I'm broke and need help
I feel horrible. I looked at my finances this morning and I'm stuck in a bind. I don't have any discretionary income. Since the Pandemic started my emergency fund (which just made it to $1000) depleted fast due to car repairs, rent issues, a surgery, a blowout, and now just everything. While I'm glad that money was there, now I'm stuck unable to pay for groceries because I've got to pay rent today.
I've never felt so horrible about my finances and want to get ahead so bad but I can't even seem to catch a break. My girlfriend just got a new job but her boss hasn't called her with the paperwork yet. So we're just surviving. If my job wasn't steady, I'd probably have lost everything I own right now. That scares me so much.
My emergency fund is only $20 right now and I just paid rent today. Next week, all my funds are spoken for. My car payment is due. While I could wait another week, the interest would kill me.
I'm sorry for my sob story. I'm feeling depressed and my anxiety is out the roof because I'm not surviving. What do I do?
Hi Nathan, I'm so sorry for everything you're going through. I struggle with anxiety, too.
What helps me most is narrowing my focus down to what is happening right now.
Your rent is paid. That seems huge.
Do you have any food in your house? If so, how long might you make it last until you need to shop for groceries?
Do you have a credit card you could use to pay for groceries if you had to? Although debt is horrible, I try to remember that credit cards have often helped me and my family when we needed them, and it's ok to be grateful for them in that sense.
How much would you pay in interest if you didn't make the car payment as planned?
I think it's ok to just sit with things feeling really crappy, to just accept that you are in a low place, and that's totally fine. And keep using YNAB to stay in financial reality, even when that reality doesn't look how we wish it did.
Some resources that have helped me:
https://www.budgetbytes.com/ (Beth even has a SNAP challenge which would help if funds are really low for food)
https://anxietynomore.co.uk/ (Paul's articles are really helpful and reassuring)
I wanted to send heart power. You are surviving. You are surviving so much.
When is your next pay check & when might your GFs be coming? How long do you have to survive without money for groceries? Do you have pb&j in the house or something like that?
Will you be charged interest if you don't pay your rent this month? There is an eviction moratorium happening right now . . if you rely on your car to get to work, then it might be better not to pay your rent, than it would be to miss a car payment . .
Do you have access to outside space? Can get you get outside and feel that connection to our earth?
Just a few thoughts. Mostly I wanted to send solidarity. This is a really hard time for so many people. I'm glad you have a steady job, you have a roof over your head, you have a car that can drive you. You have the blue sky. Stay focused on what survival really means. Because you are doing it.
I've been where you are now and it is a horrible, anxious place to be. The good news is that you already have a budget and your emergency fund, although depleted now, was there for you and did its job. Because you have a budget you have an honest picture of your finances. Even if it isn't pretty, it will allow you to make informed decisions.
Take a moment to breathe. Your rent is paid, you have a roof over your head, your job is steady. Your girlfriend is about to start her new job and that will soon bring in some extra income. This is a rough patch, but it is only temporary.
Could you maybe call your car loan provider and see if you could split up the payment so you don't incur as much interest? Are there any lower priority payments that can be delayed for another week? If groceries are an issue, do you have any friends/relatives that might be able to do a porch drop off of a few meals/food staples until you can go grocery shopping? Are there any items you might be able to sell quickly to give yourself a little more cushion? Do you have any other skills/services you might be able to to provide as a side gig to earn a little extra cash?
It's easy to spiral out of control when things are tough. Just know that you are doing the best that you can and you are taking care of priorities. You will get through this, and we are here to cheer you along. I've found that journaling my highs and lows has helped a tremendous amount for my anxiety, so you might consider that. Keep us posted. You've got this. Sending calming energy to you. 💜
It's OK to feel anxious, but face up to what you know to be true: Cut expenses or increase income (or both). Your GF's income will obviously help, but won't show up today. Credit cards are a viable temporary measure to bridge the gap. Beans and rice are cheap. Many a college student survived on little more than Raman noodles. Anything in the freezer? Family in town that might feed you dinner? :-)
Budgeting -- a.k.a., planning -- is all about prioritizing. You've got a roof over your head, which is great. I'd suggest that you don't miss your car payment, as that has long-term repercussions far more serious than a little more interest now. You seem to know where your next paycheck will be allocated, but verify that is really in line with your priorities.
Wishing you the best of luck.
Sending you and your girlfriend lots of virtual support. YNAB has several blog posts over the last couple of months that address some of the issues you're struggling with, and may provide some useful options (if you haven't already read them). I've listed just a few of them below:
- Creating a Hunker-Down budget - information on how to create a really bare-bones budget when you're faced with a lot of financial/income uncertainty, with a video too.
- If you have to borrow money right now - towards the middle-ish of the article Ben discusses when you need/have to borrow and some tips on how to approach it.
- How to make your money last longer - this is the 5th article in a series; the previous 4 are linked at the beginning of the article if you want to start at the beginning.
Good luck, and know that this is a great community who's always got your back!
Emergency food assistance (because being hungry is no joke)
Reach out to friends and family and let them know you are in dire circumstance. If you know someone who hunts and has a freezer full of game, ask if they have some older freezer packages they'd like to get rid of. (sez the gal who ate a whole lot of venison stew for a season and was grateful for it)
Visit your local churches, soup kitchens, food banks, salvation army, and other charities. Google all of those words/organizations and your location to find resources in your area. Reach out to those resources asap.
Canada: Call 211, find your local food bank
pick up a minimum wage part-time job in a food-related service; one of the benefits is usually free meals
Are you an active member of the Reddit community?
If you have a Reddit account that is (at least) 180 days old and have a minimum of 500 comment Karma, you can post a help request on the Food Pantry Sub, link an Amazon cart/wish list, and some very charitable, big-hearted Redditers will pay for those items.
Posting a link here in case you are on Reddit and have the minimum account requirements:
Hi Nathan Dowlen
Just another little note to let you know that you are seen, and heard, and that you've got a lot of people here rooting for you. Many of us started where you are. I was looking back at my records recently (man, pandemics make you do weird things!), and realized that my BF and I made $36,000 the first year we were together. It's no wonder we struggled so much back then. You, too, will eventually be able to look back on this time in your life and realize how much you've grown, and how far you've come.
I know it sucks, but PLEASE don't let your budget slide. Put the numbers in there, even if they are ugly. There were times in my budgeting history where MOST of my categories that were paid for on credit cards were orange over spent at the end of the month. It sucked, but it was worth it to just keep going, regardless of the numbers. I learned the hard way that avoiding it only made it harder to get back on track when the money did start flowing again. It was harder to prioritize debt, and harder to figure out what was most important when I had to go back and recreate the picture of what happened months later.
Your debt, or lack of money, isn't who you are. It doesn't define you, or your worth. It is a temporary situation that will change, for the better, in the future. It can also change quickly. So while you can feel down about your financial situation, don't let that define who you are. I might not have name brand clothes right now, or have expensive shoes, but dang it, regardless of my financial situation, I AM that kind of person who will. The lack of funding in this moment doesn't change that fact about me. Don't let it dictate that about you, either.
There have been some really amazing resources provided here, I hope you take advantage of them. Asking for help also doesn't change your worth as a human. You are still worthy of receiving, and worthy of the support, so go hunt it down. There are lots of opportunities out there, but you have to be willing to go looking for them.
And, if you're in the US, I have heard rumors that there is likely to be another stimulus payment that is coming in another month or so. I'll believe it when I see it, but here's hoping that comes through. Oh, if you also have a 401k account with your company, I believe that the penalty for early withdraws was suspended due to the pandemic. You do need to be able to prove that the funds were necessary for your survival because of the pandemic, but clearly that won't be difficult for you, and the only thing you have to pay is the taxes on it as if it were income, which makes sense. Just be sure to check with an accountant or some other financial support to make sure that you follow the right steps if you take advantage of that. Here's the link my financial planner gave me: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/coronavirus-related-relief-for-retirement-plans-and-iras-questions-and-answers
Hang in there, keep us posted so we can keep cheering you on from a distance, even if it seems like things are getting worse, please do post an update!
Edited to add - I see you are doing better and got lots of great advice.
@Nathan Dowlen said:
My car payment is due.
Forget the car payment for now. You are in survival mode. First - food and shelter. Everything else can wait. Yes, your credit will get dinged but you need to eat. Screw the interest!
Do you have anything you can sell? Sell it all! Check into food banks. Let friends know (I know it feels embarassing but its not) and they may have some frozen food or leftovers they can spare or they may need some handy work they can pay you to do.
You're scared. So many of us on here get that. But don't look at the whole situation right now. Just look 5 feet in front of you. What needs to happen today?
Violet Rain said:
At the time I still technically made too much money to qualify for gov't assistance, but I still didn't have enough money to get groceries
Its amazing how many people fit into this category. There are working homeless people. There are people who ride the bus all night because they can't afford to pay the heat in their home. It is a sad thing and one good thing that has come from this pandemic is that these issues are exposed and people who look down on others have learned that it doesn't take much to knock you down.
Team YNAB in action! So many great resources in here.
Before I blather on, there's some great apps out there that may also help with calming down the anxiety. Some cost money, so the only one I'll share is the one I know for sure is totally free.
https://insighttimer.com/ - this is a free meditation app. You can learn to meditate or find a guided meditation for what you are looking for. I find the body scans are useful for bringing awareness to where my anxiety is and calming down body symptoms. I just took a look and there's talks and guided meditations on money stress! I think I'm about to go down a rabbit hole myself on this. :D
Your story isn't a sob story. It's reality for many people and has been reality for many others, myself included. You were at the point that you had the emergency fund set up and the budget worked as it should. You'll get back there. As many have said, it's temporary. It sounds like you have a support network around you as well. Take small steps and celebrate the small victories, like paying rent and finding ways to pay for groceries. And by celebrate I mean have an extra little cuddle with your GF, or high five, or light a candle during dinner....just share a little moment to recognize those little achievements. When a step back happens, reflect on the last time a little victory happened and think about how good it'll feel when it happens again. Because it will!
You got this!