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I started creating and using monthly budgets in March 2007. I was shocked to see how much money just disappeared for no good reason. We spent a lot at a lot of little stops for a few bucks here and there. After the March budget, I created April and felt like I had control over my money for the first time in a long time. Now I create a budget at the end of each month for the next month. All my money is spent on paper before I even receive it.
I’m paying most of these on a monthly, pro rata basis until I can increase my income by doing several small jobs in addition to my business and part time job as a math and chemistry tutor. I expect the first 2 to be paid off this month (June 2007). I was laid off from an analytical chemistry job at the end of 2003 and have been struggling to start my business and make enough money to make ends meet ever since.
One thing I have learned from being laid off is to not put so much of yourself into a single income earning endeavor. Now I have several smaller incomes that are beginning to add up to a decent total paycheck. But if one falls through, I still have 6-7 more that are still going strong and I’m not ever out of a job completely. I can usually find something to fill that smaller gap pretty quickly without a lot of worry, stress or effort.
I don’t have concrete goals for the rest of my debts beyond the first two yet because I’m still being charged interest and fees, so some balances are continuing to grow. I’ve written each creditor requesting them to stop charging me interest and fees so I can pay down the balances. The balances are a lot higher than they were when I first got to where I couldn’t pay my bills because of fees and interest. They’ve made their profit off my back already. I hope they will cooperate with me and help me out with fees and interest. I’m also trying to add a couple of extra money-making endeavors to use just for eliminating this debt.
How did I get into this mess?
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit my area really hard and business was slow for a long time. I also got very depressed, something that was going around like the plague here. I had to go to New Orleans nearly every week to help my mom get her condo ready to sell so she could move to Texas. Seeing New Orleans so deserted and decimated was more than my psyche could handle and I got to the point where I had trouble just getting things like laundry and dishes and cooking done. Looking for business clients and looking for a job were far more than I could face at the time. In the last few months my doctor has finally gotten me on the right cocktail of depression medicines to treat all my symptoms completely. I finally have motivation. I finally have reawakened — to a huge mess! But, I also have business clients coming in regularly and my other endeavors are paying little-by-little, creating a decent living for me and my son.
I stopped paying my bills when I couldn’t pay the minimum balances out of ignorance. Every time I sent a creditor some money, I got nasty phone calls demanding hardship payment schedules that I couldn’t meet. So, I made a dumb choice. I stopped paying them completely instead of continuing to send the smaller payments that I could afford. Lesson: shove the small payments down their throats whether they like them or not. They won’t return your checks, they’ll cash them and you will be recorded in their systems as attempting to pay your bills and staying in contact with them.
I learned how to deal with this situation through Dave’s book and the MyTMMO website. Now each month, I send my creditors a letter explaining my situation, a copy of my creditors and balances, and what % each creditor is in the whole scheme of things, a copy of my budget showing my disposable income available for paying all of them, and a check for each one’s % share of my disposable income. I just did this starting at the end of May, so I have no idea how it will go. We’ll see and I’ll keep you posted. I’ll also keep you posted on my balances, how much has been paid off, and how much I still owe.
Just having a procedure for handling the mess has been a huge load off me. I’m not worrying about setting goals for paying off that much debt quite yet. I’m stepping back and only taking one small bite at a time. I haven’t taken enough bites to have any clue as to what might be realistic goals.