Hi! This is my first time posting and I am kind of new to YNAB. I started it a few months ago and then fell away. I need to get back to it, I know that. So here I am starting over.
I guess I am just hoping for some encouragement? My husband and I are in a pretty bad situation. We filed chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier this year and no longer have credit card debt or medical bills due to that. But we still have A LOT of student loans. Almost a mortgage amount honestly.
Our credit is shot. We are behind on our basic bills (mortgage, electric, car payment) etc. My husband works 2 jobs and I stay home with our very young children. We are trying, but we can't even seem to meet the basic bills we have (especially because of our student loans). I feel like I am at rock bottom.
Last week my debit card was declined at the grocery store. I don't want to live like this anymore and I think I'm in the right place, but I need to know someone else made it out of a bad situation. Is it even possible to dig myself out of this hole?
Any encouraging stories or words you have for me would be so helpful, because right now I feel lost and broke and terrified. I would love to hear how your life has changed or if you came back to a better place financially after filing bankruptcy or any tips for dealing with student loan debt? Please no judgement.
It can be done. It's a lot of work. And it may not be easy.
When I started YNAB back in 2011 I had been unemployed for months, had just started a new job, my truck was repossessed (I was able to scrounge up enough to get it back), and had barely enough money in my account to get to work. My student loans were in default. My credit score was horrible. I overdrew my account regularly and spent thousands on fees. I used payday advances through my bank. At times, I even had to resort to those crazy high loans like dollar loan center at 400% interest. It was bad.
I was lucky, I had roommates covering the basics and that was huge, but mentally it took a big hit on my emotions to know I was dependent.
YNAB is what turned everything around. But you have to stick with it. I literally started out with making sure I had enough gas to get to work, enough food to eat until the next paycheck, and let myself have $25 every two weeks for fun money/eating out. I made it a point to cover my current bills and worked to contribute to the household. I sold things, really streamlined the budget, and stayed strict.
What were the keys? First - living off of two paychecks when paid every two weeks. My monthly budget is based on those 2 paychecks, so after six months I was "buffered" - of using this month's income to fund next month's budget. After those first six months every six months or so I have an "extra" paycheck that goes to savings, debt, whatever. And when things get tight or out of control I can always eat some of the buffer and still know that my bills are going to get paid.
There is nearly always something to cut - though not always. I'm at a point right now where while I'm not in trouble, I need to pay off a bunch of debt from buying a house this year. I want to be debt free again so I'm adjusting my budget to try to find room. Because I don't have a lot of room in the budget, it's those two extra paychecks and selling things that is what I'm going to have to do. Everyone's priorities are different and I know the "don't go to starbucks" advice doesn't help with you feel like everything is cut out but taking a hardcore look at the budget and finding any possible areas to cut is first. I make really good money but have to live on a very tight grocery/food budget. I rarely buy new clothes and I shop thrift stores. I have an older phone because it's paid off and functional. But I also now own a 40 acre property with a 110 year old farmhouse, several vehicles, and have been able to give my sister some breathing room in her budget to try and get her life under control after moving.
So first, really honestly look at your budget. Food is often the only one that can be cut - so can you eat cheaper? If you eat out at all, can you meal plan or do something to avoid going out?
Student loans - can you refinance on an income based/hardship plan? Can you defer for a bit? Student loans is one of those "must pay" bills otherwise they take it out of your paycheck and don't even have to get a judgment to do so. If you haven't before, there are a couple of good programs to get you out of default if it goes there, but obviously it's better to not default.
The big thing right now is figuring out how to get everything caught up. Call the companies and see if they have any programs to help. Defer a payment. See if there's any community help for past due utilities. Meal plan. Eat cheap. Find anything you can list on facebook to sell. Small children - do you have toys, clothes, etc., that are no longer used?
I know you are probably doing all this but if you can't increase income (with two small children obviously staying home is smarter than paying daycare, and your husband is working two jobs) then the only thing you can do is cut expenses. That may mean moving to a smaller home, or moving in with relatives. Selling things. Asking family for help. Seeking community programs.
Without specifics it's hard to know how dire the situation is - if there's room in the budget to cut or if you need to be looking at drastic measures like moving or new jobs ... but I will say no matter what, without a program like YNAB it would be much, much harder. At least tracking spending to see where you can cut is going to help a great deal. It's sometimes a big shock to see where the money is actually going because we all tend to underestimate what we spend.
As my coworker and friend, who was a POW would say, enjoy everything. That's usually after we complain about a vending machine giving us the wrong pop. He's like I was in a hot box and ate only every 3 days 1 small loaf of stale bread, enjoy your wrong pop. Anyway, it's not easy, but can be done. I know this community isn't huge DR fans, but gazelle intense is how we dug out with 4 small children. First, do what you have to do now, but look for ways to improve. Sign up for EBIT ( food stamps when I was on them), and WIC. Tell your friends and family the whole thing. So might judge, but others might help. Ask local organizations for help. We have some that provide diapers, food, clothes, etc. Then when there's food on the table and other basics, find ways to improve. I went back to college, I had stopped to work two jobs, kinda ironic. I still worked 1 job full time and went to school full time. Don't be on assistance longer than needed, I think it does something to your motivation. We were also in subsidized housing based on income. Once the prorated rent was only say $20 less than no subsidized, we moved out. On gazelle intense, we went down to 1 car, no cable, all thrift shop clothes, gifts and toys, no nice candles or much of anything. I made a kitchen table out of plywood. Someone posted free ensure on CL, I picked it up, and those were my meals for like a month or longer (this was the original version, yuck). We hung blankets on the walls in the winter for extra insulation. Whall clippers and wall boys got buzzes. Ladies trimmed their own hair. The list goes on and on. Very last note, all work is noble. I've cleaned toilets, shoveled pig manure, landscaping, construction cleanup, foreclosed house clean out, retail, warehouse, factory, offices work, high school tutor, forklift driver, and more I can't think of. Life has ups and downs. Some of the list is high school, some college, but most after college. I had an office job, years of experience, then a layoff. With a degree and no immediate jobs lined up, I joined a cleaning company to feed the family. My wife tried some jobs, but with 4 children under school age, it just wasn't worth it with child care. That's my encouraging mode.
Welcome! Get a student very of YNAB if you can, free for 1 yr. If not, you don't need the app, even the YNAB book says that. You can follow the same ideas in Excel or on paper, not as shiny, but it can be done. I'm glad to answer any money saving questions or give ideas. I don't have much of a filter, so the ideas might be wacky.
This was us not that long ago. We never actually pulled the trigger on bankruptcy, but we were very close. The only reason we didn't was because so much of our debt is made up of student loans that it wasn't even worth it. My husband wound up becoming disabled and, after three years of fighting for it, we finally started getting social security for him along with me getting a much better job. It was a long, painful journey, and we aren't done yet, but it gets better the longer we go.
On the student loan subject, are your loans federal or private? If they're federal, are you on an income based repayment plan? My fed loans have a regular monthly payment of about $500-600, but my income based repayment is $78 a month under REPAYE. Then after 20-25 years any leftover balance is forgiven (be careful with forgiven debt though, there are tax implications). If they're private, my heart goes out to you. Some private student lenders are more willing to work with you, but they are pretty evil as a general rule.
Been there as well. In fact, I filed for bankruptcy but even that costs money, so it took me 2 yrs to finally have enough money to file & finish in 2015. (Bad divorce finalized in 2014, home foreclosure, children's medical bills, defaulted on student loans even after forbearance, etc.) Of course, the student loan didn't go away -- which sucked. In the meantime, I read up on how credit works, how to improve my scores, how interest rates work, how investments work, etc.
I stayed away from acquiring any debts, and lived on what I made using YNAB. The kids were very sweet about not making me feel like a loser or like I was failing them; they were my biggest cheerleaders & greatest motivators. :)
I made some phone calls & was able to have my monthly student loan payment lowered to $5 a month so that I could afford food, shelter, etc for me & my kids as a single parent on minimum wage.
I found a good credit union that offered 1.5% interest on checking accounts, so I thought -- what the heck, I'll take all the income I can get. It might not sound like much, but when you realize how far you can drive/get around on $6 worth of gas -- it was worth it.
I knew I had to do something to jack up my credit score, coz it was at 300 and moving sooooo slowly. Iwas underpaid at work, so I grew the kahonas to ask for raises, bonuses, etc if they wanted to keep me there. I told myself there was no shame in that. Besides, it was still a deal for my employer, coz they had me filling several positions but paying me only 1 paycheck for all those positions! So I broke it down for them in terms they would understand: they could either hire 3 other people for the full time positions I was covering, which would bump up their number of employees to more than 50 -- which meant they would have to provide health insur. OR, they could pay me closer to what I was worth for saving them all that $$ and hassle. Needless to say, my income increased & I finally started breaking past the $20k income barrier.
We still ate cheaply -- ramen, mac & cheese, pretty much any pasta you can think of, that sort of thing. It saved me on groceries to do so. I worked locally (10-15min away) so I was saving on gas by renting a home near work, even though it wasn't the best neighborhood. At least it was in the same, good school district so my kids still had their friends & I'd still have my sanity. LOL
I applied for a credit card to get my score up. It had a mere $250 limit & a whopping 24.65% APR. I told myself, "don't get a credit card limit that's more than what I can pay off with 1 paycheck." I'd charge something to the card, made sure to let that sit until it showed up on the next bill, and then I'd pay the balance off before the due date so I wouldn't be charged interest. I used YNAB to fund & top off the card so I'd have the full balance set aside. :) The card company eventually increased the limit to $600, but in my head I'd tell myself that it was still just a $250 credit card so I wouldn't max it out. The whole, 'let the charges/a balance sit, and then pay it off before the interest kicked in' -- really helped my score jump from 300 to 600. But then it remained stuck at 600.
Now that I was established at work & had a few years' experience, I applied for other jobs that paid more $$ and got my foot in the door with a federal position. Not only was the pay awesome (even though I held a lower job title), but the benefits couldn't be beat! This was in late 2016. Since I was used to living on less pay, I let the extra income earn interest with my credit union & did my best to trick myself into living on that old $20k income I had (minus the increasing gas expense for what was now a 30min drive to work). I'd zero out my savings in YNAB so it always looked like I had no money, and I let myself live on that scarcity. This was how I began my emergency fund. :)
My car died in early 2018 -- just a little over a year from getting my new job/income. (My old car always had something wrong or needed some work; it was nickle-and-dime'ing me to death until the tranny & engine finally gave out.) I learned that you can get more for your vehicle if you sell it yourself rather than trade it in. The dealership was going to give me a mere $500 for it as a trade in. After weighing the pros & cons, I sold my 17yr old car to an individual for $2000, and used that money towards my new car with a 100k warranty so it would be less headache/maint costs than my old car was. This was in 2018, the car was a 2017 model but never used/owned so as far as I was concerned, it was a "new" car & the dealership was able to make room for the newer models coming in. :)
My credit score eventually jumped to 634, but it remained stuck at that number. I spoke to my credit union and they have financial gurus there to help. So I closed my expensive credit card (& took a temporary hit on my score). I opened a $1000 credit card with my credit union & had a slightly lower interest at 17.99% APR. Unlike my old card, there was no annual fee and I was able to earn points on any of my purchases, especially the big ones -- groceries & gas. I did the same with this new card, put just a few things on it to keep it active, let the balance sit, and then paid it in full before the due date to avoid paying interest. I rarely use the card, so the available line of credit makes my score look even better with $1000 available.
I eventually got a $700 department store credit card too, but only used it once -- on a limited-time promo that gave me $300 cash for opening the account, which I immediately applied to my purchase of clothes... The kids & I would've had to buy school/work clothes anyway; it just worked out that I wasn't using my money for the majority of my purchase. :) I never used the card again, but its zero-balance still increases my score because it makes my available line of credit look bigger by another $700.
I've started making more than the minimum payment on my car, from $542 to $550, and now up to $600. I did another debt this way -- rounded up & paid them down. It's 2019, and I have no credit card debts even though I have 2 credit cards. I've paid down some of my student loan. That $28k car loan is now down to $18k in the short time I've had it. And I am now in a good place to not only sock money away more consistently in my emergency fund, but I also opened accounts for the kids so that they'll have $$ for when they're grown and moving out on their own. I use direct deposit to "pay" our savings accounts so that I don't spend nor miss the money. Pay increases, bonuses, etc -- were all dumped into savings right away so I wouldn't spend it.
I got my first retirement fund through work, the TSP, and kept increasing my allotment to it as well & learning about stocks. So it's gone from $0 up to $17k; I didn't stick with the usual L-Fund for my age group since I'm starting late in life with a retirement fund; I made my contributions mainly to the C & S funds, and that has helped greatly.
And today? My credit score of 748 (Yay me!) helped me with getting pre-approved for a home loan from 3 different lenders who are fighting for my business. Because of this, I've been able to negotiate lower fees, have the lender pay for the appraisal, and that sort of thing. I basically pitted them against each other. LOL It's nice to be fought over for once, instead of fighting to get approved. I've put in an offer now, and hope the seller takes it. The only reason I decided to buy a house, was because the mortgage payment was cheaper than renting a small place, I'd be owning a home that will hopefully have equity down the road, plus & I'd get some tax deductions/exemptions rather than giving that money away to a landlord who never fixes crap.
Sorry, I know this was long -- but I wanted you to see that you're not alone... And I wanted to answer your question: yes, it is very possible to dig yourself out of that hole. It may not seem like it from where you're standing, but that's because you're IN the hole & sometimes it's hard to see the sunshine from in there, especially when you've got dirt in your eyes. Just keep going, tackle what you can, don't sweat what you can't -- and you'll turn that dirty hole into a refreshing swimming pool (or zen pond in your backyard) in no time! LOL
Welcome to the Support Forum, Mama Llama ! We're so glad you've decided to give YNAB another spin. You can do this!
If you have a moment, check out the Journals section for amazing stories. And maybe think about starting a journal of your own! It’s a great place to document your budgeting progress while also receiving encouragement and support from others here in the forum.
One thing I really love is our Debt Stories Podcast series. There is something special about hearing YNABers talk about their personal finance journey, and it's really inspiring!
Take things one step at a time, and don't be too hard on yourself. The best time to start a budget is today, and keep plugging away! If you have any questions as you get started again, let us know. 🙂
Hi Everyone! Just a little update. My husband got paid and we sat down and put every dollar to use using YNAB. We were able to pay off our balance with the electric company, the trash company, the phone company and internet! We also were able to pay 1/3 of what we owe to the mortgage company! We also budgeted a strict, but do-able amount for groceries & gas until he gets paid again. We can do this! Thank you for the support!
Yes you can do this!! Meal planning & cutting household expenses is key.
-Eat healthy nutritious foods, nothing processed. Cheaper & healthier. Bag of yellow potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, brown rice, etc. Real food, think farmers. Make stews, soups, chilis, spaghetti sauce & batch cook. Put into freezer bags & lay flat then stack them vertically.
-DL the app FLIPP to price match. Plan your meals from the sales.
-There is a forum topic on saving on groceries. Read Mr Money Moustache’s blog, esp on food.
-Household cleaning without toxins & dirt cheap: Skip paper towels. Use cloth & wash. Use water & vinegar in a spray bottle. Cleans anything. Dawn/vinegar in a spray bottle for bathrooms. No fabric softener or dryer sheets. Use dryer for 10 min then hang clothes when hot & wet on lines out/in. I never iron or dry clean. Hang wrinkled clothes on hangers and in the bathroom after a shower overnight w the door closed, no fan. No wrinkles in the morning. Just learned this for my d/w cuz I hate the plastic pods not opening or washing - 2 drops of Dawn in the dispenser, 2 tbsp baking soda in the bottom of d/w, vinegar instead of jet dry. Trying tonight! Will also be making my own natural laundry detergent. Best stain remover ever (think massive red wine spills, yellow arm pits, chocolate): rub Dawn on stain then baking soda into it to make a paste. Pour hydrogen peroxide into the paste & rub. Leave for a few hours or few days. Then wash. Amazing. Just think of every item you are buying for cleaning as toxic & expensive, so make your own for pennies. I’m allergic to scents & perfumes so have been using vinegar for years & Tide free but will cut that cost soon too.
-Beans are your friend, esp dried ones you soak overnight then rinse & cook for a couple hours. I’ve done a big batch on the wkd then frozen them in freezer bags flat for later. Black bean muffins are amazing. Research them.
-You have little kids which is draining but also time at home to read, batch cook, prepare. Just use your time wisely. I have a busy full time career & I’m divorced with 2 growing boys 15 & 12 that I’m trying to feed. That’s why I’ve embraced meal planning this summer with a vengeance written on the chalkboard in the kitchen, from healthy foods from scratch. The secret’s in the sauce! Use your blender to add lots of veggies & beans to sauces to stretch the ground beef you bought on sale. Buy in bulk & freeze into smaller portions.
-cut your cable if you haven’t. I only have internet, upgraded cuz of gaming to $85, my cell $65, and Netflix $14. Share Spotify w my gf & our kids on our “family play”. Lol We’re both divorced & wanted to cut costs. Go to the library more & borrow dvds.
-stovetop popcorn, turn off lights, wash clothes in cold, there’s lots of ideas. Really the best thing to do is to read about being frugal & saving money.
Stay positive! You’ve got this! Keep phoning your creditors with an update. Call your utilities if there’s an rebates or savings. Also trade babysitting w friends so you can have a cheap date night out & reciprocate. :)
I can attest to eating well but cheaply. I don't know how old your kids are, but don't buy any baby food or toddler foods, they are convenience food. I skipped spoon feeding entirely by doing Baby Led Weaning, which isn't about weaning from the bottle or the breast, but eating soft, matchstick sized foods and letting the kid eat what he/she wants. Anecdotal, to be sure, but my kids love all veggies now.
Don't buy individual portioned anything unless it's as cheap or cheaper per unit. Divvy up chips, cookies, etc. into reusible containers (or cleaned yogurt containers, etc). Buy family sized flats of meat once you can afford to - then freeze into meal-sized portions. Meal planning is huge. Unit shop - if you have more than one store and have the gas to go to several at least occasionally, bring in a notebook and write down prices and the units. So then you can compare grams to grams, and ounces to ounces, between stores. Shop the loss leaders but consider buying different things at different stores if you can afford the gas and time. Our mainstream stores here are Safeway, Giant, and Harris Teeter. I only buy loss leaders there because everything else is much more expensive. I can get it cheaper at Wegmans. Aldis, even Walmart. Look around. If you live in a big enough area, there may be international food stores or family stores. Shop there - you can sometimes buy some things incredibly cheaply there and you can add variety to your diet. Like if you do eat dried beans, they are a great place to buy it. A 20lb sack of rice is going to be cheaper if you can store it cleanly.
If your kids are very small, consider doing cloth diapers, because you can use the same prefolds and covers on multiple kids. If they are not, buy some prefolds anyway or pick up used if you can (yes, they won't hurt you if they have been washed) and maybe only use paper towels on grease. We have been using prefolds for cleaning rags for over 10 years and they are still going strong. We also use cloth napkins and only buy paper ones for kids' birthday parties. Use kitchen towels to clean up spills. Consider using menstrual cups or cloth pads. I wash mine with our towels and cloth napkins. We use cut up flannel blankets and old towels instead of baby wipes and wash with the towels as well.
Despite what the manufacturers would have you believe, you do not need a different product for every single surface in your home. Back in the day, all we used was 409 for everything, basically. As someone said above, you can use vinegar and dish soap for a lot of cleaning. There's a treasure trove of knowledge online. Make your own broth and stock. I buy chicken on super sale and cook it for 8-10 hours, then strain and freeze into pucks. I then use the chicken to make casseroles, soups, mix with bbq sauce, that sort of thing. You can make almost all sauces beyond condiments yourself - don't buy packaged salad dressing, you can make it yourself. If you're adventurous, do keep a small budget for spices. You can throw a chuck roast into a crock pot with onion and salt and then spice that meat for multiple different meals. Same with ground beef or chicken. If whole chickens are on sale and cheaper than pieced, then you can learn to joint chickens and take them apart yourself.
Avoid eating out. Pack all snacks and lunches when possible. You can make pizza at home on the cheap. We cheat and use naan as our crusts but spaghetti sauce (which you can also make cheaper and tastier than bottled if you spend the time) and cheese and a few toppings can be cheap.
As for the rest, gird your loins. You can look on reddit, but avoid Personal Finance subreddit. There's a Poverty Finance subreddit. Even if you never post, pretty much everyone in that subreddit has been there. There are a lot of tips to be found and little shaming.
Look online to see if you can fix stuff yourself. My hubby has saved us the cost of lots of new stuff by fixing the toaster oven, lamps, etc. himself. I patch stuff and sew on buttons myself. If you have girls, you can cut the lower legs off holey leggings and then they can be worn as shorts.
If you can avoid it, don't pay for entertainment. My kids and I did almost all free things. They won't necessarily remember the cost cutting if you don't talk about it later on, but they'll remember the time you spent with them. Good luck. It's both harder and easier when the kids are little. Do remember to budget some non-necessities. When I was little, McDonalds was a big treat (my spouse as well).