This is my personal story of my ongoing journey through foreclosure, bankruptcy, and what's on the other side.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rock Bottom

This is post four in a five post series about how I got to this point. If you'd like to read the whole story, you should start here.

In January 2013, I made my last mortgage payment. My therapist assured me that I wasn’t a bad person or a failure, but I really felt like I was. I was knocking around in this huge house. My kids were glued to the television. Some days I could barely drag myself out of bed. We kept the house at 60 degrees, and used space heaters to make up the rest of the heat, because I couldn’t afford the oil bill. Our electricity bill tripled. My ex and I agreed to half his child support until I moved out of the house so that he could save up money to give himself a buffer after the foreclosure, and maybe pay off some additional debts that he had. This turned out to not be a smart move on my part; I stayed struggling to make ends meet. I wanted to get a better job that paid more, but the truth was I wasn’t doing great at the job I already had. I was preoccupied, depressed, and convinced that life was never going to get better. 

We decided to try deed in lieu as an alternative to foreclosure first, but we were warned that it was unlikely to go through. We turned in all of our paperwork twice, but never received a phone call from the mortgage company. Every time we called to talk to our loan officer, we were transferred to voicemail. The ex spent one whole day off trying to call the loan officer. I wish I was kidding. In the meantime I was receiving automated phone calls from the mortgage company asking me to call them. I cried on more than one occasion. 

I tried to call a debt consolidation company, but my income to outcome ratio was so bad that they refused to even try to help me. They told me that maybe when I had paid off a few bills they would help me, but I needed help to pay off bills… I am not sure that’s how this is supposed to work.

In May 2013, I ran out of oil for the last time. There was nowhere I could pull money from. We started showering at friend’s houses, and eating most nights with friends, so that I didn’t have to worry about groceries very much either. I went on an all-expenses paid business trip to New Orleans, and spent less than $100 in the four days I was there, and that was financed by my mother. Shortly after that I made the last payment I could afford on my Target Card. I tried to apply for a financial difficulty program with Target but I was rejected. 

I came clean with some friends and family about the reality of my situation, and my mother and my aunt offered to help me when it came time to move into an apartment, monetarily. I reluctantly accepted, but this turns out to be one of the best things I have done. I couldn’t have possibly afforded first, last, and security at any point on my own. I started looking for an apartment, and found one at the end of the summer. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Out of Touch With Reality

This is post three in a five post series about how I got to this point. To read the previous entries, click here for Part One and here for Part Two.

In February of 2012, I lost it. I looked at my boss, and told him I needed to take a vacation. Then I packed up the kids the next day and went to Florida. I took them to Disney World. We stayed at a resort. We visited my grandparents. And then five days later we drove back to Pennsylvania. All of this went on my credit card, but I wasn’t worried because I was going to get my tax refund soon. I tried to refinance the house, because it was still in both my name and my ex-husband’s name. I was denied, and I couldn’t understand why.

Three months later, in May 2012, I lost it again. This time, I took a last minute trip, by myself, to Paris. I don’t regret taking that trip; it taught me a lot about myself and about being alone. But I do regret putting it all on my credit card. I also regret not bringing my school work along. I regret not doing my school work when I get back. And I really regret failing out of classes.

When I failed out of classes, I stopped even trying to go to school, full-time or otherwise. My live-in boyfriend and I broke up. I started dating someone else, who encouraged me to seek help for my depression. I started a complicated ritual of medication cycles and therapy, which cost a lot of money. At the highest point, I was paying nearly $250 a month in mental health care bills. Now it’s down to approximately $125 a month. In August 2012, I decided to go shopping at Target. When I walked up to the register I had over one thousand dollars in the cart. I applied for the Target Red Card and got a credit line for $3000.

By December 2012, I realized that I was stuck. Very, very stuck. I barely had enough money to pay for oil to warm the house. I met with the ex-husband at McDonald’s while the kids played in the playground there, and we discussed foreclosure for the first time: don’t forget, his name was still on the house. It was the only option we had available to us at this point. He had an apartment and a job that was an hour and a half away from us, so he couldn’t take over the house payments or living arrangements. We briefly discussed moving in together to save money, but we couldn’t imagine getting along well enough, and we couldn’t manage to keep our jobs with the commute distance being so huge for both of us. I called the mortgage company, and I called a local debt counseling service about our decision. Neither would or could help us, given that we hadn’t missed a payment yet.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Where I Am Now

This is post five in a five post series about how I got to this point. If you'd like to read the whole story, you should start here.

So here I am. I moved into my new small apartment a month ago today, and my ex and I readjusted our child support situation. We couldn’t go by the state guidelines, like we had been planning, because that was one full (2 week) paycheck for him, and he couldn’t live on that. I sympathize.  But we found an amount that would balance both of our budgets. I started going to school again, part-time, mostly because I needed the GI Bill income. One day a week I’m not home until 10pm. Every other week, I spend another night out until 8:30pm, because I have therapy, and I can’t afford to miss it. If that makes me mentally weak, so be it. I know my limits a little better now.

Right now I can afford to pay for the electric at both locations, which is good because since I’m money-free, I have been moving all of my items over personally, one car load at a time. I have racked up a small personal loan with my best friend; he paid for the one trip moving truck we had, so that I could move all of the furniture we needed in one go. I don’t have a dishwasher, so I do my dishes by hand every night. I don’t have a washer or dryer either.

What I do have is $15,200 on my credit card with a $15,000 limit. I’m not behind in payments, but the interest kills me every time. My Target card with a limit of $3,000 has $3,500 on it, and I’m in arrears. I was hiding from creditor phone calls for a few months; last week I answered and told them not to call me again, but to only contact me by mail. I have a recurring medical bill of at least $120 a month; some months, when I need to see my psychiatrist for medication adjustments, it goes up to $160. I’m lucky I have health insurance; my premium is doubling this year, though. 

My car payments are going well; the loan is paid halfway down. But I’m getting nowhere fast. While I can barely make ends meet, I still make too much money to qualify for government subsidies, like free or reduced price lunch at school for the girls, or child care assistance. When the foreclosure finally settles, I’ll probably have thousands of dollars more in debt that I can’t afford to pay off. The ex suggested that he and I both file for bankruptcy. 

The idea fills me with horror. I searched the internet for hours, looking for a blog of someone, anyone, who had gone through this kind of situation. I just wanted to relate to someone. But there was nothing. So I've decided to fill that gap, and help someone else realize that they’re not alone. If you are going through this situation right now: You Are Not Alone. I'm right here with you. We'll make it through.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Amounting Debt

This is post two in a five post series about how I got to this point. For the first part, click here.

In spring of 2011, I returned to school as well, using my GI Bill. I was still working full-time, and taking classes full-time, while he went to school full-time.  It was hard. Our marriage was already suffering for many reasons, and this was the nail in the coffin. In April 2011, I filed for divorce.

We knew that we didn’t have the expendable cash to go to a lawyer and have a real settlement figured out, so we decided like this: he got the older car. I got the newer car. I paid off half of his credit card debt (and opened my own credit account at the same time), and I got the girls, he had to pay child support. I also was continuing to live in the house. I obtained a personal loan to pay off his credit card debts and the fees associated with the divorce, which I paid off within six months. All the bills and assorted expenses fell to me.

Things got a little bit harder for me; in October, my boyfriend offered to move in so that he could help get my oldest on and off the bus for me, so that I didn’t have to worry about getting her to daycare or school. I accepted, and had another mouth to feed, as he was unemployed. I was still going to school full-time, and I started floundering miserably. I couldn’t take classes full-time, manage the household, and work, at least, not if I wanted to sleep. Ever. Winter set in, and we went through hundreds of dollars in oil in a month. I obviously didn’t have the money for this, so it went on my credit card. So did the Christmas presents that year. So did our quarterly trash and sewer bill, which I hadn’t included in my budget.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Where I Started

This is post one in a five post series describing how I got to this point. Post number two will be up shortly.

It’s hard to believe that four years ago, September 2009, I had zero debt and a sizeable savings account, but the truth is, not only was I soluble, but I had several thousand saved up. Around that time, my then-husband was getting out of the military and we moved back to his home state in Pennsylvania. I had carefully saved money, faithfully tracked all of my purchases with cash, and we had a double-check process in which both of us vetted any purchase (other than groceries) that would total more than $100. I sold one of our cars, and paid off the other one, as well as all our credit card debt. Life was good.

Four months later, we were in an apartment in Pennsylvania. I had just gotten a job, so he stayed home with the kids. The littlest one was breastfed and only ate food that we pureed ourselves, so we didn’t worry about expensive formula or food, but we had no health insurance so we paid for all her well-baby visits out of pocket. Between that, groceries, rent, and the standard costs of maintaining an apartment, we had nearly halfed our savings account, but I had a good job and we weren’t paying for daycare. I had a second job taking the census for a few months and so we had a bit more extra income. Life was still pretty good.

It was good enough, in fact, that we decided after I had been at my job for four months that we wanted to look for a house. We toured a lot of houses in the area, after determining a feasible budget, and then we bought one that was large but in a shady neighborhood in a small city. We finished emptying out our savings account at this point, to pay for closing costs, but we rolled the down payment into the mortgage instead of paying it up front. I’m still a little fuzzy on how that worked. The first mortgage bill was a little bit of a shock; we had not realized how high our escrow would be, due to the taxes in the county we were now residents of, but we were still able to pay for it.

A few months later, the husband decided to go back to school using the GI Bill. Between the GI Bill and my full-time job, even the daycare was a laughable expense, and we paid almost double on our mortgage principle every month. Sometimes we’d charge things to the credit card, like when we needed to buy new furniture, instead of taking it out of the checking account. We also contributed to personal IRA’s and made some small stock investments. Whenever we got small windfalls, like tax refunds or my end of the year bonus, we would spend it on things that made us happy, like tickets to Disney World or a new gaming system or a new computer. We had to have two cars, and we bought one from his parents. It died within a few months, and I purchased a used Toyota Prius. This emptied out our savings account, again.