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Y’All Said You’d Help...So Here’s My Problem!

I’m ashamed to be posting this, but ready to change, and hope that I can get some non-judgmental help. I had posted a few months back about getting a financial advisor and whether or not it was worth it, but so many people reached out and said this sub could help that I decided against it. So, here it is. I am a full-time teacher and own two special needs dogs. My husband owns our home with his father (who does not live here, but helped us acquire the home loan). My mother is a compulsive gambler and has declared bankruptcy 4 times. I really, really, really don’t want to end up there. We have no savings and with maxed-out credit cards, we are usually flat broke at the end of each month. It looks like we have about $500 leftover each month, and we probably spend most of that eating out. So my first goal is to completely cut out eating out. It’s a very bad habit that I’m ready to break. Two things I will not budge on are: costs for my dogs, and leaving my home. I am really open to any other ideas. I am working on getting a second job, so that would be helpful, but for now, here’s our income and expenses. My husband and I each take home (after taxes) $1200 bi-weekly. We are paid on the same week, so the funds seem to disappear rather quickly.

So our monthly, take-home pay is $4800/month

Monthly Expenses: Mortgage: $1690 Phone: $250 Groceries: $600 Dog food/care: $350-450 Utilities (heat, water, elec): ~$200 Internet: $90 (only provider in area) Car payment: $250 Car insurance: $120 Medications: $150 (I am a medical marijuana patient due to a pelvic floor disorder) Gas: $140 All credit card payments (minimum): $400

Outstanding Debt: $600 water bill $4,800 credit card #1 $500 credit card #2 $900 credit card #3 (no interest if paid off by March) $900 credit card #4 (his) $2800 credit card #5 (his) $300 store credit card $150 store credit card $7k owed on car

Again, I’m embarrassed and understand that I got myself into a really awful situation. I’m 27 and not ready to live the rest of my life like this. We want to get pregnant this year but I refuse to do so until I’m financially stable. Thanks in advance.

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level 1

We want to get pregnant this year but I refuse to do so until I’m financially stable.

That ... is a really good idea. You would really want to start a pregnancy when you're out of debt (except mortgage), when you have roughly $10k in savings, and when you have like $500 or so extra money in your budget that you can then later use for the expenses that come with having a child.

Also, this may be a motivation for you to really get your shit together, so that you can actually become a (responsible) parent at some point.

Finally: please research whether your physical problems or the medication that you use for it will cause problems for your child due to it being exposed to it while in the womb.

level 2
34 points · 8 months ago

It is difficult to find quality studies on marijuana in pregnancy, partially due to the fact that you need a cohort of pregnant marijuana users and partially because when you find those people there are a lot of confounders, like tobacco use. That being said, marijuana does cross the placental barrier and is found in breast milk. It is believed to be associated with pre-term birth, stillbirth, and birth defects. There is also evidence that would support a negative impact on brain development but again, research on that is hard to come by.

One study

The good news is that a pelvic floor disorder is most likely not an indication for medical marijuana and there are probably more efficacious medications you can have that will be okay during pregnancy.

level 2
Original Poster9 points · 8 months ago

I am not smoking during pregnancy and have already begun decreasing meds. Thanks for the lookout, though!

level 1

You could get two unlimited cricket phone lines for $100. That saves $150 a month. Your have to buy your phones outright but there are plenty of cheap options.

level 2

I keep telling people about my Virgin Mobile plan. Paid for my phone outright, currently using a Galaxy J7 ($200) which is not fancy but good enough. Unlimited phone, text, and data ( throttled after 1G/ month) for $35/month. I thought that was great until I got my wife a Pixel ($800 outright) and Google Fi for about the same or less price per month. I really don't understand why folks pay so much for cell phones if they have wifi at home.

level 3
3 points · 8 months ago

Yeah, Fi user here. You can find a used 5X for less than 200 if you look hard. Then sign up for 2GB/mo plan and they refund you for data you don't use. It's pretty freaking amazing. Wife and I usually pay between 50-70/mo combined. They recently added USC as a carrier so coverage/performance is usually awesome. They also give an xmas gift every year :)

level 4

I strongly advise against buying LG 5x or Nexus 6P. Both have a lot of problems and unreliable.(5x had not loop problem with almost every unit and 6P had horrible battery). I would recommend Nexus 6 or pixel first generation.

level 3

You had me at 1Gb/month for $35

No thanks I’ll stick with my 7Gb/month for $40 (AT&T).

Some people don’t work in places that don’t offer wifi.

level 3

Yea, crazy to think their phone payment is a mortgage payment and a half...

But when you accept that you don't need the newest iPhone (buy a 6S for 200 on swappable) you can still have a nice iPhone and pay way less on an mvno.

level 2
Comment deleted8 months ago(1 child)
level 3

What company do you use?

level 2

I pay $30 ($33.13 with taxes and fees) a month with T-Mobile for 100 minutes, unlimited texts, 5gb of 4G internet (Netflix, YouTube, etc don't count toward this). Get a Google voice number and the minute limit doesn't even matter. This is a prepaid plan that I brought an outside phone to.

I don't see any reason to pay what OP is paying.

level 3
Original Poster1 point · 8 months ago

Locked into a contract with Verizon. Would like to get out but am paying per month for my phone and would owe that money.

level 4

Take a look at t-mobile or other providers. Sometimes they offer to pay you out of the existing contracts.

level 4

One thing I would do: ask your HR if they have any employee discount agreements for Verizon. In my area it seems like most employers do (usually 15% or so.)

level 4

Set the term end-date on your calendar and do not renew. The credit card debt you have will be there for at least a year, so you'll need to be findings ways to cut costs for years to come.

level 4

At the rate you are paying you would be better off in just a few short months even if you had to break the contract.

For example, we have 4 phones on Ting. We pay about $50 a month total.

level 4

You can still call and ask them to lower your bill. There are some carriers that will reimburse you the early termination cost if you switch to them. Point out to the rep on the phone what other carriers are charging and politely ask for a discount (politely but firmly)

level 2

Hell, you can get two unlimited TMobile lines for $100

level 1
57 points · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

Ok. Deep breaths. This is something you can handle.

This is a tough spot but very doable to climb your way out. The biggest thing will be figuring out where your money is going. Your budget looks like a surplus of $500 every month but your credit cards say you are spending far more than that. If you were just breaking even, credit cards would be st zero. Obviously there are expenses you are not accounting for.

Most important first step. Either pen and paper, some kind of app, or a shared Google doc, you and hubby need to start writing down every single penny you spend so you can actually see where your money is going and where you can save.

Do y'all usually get much of a tax return? If you do, two things. One, use that money towards debt, not some luxury for the household. Also, change your withholding so that you bring home more every paycheck and won't get a return next year. A little more each month can make a big difference.

It would help to know the debt and equity on your home and how the deal is structured with your father in law. I know you said you would not give up the house. This is still a very large part of the equation and must be looked at. Perhaps there us some savings possible while keeping the house.

It would also help to know the kbb value of your car that you owe 7k on and if your family has a second vehicle.

If you can make a couple cuts and either you, your husband or preferably both find a way to bring in a bit more each month you will climb out of this quickly. You just need to keep better track of your expenses and the way out will become clear.

Make a plan and stick to it and soon you will be financially stable, a child in your arms, and a secure retirement in your future. You need to remember that when cutting luxeries such as eating out seems too painful or tracking spending seems too stressful. You have a bright, beautiful future ahead of you. There is just some assembly required.

level 2
Original Poster7 points · 8 months ago

This was probably the most reassuring thing I’ve heard yet. Thank you so much.

level 3

You are most welcome. If you ignore the negative nellies in here who like too toot their own horns, this subreddit has a lot of people who love giving advice and guiding people. Many of us have been in very similar situations and had to learn the hard way. Maybe one day you will be the one on Reddit giving a little hope to someone feeling overwhelmed.

level 1

You are on the right track. Acknowledging the issue and confronting it is in many ways the hardest part because when you ignore it you have no control. Taking control is what will allow you to make the necessary changes.

So I get ~$4300 from your list of expenses, which matches your expected $500/month excess. In reality you probably left many expenses out, which is why you don't really have $500 left monthly, but rather have a lot of credit card debt - because all of those things missing from your list get put on the credit cards which allow you to (temporarily) spend more than you earn.

The only answer to getting out of this is to track every cent that comes in and goes out. When you don't track everything, there are all manner of leaks that are what eventually sink you. Tracking holds you accountable, and allows you to plug those leaks. So start there. With an extra $500/month you could be out of this in a relatively short period of time even without cutting any of the other items on your list! Find where that missing money is going, and cut back until your income is greater than your expenses. That's it!

From your list, the things that stick out to me are your phone and grocery bills. Phones could conceivably be cut to ~$50/month total on basic prepaid plans. Groceries should be able to cut by 1/3. Together that frees up another $400/month. With other cut-backs to re-gain that lost $500/month, you could, theoretically, dig out of this within a year or so.

Good luck!

level 2
Original Poster6 points · 8 months ago

Thank you - that’s so exciting to hear. I’m hopeful and ready to get to work.

level 2

This is good advice and you are a nice persom for taking the time to write it.

level 1

Can you shave a bit off your grocery bill and maybe shop your car insurance again, then put that toward the credit card debt? Also can the phone bill come down any?

Paying the minimum on cards charging you interest can make very little progress, maybe instead of using the "extra" at the end of the month on personal stuff like eating out put it toward the debts.

level 2

To add onto this, one of the best ways I've shaved money off my grocery bill is by using r/eatcheapandhealthy. That took me (single man) from around $75 a week (lots of random snacks/shit I didn't eat) to roughly $30 a week.

level 1

I won't do the math for you, but please take the time to read my entire comment --- twice. It is long and it is complicated, but I have been told by more than a few people that it has helped them make sense of their situation and to get out of debt.

If you want financial stability and peace of mind, this is advice not just for now, but for the rest of your life.

You must track your spending. All of it. Unless you have been tracking expenses in at least as much detail as indicated below, you spend much more than you think you do.

What do you spend each month for these categories and any others that you can think of? You can guess at the beginning, but eventually you should track expenses for several months, especially for the variable categories like food or gasoline/petrol.

  • rent or mortgage

  • utilities

  • food -- in two parts: groceries for home, food out (restaurants, coffee shops)

  • tips at restaurants

  • child care -- maybe separately for babysitting

  • household items (Scotch tape, thumbtacks, etc)

  • laundry expenses (whether at home, or at laundromat)

  • eyeglasses (if you wear them check for inexpensive glasses; I am not affiliated with Zenni)

  • Internet

  • Netflix and similar entertainment subscriptions

  • cable

  • phone (landline, cell)

  • vehicle fuel for the month

  • vehicle repair

  • vehicle maintenance

  • parking

  • car insurance

  • driver license

  • vehicle registration

  • renter insurance

  • life insurance

  • health insurance

  • gym membership

  • pet expenses

  • personal care (hair, etc)

  • clothing replacement

  • laundry and/or dry cleaning

  • incidental purchases (the coffee at the convenience store)

  • etc

  • etc

  • emergency fund -- to which you must contribute each pay period until you reach the goal you set.

Some of these are annual expenses (car maintenance, driver license). Break them down to monthly. Every month put the money aside -- and track it.

People tell you to go to various subscription websites for this, YNAB for example. If you're already deep in debt, why would you want to spend more money? Start with a spreadsheet or even paper and pencil and a calculator. But TRACK THE EXPENSES, every . one . of . them.     Every day.      This takes ten minutes at most. You can afford that time.

Now that you know how much you spend, and on what, decide what you can reduce or eliminate. (This is dificult. This is also necessary.)

This is your budget. Over time, as you get accustomed to living on a budget, you might adjust these numbers; for now, your decisions should give you a budgeted amount per category and a total amount of expenses. Both of these numbers are important.

Base your budget on what you need to spend, not on the idea of spending all your income --- or more. After all, that's what got you in this mess, isn't it?

At the same time think about income and debt.

For income, you want to know your average monthly take-home pay. If you're paid once a month, that's easy to know. But suppose you're paid weekly. Then multiply your weekly take-home pay by 52 and divide by 12.

For example, take-home income of $400 a week x 52 weeks = $20,800 divided by 12 = $1,733 a month.

The other way is to multiply weekly pay by 4.33, the average number of weeks in a month. In this example, $400 x 4.33 = $1,732 a month. Close enough.

I am going to use this amount for the rest of my comment. The amounts are just numbers; substitute your own numbers.

(If you earn salary plus commission, make a budget that based on the salary alone. Use the commission to reduce the debt. Also, if your company pays bonuses, don't count on them in your budget. When you get them, use them to lower your debt rather than splurging on a vacation you can't afford.)

Next, look at debt.

List all debts separately, with the amount owing, the monthly payment, and the interest rate. You need the APR to better decide which debt to eliminate first. For example

CC 115,00014.7336
CC 24,05021.6150

You can sort these in whatever order you think best; lowest balance to highest makes more sense to me. If you do this in a spreadsheet, you can sort in various ways, play with various calculations, etc.

Now you know your expenses, you know your monthly debt payments, you know your income. You now do the math to see how much is available for other things, the spread between expenses and income.

Let's assume that your necessary living expenses add up to $1,000, and the debt to $325.


Call it $400 for convenience.

Because your objective is to reduce the debt to zero -- why would you have any other objective? -- let's add $200 a month to the debt that has either the lowest balance (snowball method) or the highest interest (avalanche method) -- whichever seems better suited to your situation and your psychology. However, I am going to suggests a slight twist on either method.

While you do this, you should do two more things about the debt.

First -- here's the twist -- don't reduce the payments on the other debts from where they are this month.


  • you can afford to pay $xxx this month,

  • and you've measured your expenses accurately,

  • and you're sticking to your budget,

then you can afford $xxx next month and the month after that, etc.

If these are diminishing-minimum-payment debts, like credit cards, paying more than the current amount will reduce the interest you pay each month, because the extra payment will reduce the balance. Saying that differently, keeping a level payment will reduce the debt faster because the interest is calculated on the outstanding balance.

If you can't afford to continue to pay the current minimum, try to pay a little more than the minimum next month, and then continue to pay that amount thereafter. This provides a psychological advantage, because when the first debt is paid off, the second is already lower than it would have been if you had been paying only the minimum each month.

For car loans, that may not be possible, but paying extra can shorten the loan period and cost you less interest. Call the lender to find out how to have the extra amount applied to the principal, not toward next month's payment. You might not be able to do this with automatic payments. If that's the case, continue the auto-pay (you did set up auto-pay, didn't you?), but send in the extra money by check, with instructions. Ask the lender how to do this.

(If you want to pay your mortgage at a faster rate there is usually a clearly-shown way to pay additional toward the principal. If there's not, ask the lender how to do this.)

Second, stop adding to your debt

  • Put the credit cards away.

  • Don't take out more loans.

  • Go on a strictly cash basis.

  • Don't buy what you can't pay for from the spread.

Yes, there are emergencies and things that cost more than one month's spread. Yes, they must be dealt with. But this is general advice.

The other $200 from the spread could be partly play money, partly long-term saving, partly building up an emergency fund. If your debt is large, you should keep the play amount low until you have an emergency fund.

Here is a non-emergency example of unexpected expense. By non-emergency, I mean a situation where you don't have to give someone money this minute.

You have set your budget as described, with $200 for savings and fun. But your washing machine breaks. You REALLY don't want to buy a used machine, and a new one will cost $500. But buying a new one tomorrow will require using the credit card. Don't use the credit card. Use a laundromat until you can pay for the washing machine in cash. Stop any fun spending, maybe reduce the long-term saving contribution. Squeeze the budget a bit. Remember that you could dry most of the laundry at home on a clothesline. You can also take your own detergent to the laundromat so you don't have to buy their expensive stuff.

Here is a semi-emergency example. You get a flat tire, and the tire is not repairable. A new tire of the brand you prefer costs $100, and you have only $50 in your emergency fund. This ONE TIME I would allow you to add to the credit card debt -- but only if you promise to add another $50 to your payment next month. But first, try to find a used tire, or a cheaper new tire. This isn't the time to worry about whether your car is totally pimped out.

If there isn't a surplus, you have several options:

  • sell off unneeded stuff -- short term. This also has the advantage of de-cluttering your living space, which also the work to keep it clean, and reduces your stress

  • Increase your income --- second job -- longish term. May also hep you learn new skills & explore new job choices.

  • Decrease expenses -- long term (reduce Internet cost, eliminate restaurant meals, limit vacations or vacation spending, reduce grocery cost by changing eating habits -- this doesn't mean "starve"). this is not as difficult as you might imagine, as you'll find out after you critically and honestly analyze your spending.

The general term for this is "living below one's means." As you get out of debt, build your emergency fund, and operate on a firm financial basis, monitor your expenses, keep control of your spending, and enjoy a life with less worry and stress --- you will be able to increase your discretionary spending, add a little more luxury or fun items to the budget, and enjoy a life with less worry and stress.

Depending on your exact situation, some of this might not apply, but much will. Good luck with this.

level 2
Original Poster5 points · 8 months ago

Hi there, Thanks so much for the help. This is very detailed and resourceful. I once did a budget like you described (multiplying by the 4.33 of weeks for monthly income rather than 4) but I stopped. I’m definitely going to try to get this down ASAP. I’m in kind of an emergency situation right now (no food for groceries or car insurance after paying our bills) and I want to scream. I have nobody to blame but myself.

level 3

Blaming is natural, but right now not helpful. You can do this. But you must concentrate on it.

Figure out which bill you can delay paying with least harm, and use that money for groceries. Be mindful that you're still digging yourself deeper -- but starvation isn't going to help.

Rice is a great, cheap, staple. It keeps for long periods if you put it in plastic or glass or metal containers (rather than the plastic bag it comes in). Rice and beans gives you protein and carbohydrates.

Rice and a little cinnamon and sugar gives you a nice dessert.

level 4
Original Poster2 points · 8 months ago

Thank you. I have more than enough in my cabinets. It’s just the over-spender in me wanting to stock them up with even more shit. I’m actually excited to go through my pantry tomorrow and meal plan based on what I have.

level 5

Every so often, we shop the pantry & freezer only!

level 3

Food banks are your friend.

level 2

Also mint is very good way to track all transactions at one place. Plus it tells you how much you spent on each categories such as home, shopping, restaurants every month and more. Very useful in my opinion.

level 1
Wiki Contributor12 points · 8 months ago

Check out /r/EatCheapAndHealthy for great, tasteful options. Pro tip: start slow. If you go on a spending spree to acquire all the spices and bulk purchases they recommend it can be a big financial hit. Pick one or two recipes, learn how to handle those and acquire the ingredients and tools you need slowly. That will help you kick the restaurant habit and turn restaurant meals back into a special occasion for you.

If you are a teacher, you are very well positioned for tutoring, coaching, or after school work which can be remunerative. Additionally it is a better professional fit that working retail or other options - there's no embarrassment to be had in meeting a parent of one of your curent students when you're tutoring.

Third, check out and enter your current debts. That will permit you to evaluate various payment strategies and schedules to see what can be doable for you. I'm concerned that you aren't listing the credit card interest rate - are you unaware of it? Stop using your credit cards immediately until you can pay them all down to zero. Credit cards should be used for convenience, purchase protection and points - not to finance a lifestyle.

Fourth, make a real budget. You mention you overspend on restaurants but don't list restaurant charges in your finances. Use a tool like, , or a spreadsheet to account for every penny of income, expense, debt and assets.

As for your dogs' special needs and personal medical situation, re-evaluate what you're paying and shop around for different options. Often people find that you can maintain the same quality of care with different options. You're spending over $100/wk on your dogs, which is $5200 a year. I treat my dogs pretty special too and I would struggle to figure out how to spend that much on them. If, for example, you're paying for grooming try and figure out how to do your own grooming at home. Your dogs will appreciate the time with you and if they don't end up perfectly coiffed, they don't care and with practice you'll get better. (I once dyed my dog blue trying to whiten its fur. The dog did not notice. I got better at it.)

Additionally you are paying $340 for phone and internet. Wow. Start bargain hunting, check out /r/cordcutters , cheap phone providers like , etc. Often people think they need smartphones or that it is a requirement of their job; you don't need a smartphone and if your job requires a phone they can pay for it.

You don't list out any retirement funds,emergency funds, health care savings... ? This is an issue.

Delaying pregnancy and childbirth until you've got your financial house in order is wise. Your child will benefit from being in a financially stable home, and you will be better able to afford a parental leave of absence from work and usual loss in salary that results.

Good luck, stick around for continued advice and I hope someday you will see you have improved your financial skills enough to help advise others!

level 2
Original Poster4 points · 8 months ago

I should also note that I am tutoring, and didn’t factor that in. I’m making $120 a month cash from a local family. I also get side gigs resume writing and stuff. I’m in the second leg of the interviewing process with a company that would add nearly $500 take-home a week to my income. Cross your fingers and toes for me please.

level 3
Wiki Contributor3 points · 8 months ago

If you're looking for more tutoring jobs, check out the test prep organizations - they sometimes pay well and have felxible schedules.

level 4

Sites like Fiver could be great too! They don't always end up making a lot, but if you do just 7 quick resumes a week then you could have dinner out every week at no cost to your regular budget!

level 5

Dinner out is not frugal :-)

level 6

Dinner out is not frugal :-)

Oh it is indeed frugal.

if you look at the definition of frugal.

economical in use or expenditure;

So what is economical?

giving good value or service in relation to the amount of money, time, or effort spent.

If someone is spending additional time, specifically to do something (Doing fiver gigs to go to dinner) then they are receiving good value for their time and effort.

Frugality is not about spending the least it is about getting the most value, and that is what we are talking about. Do not underestimate the value of a weekly success celebration in a cut back period, especially one you are paying for with new funds.

level 2
Original Poster3 points · 8 months ago

Thank you so much. The dogs are most expensive because of his prescription food. We are in the middle of a food trial with a brand that is a bit cheaper than his hydrolyzed diet, so after we find out if he reacts maybe we can play around with other kinds more. That $400 goes up after winter. One of my dogs has severe food and environmental allergies, and in the summertime his medication costs $4 a day along with his allergy shot $100 a month. It’s tough, but we had the hang of it for a while...I just lost control at one point. I have no savings and I’m really embarrassed about that. As a kid, my mom would cash out our trust funds and savings bonds to buy us toys and stuff. I’ve never been a saver. I have $20 in my savings right now that I’m trying like hell to keep, but I just paid my bills and I’m left with nothing for food or gas. I don’t know what to do.

level 1
9 points · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

How many people are in your household?

You spend more on groceries than I do and we are a family of 5. I try to spend no more than $100 dollars a week. ($20 per person)

I can do this because I plan meals by the week and buying whatever the grocery store is having a sale in. I plan meals based on the ingredients that I built that week. I create a menu for the week and store items by menu item so that if I’m working, someone else knows exactly what to make and how to make it or what ingredients to pop into the crock pot.

We used to buy food for the month but stuff would spoil because we didn’t use it in time or we made other meals so planning for the week has saved use a ton of money.

If you’re trying to cut out eating out, invest in a crock pot so that you can set it before work and not come home from work super hungry that you get some fast food because you’re too tired or too hungry to cook.

We use coupons for cleaning stuff and other house items like toilet paper, razors, personal hygiene stuff.

Edit: I also work for a school district, and we are unionized so we get discounts on many products and services. Check to see if you can get a discount on your phone bill or your car/home insurance.

level 2
7 points · 8 months ago

I was thinking the same. 600 a month is kind of crazy for only two people. That is a enormous amount of groceries.

level 3
Original Poster2 points · 8 months ago

Not so much the amount, but the type we buy. I’m a vegan and tend to buy a lot of the cool, over processed fake stuff. I’m definitely moving away from that, though. I spent $120 a week last week...trying not to spend anything this week...well, can’t anyways - I have no money.

level 4
9 points · 8 months ago

Are beans and rice not vegan? I would definitely look at the /r/eatcheapandhealthy subreddit for ideas. Even bring vegan 600 a month is outrageous

level 4

Your local public library likely has books on how to eat cheaply, like:

Frugal vegan : affordable, easy & delicious vegan cooking

Author: Katie Koteen; Kate Kasbee

Publisher: Salem, MA : Page Street Publishing Co., 2017.

level 4
3 points · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

You can def stock up on canned beans, beans, rice, canned veggies. Check to see if your store has any specials on vegan friendly items and eat produce that is in season.

If you are buying beans and rice, check ethnic stores as they sell these items in bulk for waaaay cheaper than bigger known stores as these are staples in countries around the world.

Eating vegan/vegetarian meals is no reason to be broke. Try YouTube recipes that can allow you to make huge portions while freezing some so that you can have them on hand.

Learn to make some of your favorite vegan food items so that you’re not paying so much.

Mind Over Munch has a lot of great vegan recipes and meal prep stuff.

level 4

Thug kitchen is a great vegan cook book. Nothing overly fancy, delicious food, and pretty cheap recipes. I’m not even vegan and I love it.

level 4

That's a lot. I used to spend less when I lived in NYC.

level 1

Don't bother to shop your insurance or phone bill or whatever other suggestions because your problem is fundamentally larger. It's not that your expenses are too large (well, they are, but it's not the root problem), it's that your spending behavior needs to be readjusted. No amount of free phones and cheaper insurance will adjust the mentality of spending so you have to tackle that first - otherwise you're the type of person that would save $100 on the phone bill only to have spent $150 more on your credit card for two coffees, a cute new dog bed, and that shirt that's on sale but really you didn't need.

You are not the type of person that can use credit cards. You are not using them correctly, so they have to go until you can readjust your habits.

Shred all of the CCs including husbands. Don't close the accounts, but cutting the card will make it much easier for you to not spend (because the card isn't physically in your wallet).

Pay in cash for everything INCLUDING PET FOOD/TOYS, and debit for online bill payments. This should hopefully decrease your fluffier spending because you will physically have no money to use.

Then, you need to tackle your cc debt. How much are you currently paying - the minimum or sometimes not even that ? Is it auto pay?

level 2
Original Poster1 point · 8 months ago

I completely agree that my mentality needs to change. This is a true disorder that needs fixing. $500 left over per month isn’t bad for a person who has no debt, but I lived beyond my means for too long. I have a tutoring job that will bring in $120 a month, so that’s a plus. I’m planning on putting that in savings. And by savings I mean my husband is going to hide it on me. My dog expenses are hardly frivolous, but mostly medical and prescription food related, so that’s an area that’s hard to cut. I pay the minimum on my cards each month. Never missed a payment, but obviously not making a dent in it either.

level 3

I have a tutoring job that will bring in $120 a month, so that’s a plus. I’m planning on putting that in savings. And by savings I mean my husband is going to hide it on me.

Why would you put this in savings? You have 10,000+ in debt, not counting the delinquent water bill. You need to throw it at your debt!

level 3

There are a few cards you could eliminate over the next few months with that 500 dollar surplus and then hen yo would have leftover from eliminating those minimum payments. Let’s say the minimum on cc 2 is 50/m; you pay that off with next months extra and now you have 550/m to pay off your debts.

Some will say pay off the one with the highest interest first which is really good advice. However, paying off one (or several) balances in full might give you encouragement.

level 1

Your phone bill seems exorbitant. Can you go into details on what this category is? Is it just data? Home phone? Cell phone payment plan to own the phone? Same with groceries, I think this is a good place to cut down by about $100 a month or so. You can start smaller.

I would set up a savings account and direct deposit a certain amount into it each month. Maybe $300-400 of your leftover budget, just to hide the money from yourself. If your problem is impulsive spending, then that is what you'll want to do. Also, if your problem is impulsive spending, then take your credit cards and physically cut them up, but don't close any of the accounts. Transferring money to zero-interest cards, if possible, is a good first step. When that is as complete as it can be, don't pay down the zero interest cards (except required min payments). That is, don't pay them down until you pay down the highest interest card first. Zero interest is a reprieve from having to pay, it is not a "pay me first" setup.

Where you should direct your money is a balance between high interest credit card debt and a small emergency fund. The latter is more important to set up first.

Long term, the best advice we can give you is to rethink those two budget items that take up half of your budget right now. You a bit above the 1/3-of-take-home rule with your mortgage, and while I can sympathize with wanting to keep your pets, you need to take care of yourself first.

level 1

Stay away from your financially disastrous mother. Resist the inevitable entreaties for help that will come when she gambles away her last cent. Sounds callous, but you have to put yourself and your eventual family first.

level 1

I’m reading some of these monthly expenses and wondering how my household budget could support it, so first of all congrats for juggling all these balls on a $48k income. You are obviously experiencing stress from keeping so many balls in the air at once!

What’s the APR on your home loan? Refinance it if your rate is higher than today’s and you have the equity and appraisal value. Use an insurance broker to investigate your home insurance and auto insurance and shop the policies out.

To consolidate your credit debt (besides the already-said option to do a transfer to a 0% card, which I like but not for people who have shown that they are in credit debt by opening a lot of lines of credit) if you have equity in your house, an option would be to take a personal line of credit with your bank against your equity and use it to pay off all your credit debt, then make a plan to pay it down. Usually you’re talking about a reasonable couple percent like of credit. But you’ll have to treat this like “emergency debt” and pay it off as soon as possible.

I’m not sure how you get to a $250/month phone bill, but I would start there and try to halve that bill.

Overall, this will be painful for you to hear I’m sure, but you are in a hair-on-fire emergency and it sounds like you are living well beyond a household with $48k income. Do whatever it takes to adjust your lifestyle to fix your spending habits, and use the proceeds to pay off your debt. Remember how much this situation sucks for the next time you’re tempted to get a little into debt.

I’d recommend reading a lot and considering every last opportunity you have to change your lifestyle permanently. Check out the blog Mr Money Mustache - great starting material. Pick up a copy of Rich Dad Poor Dad too. Best of luck!

level 1
5 points · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

Take-home pay is $4800/month

Mortgage: $1690

Seems okay comparatively. How's the upkeep costs budgeted for?

Phone: $250

This can be four times lower for the same experience. I suggest you research options of buying second hand phones and different subscriptions.

Groceries: $600

Reasonable but could be lower for a standard diet.

Dog food/care: $350-450

If you're struggling, then this is too much.

Utilities (heat, water, elec): ~$200

Reasonable, but it might be worth finding out if your house is energy efficient related to insulation, adjustment of the heater, etc. Do you heat at night? I don't. etc. I suggest you research your options.

Internet: $90 (only provider in area)

Normal for the US. Does it include TV? Because you don't need TV. Internet options are better and cheaper. Does your phone subscription allow tethering? Because you could cut this one entirely if you can surf through your phone.

Car payment: $250 + Car insurance: $120 + Gas: $140

This is a little high. You're paying 370 before driving one mile.

Do you need to budget for maintenance and depreciation? What about car or road taxes?

I pay 230 usd (converted from euro) before driving one mile all inclusive (insurance, gas, taxes, depreciation, maintenance) for a second hand car that I own outright (and is safe, roomy, fast, not bad looking, but not so fuel efficient).

Medications: $150 (I am a medical marijuana patient due to a pelvic floor disorder)

All credit card payments (minimum): $400

level 1

So our monthly, take-home pay is $4800/month

Monthly Expenses:

Mortgage: $1690

Phone: $250

Groceries: $600

Dog food/care: $350-450

Utilities (heat, water, elec): ~$200

Internet: $90 (only provider in area)

Car payment: $250

Car insurance: $120

Medications: $150 (I am a medical marijuana patient due to a pelvic floor disorder)

Gas: $140

All credit card payments (minimum): $400

Outstanding Debt:

$600 water bill

$4,800 credit card #1

$500 credit card #2

$900 credit card #3 (no interest if paid off by March)

$900 credit card #4 (his)

$2800 credit card #5 (his)

$300 store credit card

$150 store credit card

$7k owed on car

level 2
3 points · 8 months ago

Thank you

level 1

$600 is insane for groceries for two, though it depends on where you live.

Shop sales and stock up on those meats. Once a few weeks go by, you'll have a freezer full of rotating items. I just bought 16 chicken thighs and 4 giant steaks for $30. Five bags of frozen veggies and I can literally feed myself great dinners for 20 days for $40. I'm not part of the "live off rice and beans" crowd, so I'm not saying eat the same bland meal every day, but you should be able to cut that grocery bill in half just by paying attention to what you're spending.

level 1

I completely understand not wanting to sacrifice your dogs' care. That being said, your phone bill is HIGH - that should come down immediately. If you don't need all the bells and whistles, try going for a pre-paid plan or something way cheaper, like T-Mobile or Cricket Wireless. Your food bill should probably be more eating at home, which should decrease your bill by quite a bit if it's just the two of you. And I don't know where you live, but is there a way you could potentially refinance your mortgage for a lower rate/lower monthly payment?

You should begin listing out your debts in order, either by total amount or by interest rate and paying 'em off in order. Minimums on everything but the one you want to focus on, and every cent you have to spare should go into that one debt. Until it's gone. Then you do the same to the next one, with bigger and bigger $$ amounts going to each since you'll be done with loans as you go so those minimums get rolled into the new payment.

You'll get there. Those $500 credit card bills will go faster than you think!

level 1
4 points · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

so the funds seem to disappear rather quickly.

This suggests that there is no tracking of expenses during the month. Make and then stick to a realistic budget.

I will not budge on are: costs for my dogs ... $600 [delinquent] water bill

Are pets more important to you than being current on utilities?

level 1

First of all, I am NOT an expert on anything financial, but about two years ago I found myself in a situation similar to yours - I had gotten myself in debt close to $9000 and needed to get it paid off ASAP. First thing I did was pay off the smallest credit card balances and then cut up or just hid those particular cards so I would not be able to use them anymore. For my two cards with the highest balances, I looked for a 0% APR balance transfer - they are not too hard to find as long as your credit score isn't terrible. I transfered everything onto that new card and made a budget of paying it at least $500/mo. I stopped using credit cards for a while until I could trust myself not to spend irresponsibly. It took a lot of work to stop by bad spending habits, but I was able to pay off that debt in about a year. I still allowed myself a little spending money here and there, but never anything too crazy. I'm now in a place where I pay off any balances each month and also save about $700/ month. It's crazy how much more money you have once you're not spending it all paying off old debt!

level 2
Original Poster1 point · 8 months ago

My credit score kind of blows - my student debt drags it down. Plus, my credit card utilization is extremely high. I will look for balance transfers, though, and hopefully can go that route. I would transfer and then cut up that card, too, so I couldn’t use it. I really look forward to a day where I can say I’m saving like you. Congratulations on your success!

level 3

Wait... you have student debt? That's not even on the list!

level 3

Are the student loans on forbearance or something?

level 4

Maybe she's gunning for public service loan forgiveness?

level 5

You still have to make regular payments if you want PSLF.

level 1

I'm not gonna be much help elsewhere, but I also work for a school district and a very popular second job could just simply be to drive buses. Our transportation director always needs subs and he can train anyone to get them a CDL.

level 1

To help with the credit cards, if you make regular payments and haven’t missed any, I would call them and explain that you are heavily in debt and trying to fix things. Request a lower interest rate temporarily. I got myself in some trouble about 7 years ago now and had 3k in credit card debt that I couldn’t pay. I called them and pleaded my case and was told by the first four or five people I spoke to that they couldn’t help me and I would need to just pay up. I just kept asking to speak with their supervisor (in a very polite way saying things like “I understand that you don’t have the ability to help me and appreciate you are limited in the options you’re authorized to offer and appreciate your time in trying to assist me. Would it be possible to speak with your supervisor?”)

Eventually I got a manager on the phone that was so kind and understanding that she gave me a 0% interest rate for two months and cut my interest rate in half after that. She also halted all collections calls (I was getting 2-3 daily from them) and put my account back in good standing. I remember crying because I felt so overwhelmed and relieved. It was just the break I needed to get back on track.

I’m aware this is not a normal occurrence but you only have time to lose by trying.

level 1

I can help with the food part! I run a food prep blog. I feed three people for cheap at home by planning out a menu with healthy variety and pack meals for the week. :)

level 2
Original Poster1 point · 8 months ago

Thanks!! I am a pescatarian (no red meat, bird, cheese, or milk)...any chance you’ve got some good stuff?

level 3

I make all the things. Vegetarian and vegan too. I link a bunch of recipes too.

level 1

Let's start with some basic analysis: Money in = 4800/mo Money out = sum(Mortgage, phone, groceries, dogs, utilities, Internet, car, medication, gas, CC minimums) = ~4300/mo Buffer = 500/mo


That's a pretty small buffer to work with but it should be enough to get back on your feet. Let's start on how to get as much use out of it as possible: Do this stuff together with your husband because it only works if you're both on board.

  • Start tracking every penny you spend, and write it down into categories. If that's too much, then do every dollar or every 10. The more detail you use the more it will help you. Don't guess at anything just write it down immediately or keep the receipt. Don't worry about changing your spending habits yet, just get it all on paper.

  • At the end of the month week or month, make a spreadsheet & see if there is any category you are spending a lot of money in compared to the amount of fulfillment/longish term joy you get out of it, and any where there is very little compared to what you get out of it. For example, maybe time with the dogs is more valuable to you both than time spent eating out (since you mentioned that was something you probably need to cut down on), so you can use your together time to visit a dog park or something, instead of eating out. As another example, if time going out with each other is more valuable than the food you eat when you eat out, move some of that money into groceries and find another activity/hobby you two can enjoy together.

  • Repeat this each month. As you slowly increase your fulfillment/dollar ratio, you should find that you're less tempted to spend money in frivolous ways.

  • If you are tracking your spending in enough detail you'll probably find there is some kind of item you each buy on impulse very frequently, that you forget about soon after. Mine was candy bars, yours could be anything, maybe it's some kind of food you enjoy in the moment but that doesn't fill the void in your soul, or maybe it's growing that miniature-snow-globe collection in a drawer somewhere that you never look at or enjoy. for a lot of people it's clothing, shoes, or games bought on sale just because it was on sale, or tools bought when starting a new project, and left to gather dust after one use. Make an effort to cut down on this kind of spending.

This should hopefully be enough to get out of paycheck-to-paycheck mode.


Next, budgeting: (Like in the last one, you both need to be on board with this)

  • I like to keep things simple. 2 checking accounts and 1 savings account are the core of my budgeting strategy.

  • Checking account #1 is for recurring payments. This includes most of the "money out" list above. Your mortgage, utilities, phone, internet, CC payments, and car payments can probably be set up for automatic bill pay, so tie them to this checking account, and set up your direct deposit to also go into this account. This is also where you set up automatic transfers into your savings or investment accounts so you don't have to think about it and it gets done each month. Keep some minimum amount of money in here to make sure that the account can cover all of these payments so you don't have to worry about it. I don't even carry a card with me for this account, so I don't fall to the temptation to spend out of it.

  • Checking account #2 is for purchases. Each week transfer what you need for groceries, the dogs, medicines, gas, and a little bit extra for date night or fun, but make sure the balance in #1 stays enough to cover what it needs to. If #1 gets lower than where it should be, you'll have to tighten your purse strings a bit on this department. Also take the opportunity to verify your automatic payments are going through. What I did with my account here was I set it up so the bank would not overdraw this account. If I go over budget, I can't spend anything until next week.
    Note: You may want a checking account #3 and separate fun money from gas, dogs, groceries, and medicines, so you don't put yourself in a situation where you're stuck without any of these things. I recommend not "borrowing" money out of #1 because that's really just screwing over future you.

  • The savings account is for longer term purchases. Since you're in recovery mode this is basically just your emergency fund for now. Set up automatic payments out of account #1 to fill this a little each month. Any surplus past however much you think your emergency fund needs should go toward paying off those CC balances. (Decide if you want to put this towards whichever card has the highest % interest rate, which gets them all paid off faster; or if you want to put it towards whichever card has the lowest total balance, which provides motivation boosts each time you pay off a card and makes it easier to keep doing this long-term). Once the CCs are paid off you can start putting this surplus toward investment goals or larger purchases like a vacation.

This should help with the willpower aspect, and make sure that your debts get paid.


Increasing the buffer:

  • Set some time aside each week to look for better paying jobs, or to work out a way to get a raise, or come up with a side hustle that gets you some extra income.

level 1

That phone bill is huge, are you still paying off the purchase of a phone?

level 2
Original Poster2 points · 8 months ago

Yup. And in a contract.

level 3

How long until it’s over and how much to buy out your contract (also which carrier)

level 1

Your phone and groceries are super high methinks. You also need to evaluate your budget more, as you have too many cards with balances for you to really be having money left over. Unless that is all very old debt, you are likely spending a little more than you should. Also, that is a lot of do food, are you raising cerberus in there?

I would suggest itemizing very clearly. Potentially, if you find you have issues spending, leave all your credit cards home. What store cards do you have? A lot of the time I hear "store card" it is stuff you can return to get the balance back down.

I would suggest, because I support the mental break it gives, paying down cards by order of lowest balance. This will free up cashflow that improves every month. In month 1 you should theoretically be able to pay off the 2 store cards, next month credit card 2, etc. So you should be able to get them down fairly fast, and your monthly minimum payments will be falling too.

level 1

Read the agreement on the $900 no interest till March card. Sometimes those cards have a very high retroactive interest rate if not paid off by the time the offer expires. Which depending on your starting balance could be huge. If that is the case paying that off needs to be a priority.

level 1

You can cut that phone and food bill in half, easily.

level 1

It will be okay. You have taken first big step of admiring that there may be a problem, good job.

Focus on few things at a time to change your spending habits. I could see you could reduce few things like - why are you paying $250/mo for phone.

I would create a spreadsheet with a plan to reduce debt each month. Start paying off higher interest debt first. If you have some 0% APR balance transfer offers from credit cards, it may be very worth paying the transfer fee if it's lower than your debt.

Be patient, you will see fruits of your hard work paying off within a year. God bless my friend.

level 1

You could pay off all but 2 of those credit cards in march with the 3 paycheck month and then cut them up.

level 1

I don't have a lot of time to post anything detailed at the moment, but I will get back to you.

However, your phone bill looks to be very high...look into switching providers, and going with a cheaper carrier like Cricket, Republic Wireless etc.

level 1
3 points · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

If you get paid bi-weekly, there will be two months a year you get an extra paycheck. Where does that $5k go? Spread out over the year, that is an extra $400/mo. Edit:typo

level 2
Original Poster1 point · 8 months ago

Good point. Thankfully we just started the new year so I can plan in advance.

level 1

Lots of good advice here. I just gotta say that $400 on dog bit much. My wife loves her dog too, like more than me almost, but i just convinced her to stop the pet insurance (better to just open a savings and transfer the money to there) and to stop buying animal vitamins (quality food should be giving them all the nutrition they need).

Good luck here OP amd dont forget to give us an update down the road

level 2

OP said her dogs have special needs, and that that spending isn't up for discussion. Medical bills could easily get to $400/mo.

level 1

OP, how man dogs do you have? 400/month on dogs seems ridiculous. You can get a huge 30lb bag of dog food from Costco for like 30-40 bucks. Will last a while.

Or is that medical debt from a surgery or something?

level 2
Original Poster0 points · 8 months ago

I have two dogs - one has severe food allergies and his food costs around $150 per paycheck, so $300 per month. My other dog has behavioral issues so we have a behaviorist appointment every 6 weeks or so ($95). Plus meds. $400 is probably really underestimating. Yes, debt is from emergency dental work.

level 1
  1. theres no reason your phone bill should be 250 dollars a month. tmobile 1 line starts at 55.

  2. theres no reason internet should be 200 a month.

  3. 600/mo on groceries? AND you spend another 200/mo on eating out? how???

  • reduce your phone bill. you shouldn't have to spend more than 150 AT MOST. You could both have phones for under 120 as stated above

  • reduce your internet. yes this might mean a drop in speed or removal of TV if that's part of it

  • realistically 2 people should be able to survive off 4-500/mo for groceries (this includes food + non food such as bathroom etc). start learning to shop around and shop cheaper stores

You could probably also reduce costs on dog food if you shop around / learn to make your own, but I will just make a passing mention of this since you seem to be picky about the dogs

just by doing this you should be able to reduce spending by 300-600/mo, before even considering the 200 you plan to save by not eating out

this is just my opinion, but I think this is not something you will be able to repair in a years time, I would reconsider this being the year of pregnancy

level 1

In addition to saving money, look into bringing more in to your household. There are various computer-based teaching/editing freelance jobs that you could do for a few hours every weekend. Just remember that if they're freelance, they won't withhold your income taxes. Before my most recent move I would edit college papers on while binging Netflix on the weekends. I would knock out $200+ dollars a week while working my way through the Tudors and pointing out where people messed up their commas. I know they recently changed things but it might still be an option. There's also a current phenomenon of teaching ESL online with various Chinese companies (disclosure: I work for one of them). You can generally set your own schedule with a little bit of lead time and because China is 8-12 hours off of the USA, you can teach before or after school or weekend mornings and evenings. A few extra hours can bring in an extra one or two hundred dollars (pre taxes) a week. You can also buckle down when on vacation or decide that you're going to take it easy on yourself.

Best of luck! And give your pups some scruffies!

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