being driven into bankruptcy by garnishment I make monthly payments, which the judge set at the amount he felt that I could pay.
My ex is also supposed to pay child support but I haven’t gotten a penny in the
last year. To be honest, I’ve not heard from or seen him in about a year which
doesn’t bother me any.

Getting a second job isn’t as easy as you make it sound. Why? Besides having a job with health insurance I also go to college full time. Between work, classes, homework, studying, my kids, the housework, and sleeping I just don’t
have any spare time.

My furniture all came from yard sales and stuff that my dad bought from
abandoned storage units. Nothing is worth more than $5. The only valuable
thing I own is my laptop, which I use for my classes to do assignments,
research, and take notes. I print stuff at the college because it’s free there
or I print at the public library for 10 cents a page. I’ve also got a quicken
program installed to keep track of my checking account, savings account, and
credit card. Without the laptop I’d have to drive to the college nearly every
day to use the computers there and that would double if not triple how much I
spent on gas.

Speaking of gas, my car is 18 years old and is failing fast. It has
transmission fluid, oil, and coolant leaks along with some bad parts outside the
engine that bang and knock. In the last year it’s been down for repairs 7 or 8
times. I’m hoping to use my tax refund to replace it. There’s all kinds of
cars in this area less than 10 years old and for $1500 to $2500. My mechanic
will check them over for either $45 or $75. The higher price is for him having
to hook up his computer and the cheaper one is for just checking the vehicle
over.

There’s no way I could change my job. I work at stocking in a grocery store and
get all the hours they can give. My manager is given so many hours to use and
can’t go over that. Corporate rules. She has to spread the hours out so that
there’s enough people working during each shift. The job also comes with a
401k, union dues, and health insurance which I pay some toward. Can’t drop the
insurance because I’d really be in trouble if I got sick or hurt. I also pay a
couple of dollars per week for a short term disability in case I can’t work for
a long period of time. Being a single parent I’m scared to not have that.

I am trying to use my cookbooks (also mostly from those storage units) to make
more things from scratch here at home.”

A number of people offered words of advice and encouragement, and the nicest of the replies came from Debbie as follows :

Sounds like you’re in a really tough spot and doing the best you can. It also sounds like you’re looking for solutions. And honestly, that’s how you’ll get out of this depressing mess. Just stay strong, stay on point, and you’ll start to pull out and start to see results.

Here’s something to think about. Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman both have TV shows. They also both have written books. What I did when I started along the road to debt freedom was read everything I could borrow from the library. Mostly for inspiration and moral support if nothing else. Because there are two things you need to seriously cement in your brain.

1) You’re not alone–there are so many of us with you in this boat that it’s not even funny. So lean. Lean hard if you need to. We’ll all be there.

2) You can do this. You can figure out a plan to get yourself out of this
situation. Whether that’s calling up your creditors or simply getting on a plan that puts you a little closer to the black every month, you CAN do this. Because plenty of people who aren’t as smart as you have. And with everything you have going in your life, the one thing you definitely have is sheer determination to power ahead.

So that’s it. Not step by step solutions. But hopefully a little bit of moral
support. Because, guess what, I’m in debt too. And I can only do so many things to get out of it. And today, I spent $1500 to find out that my sick pet was unsaveable and so after spending $1500, I still have one less pet. So I will not reach my goal. But that’s okay. Every day, the world tries to beat you down. Your job is to rise above it. And frankly, from what you’ve said, you’ve done that.”

Fear has set in as I can not pay all my bills for the first time in my life

We received this letter a short while ago and G.B. has given us permission to print it here, in the hope that it will help other people who find themselves in the same position.

Received from G.B. (N. Carolina)

I am a father of 4 and happily married. My luck has taken a turn for the worse. My wife and I are looking for work but can’t find anything yet. This feeling of fear and failure is unrelenting. I’m in the process of downsizing everything in order to lessen the blow but hate that it might not be enough. I don’t know if there is a way to keep my house but am going to try my hardest.

Any advise or knowledge of getting through this financially,mentally and emotionally might help.

And here’s our reply :

I know you are in a hard place and I can empathize with your fear. I have been where you are now. Know that at least one person is praying for you and your family. I also encourage you to cling to each other during this crisis. Try to work together to find ways to cut your budget and to bring in extra money. Make a family activity out of preparing low-cost meals. Spend time together.

You need to prepare for the rough ride ahead. Take a look at your personal finances and trim all the fat. I know your house might be very important but first of all try to save it by talking to the bank, explain your situation and get them to give you a break on the mortgage payments. They are being paid by the government to do so, so don’t take no for an answer. Realize you can stay in your home, sometimes for a long time, without paying the mortgage. It will hurt your credit and then you might have to repay a lot to catch up but it’s better than moving out. In the end if it doesn’t work out try working out a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure, where you give the bank the keys to the house and walk away voluntarily instead of them foreclosing on you. It’s just a house and there will be others, right now survival is more important.

Get any job you can find. Walmart, Home Depot, Starbucks, cutting grass in the neighborhood, pizza delivery, anything. I don’t know what type of work you are looking for but right now you need income, any income.

Seek help. There are plenty of organizations available from your local
government, churches and civic groups that have sprouted because of so many people in your shoes. Look them up and use them. You will be surprised the amount of help you can find, from looking for work to temporary jobs, to assistance with paying the bills.

You can also call all the utility companies and explain your situation and they might be able to give you a break with the bills.