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 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 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.