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.

From the Library Today

I got the following books from the library today. I'm trying to get my post-CH7 budget in order and educate myself so I don't screw up again.

As I read each I'm going to try and note quotes or thoughts that I have that were particularly relevant to me. This isn't so much a book review as it is a "what I got from the book" type of post.

After all, this blog isn't just about the stress and decisions and mistakes that lead up to filing bankruptcy. It's also about making life changes that will help us make the better choices.

Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace Revisited

Dominguez's Your Money or Your Life

Nemeth's The Energy of Money

Barnhart's A Kick in the Assets

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What to tell our daughter

I'm currently reading How To Raise Financially Fit Kids.

It's made me think about something.

When our daughter is older, how much do we tell her about our bankruptcy?

She won't know any different, being 2, but eventually the topic might come up.

Should it be part of her financial education? I believe, wholeheartedly, that the only purpose of an allowance is to teach her about money. It's not a reward, a bribe, or something she deserves. It's a teaching tool.

I want her to be much more financially literate than I was.

It's odd, really. I can see how my parents would have assumed that I was financially literate. After all, I've had a job since I was 14 years old. I was excellent at saving money for things I really wanted even when I was only 6. (I paid cash for a Gameboy, $99 back in the mid-80's, that I had saved up all by myself.)

I knew how to balance a checkbook. I knew how to put money in my savings account.

But what I didn't know was how to use credit.

I also didn't know about compound interest. I would like to have learned about that long ago and used it to my advantage rather than becoming a victim of it.

(Sidenote: A salesperson I used to work for once tried to explain compound interest to me when I was 20 in relation to retirement savings. I nodded and let my eyes glaze over as I wondered how many highlighters one man really needed. Why didn't I pay attention? Grr.)

I don't blame my parents. I'm just not surprised that I ended up in a situation very similar to where my father was before he died. (The same situation that led him and my mother to bankruptcy.)

I'm agreeing with the concept list in HTRFFK. It's a nice idea for various targets and goals to cover with kids. The book also suggests ways to do this for different ages. I'm going to make my own list.

Back to the topic at hand, however. Do I tell her about the bankruptcy?

I believe in being honest with kids. I want her to know that there are consequences to abusing credit and not being realistic about your situation. I want her to see that people can recover from the bottom of the barrel financially. I want her to know that mommy and daddy can admit they made a mistake and ask for help. That a strong marriage makes it through the toughest of times by supporting each other rather than turning against each other.

I don't want her to throw it in our faces, spread the word around to her friends (and their parents) or otherwise abuse the knowledge like most teenagers are wont to do.

Of course, no one says we have to tell her as a teenager.

Hmm. Would you tell your children about your bankruptcy?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Compound Interest

"You work 40 or so hours per week, but interest works 168 hours per week against you. You stop for food and water, interest never stops. It may be small amounts if your balances are low, but taken over a lifetime, compound interest will own you. You have to break the cycle and get rid of your debts."

New Goals: Part 2

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 Savings

As a review we'll have about $8500 (we hope) in savings by June 2011. This money is to serve as our emergency fund. We know we're going to have to replace our water heater within the next few years and our A/C within the next five, probably sooner. We'll also need to replace my car (13 years old currently, with almost 200,000 miles on it) sometime soon and likely have some repairs to keep it running as long as possible. We hope all of that will be covered and we can pay cash as much as possible.

Goals for Mom

I would like to be in a position where if mom decides to move out or something happens to her we'll be able to pay all our bills and still save some money. Right now she gifts us $500/month. If she changed her mind or needed her money for something else, we'd be screwed. Completely and totally. So being financially secure without her gift is a big goal.

Goals for Rebuilding Credit

- Start repaying my student loans in October 2010. I've never been late on a payment, and I'm going to be even more vigilant in the future.

- Get a secured credit card that reports to the credit agencies without labeling it as "secured". Use it to pay for gas only and pay it off monthly. Convert this to an unsecured card as soon as I can.


- I have several cards that have no balance on them. Assuming they don't cancel my account I intend to use them as mentioned above and pay them off each month.

Since I will not be purchasing a house (hubby already did that) or financing a new car (we intend to get a reliable older car and pay cash for it) I think that will be my plan for the next 24 months.

Hubby agreed that if we get divorced before I rebuild my credit that he will help me out as much as possible. We don't plan on ever separating, but we usually discuss "worst case" scenarios with big decisions and make fair and logical choices before the situation has a change to come up. Deciding it then would be too emotional.

If he should, God forbid, die in the next few years, I would be able to collect his life insurance and would have time to reestablish credit.

Based on those things I think a less stressed approach will work over the next 2 years and then we'll see where we're at.

Friday, March 5, 2010

That wasn't as bad as I thought...

I didn't cry or get emotional. I didn't crack (too many) inappropriate jokes.

The lady who came to our house from Neptune was very respectful, established a rapport with my mom quickly, and refrained from being pushy. She was pleasant to be around.

My mom signed up.

The total was just under $2,200 and included the travelers provision.

It's quite a peace of mind to know that when the time comes all I have to do is call the 1-800 number and her body will be picked up within an hour, everything taken care of. The company has no debt, an excellent BBB rating, and holds the money she's paid in trust to guarantee it will be there when she passes. No matter where in the world she is when she passes they'll get her back to me.

And, as she said, "It has to be done anyway, and that's money you won't have to spend."

Getting Nervous

It's 2:59 and our appointment with the Neptune rep is at 3:00. I'm nervous and stressed about it. On edge waiting for the doorbell to ring. It's not a pleasant topic.

Cremation - Thus Far

Mom's "burying money" is at risk so we're trying to get her to prepay for her cremation (her choice) and then use the rest of the money to benefit her by paying off her car loan and freeing up $200/month for her to use for other stuff.

This is a summary of what I've learned so far:

- Prepaying funeral homes is not necessarily a great idea. They can go out of business, things you pay for may no longer be available (applies more to caskets than to urns) and the new models may be more expensive, etc.

- Direct cremation skips the funeral home entirely and is less expensive.

- There are a number of options for urns. Each pound of person's weight will equal one cubic inch of space, so use their weight to determine how large of an urn they need. (I believe a 10" urn holds up to 175 lbs of person?)

- Not all prepaid plans include transportation of the body, an urn, or a staff that's available 24/7. Many do not list prices online, though some do.

- There are far more creative ways to dispose of ashes than I had known about. However, we're going to keep her ashes and my father's ashes. I like the idea of the cremation reef, though. The diamond idea seems fairly shady (how do you know that you're getting your loved ones back?) but interesting.

Paid off!

My mom couldn't figure out how to log into her car loan provider so I had to assist her. One phone call to an 800# and twenty minutes later the balance was set to be paid off.

The amount was just under $7,000 which leaves about $3k in her savings and $4k in her checking.

There is a lady from Neptune Society who will meet with me either today or tomorrow about prepaid direct cremation. I estimate that will be less than $1,400. That still leaves us with a little more to benefit my mom before we file.

Why do I phrase it like that?

It doesn't make sense for her to run out and buy stuff she doesn't need. If she's going to do something or need something later anyway, then she can pay for it now, enjoy it now, and not have that expense in a few months or on a regular basis. Paying off her car frees up $200 a month that she can use in other ways.

I still feel badly about her having to do this, but I'd feel worse if the trustee decided to take it and leave her with nothing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New Goals: Part 1

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 After Discharge

- Open up a savings account with Landmark Bank

- Have hubby's work direct deposit part of his income directly into the savings account.

- Close the multiple Ingdirect accounts we've opened, keeping one Orange Checking and one savings account for our emergency fund. It was helpful to be able to categorize our savings into specific named accounts (Ie: car repair fund, house downpayment fund) but it's become complicated and we've got Quickbooks, so there's no reason to do it that way anymore.

- Setup our accounting in Quickbooks (which we bought a few years ago when I had my own business) instead of using a spreadsheet (I love Open Office, by the way, and highly recommend it).

- Reduce our spending. Hopefully our garden will help with this in a few months.

- If we don't get them done before filing, get our teeth cleaned, examined, and cavities filled in April.

- See a dermatologist for a cancer screening. We've been putting this off, but it's terribly important in Florida and our insurance covers it.

Between filing and June 2011

Hubby's student loans come due June 2010. We're going to put them off one more year and save as much as possible. When mine come due in October 2010 I'm going to start paying on them again. Ideally we'll have about $8500 saved by June 2011.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

One of the Best Things

One of the things that led up to our CH7 decision was the series of layoffs we both experienced.

However, the most recent layoff was one of the best things that could have happened to us.

I was pregnant and two weeks away from my due date when my husband got laid off. We spent those weeks playing cribbage, finalizing stuff around the house, cuddling, and really enjoying our time together. It was at the end of the year and there weren't many companies to send resumes to or temp jobs to apply for. So, we decided to enjoy the time.

Part of the reason we were able to do this was because the layoff before that one resulted in a small severance package. Between that, my hubby's disability, and unemployment, we were okay for three months.

Hubby resolved to start looking in earnest in mid-January and we settled in to wait.

I had my baby. A homebirth, in case anyone's interested. My daughter was born just before Christmas.

The next ten weeks were amazing. My husband fell in love with our baby and became a doting father. He helped me recover from the birth, held my hand through the difficulties I had with breastfeeding (moderate-to-severe mastitis in both breasts!), became a whiz at changing diapers (pun intended), and bonded like crazy with her.

He got a job offer right before our savings ran out.

Notice that there is not a "regrets" label on this post. We are so thankful for this time. Yes, we would be in a financially better place if we could have used our savings to pay off debt or put a bigger down payment on our home, but in hindsight the time together was far more valuable. Not all layoffs are bad things. Sometimes they're a gift.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I'm not necessarily ashamed at having to file bankruptcy. I feel like we should have known better, done better, done differently, but I'm not squirming about it. I do feel like I need to apologize constantly to my mom, though.


Because she has a lot of money that she needs to spend and it's because of me. She can't sit and enjoy the financial security. There's a large change the trustee will decide half that money can be used to pay off my creditors.

I've been pressuring her, lightly, to figure out what to do sooner rather than later. And I feel horrible about it. The longer she waits, though, the longer it will be until I can file. And that means that I might go from being 30 days late to 60 or 90.

Sometimes I feel like my mom will go along with things that she doesn't really want. I don't know why I feel that way. There's a line with parents between support and weak boundaries, and I don't know how to define where hers is.

When we bought a used car she helped us by buying one as well and we both got awesome deals. She needed a new car, and she didn't really care what she drove, but I still felt bad then. I don't want to take advantage of her. She's my mom.

More To Do List Things Done

- Life insurance forms to change bank accounts have been faxed.
- Form to change BCBS bank account has been mailed.
- Remainder of car insurance for this six-month period has been paid.
- Several household items have been replaced (such as the garbage cans that were literally crumbling.)
- Receipts have found a place to be kept.
- Disability has been contacted about bank account change.
- Hubby has changed deductions to Married-3 based on CPA's advice and we've requested his direct deposit to be changed.