My Story: Aftermath of Divorce
When I filed for divorce over 2 years ago, all the family debts were paid off, including the mortgage. What I was unable to anticipate ahead of time was being tossed out of my home by the drug-addict that once was my beloved husband. I was terrified to ask for the property and live in the house that he had once built. Basically, I feared for my life if I lived there. I also had 5 horses to care for, and their lives were in jeopardy if I kept them there. My only recourse at that time was to move out --- lock, stock, and horses. This meant boarding where once I used to have them in my back yard. I also paid rent for an apartment and tried to "buy" some security for my 2 teenage sons. All this turmoil, fear, and chaos led me into over $15,000 debt, not counting the attorney fees. I "flipped out", having never, ever been in debt like that in my entire life!
Last year, I took on a part-time job, realizing it would effectively kill any social life I wanted, but how could I sleep at night if I could not financially care for the ones I loved? Eventually both sons moved back in with their father, for their own reasons. I accelerated my 2nd job schedule. I found a better paying 2nd job at a Home Improvement store, and increased to the maximum of hours my primary job would allow. At first I was swept away with emotion over spending, as I had in the prior year, but spending it on items for the house my second son had talked me into buying. Oh yes, no financial settlement yet, and I will probably have to return to court and fight that battle yet again. The Court stuck me big-time!
So, now, here I am, with a house in town that I really don't want (no horses in the back yard, you see) and that needs upgrading, no social life, no time to drive to see the horses, no kids, plenty of bills. I decided to concentrate on Financial Fitness for the next year.
I started by putting my credit cards under lock and key and paying for only those projects that I planned on completing within a week with cash. I forced myself to go through a comprehensive financial review of my debts, place everything on an Excel spreadsheet, and force myself to plan on how much I could pay off each month, and how long it would take me to clear these debts. It was painful and ugly. But very educational. I decided to become frugal!
I paid bills with each paycheck, early if necessary. I paid extra on credit cards until the one with the highest rate was paid off. Then I placed it in a locked filing cabinet, and concentrated on the others. Just last month, one card offered to me a 4.9% rate for 12 months for credit transfer, and they actually transferred almost $7000 from my only other open-debt card! My last payment to that other card allowed me to also place it in that locked filing cabinet. I now have only 2 cards, and have actually saved some money that I am seriously considering investing in a mutual fund account that I hear has high interest payment. I will bear my soul to my father, a retired banker who planned very well for his future, and follow his advice. If I decide to not invest, but to pay the bills, already I have a large chunk to pay off, nearly $5000.
I still have to plan for paying for one-third of my older son's college, plan for replacing my home's furnace/airconditioner, plan on replacing my vehicle that has over 215,000 miles on it, and so forth. My horses are with some friends at a price I can afford, at least for the summer, and I was able to lease out one mare for breeding purposes so that I don't have to pay for her right now. The situation is not ideal, but livable at this point in time. As for the house, it stills needs updating, but I am proceeding it one step at a time. I paid for the roof job, and now need new gutters and a paint job. But I already know that I can do these things myself with a little help from friends.
My recipe for getting out of debt:
- No "window shopping" either through malls or catalogues. This indulgence leads me to "lust" after what I cannot afford, buy things I really don't need, and feel bad because I cannot have everything I want when I want it.
- I pay close attention to my checkbook balance, and to the balances of any bill I have, from credit card, to telephone bill. I have saved a couple of hundred dollars by phoning and complaining to a company about inconsistencies in my bills.
- I shop for groceries frugally. I found the local Super Wal Mart has most of what I need at a significantly lower price. I eat everything I buy. I rarely eat out.
- I read every HandyMan magazine I can get my hands on (without buying them), pick everyone's brains, and think and plan before attacking a home-improvement project. For a gal who never knew what electricity was, I can now do simple electrical wiring in my home, legally, and up-to-code, too. The more I do, the more confident I feel.
- If I really work hard, I need to take care of myself. I eat properly, sleep as much as I can and need to, exercise to a tape I purchased, (keeps me out of the gym and its exorbitant costs), supply myself with mega vitamins and minerals, and love myself as much as I can. Just the simple process of facing myself in the mirror daily and telling myself that I love myself just the way I am, gives me strength to carry on.
- I keep busy. If I am not reading books that I borrowed for free or paid 25 cents for, I am cleaning, or working on home-improvement projects. I also love to sew, and still have gobs of material left over from my spending days that I can use to entertain me. Riding my horses is free, and so is visiting friends. I even found a free voice-messaging service for my home phone and I use the cheapest long-distance service I can find. I also have given extra effort at my primary job, since I plan on retiring from it someday.
- Never underestimate the power of a support group. I have no family here, and my teenage boys have their own agenda, so I rely on friends. I happen to belong to AlAnon, which provides me with a huge source of people to whom I can turn when I need help, and each person knows exactly what I have gone through. I don't get the love I want from the same places anymore, but I get what I need, and lots of it, from my friends in AlAnon.
Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. It's purpose is to share ideas and encouragement. If you'd like to submit your story please send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with "My Story" as the subject. You don't need to be a professional writer. Just someone who's learned something that can benefit others.