Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not quite on track, but SO much better!

Two months post discharge I have some new information about myself.

Firstly, we both did what we've always done when things go from super tight to having breathing room. We spent. We went out to eat more, bought some of the things we'd been wanting, and generally took that month's non-essential funds and went wild. Splurged. Binged.

That lasted for about a month in the acute stage and then over the last 3-4 weeks tapered off. Now we're able to look at the budget more and start getting on track.

It is SO very nice not to have to worry about whether a flat of blackberries is going to put us over for the week. It is so very nice to be able to get all our Christmas shopping out of the way over a month early and take advantage of sales. It's so very nice to not freak out when the pantry runs low. It's just so very nice.

I wish I had filed bankruptcy sooner.

First Challenge

There were some issues at work lately (major stress) involving an ex-employee who mishandled personal information of several patients. It came to light that they had not required a background check for this position, even though it deals with private medical and financial details.

I recommended that they start making that a requirement for the position.

Then, I printed out a form I found online that gave them permission to do a background check on me, which includes a credit check. I also wrote a formal letter stating my support of the policy.

I have yet to hear anything about it, so I'm not sure if they've run it yet.

I can't think that a bankruptcy could interfere with my new position. I'm getting a lot of kudos from the owners and from the patients and I'm taking on a lot of extra responsibility. I've been told that no one in this position has ever tackled it like I have. But I do have concerns.

If it turns into anything I'll be sure to post it here. At most I would imagine they'll ask me about it. Why did I file? What were the circumstances? How are are finances now?

Monday, October 4, 2010


So I'm officially off the hook for all my dis-chargeable debt. Which is all of it, aside from a $12,000 student loan.

How does that feel?

Pretty darn good. I have to say, however, that once the initial filing and 341 meeting was done, I somewhat put it out of my mind. I knew there was a chance that an issue would crop up, but I didn't dwell on it. After the first 30 days post-341 I mostly didn't think of it at all. The last 30 days flew by.

What would I have done differently?

Well... I would have filed a lot earlier. It was a fairly painless process that mostly required the ability to fill out a ton of worksheets for the lawyer and then wait. And wait. And wait. It definitely stretched my patience. Other than that, it was easy. This seems to be the general answer that everyone on the bkforum website give as well. They wish they'd have done it sooner.

What are my next steps?

Well, for one, I've got a reminder note to check my credit in about 75 days, including paying to see my credit score. They said to check it after 60 days, but I'm going to give it an extra couple of weeks, just in case something takes a bit longer. At the end of the week I'm going to call Tampa to get some certified copies of the discharge mailed to me. I had thought I'd receive one via the mail, but the only notification thus far has been an email with an attached pdf from my lawyer's office.

After everything has been straightened out I need to figure out which cards still work. I'm not sure if any survived the fallout. If one did, then I'm going to use it for something like gas or groceries and billpay a check to pay it off as soon as I return home. I figure if I get a monthly "pay as agreed" going on, then that's the best way to start. Next I'll start paying my student loans as soon as my deferment has expired next summer.

Job Update?

We're both working. It's a huge, huge change. The kiddo is in daycare and she loves to go to "school". We're both working full time.

Our expenses have increased. We're spending more on gas, food, and childcare than we were before, simply due to the change in circumstances. However, with adding that additional amount into the budget, we still have about $1000 left over to split between our FSA and savings. (FSA is for all the things we need that are random or scheduled but not monthly, such as the car breaking down, replacing a water heater, or car insurance.) After the FSA is funded we don't have a lot for savings, but it keeps things that are going to happen from becoming emergencies.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I got my CH7 discharge notice today!


Monday, September 20, 2010


Well... I got the call!

I start my new job today. Yikes! Found out at 3:00 yesterday. Today is an observation day with my "real" first day starting tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Job

Hubby started his new job this week. It was yet another pay cut, but so very welcome for the steady income and opportunity.

He interviewed early this week and started on Thursday.

It's a load off my shoulders; with our income there is not a penny extra outside the budget, but there is enough. Enough for the house, enough for food, enough for health insurance and gas and utilities. Enough.

I have a potential job that I've been working on getting. Two interviews so far, one test, and one more test this weekend. I hope to find out soon.

In all the craziness of the past few weeks of interviewing and such, we checked out several local day cares. The little one is all signed up and ready to go as soon as I get word that I'm hired.

Cross your fingers for me?

Friday, September 10, 2010

*throws up hands*

Bankruptcy Status: No news is good news! About 30 days left in the 60-days club.

Interview Count for Hubby: 5 interviews in 6 weeks
Interview Count for Me: 0

I do have an interview today at 3:00. I would be an excellent choice for them. I'm not just saying that, either; I know I can land this job. The only question is whether or not they're actually going to pay enough.

It's really frustrating to look through craigslist.org and some of the other sites we use. It's obvious that the majority of companies are taking advantage of the sheer number of hungry unemployed workers and paying as little as possible. $8-$12 for bookkeepers (oh, and please have a 4-year degree and be bilingual), minimum wage-$9 for office help, maybe $10 for an executive assistant. It's crazy.

Today I have to really steel myself. I have no idea what the position pays. Very few list that on the job sites. It's a waste of our time and theirs! I'd never bother to apply to certain ones if I knew they were paying peanuts, and to go through the interview process and get all parties excited only to find out the pay is terrible... ugh.

So part of me is expecting to laugh out loud at what they're going to offer this afternoon. Then I have to decide if it's worth taking a job that pays very little compared to what a fair wage actually is. If it's more than retail, then isn't that great? If it's more than nothing...

If I sound a little disgruntled it's because we've sent out over 100 resumes and had very little response. The number of jobs posted each day is still significant, but those that apply to our skill sets are limited, and then ones that pay more than he's making on unemployment are few and far between.

I hope I go in there, find it's a great place, and get a decent offer. *crosses fingers*

The other thing I noticed is that people are not negotiating. If they don't like what you're thinking you should be paid, they don't even counter offer. They simply thank you for your time and hire the person who requested less.

On a job where the range is $x-$y, I don't understand this. If we're within the $y amount, and a great choice for the job, why choose someone who's asking $x but has less experience? If you only want to pay $x, then only offer $x. Does that make sense? Why even dangle that carrot?

And people are taking the jobs for less. "A job to keep a roof over my head? Heck, I'll do it for a waiter's wage and pray like hell I get tips, just HIRE ME!"

Hubby's response to the whole thing is, "I could work at Target for $8.50 an hour and have no responsibility. For $10.00 an hour to do what I was making $44,000 a year for, and have all kinds of responsibility isn't worth it."

Now I feel like a cocky primadonna who's too good to get my hands dirty.

But that's not it.

I helped my dad at his retail shop from the time I was 12.

I got my first job on my own as soon as I turned 14 and was made third key within a month. I held a job all through high school, all through college, then did two internships (one unpaid, one paid min wage, both were about 4 months long). I took an entry level job at the next place so I could work myself into the position I really wanted. Then, after going to school again, I started my own business, working part time while I built it.

I've paid my dues, damnit. I don't want to file and fax and lick someone's shoes for $9/hour. I was making a hell of a lot more than that just eight years ago.

Okay... this turned into a rant. Sorry!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The 400.

My husband had an interview at a placement agency that used to be in our town but is now located about an hour away. (They consolidated and the new office handles a significant territory.) The recruiter was very impressed with him and he aced all of the various tests and showed excellent software proficiency. They had already filled the position he had applied for, but she's keeping him in mind.

In the meantime, she told him that for the average job opening, employers are receiving, on average, about 400 applications.

Holy cow! That's a LOT of competition.

I figure that very few of the 400 average applicants are a threat. They either won't know how to write a resume, won't put time into a cover letter, or won't be qualified for the position. Most of the out-of-work people I know are applying for everything they can and stretching their background to try and cover it.

Still, it leaves many, many potential workers who are skilled, who have experience, and who are hungry.

In the three weeks he's been unemployed we've sent out well over 40 resumes. He's had three interviews.

The first went well, but they found someone with experience with their software.

The second was for the placement agency. I have hope that if anything in our area opens up, they'll consider him.

The third is where he is at this very moment. My fingers are crossed. Prayers have been said.

No word on the bankruptcy front. And no news is good news. I'm assuming they were able to notify Capital One and hope that nothing is going to happen to screw up the discharge.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alright, what else?

We were playing outside. Frisbee and hula hoops. We were having a lot of fun.

Hubby noticed that the fan on the A/C was spinning more slowly than usual and it started to make an odd noise.

A little later we went back outside to check on it. It made a terrible sounding noise (we both stepped back from the unit) and the fan slowed to a halt.

I was due to be somewhere, so I left him instructions of who to call and what to do. I took my leave and throughout the evening found out:

- Companies can come out immediately, day or night, as advertised, but the service charge is VERY inflated for them to do so.
- It was very likely the capacitor.

The next morning we awaited a call from the company whose number was on our unit. Turns out they did not contact us "first thing the morning" and hubby called them to find out what was going on. Apparently this was not the company that serviced us after we purchased the house; they had the old owner's name in the system. They'd be out "sometime in the afternoon".

We found our company's number. They had a tech there within a few hours. Turns out the compressor shorted out and took the capacitor with it. We'd known that if this happened we'd be SOL. The unit is 10 years old, a 10 SEER system, not supported anymore, and very hard to find parts for. We'd learned this from our home inspector as well as the A/C checkup/maintainer guys last summer.

We had figured we had a few years. The unit was doing okay, though the air handler inside was clogged with mold and dust and rust (which hubby cleaned up as best he could, not having the $800 to pay for them to do it). It ran. It cooled. Our average electric bill was about $160.00. One of the goals we had after filing was to save up money towards the A/C.

Nope. Caput. Done. He showed hubby a few things that made sense to him as far as it being truly broken and not just a sales technique. A new part, should they even be able to find it, would cost about $2000. It made sense to get a new system.

And, best party, they could install a new one that afternoon.

We called the office manager who checked with their financing company. Hubby was turned down. (I, of course, could not apply.) I was shocked. He has really good credit, even great. It was good enough to get a good rate on the house, we've made every payment, he has no other debt except for student loans. They couldn't tell us why. She offered to try their secondary company, and I agreed.

I also ran upstairs to log into his BOA account (with his permission). He has a credit card that we don't use. In fact, when he got the new card in the mail after the old one expired, we snipped it right up. No more CCs for us, no siree. Well, we might need it, and I had no idea even what kind of credit limit he has.

$5500 at 16.9%

For those who haven't bought a new A/C lately, they are rated by SEER. Higher SEER levels indicate higher efficiency, and there are tax credits from FPL as well as the government. 13 SEER is the least expensive unit and the least efficient currently available. (This is all based on very limited research and may not be entirely accurate.)

A 13 SEER system (a huge improvement over our old system) for our house was $3918.00. That includes installation, removal of the old system, a 10 year warranty, and one year of service.

We could have gotten a larger system; we certainly have enough room on the BOA card to do so. However, we decided to get the most basic system.

Was that a mistake? Ask me in a few years. We only knew that we have a senior citizen with a bad heart living downstairs and a 2 year old living upstairs. For us we could do a few days without A/C to price shop. For the other family members, there's no way. We got what we could "afford".

Yeah, yeah, we don't have income right now, so we can't "afford". I should say, instead, that it was the most affordable option.

I called the office manager back after getting the card number off the statement (hubby called and begged for the expiration date). Turns out we qualified for the financing.

At 5 years the payments were just over $100/month at 17.9% financing. This was a percent over the credit card, so we didn't go with that.

4 years had an APR at 14.9%.

3 years had an APR at 13.9%.

If hubby gets a source of income, we can swing the $133.00/month payments over the next three years. It's not an ideal solution, but it works.

If he does not get a job, it's still covered, though it gives us less for food.

By 4:45 we had a brand new A/C system and $4000.00 more in debt.

I have a Feeling that something's going to happen to/break down in the older car in the next few weeks. You know how "when it rains, it pours"? Yeah. I have a Feeling.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Financial Details

This is what I figured out.

"Gift" Income: $500
Disability Income: $644

Total = $1144

This will cover our mortgage with about $50 left over.

Unemployment @ $275 x 4 = $1100 + $50

Health Insurance $475
Life Insurance $55
Car Insurance (Paid for six months)

$620 remaining

Averaged FPL bill ("Budget Billing") $160
Water/Sewer $130
Phone/Internet/Cable $155
Medicine $40 

$135 remaining

(Sidenote: I realize that the internet and cable are both luxuries and that we can drop them if need be; I have a feeling my mom will pay this bill if we have to drop it. I called and got another $10 customer retention credit per month over the next 12 months by telling them about our situation.)

EDITED: A/C Payment $133

That gives us a whopping $2.00 a month left over for gas and food.

I know that doesn't seem like a whole lot, but figure that since he got 2 weeks of severance we won't "need" to touch the unemployment and can roll what would be "extra" in our normal budget to go towards food and gas. 

It helps to know that we won't be losing the house or having the lights shut off. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

One Week Later (Than "Oh Crap")

It's been a long week, but it's also gone by quickly.

My daughter has absolutely loved having daddy home. As have I. I almost feel guilty because there have been so many times I've wanted a long vacation or wanted a break from being the 100% stay at home parent.

There are many opportunities right now.

I've gone into super-focus mode and have revised both of our resumes (two versions for me), looked through every single job available on three websites (jobfocus.com, monster.com, and craigslist.org), copied anything even close to what we qualify for into a document, set up new emails for both of us that are more professional, and sent out resumes and coverletters to each of those opportunities. I've also looked for new entries the past few days as well.

Thus far? Not a single interview had been scheduled. It's been less than 72 hours, though. We waited until Monday to start sending them out. Sent out a bunch Monday afternoon and evening, more on Tuesday, and a handful today.

Really, this couldn't have come at a better time. Because we don't have to worry about my debt anymore (assuming that the discharge happens, and I have no reason to believe there will be issues) we've got more wiggle room.

- We both find full time jobs and put the kid in daycare.
- One of us gets a job and the other stays home.
- We both get part time jobs and share "stay at home" duties. (I really like this option.)
- We both try to freelance and make ends meet while we look for jobs.
- We both apply for as many jobs as possible, but I get a retail job ASAP just to get some money coming in.
- We win the lottery. (Lol.)

I'm not giving up on our financial goals just yet, but right now survival might be the only goal we can focus on.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Capital One

I received an email from my paralegal's assistant. Apparently the address I pulled off the bill from Capital One for bankruptcy notices was incorrect. (I may have copied it wrong onto the piles of paperwork I filled out or they may have inputted it incorrectly.)

If a company cannot be notified then it's likely that debt won't be discharged.

So you better bet I was on the phone within a minute of getting that call. I got a different address (different state, even) from C1 and emailed that back to them. I also included their regular address for correspondence, figuring it can't hurt to have them send a notice both places.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oh Crap.

One week and one day after my 341 meeting I got a call from my husband. It was 8:03 in the morning. "I'm on my way home. I've just been laid off."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Budgeting Experiment

I know that most people who visit my blog are looking for bankruptcy-specific things, so if you're not interested in my own experiments in budgeting, please feel free to skip this one. I'm trying to keep us out of debt again in the future so it's relevant to me.

I recently switched my way of budgeting as an experiment. Instead of spending $140 a week for the three of us (including all household items, food, and eating out) I spent $20 a day. Yes - $20 x 7 = $140, so it's not a difference in amount, rather in timing.

The first thing that changed was that I was shopping almost every day. Now, I'm out and about town and the grocery store and fruit stand are pretty much on my way home from everywhere, so this wasn't a big deal in regards to time or gas. (Though I did notice the kid expected a cookie at Publix every time we went. There were some tears involved.)

One of the rules that I made was that I could buy two days worth of food if I was some place like Whole Foods and did not want to make two trips as it's out of the way. So I might spend $40 on Monday, but it would cover Monday and Tuesday. Three days at a time was my max, and I tried really hard to buy for each day.

The second rule was that I could not borrow ahead. If I wanted a super special meal or to eat out or something like that I had to wait until the money was available. I couldn't use Tuesday's money to pay for Monday's food.

One of the things that I noticed was that I got a lot less food. I've changed my eating habits some recently, so this didn't affect me a huge amount, but it did make me feel a little pantry-paranoid.  I've been a big fan of thegrocerygame.com and using coupons and stockpiling. Suddenly I wasn't coming home with $60 worth of free food after spending $100. I was spending $20 and getting $20 worth of food.

The reason for this is two-fold. One, it's harder to use some of the coupons I've gotten used to. The Albertson's ad comes in the mail and often has a $5/$50 coupon. Publix takes competitors coupons. Two, the things I'm buying are much more whole-food and don't usually have as many coupons.

I should add another reason. I'm not getting the best price per ounce. If I only have $3 left to buy salsa, for example, I'm not going to get the big jug that will last us for weeks and weeks. I'm going to get the small jar that only lasts a few uses. (We love salsa and went through the stuff I made really fast, so we're back to buying it until next tomato season at the local farm.) Another example is when buying training diapers, I'm not buying the giant pack and saving $0.05/each. I'm buying the smaller pack which costs $10.99 or $8.99 if on sale.

I was, however, eating much healthier and I was excited about all the different things that I could get. Instead of making a menu for several days, I would figure out what I wanted for supper and plan on leftovers for lunch the next day. I'd get a few different snacks. We made the switch to grass-fed organic meats. They taste better and are healthier for us. We switched over to only organic dairy and local grass-fed organic milk. Both these things are more expensive. (Though the milk is only $0.70/gallon more at the fruit stand than regular Publix milk is at Publix.)

I'm not eating grain right now (that's a whole other topic, not one that's really relevant, I don't think) so I didn't stock up on things like spaghetti and crackers and bread and rice  and popcorn like I normally do. My pantry is a little bare right now. That makes me a little nervous.

The experiment was exciting for a few days. More like a week, actually. But then things like cat litter and diapers needed to be purchased. Suddenly I had to figure out how to eat on only a few dollars a day and do it on my new diet guidelines.

I decided to keep my budget at the $140/week but to go twice a week, roughly $70 every three days. This is somewhat where I'm at now, though I'm not as strict about it. I was getting pretty anal about the $20/day. We compromised on the grass-fed beef and decided that whenever possible, we'll go that route. However, if we're not able to get enough other nutrient-rich foods with our budget, we'll get regular meat. (We've looked at buying 1/4 to 1/2 a grass-fed local cow, but we don't have the money saved up right now.)

Sinking In...

Wednesday was my 341 meeting. Thursday I was feeling it a little bit. I was experiencing an almost PMS-y time. I'd be suddenly light, as though the weight was newly lifted off my shoulders, and then flip to teary and blubbery.

Friday I was distracted by a bit of a tummy bug. Saturday we rested as a family. Sunday we spent time with a friend.

I talked to my husband and asked him to give me until Monday (today) to kind of get my head in order. He agreed. He's a supportive guy.

I would recommend anyone take a few days post-341 (and likely post-discharge) to be gentle with themselves. Don't stress out about little household chores that can easily be done in a few days without much damage. Try not to make any big decisions, financial or otherwise. Avoid arguments with family and friends.

It's incredibly unlikely that any of my creditors will complain, so I'm expecting no news until I get my discharge. I'm trying to be relaxed. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What would I do differently?

I was thinking of a few things I would have done differently if I could go back in time.

- I would have filed way, way sooner. I can't believe how long it took me to come around to the idea of bankruptcy and accept it as a very valid and reasonable path.

- I would have been less hung up on how quickly I could file. The stalls in my attorney's office were stressful for me because I had expectations that weren't very reasonable.

- I would have brought more quarters to Tampa!

Other than that, there's very little I would have changed.

- I'm happy with my attorney.

- I'm happy I brought my daughter.

- I'm VERY happy that I gave myself an extra hour to get there, get parked, and get to the building. I needed it!

60-Day Club!

I'm sitting here, on my couch, slightly stunned. I was so busy taking care of my kiddo today that it hasn't really had time to sink in... it's over. The big, huge, scary event that I've been terrified of for months is now a part of my past.

The drive up to the court in Tampa was a pain. I hate Tampa. Always have. I was armed with directions and a good idea of what it should look like. I'd been there with my mom in 2005 and I'd looked at the street view on Google maps. I was set.

Except... there was a ton of construction. Nothing looked familiar. The only thing I recognized from Google was the building with the above-road walkway thing. (Luckily, this was where I needed to go.)

I called my lawyers office. Voice mail. Damnit. I called again and hit 0 instead of the extension option. The lady that answered was super nice and very helpful. She gave me some ideas of where to look for parking and, finally, I found a metered space that was open.

I pulled in without any damage to my car or the cars around me. (I'm not very confident with my parallel parking skills. Luckily, Tampa has generous spaces!) I got the stroller out, the diaper supplies out, the toys out, and finally, got my daughter situated.

When I went to Publix the other day I got lots of $1s for the various tolls. Unfortunately, I hadn't thought to get quarters. The parking meters ONLY take quarters. And it's $1.50 per HOUR! Holy cow! I had just enough for an hour and a half and crossed my fingers that it would work out. (Side note: the town I live in does not have metered parking.)

We walked the four or five blocks to the courthouse. I'm so very grateful that I've been working on my direction sense. It's normally terrible. I figured out how to get there with no problems, even though I had to detour an extra block due to a sidewalk being closed.

There wasn't any line for security. Which was awesome, because I am clueless about that kind of thing. I had to show my photo ID, empty my pockets, unload the stroller, push her through, then go back through myself, answer questions about the contents of my purse (I have an epi-pen, which apparently got flagged as they asked about it), let them examine the stroller and it's storage areas, and then recollect all my stuff.

We hit the bathroom and then headed to the courtroom. In 2005 my mom was in the room directly across from where we went, so it was a little deja-vu like. We waited in the back. The kiddo was amazing. I mean I could not have asked her to be any better than she was. I am so very proud. (Another side note: she spiked a fever of over 102 degrees last night and was still feverish this morning w/o meds. She felt okay after Motrin kicked in, but without it was miserable.)

I watched a few cases as best I could. No one was assigned a home visit from an appraiser, which surprised me as I was terrified it would happen. Apparently MDFL is appraisal-happy according to what I've read on www.bkforum.com. The trustee was respectful. He seemed to have a little less patience for people who were wishy-washy or putting on a "poor me" show. Yet when one lady genuinely bust into tears, he was very compassionate (still in a professional kinda way).

The lawyer showed up and popped his head in, called my name softly, and then helped me get the stroller out into the main area and into a conference area. Babygirl got out and shook his hand and then was silly for a few minutes. I'm so very glad we had this time because when my mom got called up she had no idea where her lawyer was; she didn't recognize her! It was very reassuring to have talked to him beforehand.

He gave me the following advice:

- Answer all questions honestly and completely. Then shut up.
- Do not offer ANY information that's not asked for.
- Speak clearly and with authority. Give short answers.

Then he told me a few questions that the trustee might ask. (There's a really great list of these somewhere on the internet... I should find it and link to it.)

Then we went back into the room. He said we should sit up front so that the trustee would more likely call us next.

We watched one case together. At one point he leaned over and whispered, "this is exactly how not to answer questions." The lady was wishy-washy about everything. "Did you read the form that explains the difference between the types of bankruptcies?" "I think so. I'm not sure. If I did I think I read it online and not a paper handout. I'm not sure."

We got called next. My daughter was very good and he was kind to her.

I handed him my FL driver's license and my SS card. He read both. "This is case number ... with filer ... ." He swore me in. "I have in front of me .... with her DL and SS card. Please state your name and address for the record."

I did.

"No creditors are present."

He looked at my paperwork. To my surprise he asked me the least questions of anyone. He didn't ask why I had filed bankruptcy or why my husband wasn't filing with me. He confirmed the car I owned and then basically asked me if the form was complete (yes, sir), had I listed all my assets (yes, sir), did I read it before signing it (yes, sir), and so forth.

The only non-everybody question he asked me was about my business. "I see here you used to have interest in a business."

"Yes, sir."

"Are there assets remaining?"

"Yes, sir. They are listed in my paperwork."

"Could you give me an idea of what kind of assets those are?"

"A massage table and some facial equipment."

"Is that all?"

"Yes, sir."

My lawyer interjected that it was a very small business and made a few other comments along the same lines. The trustee nodded at him and looked again at my petition then moved on.

"This concludes the meeting of creditors."

If my kid hadn't been with me and been slightly distracting, I would have been done in under five minutes. It probably took ten with her.

I met with the lawyer again. He told me that they (the creditors) had a certain time period to object. He said, "they can't just say, 'hey, we don't like this!' there are only a few cases they can report against you." Then he asked if I had committed fraud, transfer of assets, etc., to which I answered no. He told me that I should get my letter of discharge in approximately 90 days and wished me luck.

We stopped at a play place in St. Pete and had lunch while we were there. She was feeling pretty good (I had re-Motrined her before we got called) and had the energy to play. It probably wasn't the best mommy move, but I needed fun and she had been SO good in the courtroom.

Then we had a long drive home. It still hadn't hit me. I talked with my mom and reassured her that she hadn't even come up in the conversation. She was greatly relieved. I'm so glad that she's supportive of me; after all, she's been through this too.

So now I'm a member of the 60-day club. Woo!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Next week...

My 341 is next week.

I haven't had much to say. Getting the paperwork in and making sure they had what I needed was the hardest part. Everything else has just been waiting. And more waiting.

Next week will be a big weight off my shoulders. I'll be in the 60 day club!

I did complete the 2-hour training. My lawyer uses Hummingbird. It was pretty much basic financial knowledge and then I had to do a test afterward to prove I watched it. (The test was random words that I had to write down at random parts of the video, six total.)

I received a piece of paper from the court stating that I have completed all required documentation. So that was good. I had to reread it twice to make sure it was a good thing! It was written in legal-ese.

I'm still planning on taking my daughter with me. Both lawyers recommended that I do so. My appointment is before 10:00 so I'm thinking of making a day of it. Go up, do my 341, panic in the car for a few minutes afterward to get the stress out, take the kiddo to MOSI or something, and then hit the all-you-can-eat wing place on the way home for lunch.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

341 Scheduled!

Just got an email from my lawyer's office that my 341 has been scheduled in July in Tampa.

Monday, June 14, 2010

No mail yet...

Supposedly I will receive a letter from both the court and my legal firm when the filing is completed and a 341 date has been assigned. I still have not heard, but then I didn't expect to until later in the week. *fingers crossed*

I'm nervous yet calmer than I was the day I filed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Post Order

Posts from prior to the actual filing of the bankruptcy paperwork are labeled "before we filed".

Now that I've actually done so, the posts will be labeled "pre-341".

I think after that will be "60 day club" followed by, hopefully, "post-discharge".

More filing thoughts

I came home the other day feeling shaky and nauseated. I really wasn't ready to write about things and wanted to take a few days to process.

I think it comes down to the fact that every attorney, even if board certified in the same area, will have differing opinions based on their own experience with clients and trustees. What they both told me might be equally true. He made a good point, "it's ridiculous that how you do something is more important than the end result or the intention."

When my name was removed from my mother's account I "gave up my right to half of what was in the account on the day it was removed". Which means that I gave up quite a bit of money, and the fact that she spent it on other things doesn't mean a whole lot.

That said, they can't exactly go after her. They can, but because all that's in her account are her social security funds she's basically "judgment proof".

She should have written a check to herself for all but $20 in that account, opened a new account elsewhere, and then took my name off. I'd be "giving up" $10.

I discovered I'm under $1000, which is the FL allowed amount. (I also found out this amount was written into the state law years and years and years ago and that it's not been updated.) Prior to updating a few things on the list I was just a tad over, but now I'll be filing no asset.  Yay!

Likely they will not send someone to the house, he said, because it costs them to do so and chances are there's nothing about me that will set off the "I bet she's hiding a lot of stuff I could sell!" radar. It's not guaranteed, but he can't see why they would.

I had to claim 1/2 of everything we own jointly. It was my understanding that they could not take anything that we own jointly except up to the amount of joint debts, of which we don't have any. This is true, if they use a particular part of law that makes those items property of the marriage. He said that if I went over the $1000 then we'd invoke that, but if it's only $995, why draw attention and have it possibly challenged?

I felt like this guy was really competent. He'll be at my 341 meeting, and I feel like he'll do a good job.

I also paid the final $299, which was for the filing fee. My bankruptcy is officially 100% paid in full.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Final Paperwork

I met with the lawyer who will be at my 341 meeting. We went over every piece of paper piece-by-piece, talked about some possible complications (namely mom), and I signed and dated many times.

There were a few changes that needed to be made (which annoyed me--the paralegal had weeks to look over my very detailed paperwork and double-check her work) but nothing huge. He'll take it back to his main office, make the changes, and then file electronically either tomorrow, Thursday, or Friday.

I'll receive a notification from them and one from the state with a court date.

I have more thoughts, but I don't have time to get them down right now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Finally! A Date!

After another longish period of time reviewing my paperwork, I have finally been given a date to meet with the other attorney and file. Yay!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Imported/Merged Blog

Way back in the day I wrote a blog called "Taking Control of Our Money". We were determined to get out of debt and I wrote a blog to help me focus.

I've imported these posts. The "Old Blog" tag will display these posts.

I hope you enjoy them. It's hard to look at these now, knowing how determined I had been and exactly how horribly we failed.

Thank goodness I opened it...!

Bank of America has a very distinctive envelope. I've been putting all my correspondance aside in case the lawyer or trustee needs to see it.

Luckily, however, I opened this one.

I didn't look too closely and so didn't notice it was addressed to my husband. He has a BOA card but we never use it. It was a $69.99 balance with $15 minimum payment.

SO glad I looked at it so I could pay it. We thought we canceled our Norton auto-bill but they still charged his credit card. I'm annoyed. However, it's a good idea to charge a few things occasionally (and pay them off in full immediately) so that the credit card keeps reporting. At least that's what I've read.

Waiting... Still waiting...

Ack. This is taking sooooo long.

I sent hubby to work last week with the stack of paperwork we needed. (The paralegal never responded to the email asking what would suffice since what she asked for doesn't exist.) He scanned it, sent me the PDF, and then I sent it to the paralegal. She confirmed receipt the same day and said she just needed to go through my paperwork one more time and then set a date for me to meet with the attorney again.

*tapping fingers on table*


Okay... any day now. Right? I can finally file, worry about the 341 meeting, and then join the 60 day club, and then be free from these bills?

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I heard from the lawyer's office last week on Thursday with a request for more documentation.

I replied, stating that some of it was not possible to provide, and clarifying what would be needed for others.

On Friday she replied. My paralegal would be out of the office until Monday. She'd forward my questions.

I still haven't heard.

I think I'm going to go ahead and get together what common sense tells me will be the most likely to be accepted items.

One request was for January and February bank statements for the new bank account. Well, we opened it in March, so those don't exist. That one's easy.

However, to prove we get a monthly gift from my mom... what do we need? I'm going to write a letter "from" her, print it out, and have her sign it.

They requested disability statements for the six months. Well, we don't get those. What we do get is a yearly benefit statement. I can copy that.

The last one was for a few extra pay stubs, which is easy-peasy.

I feel like the ball is in my court and that I'm the one holding everything up. I just don't want to do/send the wrong thing and delay further. It's a little stressful compared to when I'd given my big ol' stack of everything. That was a weight off my shoulders.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Just got a letter stating that my APR on the Chase account was finally raised to 29.99%

At first... GULP... then I realized that it's not a big deal. They can raise it to 153% and it won't matter because I'm filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

I can breathe deeply.

Getting things in order

Things are starting to fall into place. I still haven't heard from the paralegal about what else she might need (hopefully nothing). Aside from not knowing when my next lawyer meeting will be, and thus being able to go ahead and officially file for Chapter 7, things are going well.

I've made excellent progress at the chiropractor and am in much less pain. I've caught up with most of my healthcare visits (dentist, well-woman, etc.) and am collecting my bloodwork results as they come in. We've reorganized parts of the house and it's much cleaner, calmer, and more open.

All in all the stress is reducing every day a little bit more.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I sent my attorney-assigned paralegal a "helpful" email asking if there is anything she needs or if I can help in any way. I was advised to "nudge" her this way, to be polite and helpful, and to do so about once a week.

Hopefully I'll be able to officially file within the next few weeks!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Paperwork Submitted

On Sunday I did the "collect all the misc. paperwork the forms ask for" dance and the "double check to make sure I didn't miss anything" boogie.

Today I brought a huge stack of papers to the lawyer.

He said he was impressed that I had done all that in a week and that it was so organized and thorough.

Unfortunately the paralegal appears to be a little busier now and it will take 2-3 weeks just to get everything entered into the computer. Then I have to do the final review and sign the forms, which requires an appointment with the other lawyer who's only in town one day a week, sometimes two.


I had really hoped to hit the end of April. Now it looks like we'll file just before the first paycheck of May, probably around the 14th. (Hubby gets paid last day of the month and the 15th; disability hits on the first.)  I'm not happy that I'll be 60 days late with my accounts. I had really hoped to be 30 days late and file just prior to the 60 day mark.

He suggested that I sent a "helpful" email to the paralegal in about a week. Does she have everything she needs? Is there anything else she's found that I can send to her? He said to do that once in a week and again in another. "Squeaky wheel gets all the attention, but you'll be a nice squeaky wheel," he said. Hopefully I gave everything they need and we can get this done more quickly.

I found out that if my husband opens a savings account in his name only he can save part of his paycheck by having it direct deposited into that account. Since it's his money and he's not filing, there's no reason why he can't save some. Yay! Of course, I'm going to the dentist in May, so chances are there won't be much to save, but still... it's a start.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How could I have missed this?

I got a letter from the IRS today.

I know, right? My heart started pounded, just as you'd imagine.

All kinds of things floated through my mind. Were we being audited?

The letter said they noticed a mistake on our taxes that changed our refund amount. It offered a toll-free number and asked that I call them.

So I did. And they were very polite.

Turns out my husband got part of a credit through the VA and had claimed it again (our accountant is awesome, but not infallible) when we filed. The result was that our refund was $250 less.

I panicked. We already received our tax refund. Did I have to send a check?

Turns out they adjusted it prior to sending the refund and all is well.

Truth is I had simply noted the amount in our account had gone up about what I had expected it to. I was rushed that day. I didn't analyze it. Ugh! How could I miss that? $250!

It's happening again

Every once in awhile I come across a life obstacle that makes me behave differently. There is a holding pattern that happens. I realize it, curse at it a bit, forget about it for a few days, and then face it again, kicking and screaming.

The most notable time that this happened was when we were trying, and failing, to get pregnant. I didn't want to do certain things because I was going to get pregnant soon. Months later I'd be mad at myself for not being in better shape or not having flattering clothes, but surely I'd be pregnant next month, right? I'd hate to cause myself to miscarry (a very uninformed fear I had at the time) or spend money on nice clothes that wouldn't fit.

Now the bankruptcy is causing this holding pattern. Nothing feels "real" to me right now. Although nothing will change. On paper I'll be debt-free (except for student loans) and have a credit score few would envy. In my day-to-day life, however, very little is going to be different.

I'm going to make a concerted effort to use this as an opportunity to start fresh rather than be on hold.

One more thing to go

I simply need to finalize my list of possessions (including coming up with prices and making sure that I properly labeled them joint, mine, hubby's, or mom's) and my paperwork is done done done. I'm this close to being set for Monday. Honestly, I could have been done by now, but I wanted some separation so that I didn't miss anything.

Monday, April 5, 2010

And the calls began again...

I left the lawyer's office with advice on how to handle future collection calls:

Tell them you're going to give them my name and phone number, and that you've been advised not to talk further with them.

As soon as I got to my car I put a slip of paper with the correct spelling of the lawyer's name and phone number and slipped it into the slide-out keyboard. Then I went to Controls - Contacts - Reject List - Delete All. The block list that I had so carefully added to after each new phone number called was wiped out.

(Sidenote: All the calls have been polite even up until now, which surprised me. I had expected more aggressive techniques, but I guess since I'm still under 30 days late they'd have reason to keep my business if they can.)

Within the hour I got my first call.

Capital One

I spoke with the lady from Capital One first. She gave her schpiel. I confirmed her name and told her exactly what the lawyer told me to say. She said, "Oh, I'd be happy to take that information from you. Would you give me just a minute to pull the right screen up?" All she asked after that was whether it was a debt relief lawyer or if it was a bankruptcy lawyer, in which case my number would be pulled from the call list in her system. I told her it was bankruptcy. She said, "I've got it. Thank you so much, and good luck."


Chase called next. This time I modified my schpiel to specifically say "bankruptcy attorney". The gentleman was also very polite and happy to take my lawyer's info.

He then asked for the address. I didn't have it as I was in the car. Then he asked what chapter I was filing, which I answered. Then he asked if I had a case number yet, which I don't. Then he asked if he could know why I chose to file bankruptcy at which point I said, "I'm sorry, but my lawyer said not to get into a conversation with you." He confirmed he had the number and to have a good day.

Bank of America

Wouldn't you know, within another hour BOA called. It was another woman. She was just as friendly as the other two and confirmed they'd stop calling me and get further information from the lawyer. She asked a few of the same questions Chase did, but only what chapter and whether I had a case number yet.

It's over

And just like that all three creditors were informed that I'm filing bankruptcy. I thought this step would be hard, but honestly it was a huge weight off my shoulders.

The first big step was to stop paying my bills. The next was the time I spent dreading getting the collection calls and letters. Then admitting I was filing.

I'm still here. The earth didn't swallow me, nobody laughed or teased, and my heart didn't stop.


Official Retainer

Today I met with my lawyer again and officially retained him.

Lawyer Paperwork:

I signed a two-page document that clearly outlined what my lawyer was offering and at what price, what my responsibilities are, what extra work costs if above and beyond the normal bankruptcy proceeding, that all must be paid before filing, and so forth. I saw nothing disagreeable. I paid $200 out of the $1500 fee with the remainder to be paid when I turn in the packet of Chapter 7 paperwork.

Mom Advice:

The lawyer was concerned that she still has funds in her account. Becuase I could have gone in and taken money out (not that I would, but I could have), the trustee is going to think s/he can do so as well. However, since her income is solely from Social Security, which is exempt, there shouldn't be an issue. The money she received from her mother has been spent, as has her onetime tax stimulus credit that she got a few years ago.

The Process Now:

This is how the process is going to work from this point to filing:
  • I have to fill out the worksheet and make an appointment to go back to the office.
  • I have to gather a bunch of forms including any correspondance from creditors within the last 60 days, 6 months of bank statements, and so forth.
  • The lawyer and I will spend approximately an hour going through the worksheet line-by-line.
  • The paralegal will take the worksheet and put it into their computer system.
  • I meet with the other lawyer (the one who will be at my 341 meeting and who is also a trustee) to go over what's been put in.
  • Revisions are made if necessary.
  • The lawyer presses "send" and my Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition is officially filed.
Chapter 7 Paperwork:

I was given a very large worksheet of almost 40 pages to take home. This broke down the forms that the government uses into questions that make a lot more sense are are more user friendly. A few sections were confusing. Once I got the idea of how it was laid out it was much easier.

The paperwork also gave a "double-check" list to see if the filer may have missed any accounts. This was a long list of reminder is the form of "Do you have..." questions.

One thing that I did not like about the paperwork is that the order of "Yes" and "No" check areas were reversed frequently. Sometimes the first blank was for a yes check and othertimes it was for a no check.

I filled out the worksheet based on what forms I had previously filled out and it was very fast. I'm going to go back through and complete the few missing items now. That leaves the posession list. I think I can get that done today, revise it tonight with hubby's help, and check it tomorrow.

Reviewing Paperwork

My lawyer meeting to "officially" retain his services and get all my paperwork is at 11:15.

Little does he know I'm coming armed with a ton of paperwork already started. I hope my appointment allotment allows us to start going over it and answer questions.

I have my list of things we need to discuss, a blank check to write a retainer fee, and an attitude of patience. Hopefully I also have a babysitter!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Happy Easter (or whatever version of Spring celebration you participate in).

This weekend has been full of family and friends and it's gone by way too fast!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Can They Take?

My concern-focus has shifted over the past week or so.

I had been worried about what can they take, what's going to happen, etc. Now, as far as I'm concerned, they can have pretty much whatever they want. I just want to make sure I disclose everything and make sure that our somewhat complicated situation comes across as just that rather than as fraud, which it's not.

I'm still worried about mom's money. She's used the money for what she was saving it for and she doesn't want to spend the rest. I'm going to find a link I posted a few weeks ago that deals with our situation, write a rough draft of a letter, and have the lawyer look over it on Monday. It would be nice to have a document signed by her stating that I never had an equitable interest in the account, it was never meant to be half (or even less) mine, etc.

I'm a little disappointed in that I can't load up the car with stuff for Goodwill. Every few months I get the urge to purge and now that I'm working on our possession list it's come up again.

Revised Revised To Do list

 Change Banks

Yay! All complete except to make sure that our health insurance comes out of the correct account (mail in form for change has been sent, with plenty of time, but who knows if it will actually be processed in time) and the disability payment goes into the correct account. *crosses fingers* Everything on our end is finished, however.

  1. Change Hubby's disability deposit - Pending
  2. Change Hubby's paycheck direct deposit
  3. Change account that life insurance comes out of
  4. Change account that YMCA membership comes out of
  5. Change account that Netflix comes out of
  6. Change account that Paypal is linked to
  7. Set up new bill pay through Landmark Bank
  8. Take my name off mom's account
  9. Take my name off our BOA joint account
  10. Close my savings account and my checking account at BOA 
  1. Print worksheets off internet site
  2. Complete rough draft for lawyer to look over - Mostly Complete
  3. Copies of tax returns (2005-current just in case)
  4. Copies of closed bank account statements (6 months, just in case)
  5. Copies of W-2s from hubby - Now have past four, however waiting on filing date to know which we need or need future copies
  6. Copy of hubby's disability letter - Have but not in pile of Chapter 7 stuff
  7. 3 months of bank statements prior to filing
    1. BOA
    2. Landmark
    3. ING
  8. Copy of Roth IRA statements - Have but not in pile of Chapter 7 paperwork
  9. Possession List - In progress
Mom Assorted

Looks like I can't go any further until I talk to the attorney and find out what else she can do.

  1. Prepay for cremation expenses
  2. Pay off car
  3. Purchase travel plane tickets for her yearly family trip 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yay! It's here!

I checked our bank account and our tax refund is here! That's exciting news because it means I don't have to juggle April's funds to pay the lawyer a retainer on Monday. I can pay in full immediately.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nothing New

Nothing new to update... working on my paperwork for my appt. on Monday the 5th.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Decisions - April First(ish)

I've decided that I'm going to split April's funds (those that I'm not using for paying off credit cards but can't save as well as the premium for my auto insurance as I paid the rest of the six months off in March) in the following manner:

$200 to retain the lawyer so we can start reviewing the paperwork I've completed
$400 to buy a package at the chiropractor (I'm double-checking that this is okay with my attorney first) as I get 12 treatments for the price of 10
$45 to get oil changes for both our cars (I have coupons for $17.95 + tax each)
$45 for my lady's wellness visit

In May I'm going to get my teeth cleaned, examined, and the three cavities that I've been ignoring filled (hopefully I won't need any more).

Ideally we'll be able to actually file by the second paycheck in May which means we can start saving money in June. *crosses fingers*


My mom's Neptune Society kit came via FedEx yesterday.

In it contains various contents including the urn that they provide for her to be placed in when its time.

I had been curious to examine the items to see if they're high quality... but I couldn't bring myself to do more than put the package on her recliner.

It strikes me as very, very sad. I hope I won't have to open the box for another twenty years.

Knowing all I have to do when she does finally pass is to call an 800# is comforting, however. It was a good use of her money, albeit a depressing one.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Revised To Do List

Change Banks
  1. Change Hubby's disability deposit - Pending
  2. Change Hubby's paycheck direct deposit
  3. Change account that life insurance comes out of
  4. Change account that YMCA membership comes out of
  5. Change account that Netflix comes out of
  6. Change account that Paypal is linked to
  7. Set up new bill pay through Landmark Bank
  8. Take my name off mom's account
  9. Take my name off our BOA joint account
  10. Close my savings account and my checking account at BOA
  1. Print worksheets off internet site
  2. Complete rough draft for lawyer to look over - Mostly Complete
  3. Copies of tax returns (2005-current just in case)
  4. Copies of closed bank account statements (6 months, just in case)
  5. Copies of W-2s from hubby - Waiting on filing date
  6. Copy of hubby's disability letter - Have but not in pile of Chapter 7 stuff
  7. 3 months of bank statements prior to filing
    1. BOA
    2. Landmark
    3. ING
  8. Copy of Roth IRA statements - Have but not in pile of Chapter 7 paperwork
  9. Possession List - In progress
Mom Assorted
  1. Prepay for cremation expenses
  2. Pay off car
  3. Purchase travel plane tickets for her yearly family trip 

Lawyer Conversations

On Friday I called the lawyer's office. His office assistant is also his wife. She's got over 20 years in the business and is extremely helpful in a motherly yet no-nonsense kind of way.

"I just wanted to let you know that our estimated tax refund is going to be April 13th."

"You know you can get started before you receive your refund, right?"

"No... how would that work?"

"You'd have to pay a small retainer and then we'd get you started on the paperwork."

I laughed. "How much is a small retainer?"

"A couple hundred dollars."

I laughed again. "Then we do have to wait until we get our refund."

"You realize you'll be filing near the end of May in that case? Unless it's an emergency."

"End of May? He told me about four weeks."

"Mid-April, about two weeks to file the paperwork, and about four weeks after that. Longer if you take longer to fill it out, less if you're more organized."

I thanked her. I didn't tell her I already have the paperwork filled out, at least as best I can without further guidance.

We're going to see if we can go ahead and give them a two hundred dollars with his next paycheck so that I can move forward with this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

This feels weird

I've gotten notices from all three companies that I'm overdue. Chase has sent separate notices reducing my available credit and increasing my interest rate. BOA simply reminded me of a late fee.

After years of being so careful to pay everything on time, this just feels weird. Irresponsible. Shameful. But there's no sense in throwing more money in when I'm filing bankruptcy.

Sunday: More Phone Calls

Capital One finally caught up with my yesterday.

I told her I was aware I missed the payment and was not sure when I'd be able to make a payment. I told her I was unemployed. She asked if it was due to health reasons and I laughed. No, it's due to economic reasons. She said she was sorry to hear that and that I should call them as soon as I had a better idea of my budget and they'd work on a payment plan with me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We Want Our Money!

The phonecalls started today.

Starting at just after 8:00 this morning both Capital One and Chase called. Both called almost every hour.

I finally was in a position to pick up one of the calls.

Things I noticed:

Chase was exceptionally polite. The guy expressed understanding and tried to get me to talk more about my situation. He also tried to get me to commit to paying the overdue amount by a specific date. He was interested in how much I thought I might be able to pay, even if it was only a small amount. He said he sympathized with my situation. He also was incredibly hard to get off the phone with, and I eventually had to hang up on him.

I've heard that collection calls are generally polite and continue to get more aggressive as time goes on.

I've also heard that they try to get as much information as possible so that they can use it to try and collect on the account.

Every time I pay a bill, even if it's only $5, it resets that "clock". If I paid nothing for the next seven years it would no longer be on my credit card and I wouldn't have to repay it. Any payment at all, no matter how small, resets that clock.

It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. It took Chase 8 days to finally start calling me. I felt like I wanted to be a nice person and be polite. I didn't want to be a bitch. I also didn't want to tell him I was filing bankruptcy on this call. Why not? Because I wanted to see how the phone call would go if he thought he had a hope of recovering some money.

Capital One left a message this morning. "This is _______ and I have some information about an exciting opportunity available for you from Capital One. Please call me ASAP at _______." They called a few more times but I was at a wedding and missed all of them. I'm going to tell them the same thing.

Still no Bank of America calls. I'm sure that will change soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010


This post is more personal and has more details about decisions I need to make. It's not really relevant to bankruptcy or filing bankruptcy, but it is relevant to making choices that will affect our finances in the future.

Hubby cleaned out the A/C handler as best he could. The evaporator coils are free of dust and mildew, which is a huge improvement. It wasn't nearly as efficient or effective as the $350 cleaning would have been, but it's made a huge difference. The a/c actually sucks in air now and seems to work better.

There are still a few things that are demanding money right now, though.

One is that we've been putting off getting our teeth cleaned and cavities filled. We both have three or four cavities that, while small, do need to be taken care of. I estimate about $400 each. (We don't have dental insurance.)

The other is that I've been having horrible back and neck pain and finally decided to do something about it. I've had great success at the chiropractor. Each visit is $40. My insurance covers chiro, but the copay is $45.

I need to see the doctor soon as well. I'm due for my yearly well-woman check up. I also want to visit my husband's rheumatologist. The more I learn about fibromyalgia, the more I think it's a strong contender as an explanation for the symptoms I've been fighting with for half my life.

My GYN says that she thinks I have endometriosis but cannot diagnose me without laproscopic surgery. That's $2500 (the amount of my deductible). I think fibro explains my symptoms better.

I'm tired of being sick and tired. You know?

I need to be healthful. I need a healthy body, a healthy financial summary, and a healthy home.

Which is the priority? How do my goals need to change to fit this?

Feeling... Something

I'm not sure what I'm feeling today. I'm down, slightly depressed, dissapointed with myself, and really trying to remember that everyone makes mistakes and to be gentle with myself.

Mostly I feel humbled and a bit hypocritical.

My husband and I have never had problems in any area except money. We've never cheated on each other, we can discuss anything, we've learned and grown together, and in short been a perfect match. Money is the only thing that's been an issue.

We we first got together he had bad credit. He stopped paying everything after he got divorced. He had several checks at payday advance places, owed his gramma $500, and repeatedly bounced checks or overdrew his account. I told him all this was a deal breaker. I told him that it had to change.

And it would. Mostly. He'd make an honest mistake along the way and I'd be shaken and feel betrayed, pissed off, and have a hard time trusting him.

This is why I eventually took over all the bills.

Then, when I was consolidating my credit cards into a BOA Gold Loan I discovered that he had credit card debt he didn't tell me about. It was only $1200, but it was a huge deal. I was pregnant and trying to set things up so I could stop working and enjoy a few months of maternity leave.

I got approval for the loan, received the money, and discovered his card. I didn't have enough to pay off all my cards and his, so I had some debt remaining with Capital One.

It took us about three months to work out. We're okay now, but it was a horrible thing to go through and the timing was awful.

After taking over the finances I had a few booboos myself. Nothing huge. Three or four times of being a day or two late, and two instances of overdrawing an account. (One of them was not my fault, the other was.) I confessed each misdeed immediately. Hubby promptly forgave me each time.

I felt like our debt (all of which is mine since he had poor credit when we got together) was okay and acceptable because we discussed almost every purchase. Sometimes we were forced to use the card (car broke down) and other times we thought we were being smart. A few times we realized it was stupid but did it anyway.

Now I'm feeling like a horrible human being. I know, I know, I am not alone in the experience of drowning in debt. I'm not the only one who's in this situation. Medical expenses, business expenses, emergencies, and downright stupidity are a horrible combination.

I'm still feeling crappy. Who am I to be all high and mighty about a few bounced checks? And now I'm filing for bankruptcy. That's what my attention to detail and transparency led to. Good credit can lead to bankruptcy just as fast as bad credit.

On the other hand, even though we plan on being married forever and have a great relationship (perfect for each other and all that) I started to feel resentful today. Why do I have to be the one to ruin my credit? Why am I the one that has to have all this debt in my name or, alternatively, have the bankruptcy?

It made sense at the time. I had the good credit. I had the card offers and the higher limits. He couldn't get a credit car. But now... grr.

So many conflicting emotions in so little time.

I'm glad I started a blog. Even if no one ever reads this it gives me a chance to get what I'm feeling out there. I don't believe in bottling up emotion.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Still no calls...

I still have not received a single call from any of the three credit lines I stopped paying on this month.

I did, however, receive my Chase bill.

My past due amount and current amount due total to just over $250. And, a friendly reminder, that if I pay before the due date my APR will not go up to 29.9%.

I was expecting to have a more emotional reaction to my first "you're late, pay up be-atch" communication. Nope.

I can't believe an almost 30% interest rate, but since I'm going to be including the account (and all my dischargeable debt) in my chapter 7 bankruptcy, I'm not too worried about it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No Calls Yet

Not paying my credit cards felt like a ballsy move for me. I've never ignored a bill before. Now, three.

The thing that I fear the most is the ringing of the phone. I'm over a week late for Chase and several days for Bank of America and Capital One.

The phone has not rang.

The only communication I've gotten thus far is a very polite form letter from Chase advising me that they've lowered my credit limit.

I have a feeling that in a few days I'll be writing a "well... they called" post.

Tax Refund Update

We mailed our taxes on (best-guessing since I don't have my calendar in front of me) the 23rd of February. Our CPA told us that as long as the IRS audits more people who file electronically versus those who mail, they will not recommend electronic returns. So, we mailed it. At the time he told us that it was one to two week difference in the time it takes to process and direct deposit our money.

Well... I called the toll-free number that the IRS has on their website (the online form was having technical difficulties and recommended calling directly). Our refund is going to come on or before April 13th.

Crap. That's about another month.

I really wanted to start saving money as soon as possible. Yes, we're catching up on things that we need, stockpiling food, paying things in advance when it makes sense (car insurance, for example), and getting some medical attention we had been putting off... but I want to see our savings account grow! I want to get this over with!

Regrets: Not Sharing

We talk about everything. I can't think of a topic that doesn't come up in our household. There's very little that is uncomfortable, including money.

Right now, however, I'm regretting the way we've handled our finances.

For the first few years he did everything. I paid "my" bills, which were few, and he handled all the household stuff.

Then I took everything over. He bounced a check or something and I got pissed and took it all over.

When he was running the show I never had any idea how much recreational money we had. I'd ask to go out and he'd say yes. Later he revealed that the money wasn't there but he didn't want to feel like a tool for telling me we couldn't eat out. Another time he bought a wii for us and an ipod for me within two weeks of each other because there was a surplus in the account.

When I was running the show I kept a tighter fist but it was all about my decisions. I figured out how much we could spend on (insert item here) and that was that. I told him the basic outlines of things and kept him appraised.

This time around we're going to work on this collectively. I think we're going to both have a say in the budget, our goals, our plans, and go from there. Maybe we'll have a meeting twice a month (around paycheck time, perhaps?) to check in and see how things are going.

Many of the mistakes we made could have been avoided if we were both more involved.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thoughts From A Kick in the Assets: Top 10 Values

"A Kick in the Assets" suggests finding out the values that really motivate you, rather than trying to fulfill your emotional needs by guessing.

And that makes sense.

The exercise is to make a list of your top ten values, carry it around with you, and match up your life choices with those values. Take pride in every time you work out, because your value is health, rather than just taking pride in losing the last 10 lbs. It makes sense.

Suggestions that the author makes: Freedom, Security, Honesty, Intelligence, Adventure, Learning, Resourcefulness, and about 34 others.

I'm looking at the list and trying to narrow down my top 10. If this will help me make better choices, then it's worth the time.

Love is a huge one. I want the people I love to know that I love them and to be secure in their love in return.

Relationships is another. I spend the majority of my "happy" time with other people. I love having a small group over for supper and conversation. Board games and card games could happen most nights out of the week. I like spending time with people and getting to know them.

Health... this is a huge one right now. I'm not that old and I feel like I'm falling apart. Health is my 2010 focus.

Creativity gives me a big kick. I love figuring out how to get the best deal, solving a problem, building something new, or making a piece of art for someone.

Thus far: Love, Relationships, Health, Creativity. Six more to go.

Learning should be on the list. I'm an information-gatherer. I like to take millions of bits of random knowledge, put them in the blender, and see what comes out. If I could be a professional student, that would be awesome. If I got paid for every class I got an A in and successfully completed I'd be thrilled.

Communication is a huge part of relationships, but it's important on its own as well.

Security never used to really be on the list, at least not consciously, but now that I'm aware of what that means to me it's quite a big one. Having my husband laid off two weeks before I gave birth made me realize how important this is. Owning our own home for the first time gives it new meaning.

Humor... a day without laughter is a bad day. I love making people laugh and laughing with them.

Confidence is something that I lack and I strive for. Conquering a challenging task and gaining that extra bit of confidence makes me feel like a  million bucks. I would like to intentionally build my confidence.

Passion is important. That sense of "Oh my god I'm so excited about..." is thrilling and needs to come around more often in my life. I feel charged up for days when something excites me. Passion in the romantic sense is important as well.

My top 10:

I'm looking at this and wondering about whether that covers it. I have to feel useful in my relationships, so would that be a separate thing? I like to hold doors for people, give an ear to the stranger at the coffee shop, help the tourist find their way around. With friends I like to help with projects, connect them to someone else I know that can help, and so forth.

So which would I take away to add "being useful"? Also, I hate feeling obligated. I like to be generous but not feel taken advantage of. Those tie in to the being useful.

Could these all be manifestations of love? Showing someone that they are worth loving, worth taking time out for, and worth helping? That sounds like love to me.

Barnhart suggests taking that list and ordering them by importance. I think I want to sit on this for awhile before I take that next step.

Once I order them from 1-10 I need to make my wish list.

Four questions revolving around things I would like to DO, HAVE, SEE, and EXPERIENCE for each category. The author says that the more specific I can get, the better.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thoughts From Your Money or Your Life: Part II

Life Energy.

Oh look. The new widget just came out. It seems fantastic. I really want it. And it's only $300.

My husband makes (let's say) $15/hour.

That means he will have worked 20 hours to give me the widget. Half of an entire work week has been spent toiling just so that I can have the latest and greatest.

The new widget cost us 20 hours of life energy. Was it worth it?

Maybe the new widget is. Maybe it's a game system that we spend thousands of hours playing, making each hour of entertainment come for pennies over its lifespan.

But maybe that $300 is from me being careless. I get pulled over and receive a $300 speeding ticket because I wasn't paying attention to where the speed limit changed and there was construction going on.

My husband now has spend twenty hours of life energy because I was merely distracted. That really sucks.

What if neither of us feel like cooking. Is our going out to eat for $30 worth two hours of his work? Wouldn't it be easier to spend fifteen minutes boiling some pasta?

This isn't really anything new or shocking, merely a reminder of a concept that's written about quite a lot in personal finance blogs and books.

But here's a twist...

Let's say that we charged that $300 gaming system and weren't able to pay it off. Assuming I have an interest rate of 15.99% (which is average for my current credit cards) and it takes me five years of payments on the cards to nail that specific purchase (I've been paying on the card but for stuff I had bought even before the $300 gaming system) there will now be $663.82 on the card. (Roughly, as that's with monthly interest compounding and not daily compounding.)

The game system has now cost us a full work week and five year's worth of stress. We probably resent the system because not only does it remind us of our poor decision making skills, it's also now available for $199. And, on top of that, the one we bought may not even be functional. What if it broke in year three?

Was the dinner out that I charged in 2002 for $35 worth $35 plus eight years of interest and stress? I couldn't even tell you what I ordered or if it was good.

I'm not trying to use this as a stick to beat myself over past purchases, but more as a yard stick for the future when credit tempts us. Once our debts are discharged it's up to us to resist. No one is going to look over our shoulders and shake their finger at us. It's going to be a test. Did we learn our lesson? Are we going to file bankruptcy again eight years from now? Hell yes, and hell no. But... it's easy looking at a computer screen, deeply in debt, in the process of filing chapter 7, to be strong and have resolve and to say things. Three years from now when the newest gadget comes out and "it's only $300" will be another story.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thoughts From Your Money or Your Life

I've just started reading the most recent pile of books. Here are my current "A-ha" moments from Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

"To Buy is Right" around page 18 in this edition. "Even the language of modern economics promotes consumerism. What else would we do with 'disposable income' besides dispose of it..." 

Hmm. I never really thought about this before. I don't have a "disposable income" label on my Open Office but when I label it mentally, that's what I put on it.

Disposable income. We have the ability to dispose of it.

What if instead of "disposable" income it was "save-able" income. Or "improvement income". Maybe I should say to myself, "this income is earmarked to improve our life in the long-run. Whether that means making the house more energy efficient, paying off a debt, or increasing my emergency fund." Could simply changing the way I think about this money change the way I spend (or not spend) it?

Another interesting point: A progress report in 1929 by the Herbert Hoover Committee on Recent Economic Changes came up with a strategy that was new. A survey had been conducted and showed that "wants are almost insatiable; that one want satisfied makes way for another. The conclusion is that economically we have a boundless field before us; that there are new wants which will make way endlessly for newer wants, as fast as they are satisfied."

The beginning of the book also cites other studies that showed people of the income ranges studied were no happier at the top of the scale (over $4k/month income) than at the bottom of the scale ($1k/month income). Also with the giant leap in conveniences (dishwashers, A/C, two cars, etc.) Americans weren't any happier than before they had all the gadgetry. More is not better.

I've been thinking about this in my own way for a long time. It seems as though every time I get some long-awaited for object I suddenly find something else to save for and research. My favorite author just came out with a new book in the series that I love. I read it and now am jonesing for something else. We just harvested 3 lbs of tomatoes from our container garden; I'm already mentally moving on to "when are the rest of my plants going to produce?"

My father once said about my sister, "She used to drive me nuts. We'd be standing in line at the county fair and she'd already be picking out the next ride and would be getting anxious to move on to the next thing before we even went on the ride we were standing in line for."

That statement hurt me because I recognized that was true for me as well. I see that in myself and many of my friends.

I'm excited to see what other little gems are hidden in these pages.

Everything has a cost. Every purchase is a choice.

The true cost of convenience foods
is a recent topic over at The Simple Dollar (my favorite personal finance blog). It really reminded me of why making substantial financial choices can be overwhelming.

Every single thing I purchase is making a choice. It's leading us towards or away from financial security.

If I choose to take two minutes out of my daily route to get the gas that's $.03/gallon less, that's making a choice.

If I choose to buy the pre-chopped celery, that's a choice.

If I choose to take the family out for wings rather than make my own, that's a choice.

Every moment of every day. And it's frustrating!

Becoming aware that this is the case is overwhelming. It seems too big.

A friend of mine just stopped drinking Pepsi. He posted a status update on Facebook asking for help and support with his decision. Some of his friends joked around and some of us took it seriously. I just talked to him. He's four weeks without a softdrink. "Wasn't as life changing as I had hoped."

But at least he identified something to change and did so successfully! I'm so proud of him for doing that. It might not have lead to any epiphany or saved his life, but it was a change that he wanted to make. A small change.

My journey is a series of small changes.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Post Labels

You may notice that all of my posts thus far are tagged "before we filed".

This is because my intention is to allow readers to easily find posts from before we filed, during the bankruptcy process, and after the discharge.

To Do List Update

The only payees we need to still transfer to our new account are:
- Netflix
- Paypal

We've officially gotten me off all joint BOA accounts. Our sole BOA account is in my husband's name only and will be closed as soon as we confirm that his disability comes to our new checking.

My mom's prepaid for her cremation and paid off her car. I have an idea of how I'm going to have her word a letter that will possibly protect us both based on my research (and subject to the review of our lawyer).

I have quotes for new homeowners insurance and health insurance so that we know what's going to happen later in the year when rates go up. (Our homeowners is dropping us in August so we're switching in late April so that it's before hurricane season but we can continue to get the benefit of a lower rate until then.) We decided to stick with our current BCBS plan with the lower deductible and switch early next year when the deductible resets.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Goals: Part 4

I think it's important to brainstorm and then finalize goals for after our bankruptcy discharge and for the future. This small series will be devoted to outlining some of the ones I've been thinking about.

Long Term Goals

Now that we've (in theory) saved up some money, paid off my hubby's student loans, and paid off my student loans (they'll be gone after 10 years as well) it's probably about 2021. I'll be 41 and my daughter will be 14. My husband will be 50.

At this point we'll spend the next ten years paying off our mortgage.

I used BOA's amortization calculator and found out we'd be able to do this easily.

Now, assuming that I'm working a full time job (worst case scenario, let's say $20k a year) without daycare expenses (she'll be in school) and my hubby is working full time still (probably $45k by then) we'll be able to do this even faster.


We can also save for our retirement.

I'm debating on how much to help our daughter for college. Before I always said she can take out loans and work like I did, but now that I realize the impact non-dis chargeable student loans can have, I'm seriously considering doing the Florida Pre-Paid Plan. I'll look into that and maybe adjust our goals accordingly.


- Save enough for an emergency fund that will cover vehicle replacement, a/c replacement, water heater replacement, etc.
- Pay off student loans in 10 years.
- Pay off mortgage in next 10 years.
- Save for retirement and possibly Fl-prepaid college fund.

What are YOUR goals?

If you're in the process of filing bankruptcy, what are you going to change afterward? Where are your extra payments (the ones you've been making on your dischargeable debt) going to go? Leave a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Today, Today, Today


A/C guys just came. I hired them for the $28 duct cleaning special (with free dryer vent cleaning). Our A/C desperately needs cleaned and I thought this would be a good stop-gap measure until we had the money to do so.

August 09 we bought this house and had the A/C inspected. There's mold, dust, and general gunk in the handler. Cost to disassemble and clean everything is around $700.

Guys showed up today. Told me that I should save my $28 because it was so bad as soon as the a/c turned back on... it would pretty much be a waste of money.

And then, "you really need to take care of this, ma'am."

"I know."

"Do you want to see this for yourself?"

"I know. I saw in August."

"Why haven't you done anything about it?"

"I don't have money."

"What's your budget."

"Look, I'm filing for bankruptcy. There's no money. I'm sick all the time and it's frustrating as hell."

He understood. The second guy came back up and took a look. "Oh my god. This is awful. You really need to do something about this."


"Why not?"

"No money."

"Doesn't your husband have a job, ma'am?"

So I repeated that I was filing for bankruptcy.

"Are you keeping the house or what?"

"We just bought it. It was a foreclosure. We're keeping it. But we had to make choices like keeping the kitchen sink from exploding versus cleaning the A/C. Guess which we picked."

They wrote me an estimate, were very polite, and headed out.


About $700.

I know they're not pulling my chain. I've seen it. And I'm allergic to dust and have asthma and we've all been sick. But it's one more thing we need to take care of.

So my plan?

I'm tracking down videos on youtube and tutorials on DIY sites to see if we can do this ourselves. Failing that, I'm going to ask my best friend who's now a VP but used to be an A/C tech a lifetime ago if he might be able to help.

How do I feel?

They were very nice, but I felt defensive. I told them about the bankruptcy just to shut them up. I feel bad that I've known about this for seven months and haven't taken care of it. I feel bad that I have an almost-70 year-old in my house in poor health, and a toddler, and the two of us, both who have asthma and allergies, and I've not made it a priority.

Grr. Today's a rough day.

I Am Not Alone

I haven't told anyone other than my mother or my husband about my plans. I did, however, make a comment to a friend about having to spend money or it wouldn't be available. I forget my exact phrasing. I thought I was justifying our Target spree (stocked up on toilet paper, hand soap, diapers, and other necessities).

My friend didn't say anything.

But the other night her husband casually mentioned something about his prior bankruptcies. They didn't pick up the topic, it was just casually dropped.

I was really surprised.

Then my husband told me that he didn't mind if that couple know. It probably wouldn't get back to his boss and if it got back to someone like his best friend, who cares? His best buddy had filed bankruptcy once upon a time.

He did?

I've known him for years and he's never mentioned it.

My mom, several friends, and who else? I wonder how many people I know have gone through a bankruptcy?

Monday, March 8, 2010

New Goals: Part 3

I think it's important to brainstorm and then finalize goals for after our bankruptcy discharge and for the future. This small series will be devoted to outlining some of the ones I've been thinking about.

Goals for the Next 11 Years (10 years after our year of savings)

I did a rather elaborate spreadsheet to figure out how our finances could go over the next 10 years. This is assuming one income, plus hubby's disability, plus mom's gift (or whatever funds replace that gift), so it's not fool proof.

(In fact, chances are that once our child is in 2nd or 3rd grade, I'll be working a full time job. I might choose to go back to school myself, and I'd really love to do that, but it's not certain.)

Once our year of savings has passed we're going to pour all our extra money into paying off hubby's student loans.

He owes $60,000 at a reasonable interest rate.

Paying his payment of $325/month he'd take roughly 15 years to pay it off.

If we make payments of $500/month plus whatever else we can spare we'd be able to pay it off in about ten years.

Again, it's not exact as I didn't calculate interest which will be about $2250 a year.

We should be able to pay that as my student loans will be $100/month, roughly, and his will be $325/month. That's still less than the $600/month we're currently paying (and just getting by on if we ignore other essentials) for credit card debt.