bankruptcy

Journey to Gratitude: Days 30-35

Life happens. While I made a note of my gratitude items each day, I did not get a chance to post them. So here’s the past week:

Day 30:
Today, I saw AMERICAN SNIPER (which was excellent, by the way). I am always amazed by those who have the courage and passion to serve this country, as I don’t think I could stand on the battle lines. So today I am thankful for those who serve our country to protect our freedom.

IMG_5427

Day 31:
Bella just turned 2 a couple of weeks ago. While the time is going by so very quickly, I am also thankful for this age. She can finally communicate with words her needs and wants, she understands commands from me, and best of all, we can go “play”! She is at such a fun age where she is curious about everything and has such a great awareness of the world around her. I can now take her to playgrounds and kids’ museums and the zoo – so many fun places!

IMG_5287

Day 32:
This weekend, Blaine and I stumbled upon an amazing deal on a foreclosed house for ourselves. In talking about the possibility of pursuing it, I decided to bring up my credit score. For those who haven’t followed my story, I filed bankruptcy during the peak of the recession (following job loss and all that comes with that). Four years later, I am in a much better place, and have managed to pay off all remaining debt (the car and my hefty student loans were excluded from the bankruptcy). Today, I am thankful for second chances and the ability to rebuild after tragedy, as my credit score is the highest it has ever been!

IMG_5428

Day 33:
My work team has seen A LOT of changes over the past year. Namely, we have gone through an entire culture change, nearly a complete turnover of our HPLT (high performance leadership team), and turnover of a third or so of our team members. It was a tough road, but we are in SUCH a better place now as a result, and 2015 is already off to an amazing start! Today, I am thankful for the new faces at our HPLT table, as I think we have a strong, cohesive team to propel us to the next level!

IMG_5429

Day 34:
Blaine and I put in an offer for the house we found over the weekend, and I became so excited and fixated on it that I was already imagining where we would put things. I could just *see* and *FEEL* us in this house. Alas, it was not in God’s plan, as someone swooped in with a cash offer well above our financed offer. I was heartbroken. And yet, it was a reminder that I need to learn to trust in God’s plan for us. This house or this time just wasn’t right, and there is other business we need to take care of before we settle into our dream home. Today, as hard as it is to swallow, I am thankful for that reminder.

IMG_5430

Day 35:
I was pretty disappointed about not getting that house. Blaine was trying to be encouraging that we would one day have our house, but maybe the timing wasn’t right and we need to get some other business aligned first. This loss gave us an opportunity to discuss many things – our present, our future, and most of all, how fortunate we are to have all that we currently have. I love theses moments when we can really connect with emotional intimacy and have a great chat about life. We don’t get those moments often – mostly because life is so busy and we don’t take (or make) the time to pause and have these discussions. So today, I am thankful for this rare gem that has the power to refuel our marriage and remind us why we have chosen each other.

012

Advertisements

Journey to Gratitude: Day 15

Growing up, our family always struggled with money. My parents didn’t have the best financial skills, and therefore didn’t teach great habits to us kids either. As an adult, I continued to struggle with money until I was faced with filing bankruptcy. During that process, I had to take some courses on budgeting and such, and only then did I learn what it meant to be smart with money.

When I met Blaine, he was already worlds ahead of me. Two years later, he began realizing his vision for an investment in foreclosures that he could turn into rental properties. In 2012, he bought the first rental house, with the goal of buying one per year for 10 years. Just over 2 years later, we have 6 properties. As of today, he signed contracts on 2 more, bringing our total to 8 (well, 9 properties of you include my condo in Knoxville that has been rented out since I relocated to Bristol). The plan has escalated faster than I think either of us ever imagined, and it has been a lot of hard work renovating the properties and finding good tenants (especially since 7 of the 8 properties have come about in just the past 14 months). But when all is said and done, it has been a tremendous blessing!

Today, I am thankful for my husband’s ambition and foresight to build this side business, which will ultimately secure our family’s future. With all of the other obstacles and tragedies we’ve had to deal with these past couple of years, it’s nice to know that money is not an added pressure amidst the life struggles.

2015/01/img_5357.png

Time to Trim

About two years ago, I went “public”, so-to-speak, about my financial difficulties.  I chose to share my story because I knew there had to be others out there just like me, only maybe too ashamed to say anything.  I also knew that I had survived my struggles through persistent navigation through the nearly impossible procedures of mortgage loan modification, bankruptcy, and credit card nonsense….but that not everyone would be so persistent, or even know where to begin.  I have been fortunate.  I was one of the lucky ones.

While I do not claim to know all there is to know about the hullabaloo and fine print of this financial crisis, I do feel that I have learned a great deal, and my learnings may help someone else get through their struggle.  In fact, I have already had a handful of people ask “how did you do it?” since I went public with my struggles.  Please know that each situation is unique, and ultimately you should consult with a legitimate credit/debt counseling service or attorney.  However, here are some tips for beginning to trim those things that are ultimately causing you to feel like you are drowning:

1.  Sit down and write out all expenses for every month, as well as your income for each month.
Be honest.  “Fluffing” numbers will only cheat you.  Once you have written down income and expenses, compare what you have listed with three months worth of checking account and credit card statements.  If you are like me, you may think that you have trimmed extras and are living on the bare minimum…but in reality, you are still overspending.  When I really looked into my bank statements, I was amazed at the amount I was spending on eating out and having social drinks with friends.  (Once you have your list, hold onto it, as you will need it later when you begin calling to negotiate rates and fees with credit cards, etc.) 

2.  Trim excesses. (And when you think you have, trim again.)
Stop eating out.  Turn off those premium cable channels.  Stop buying clothes just because they are on sale.  Stop going to movies.  And when you’ve done all of that, take a look again at those financial statements to see where else you can trim.  You will be amazed at the amount of money you’ve been flushing down the toilet on things that aren’t important in the grand scheme of things.  I’m talking hundreds of dollars spent on nonsense – there’s your car payment right there.

3.  Stop using credit cards – period.
Now, if you are like me, the thought of that sends chills down your spine and sends you into panic mode.  But you just have to do it – cold turkey.  Stop using them TODAY, or you will never end this vicious cycle.

4.  Call your credit card companies.
Set aside a couple of hours, because this step will be a process all by itself.  Grab that list that we created in #1, call each company one-by-one, and explain that you are experiencing financial hardship due to _____________ (pick your reason: loss of job, underemployment, pay cut, medical bills – whatever it was that was the straw to break your proverbial back).  Most companies will work with you to lower your rate and put you on a fixed (and many times, lower) payment each month.  However, be prepared that, in order to do so, they will end your spending privileges (again, I refer you back up to #3).  In some cases, your privileges are only revoked temporarily while you are on the payment plan, and once you have fulfilled the terms of the payment plan and/or get back on your feet, they will extend those privileges once again.  Other companies will close the account altogether.  In the latter case, ignore those who tell you this will hurt your credit.  In the long run, you will be better off that you are paying down a debt instead of incurring more.  The benefits you will reap from paying it down will far outweigh any temporary bumps to your credit score.

5.  Call your utility companies and anyone else to whom you pay money each month.
Believe it or not, even your phone and cable companies may have a special payment plan that they can put you on for a limited time while you are working through your financial difficulties – especially if you threaten to leave or turn off the service altogether.  Call them, explain your financial hardship, and see how they may be willing to work with you.  
By the time I talked to all of my credit card and utility companies, I had trimmed another $100-$150 off of my expenses – there’s your electric bill.  Add to that the “extras” of eating out, socializing with friends, and impulse shopping, and I found about $500 to put towards things that were much more important, such as house and car payments, gas, and groceries.  The fact that you have downsized your expenses will counterbalance the fact that you are no longer using your credit cards, especially when most of what you were probably using the credit cards on has now been trimmed from your life.

No one said this process would be easy, but I promise the hard work pays off.  You will have to make sacrifices for a little while, but the dedication and diligence will provide you with more breathing room and more control over your finances (and in the grand scheme, more control over your LIFE).  

Once going through this process of trimming, I found that – even though I was making nearly half the salary I had been making before losing my job in the downfall of the economy – I felt like I had more.  For the first time in my life, I was following a true budget – and it made all the difference in the world between drowning and living.  And now, I am WINNING MY LIFE!