Credit Card Debt - Watertown,MA

Updated on December 16, 2009
G.T. asks from Canton, MA
13 answers

Hi all. Over the past 2 years my husband and I have had our fair share of problems come our way - medical issues, dental surgery, car repair after car repair, THEN a car accident with a totalled car, and house repairs. I also only work part time so we have little money coming in as it is.
We also had to buy our own health insurance for a while ($1000 a month!!!!). Needless to say, we are now in over our heads. Credit card debt is about $7000. I just can't seem to get the card down - I make no purchases for fun, my husband and I NEVER go out, groceries are SO expensive, etc, etc, etc. UGH!

Any advice on how to get out of this debt?

My husband is due for a raise - we hope! And though I could go back to work full time, all it would do is pay for day care and not leave us much else.

Help!

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J.G.

answers from Boston on

G.,

So sorry to hear about your financial troubles. I can make a few suggestions on where to save money, but I'm guessing these are things you've already considered:

1. If you have cable, get rid of it, or at least cut back on the number of channels you are getting. This will save on your cable bill and you'll probably watch less tv, saving on electricity.

2. Cut back on purchases of disposable items, such as disinfecting wipes. You can make your own wipes using an airtight container and some rags. There are lots of recipes out there, but most contain vinegar, water, and tea tree oil.

3. Make your own laundry detergent. I haven't done this, but I've heard it is pretty easy, and again you aren't using any harsh chemicals. There are lots of recipes out there.

4. Cut back on eating meat. It is usually the most expensive part of a meal, and you can get protein from other sources (beans or eggs, for example). When you do buy meat, look for packages that have been marked down because they expire soon. You can freeze these and thaw them when you need them.

5. Make a grocery list and stick to it. Don't buy anything extra, and definitely stay away from processed or convenience foods. Not only are the expensive, but they are also less healthy.

6. Use the grocery circular when you shop to stock up on sale items. When you are shopping, make sure you look on the very top and very bottom shelves for less expensive brands. The expensive items are at eye level where customers are more likely to purchase them. And don't be afraid to try the store brands -- they are usually manufactured by the major brands and repackaged for the store. Most of the time, they are as good as the brand you would normally by. There are exceptions, of course.

7. Look for ways to save electricity. Unplug any appliance that you aren't using. Many (like the tv) still draw some electricity even when they are off.

8. Don't use the dryer. I hang laundry to dry in the basement. It takes less than a day to dry because the air is so dry right now. If the clothes are stiff after drying, toss them in the dryer without heat for a few minutes to soften them up. This saved us over 10% on our electric bill!

9. Call your credit card company and ask to get a lower interest rate. It may not work, but it can't hurt to try.

10. Try to sell some stuff on eBay or in a consignment shop to make extra money. There are a number of tutorials out there on how to get started with eBay. Gently-used kids' clothes are good items to start with.

11. Make a budget. Write down everything you spend, even if it is just a $2 cup of coffee.

12. Set a small goal and work toward it. Commit yourself to reducing the debt by some amount over the next 6 months. Focusing on the whole amount can be daunting, but achieving a smaller goal in a few months might give you a boost.

These are just a few ideas, many of which I've employed myself. I hope they can help!

There are a number of really good blogs out there on living frugally and paying off debt. One that I visit often is http://www.thesimpledollar.com. The blogger racked up a lot of debt in college and has since paid it down. He has a lot of sensible ideas on how to save money and get finances in order.

Good luck! It can seem like an uphill climb, especially in today's economy. However once you send in that final credit card payment, you are going to feel so proud of yourself!

1 mom found this helpful
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K.P.

answers from Springfield on

Do you own your own home? You could refinance your house and roll the debt in. You can get a good mortgage rate right now.

You could look into home daycares for your daughter so you could go back full time. I pay $30 a day for all day care.

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M.C.

answers from Boston on

Hi G.,

I don't have a lot of advice for you but I want to just say I understand your situation because my husband and I are kind of in the same boat. Last year we had to make a lot of purchases on the credit cards and are now having a hard time getting rid of them. We just had a 2nd baby in June and it is a struggle. My husbands car broke down in May and right now we only have one car. We have started eliminating things that we don't need such as cell phones (he has a work one that he uses are personal as well), we used to eat out once a week now once a month, we are alos in the process of trying to modify our home loan since that is the biggest thing in which is weighing us down. We have also eliminated some cable channels etc. If I went back to my job I would also be paying for our little one to be in daycare adn the oldest to be in aftercare. It doesn't make much sense.

Good luck and hang in there!

D.B.

answers from Providence on

I don't know if you work weekends, but perhaps you could find a job that offers night AND weekend hours, as a chance for you to pick up some extra money (and hours) when you can? Or, if it's possible, pick up some extra hours at your present job?

Also, what about any help from the state? Food stamps, WIC....just until your family is ready to get back on their feet?

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S.J.

answers from Boston on

G.,

Sorry to hear about your financial troubles. It sounds like you've already gotten lots of practical advice. Another thing to think about is working with a financial adviser who could help you get a handle on exactly where you stand and see if something like refinancing your mortgage makes the most sense for where you want to be.

My husband is an adviser and would be happy to sit down with you and your husband to see if there's anything he can do for you. He does not charge a fee. Here is his e-mail: [email protected]____.com and his firm's web address: www.commonwealthfinancialgroup.com

Good luck!

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S.L.

answers from Springfield on

Contact this agency if you're in Watertown. This is not a "handout." These services are your tax dollars working for you, your family, and your community members. They will work with you to figure out how to stabilize your income and expenses. When you're back on your feet, you can give back. Check especially with Fuel Assistance, Rental Assistance, WIC, and ask about food stamp (SNAP) enrollment.

Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI)
167 Dutton Street, Lowell, MA 01852
Phone ###-###-####
Fax ###-###-####
http://www.comteam.org/

Good luck!!!
Service Area:

Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, and Westford. Housing service area: Merrimack Valley, plus Cape Ann and the North Shore for certain services.

Current Programs:

Child Care, Head Start, Early Head Start, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), School-Age After School Care Program, Spindle City Corps, Citizen Schools, Section 8 Rental Assistance, Housing Consumer Education Center, RAFT (Residential Assistance to Families in Transition), First-Time Homebuyer Classes and Counseling, Foreclosure Prevention, Housing Counseling, Housing Assistance Program (Housing Search for Homeless Families, Homelessness Prevention for Department of Transitional Assistance Families), Affordable Housing Development Through Common Ground Development Corp, Fuel Assistance, Weatherization, YouthBuild, Foster Grandparent and Retired Senior Volunteer Programs; Earned Income Tax Credit Assistance, Farmer’s Market, New Entry Sustainable Farming Program, Child Care Search (Information and Referral and Voucher Management), Community Partnerships, and Family Foundation Network.

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L.S.

answers from Hartford on

I am so sorry that you have been going through all this! I will spare you the details but let it suffice to say that we found ourselves 30 grand in debt -- through very little fault of our own.

3 years later we are down to about 9 grand in debt.

We got someone to help us create a budget letting us pay all our bills, keep our credit report good and still paying off debt. We have NEVER missed a payment on ANYTHING.

We had to cut back on everything. I mean EVERYTHING. It was the hardest thing i have ever had to do. We don't go out, we don't have a home phone, we have very little tv -- although my internet connection was one hard choice that we did keep :)

We moved into a 2 bedroom apt with 2 huge dogs, 3 kids under 4 and no laundry facilities. (my husband got a new job in ct. the debt came from the sale of the house in TX, the fix up job of the house and the actual move -- so from tx we moved directly to the apt)

We price out EVERYTHING

We are driving old cars

We are using hand me down clothes for everything we can

We use coupon after coupon (most stores accept internet coupons)

The fanciest restaurant we have gone out to eat in is McDonalds in 3 yrs

We don't take vacations that we pay for (if grandma and grandpa want to see us they pay for us to come)

We eat little meat except chicken b/c it is so expensive. We very carefully buy fresh fruit b/c it is so expensive but i will not compromise my kids diet to get out of debt.

It is hard--especially living in the 2 bedroom apt and dragging 3 kids under 4 to the laundromat -- but we will get through.

Keep your head up. Things will improve. they have to.

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K.P.

answers from Providence on

I second the advice about Dave Ramsey. His "system" makes sense and is no-nonsense. Check out his books at the library or read about him online.

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C.B.

answers from Boston on

check out careone credit counceling and get on a debt management plan for your credit card debt. Good luck!!

D.B.

answers from Boston on

I absolutely know where you are coming from! It's awful, isn't it? We bought our own medical insurance for 17 years so we well know that story, and we've had 2 car crashes (neither our fault).

You can contact an agency called CCCS - Consumer Credit Counseling Services. They negotiate with credit card companies to set up a payment plan for you, and they stop all the extra interest and late penalties. At least that way you are paying principal and not interest. They also often reduce the total debt. You MUST stick to the payment plan though, but you pay them and not the companies so it's easier. There are other agencies that do the same thing but be sure they are reputable - there are scams out there.

I also started my own business - and I work with a lot of fitness professionals as well as people from all walks of life. It's an honorable company and I work it around the rest of my life and schedule. You could do this too. If you do start your own business, make sure there are low start up costs (e.g. mine costs $25 through Dec. 31 but is only $45 after that), make sure you don't have to invest in a lot of inventory or sales aids, make sure the company has been invited into the Direct Sales Association (a watchdog group), that it's publicly traded, that it's been written up in business publications (e.g. Forbes, Fortune, Business Week), and that training is free and ongoing. Having extra income is great. I just helped a young mom get started - she has an infant and a toddler, and like you, works part time at night as a massage therapist. I also work with a tennis pro and a teacher/coach, a minister, a nurse, a math tutor, a real estate agent, a hairdresser, and many others.

Also, there was a report on the news the other night (WBZ I think) about how groceries vary in cost based on area - they profiled several major supermarket chains and showed how much prices change just by going a few miles down the road to the next town, even within the same chain. There are also on-line coupon groups such as The Grocery Game which get you unlimited coupons at the stores you choose - you can try it free for 30 days. I haven't been too faithful to it, but a friend of mine saves a fortune on her groceries and still buys just the things she wants. I saw The Grocery Game recommended by a consumer shopping expert on one of the TV shows too, so I know it's reputable. There are others that do the same thing so you could do some research to see what's best for you.

As for entertainment, check out some of the museums that offer one day free admission - usually on their slowest day. Some offer free admission this time of year if you bring a food donation for a local pantry. Also, AAA offices sell discount movie tickets for most of the big chains.

Good luck!

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L.G.

answers from Boston on

i saw this post awhile ago and meant to respond - things will get better and the best things in life are free - but money is necessary to get by. it's nice you didn't mention that you and your husband fight b/c of money; it sounds like your relationship is solid. that's awesome.

anyway, i have a friend who got a job at a daycare center and so long as her child wasn't in her room, she could bring her own daughter (for a nominal fee, but she got paid more than the fee - some "teachers" are 1/2 day too if that's better for your schedule).

also, the daycare where danica goes brings in a music lady once a week for an hour (movement and dancing); and a different woman another day for choral (singing and instruments). Parents pay $5 extra dollars a week for each one. You can market yourself to daycare centers and teach a fitness class once a week (and bring Leela) at a bunch of them. That would generate some income.... Try First Path; Sasha is the owner. That's where dani goes. Figure out a good program for 2 and 3 and 4 year olds that they would enjoy and ask her what she pays the music ladies.

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E.O.

answers from Boston on

I was in a very similar situation 6 years ago....now pretty much debt free (and aiming to stay that way).

Do you own your house and have a mortgage? You might consider a refi (rates are low now) and you could take some equity out to pay off your credit cards....just getting rid of all debt on the cards will save tons because of the interest they charge.

You also might consider keeping your eyes open for a new credit card which offers 0% interest on transfered balances...that should help you get the balances paid down. Just be sure you are aware of when the 'trial period' ends so you're not hit w/ high interest on your remaining balance.

As unpleasant as it seems bankruptcy may be the best way out for some situations. My sister had to break down and file last year; it's helped her get back on her feet again.

I'd do some research on line for all the above suggestions and see what suits you best.

- Have you called your credit card company yet and asked for a lower interest rate?

Best of luck

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E.P.

answers from Boca Raton on

My husband and I have found this great way to get rid of debt! We're taking a class through our church taught by Dave Ramsey. Check out his site www.daveramsey.com. I hope this helps :)

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