New to group, not to debt

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-17-2008
New to group, not to debt
Tue, 11-03-2009 - 3:28pm

Hello all! My name is Amy. I actually think I posted here before years ago. My living situation has changed, but I still have debt.

I have NO credit cards. NONE.

I have student loans that I have been working with and now have under control.

I have medical bills that I have a payment plan for, and that is under control.

I have all of your typical monthly bills (cable, rent, insurance, electric, cell phone).

I have 5 or 6 places that I owe anywhere between $125-$2000 dollars. THESE are the thorns in my side.

I got myself into trouble with payday loans. 4 to be exact. 3 I have consolidated with an online service (not sure if that was the right choice or not, but whats done is done). Most of the 5 or 6 bills basically are because of this. Also I have 2 banks that have closed my accounts because I was terrible and did a little check floating, and I owe them both. So, I have no checking accts right now.

Anyway, what I would LOVE is a coach, or someone who can really help me figure out a good, solid plan to get all of this under control. So I can develop good behavior and habits with my money, and get my credit in good standing. But, such a thing does not seem to exist... and I feel very lost as to how to do this by myself. You would think it would be easy enough... and certainly a woman of 36 years old should have this stuff figured out and not be needing this type of help at all. It's rather embarrassing for me, really. I seriously feel like I just need someone to hold my hand for a while. I want and NEED to get to a place where I have more than $3.00 and a week to go before payday.

I'm a single mom to 2 teenage boys, just a little tidbit for ya.

Any suggestions or advice? WHAT DO I DO? WHERE DO I START?



iVillage Member
Registered: 07-02-2008
Tue, 11-03-2009 - 3:40pm

Welcome. You are making a wonderful first step by introducing yourself and telling us about you.

Can you break down your bills a little more for us? What is your monthly take home pay? It's hard to tell you where to cut back and save because I'm not sure where you are overspending. Where do YOU think you overspend? Eating out? Things for your kids? Do they work and provide for themselves a little or do you buy/provide all for them?

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-14-2008
Tue, 11-03-2009 - 4:01pm

Hello, Welcome to the Board Amy.

I too am a Single mom(35) of two boys almost teenagers. 12 and 9. I do have a wonderful boy friend that is supportive. They all eat a lot don't they!

You have to focus on these pay day loans and get rid of them ASAP! They are worse than credit card debt because of the interest. Can you get a second job for awhile to get rid of them?

It sounds like you need a budget that works for you. This must include everything you spend in a year including gifts, car insurance etc(even things that are not montly) Start by writing down everything you spend for an entire month. Use cash for groceries, gas and spending money. Really think about what you need per month on those items and don't over spend. Be creative with the groceries. Cut out eating out. If the kids want something like that they are old enough to buy it out of their allowances.

You also need an emergency fund. Most people build one to $1000 dollars. This is so you don't ever have to charge or use pay day loans again. In your case I would pay the pay day loans off first then concentrate on building up your efund.

If you want to post some of your numbers (expenses and income) there are ladies on here that are great at telling you what to cut back on or what to change.

Good luck. You can do this! It is certainly not to late.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-17-2008
Tue, 11-03-2009 - 6:44pm

Rent- 695.00
Car ins.- 45.00
Cable/internet/phone- 150.00
Cell phone- 150.00
Utilities- 125.00
Student Loans- 45.00
Medical- 35.00
Debt Consolidation- 25.00
School lunch- 50.00

This is what I owe on other bills. These are all collectors.

Bill 1- 120.00
Bill 2- 150.00
Bill 3- 1735.94
Bill 4- 741.94
Bill 5- 610.00
Bill 6- 430.85

Take home pay is roughly 2200.00

I haven't really done any tracking as far as how much I might spend on gas
or groceries, I just buy it when I need it (sometimes resorting to food pantries). Neither of my boys has a job, so they get money from me
(when available). They understand it's not plentiful.

On paper it looks like I have plenty left over after the Standard Bills. But,
somehow I am always barely scraping by. I do have a social life, but I might
go out twice a month and spend 40-50 dollars (a month). I don't pamper myself with
manicures or pedicures, or new clothes (and even "new" clothes usually
come from the thrift shop).

I'd love to just get it all under control, know exactly how much I will
have left over every month, get on some kind of real plan. I'd love to
be saving something each month. This past month I had to ask my mom for help
because my car needed lots of work and I have NO savings.

Another goal is to save enough to fly out to my friends wedding in Napa
valley in June (I live in Wisconsin).

Thanks for your help and quick response! I feel less frazzled already.


iVillage Member
Registered: 12-04-2006
Tue, 11-03-2009 - 7:35pm

I don't live in the US, so I don't pretend to know what any of the living costs are. My suggestion is that you track absolutely everything you spend for a month or two. If you do this, then you'll begin to see where the leaks are. I know for myself its really easy to have money left over on paper but have none left at the end of a pay period because I spend a few dollars here and a few dollars there.

In terms of groceries, try to plan your meals ahead so that you can make a list when you go to the store. In my experience when I pop to the store for something that I need, that's not all I come out with.


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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-02-2008
Tue, 11-03-2009 - 7:53pm


Any way you can maybe resort to going out once a month and cutting your "going out" cost to $20ish per month? Maybe have friends over to your house or rotate houses instead of going out. I have a friend who is cutting costs too and we usually go to one anothers places every few weeks and just have some wine. Cheap, fun evening. But gets me out of the house.

I know what its like to want to go to a friends wedding out of state. I recently took a second job to go to a friends wedding last April in Boston. Busted my butt and went. Then another friend was getting married in Florida (I am in Chicago) and I had to tell her I couldn't go. Broke my heart BUT it was realistic. Not saying you should give up hopes of going but take a cold hard look at what you think is best for you and your debt and then decide if you really can go.

Just last week my DH (husband) and I took my friend and her new husband to dinner as a celebration of their wedding that we couldn't attend. We paid for dinner - cost us $150. We enjoyed a lot of liquor that night....but it was a lot cheaper than flying to Florida with them and we felt like we got one on one time w/them.

Something to consider. It will be special however you can celebrate their special time.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
Tue, 11-03-2009 - 8:07pm

Well, its tight. Its VERY tight.

Based on these numbers you have $880 left after the expenses you listed. BUT you haven't accounted for groceries and personal items (easily $100 a week with teenage boys) gas for the car (not sure how long your commute is), general car maintenance, savings for emergencies and spending money.

Off the top of my head, the cell phone is way to expensive. See if you can cut it down or cancel it all together. Other then that there really isn't much wiggle room. Can you potentially get a second job for a while to pay off some of this debt and free up some money?

I think you need to track some expenses for a while and see where you are actually spending money. Just track it for a week for two and see where the leaks are. Plan your meals for the week around sales. If something is on sale, stock up. Perhaps you could give your sons a gentle nudge to get part time jobs so they can buy their own school lunches (I started working at 14 and as soon as I started I was responsible for buying my own things).

Good luck to you. Post often. This is a great place for support!

Bex -

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift -thats why its called the present."

Bex -

Avatar for 2locachicas
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-2003
Tue, 11-03-2009 - 9:07pm

I would take a hard look at the cell phone bill and the internet/cable/ phone bill. It is almost 300 a month! Can you drop the landline and lower your cable package? Can the teens help pay for their own cell phones?

Can you not buy lunch and pack their own?

call the student loans and put them in hardship deferral for a year.

I definitely see a some money that could be trimmed. I would also put your sons on an allowance. Even if it is only 15 a payday then they aren't nickle and diming you and you can raise it as you pay things off. You need to do the same for yourself.

Assign every penny that is coming into your home somewhere to be! You will be surprised how much more it will feel like you have....

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-05-2006
Wed, 11-04-2009 - 8:59am

Hey Amy, I looked over your expenses and two things popped up. Your cable bill and your cell phone bill. I have spent the last year trying to get both of these to a reasonable amount. When I first came here, My cell phone bill was around the same as yours I believe, I'd have to go back to my first post and check, but I was first able to get it down to $120 (and this is for 2 phones) and now I have it down to $80 dollars a month. That saves me a ton! I have AT&T and pay for my phone and my husbands phone. We share about 700 minutes a month. I assuming you probably pay for cell phone service for your sons and I'm sure with teenage boys, that is expensive with all the bells and whistles teenagers want. But there could be a way you could negotiate a better deal. Call your service and see if you are really using all of your minutes. I found out that I was rolling over 200 minutes a month so I downgraded my minutes, then I got rid of texting and internet because I never text. My husband does text, so I have a package for him that only costs an extra 5 dollars per month. Just try to make sure that you are only paying money for the services that you actually need and use. If you got your cell phones down to $100 dollars per month, that could save you $600 dollars per year!

The other thing that popped up is the Cable/internet/phone. I have a package from comcast that includes the high speed internet, digital cable with HD chanels, HBO and a DVR box plus local phone coverage for $113 dollars per month. Of course, it was one of those starter package deals, but I didn't qualify for it. I called and asked how long I would need to cancel service before they would allow me to sign up for a special deal and they handed me over to a special person and she got me a great deal. If it ever came down to them not giving me a deal, I would cancel and live without cable for a little while to qualify for a better deal. I just refuse to pay a lot for a service that is really a want and not a necessity. I lived without cable, internet and phone for an entire year. Hard with teenage boys, I have an 11, 6 and 2 year old, all boys, plus my husband hated it the whole time, but we made do.

Groceries: You said that you didn't include groceries in your spending but groceries are HUGE! I have a family of 5 and we spend $650 dollars a month on groceries! So you need to figure out where all your extra money is going. I did this a year ago and was absolutely amazed at how much we spent on eating out. We were spending $100 dollars a week on mcdonalds, take-out pizza and applebees type places. WHAT!!?!?!?!? I was flabbergasted! We've spent the last year trying to change our habits and it hasn't been easy. There have been so many ups and downs, but you can do this!!!

Good luck!

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-14-2008
Wed, 11-04-2009 - 2:14pm

Wow that budget looks familiar. Except I have never been a cable girl. My boys like movies and video games which I limit. I am usually the bad one that has them do homework and they both like to read. I have also gotten into board games with them and trying to do things outside.

I would reconsider the cell phone. Heck I have a cell phone and wish I didn't. If I didn't own my own business I would get rid of the stupid thing. Everything could wait until I got home!

Also you don't have any gifts or spending money or car repairs listed. Not to mention there are other things that could come up.

I agree with PPs you need to make a grocery list, meal plan and stick to it. Make extra so you can take left overs for lunches. Nothing says those boys can't learn to cook too. Have them pick a recipe that they enjoy and do it with them. I had my 12 year old browning hamburger for tacos last night. He hates learning it now but will appreciate it later I hope. This way if you don't feel like cooking one night you don't have to resort to take out and they know how to prepare meals when they move out. I bet you could do groceries for $350 if you really tried.

Allowances are a good idea. They must do chores though. If they don't do the chores without complaining, they don't get the money.

We all have to think outside the box to make things better for ourselves.

I suggest taking a hard look at your pantry and see how long you can really go with out shopping and put the extra money on some of those bills you listed previously. That will be big load off your mind. Have a girlfriend have you over for dinner with the boys one night and tell her you will have her over later in the month for variety and cash flow reasons.

Good luck. I personally would not be getting excited about a wedding in June. This might take a year fix. But it is doable and that is what is important.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-17-2008
Wed, 11-04-2009 - 5:36pm

Thank you so much everyone for your encouragement and suggestions!

The cell phone... it's for me and my boys. Unlimited texting. I can look at some things and see if I can cut back on something.

Cable... I just locked myself in for 2 years.

I will start journaling where my money is going. I think it will be hard to write down every penny, but if I save receipts and take some time each night I think I can do it. I'm sure I'm spending more on fast food and stuff than I really think I am.

I really don't spend a lot on groceries. The truth is, I should be spending more there, rather than fast food!

The boys are actually starting to look for jobs. One is 15, so it may be tougher, but he is bringing home applications (and so is my 16 year old).

I think I will just forget about the wedding. It would be nice to go, but it would be nicer to have some stuff paid off and be on the right path!

I do keep rolling the second job idea around in my head. We'll see. Maybe I'll pick up some applications of my own, and plenty of places should be hiring for at least temporary holiday help.

I'll be back, hopefully with a good progress report. Thanks again so much!!