I need some financial advice. Here is my story: I recently went through a divorce and I needed to go back to work. After 2 years of unemployment I found a job as a school secretary, which only pays 19,000$. The divorce settlement left me enough resources to buy a mobile home, which cost me $59,000. This depleted my financial security, but did put a roof over my head. Over the 2 years that I was unemployed, I relied on a credit card to pay my bills and buy food. To keep paying this credit card balance, I went to a local bank to get a mortgage on my home. The loan, after interest, was $25,000. The loan payment is reasonable ($400 per month). I still find myself using the credit card for gas, clothes, food, etc. Once again, I owe almost $18,000. I have not missed a payment to them, however, I am still in the same situation I had tried to get out of. How do I get myself out of this mess? I am making more money now and feel that I can handle my payments if I consolidate the two bills. Can you help me in anyway?
Let me tell you about some options you have. First, your challenge is to take charge of your situation and create a plan of action. You need a plan for spending, a plan for increasing your income, and a plan to deal with your debt.
I will start with the tough part of my answer first, the spending. I think you realize you spend too much based on your present income. Stop using your credit cards. Pay cash for everything to get an idea of where you are spending your money. Analyze every purchase. Obviously, I do not know your spending habits, but here are a few areas where people can cut costs:
* If you have cable or satellite TV service, do you really watch the premium channels often enough to justify the cost? If you watch only a few shows, see if they are available online at hulu.com and tell the cable company "goodbye."
* You mentioned cutting insurance costs. Another place to save is on your vehicle insurance. Talk with your agent about raising the deductible or finding other discounts if you have a clean driving record.
* If you own multiple vehicles, get rid of all but one.
* Eating in restaurants is expensive. If you are in the habit of going out, think about preparing food at home and avoiding prepackaged meals, such as frozen dinners.
* Drop your land-line and use only your cell phone or make calls over the Internet using a service such as Skype.
* Are you buying items for yourself because you need them or because you feel that you deserve them?
* Join a local group that focuses on personal finance. I have a family member who joined one at her church recently. She said being with others who wrestle with personal finance issues is helpful because, 1) she gains knowledge about saving and spending, and 2) she socializes with others sharing that interest.
Pay yourself first. Open an interest-bearing savings account and get in the habit of putting something, even a small amount at first, in that account before you spend your paycheck on anything else. If your employer offers this option, open a 401(k) account and have a small percentage of your pay placed in this account. Because 401(k)s are tax-deferred, if you have the correct percentage withheld, you will see zero difference in your take-home pay. Work with your employer's HR person to find the correct amount for you -- it will probably be around four percent.
Now let us look at the earnings side of the equation. Everyone wants to earn more. You have a job in the education field, so you understand education's importance to our society and the individual. It is never too late to learn additional skills and make yourself more marketable. Community colleges offer an excellent value for students. Visit your local community college, pick up a course catalog, and make an appointment to talk to a counselor about your educational options and the needs of the employers in your area.
Finally, let us look at the debt. Given your annual income, carrying $18,000 in credit card debt is a tremendous burden. You may not find a lender willing to refinance the mortgage on your mobile home. Even if you do, that may not be a good idea if you 1) don't change your spending habits, or 2) increase your income.
You may want to consider debt negotiation or settlement, which is the process of negotiating with your creditors to either establish a new payment schedule at a reduced interest rate, or a lump sum payment that is significantly lower than the total balance. Going this route will have a negative impact on your credit history. However, at this point, I think getting your spending under control, developing a plan for boosting your income, and removing your debt load are more important priorities than your FICO score.
Explore Bills.com to learn more about managing your finances and take advantage of the free debt help services.
I wish you the best of luck as you develop and implement your plan. I know some of my advice might be in the category of "tough love," but I believe you have the insight to move yourself out of your situation.
I hope this information helps you Find. Learn. Save.
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