This married father of two wears shorts all winter because he can’t afford pants.

magnifying glassLet’s call him Rob. You might think the post title is meant to mock Rob; it is not. Those are Rob’s words (about having to wear shorts all winter because he can’t afford pants), and I thought that one line did a great job of summarizing his severe cash problems.

Rob made a post in a forum about how he felt like YNAB didn’t really suit his situation or his budgeting style, and challenged a member of the YNAB team to do a better job with his finances than he was doing with plain ol’ Notepad (I believe he’s referring to the Microsoft plain text editor as opposed to actual pen and paper).

Let me give you a portion of Rob’s forum post (although not the part where he talks about ‘shorts all winter’); you’ll see this man knows exactly where his money needs to be and exactly when it needs to be there:

“Right now I have three parts of income this month. Two paychecks and one stipend from my wife’s student loans. This MONEY HAS TO GO THIS MONTH (OCTOBER). Not just to this month, but on VERY SPECIFIC DAYS of the month, or else one check may go through wrong and suddenly five more will bounce. I can’t have that, I have already 965 dollars overdrawn in my bank.

If I follow me schedule on notepad, I will know the exact day and method to make payments to make sure they clear. For example: I do not get my paycheck until 10/4. However, rent is due on 10/1. In order for it to not be marked as late, I either have to drop it off on that date to the landlord, or mail it postmarked by the 1st and get there no later than the 5th. So…using my method, I can actually know that I need to MAIL the check on the 1st, taking it to the post office and making sure they set a delivery option for the 4th since the 4th is a friday and even if they deliver it on the 5th the landlord isn’t open then it won’t get the delivery actually until the next monday the 7th, and will count it late.

So, I know, by my method, when to drop it off and by what means. I also know that the paycheck is not going to be enough to cover my rent, and I still have a couple hundred dollars in bills to pay. So, I have to know that I need to go to the bank, on Friday, the 4th, after my check deposits, and talk to a teller so that the transaction posts immediately and not pending or else it will cause extra OD fees, and withdraw the money needed for the phone payment, groceries, and gas, and other household needs.

Then I leave enough in the bank for the rent check to overdraw me but still clear the bank. I budget in the overdraft fee into my budget and account for it, but it’s a necessary evil to pay bills. I then move that negative to next weeks paycheck, in which I am going to have a bigger check, and will be able to get mostly brought current. By then I will have renewed by covered checking “month” which technically starts on the 20th each month, and gives me two free overdraft fee waivers each month.

So I know that my 18th [of the month] paycheck, I can withdraw what I need to, and then write one or two big checks for the car payment and insurance, and and allow them to overdraft me, and the two overdraft fees would be waived.

Then on 10/22 my wife gets her stipend, and I have to budget in paying my uncle back 700 bucks, while bringing electric to only 30 days behind, and getting the car insurance and phone bill caught up from their past due status. Then budgeting in groceries and gas along with that, along with some household repair items we have been putting off, along with new shoes for the kids, and some patches for my shorts that have a hole in the back.

Now, that is JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG to the complexities of my budget and how I do things.”

I know there are members of our community who’ve struggled through similar cash crunches, so I’m going to let them comment on how they made it work.

I’ll just address the issue of whether YNAB would improve your current workflow. The answer is…probably. If you bought into the YNAB budgeting philosophy and gave it a few months, I think it would simplify your system and reduce your stress. But I don’t need to hard-sell it to you. YNAB’s own founder has often said he’s a fan of any budgeting tool that a) helps a person achieve his/her financial goals, and b) reduces stress and time spent thinking about money.

You might do just fine with your Notepad workflow, with one small change:

Create a bill in your budget called “Buffer.” Pretend that bill is every bit as urgent as the light bill. Allocate $20 or $50 per month to that “bill”, then work whatever number of extra hours you need in order to make sure that one bill gets paid. In a year or two you’ll have $500 to $1,000 saved up in this buffer; you’ll then be able to use it to break this hyper-stressful bill timing and overdraft cycle.

Yes, YNAB would make it easier to create, fund, and track that monthly “bill” called ‘Buffer’, but all that really matters is that it gets paid.

Best of luck to you, and hope you’re able to get ahead of the bills in the near future.

40 Responses to “This married father of two wears shorts all winter because he can’t afford pants.”

  1. christine

    wow i can’t imagine living like that. this guy really needs a budget and to start using the ynab rules.

  2. walkermamaof4

    He might glean some helpful tips by reading Mr Money Mustache!!! Seems like figuring out how to make a bit of extra cash would make a world of difference. Can he go to a few yard sales this weekend and buy the nicest baby equipment he sees at the lowest prices and sell them on craigslist immediately at even a few dollars each more than he paid for them?

  3. Christina

    That is some serious intelligence and attention to detail required to create and maintain the system he is currently using. I would just love to see him use all that energy for something more productive than this current, complicated situation. I really hope he can create some ease for himself, ease the stress just a little over time – by working towards a buffer, for example. And free up some of those mental and emotional resources for better things! Of course, as a YNABer I feel that YNAB does make my life easier, but if he likes his system better, more power to him. I really feel for this guy and wish him all the best. Clearly, he has the smarts and the drive to make it through and better things are ahead for him.

    • tribpot

      I really agree, Christina. He must be exhausted from living right down to the wire like this, and I hope he can get just a little bit ahead so he can reflect for a minute on how much energy he has to expend to squeak by.

      Best of luck to him and his family.

  4. AFO

    Our budgeting was similar to this, but we used Excel instead of Notepad. I even customized it with VBA and macros to alert us to all the pitfalls and unexpected overdraft possibilities. We’d been using it for 15yrs when a friend suggested YNAB to me. Like Rob, I was sure it wouldn’t work because we had to track things so closely to make ends meet. But we switched, because frankly, I was tired of keeping the out-of-date hacked together spreadsheet working.

    When we started with YNAB, we didn’t use only YNAB, because as Rob notes, when you are tracking so tightly, YNAB isn’t detailed enough. Ultimately, you want to get away from worrying about that detail, but in situations like he describes, it’s perhaps unwise. To compound things for me, I’m a professional Project Manager. Letting go of that level of detail can be physically painful. :)

    So, we used Excel and YNAB together – not the budgeting spreadsheet I’d used for years, but something simpler. For each month I put together a spreadsheet that had a list of all the categories we’d created in YNAB down the left hand column. Across the top, I listed the paychecks and income we expected to receive that month, including the dates we’d receive it on. Then I went through every category and planned when to fund it based on when it’s funds would be used. For example – Mortgage needs to come out of paycheck 2, but paycheck 2 isn’t big enough to cover the whole mortgage. Part of it has to come out of paycheck 1. That still makes paycheck 2 tight. Maybe we don’t have to fund electric out of that P2. It’s due right before P3, but it probably won’t clear before the deposit.

    These are the games you’re ultimately trying to stop playing when you start using YNAB. However, when you’re starting from a critical point, it’s financially unsafe to stop cold turkey. :)

    So after I figured out when during the month each category could be funded, I went into YNAB and put a note in the monthly funding column for every single category. It included how many times an item should be funded during the month, how much each time, and what each date was for funding. During the month, I could work directly from YNAB, without having to look at my spreadsheet again.

    Unlike our 15yo spreadsheet, YNAB made it much more transparent how we were spending our money. In fact, after two months, together with our kids (8 and 10 at the time), we were able to look at all the optional spending in our budget and make decisions as a whole family about where we would cut back and where we would spend. Prior to using YNAB, helping our kids understand our budgeting would have been like trying to teach calculus to a gnu.

    Each month, we were able to make small (very small) gains in how we used our income, allowing us to leave fewer and fewer categories waiting until the last paycheck for funding. After 15 months using YNAB, we were able to do away with the spreadsheet completely. We’re not all the way to living on next month’s income, but we’re far enough along that with a notation of due date on the category titles, we’ve got enough to go on to budget with no anxiety. Though I have to admit the Project Manager in me panicked a bit the first month we pitched the spreadsheet.

    15 months may sound like a long time, but when you’re starting out where Rob and we were, that may well be how long it takes to get ahead of the “planned overdraw” budgeting. I should also say that “planned overdraw” budgeting may be a result of spending beyond your means on unnecessary things, but it’s also the case that some people just can’t earn what they need to cover their necessary expenses. YNAB was still useful to us in that state, we just couldn’t use it as a stand-alone until it helped us get ahead of our brutal paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.

  5. bob@bobmail.com

    He needs to cut costs and make more money. The moment anything happens that mucks up his carefully orchestrated plan he’s ruined.

    He is effectively insolvent, and a loss of income could render him bankrupt in short order.

    I would ring up every company he has ongoing bills to, tell them he is in major financial trouble, and ask, beg, plead if he can suspend the bills for a period of time.

    Anything that doesn’t keep his family housed, fed and going to work should be cut. Does anyone rely on the phone for work? Ask to suspend the service entirely as well as the bills. Does he pay for TV or Internet? Is his car 100% necessary for him to get to work?

    This is going to sound cruel, but humans do have the ability to go for long periods on comparatively low food levels. Potatoes, rice, water, other cheap vegetables, If his food currently includes more expensive food than that, he has to consider doing moving to ultra-cheap food sources.

    YNAB probably won’t help him if he’s that careful about where his money goes, but I’d need to know exactly what he’s spent his money on to see if there really is anything he can cut.

    Another thing I would investigate is getting a long-term debt consolidation loan (at a reasonable rate) if at all possible, to wipe out his overall debt/overdraft and put him into a better financial situation (ie, buy YNAB, pay off all his debts, his current loans, a months worth of his bills and give him a 1 month buffer).

    The checkbook juggling sounds like it’s driving him insane. I’d hate having to live like that.

  6. Julie Hart Davis

    Reading this all I could think was, “what a hot mess!”… but taking a step back, I can understand how this can happen, and how you just do the best you can with a bad situation. Honestly, I think the thing that should be addressed first is his attitude about overdrafts. He knowingly overdrafts his account and budgets for the fees! That is just astounding to me.

    • Matthew Weirath

      I agree. I had a friend that would pay all his bills getting his account close to zero and then a few days before getting paid would go to the ATM and withdraw a few hundred dollars. He did this twice month getting an overdraft fee each time. I always blew my mind taking $50 a month in overdraft fees, but that was just how he ran his budget. It worked for him but it would have driven me crazy.

      Honestly, I guess I have been really fortunate since I have never paid an overdraft fee in my life.

  7. allimurray

    I would start by using YNAB just to track expenses. Keep your old method for a few months because it’s what you are used to. In a few months you will have enough data to see where changes need to made. When you throw out notebook and start using YNAB to budget you will ever have to worry about bill due dates again!

  8. Blog Goliard

    I wasn’t sure that YNAB would be able to help me much, since I’ve got much more of an income problem than a spending problem. And I had, after all, already made an Excel spreadsheet that listed my monthly bills and when and how they would be paid, and that let me know what pittance I should expect to have left over…wouldn’t YNAB just do more or less the same thing?

    But when the program came up on a Steam sale again, I bought it…and it’s been more than worth it. Even if you don’t think you have two nickels to rub together, the YNAB budgeting process will help you track things better, will help you plan ahead (Rainy Day categories can go a long way towards averting spending emergencies), and will provide additional spending discipline (even if it’s just a matter of ten or twenty dollars a month that you haven’t spent because of the budget, that adds up).

    I hope “Rob” gives the YNAB method a try, and is able to earn himself and his family a respite from neverending crisis mode.

  9. L

    I completely understand the hole this man is living in. Not too long ago this was how I lived too. Thankfully due to my husband getting a slight raise, and a family member giving us a personal loan to pay off our credit cards to lower our monthly debt payments, we have gotten (mostly) back on track.

    Rob, you should definitely see if there is any way you can make more money, or receive a personal loan to cover your overdraft (and then some if possible) so you can start at zero, or above, and start budgeting from there. Maybe pick up a second job to make this possible? Other than earning more, just get more strict with your grocery purchases, and other expenses, and keep working away at it as best as you can. Good luck, this too shall pass, if you work at it.

  10. Diana

    When you’re that deep in financial straights, it’s very tough to think creatively about how you can make more money. That level of stress is hard on the whole family too. I think a lot of families are in this type of situation.

    And it doesn’t sound like he’s buying extras if he can’t even buy pants!

  11. Bill

    I’m stressed out from reading this… I can’t even imagine how this guy deals with it from day to day.

    Build that buffer, Rob. Buy your freedom. (because I like to quote things I heard two days ago)

  12. Robert Braxton

    bothered by “work more hours” because I need more money / income. The reason to work more hours: 1) more work needs to be accomplished and / or 2) not enough work is getting accomplished during the hours already being put in – At “professional” level jobs of mine, I accomplished the work – so if it took me more hours to do what had to be done, I did not get paid more – after all, I am getting paid to do the work, not to “do the time” – with the attitude “because I need more money, work more (paid) hours)” no wonder such a mess. This is a problem even our early-elementary offspring with personal allowance would have managed (and still have bought and played D&D).

    • Alex

      I am not sure what you mean here. If you a in a salary position (ie not paid by the hour but to do a work) then at your current position other than getting a pay raise you are not going to be able to earn more money.
      However you can earn more money by getting a second job or finding a different income source.

      If you cant get your expenses down then making more money is going to be the only way to dig yourself out of the hole.

    • Minda

      In some jobs the time is a big deal. Man the cash register and bag the groceries for this long. You can’t get more or less done in that time than you have customers. That’s why these are hourly positions. We don’t know if working more is an option for him or not because he didn’t tell us what his job is.

  13. April

    Prayers going out to that family. My heart breaks for them.

  14. A. R. Huff

    I use an Excel/YNAB hybrid as well. I use YNAB to track anything I have scheduled or paid out. I use Excel to track cashflow and upcoming expenses, which is helpful since my wife and I are paid on different schedule and some months the cashflow gets tighter than others.

  15. Invert Sugar

    I love YNAB so much. But the advice to just “work whatever number of extra hours you need in order to make sure that one bill gets paid” always bugs me. Not everyone works at a job that pays hourly or overtime. Folks here (on the blog and forum) always make it out like it’s so easy to get extra income, but it just isn’t. I have multiple Masters degrees and a PhD, and trying to find a better job takes up most of my free time. I have tried everything I’m physically capable of doing (I’m disabled) to make more money, but no one seems to be looking for a tutor, my gym already has a newsletter, etc etc etc. There are not enough jobs out there right now, period, and it doesn’t matter how qualified and experienced you are. I do think that this post shows some how YNAB doesn’t always work as well for people with very low incomes. Like I said, I love YNAB and I use it religiously, and it has changed my life, and I’m not saying it’s not worth trying, but you see it all the time in the forums. People ask questions and the answer is just “raise your income” (as if that’s so easy), without any help for the situation at hand.

    • mark

      I feel for “Rob” and for you. I’m not trying to paint a picture that it’s so easy to raise your income. It’s just the only option. Either the income goes up, the expenses go down, or things stay bad (maybe get worse). Can’t raise your income? I don’t know – move in with a relative/close friend? It’s crappy any way you slice it, and I don’t think anybody’s trying to sugar coat. But when someone says “Tell me how I can be better off,” there are only so many ways that can happen.

      • Matthew Weirath

        I think it is about being creative as well. Earning extra money isn’t always about taking on another job. Like another poster mentioned you could go to yard sales and find things you could resell online. Try and sell some of your own things. Depending on your degrees you might be able to find a charity organization that would be willing to pay you for some part time work, they love finding people that can offer professional services at a discounted rate. You could even just try and lock your spending down for a few weeks to help get a head. I know Jesse mentions trying to cut out all his spending to try and recalibrate your thought processes.

  16. Charlotte

    I’ve been kind of annoyed that I only get paid monthly at my job, but since most bills are monthly, I’m starting to appreciate the simplicity it provides. I know how much money I have for the month since I already received it all. It doesn’t matter when the bills are due.

    Can his wife work while going to school? Even a few hours a week would help pull out of this mess.

  17. Sarah

    Many people are paid to ‘do the time,’ Robert. There are a great number of jobs which require a person’s presence, and which may or may not be project oriented. Look at sales, for example…if a business must have a sales representative on their floor during all hours it’s open, an individual employee could very easily work more hours at their job because they need more money. The employee’s motivation for working more hours may complement the business owner’s need for coverage.

    I can see how in a project-oriented position, IF one is paid on a per project basis, then needing more income wouldn’t be the proper reason to work/charge more hours. However, that’s only one portion of the job market.

    Your post sounds pretty condescending and dismissive of people whose work circumstances aren’t similar to your own.

    And even your early-elementary offspring can probably appreciate that if they want more ‘income’ (for whatever reason), looking for additional work and income-generating opportunities is wise.

  18. Cate

    First off, my heart goes out to Rob. I can read his frustration in every word. No judgement coming from me, but only what has worked.

    When we first started YNAB, I listed weekly mandatory items (groceries, gas, daycare) at the top of my budget. Next, I entered each mandatory bill with the due date and the amount in the categories on the budget segment (Ie: Power ($100 4th of month)). As the funds came in (for us it is weekly, but some weeks are lower than others), I’d figure out how much of the weekly mandatory items I’d need to put my money towards. Next, I’d budget down the line as far as I could go. I’d repeat as each amount of income came in.

    I contacted my various services and saw where I could cut down. If it was cable, etc, I’d bare bones it for a while (or eliminate if possible – though I acknowledge that some services will charge you a high fee for cutting).

    Rob, since you are at the point where you are only wearing shorts, I’d suggest taking a deep breath and see if you can qualify for food assistance through a food bank, and even a clothing bank. I know that that can be difficult on the ego, but it might help for a while to get you out of the overdraft.

    It might also help to go on a cash basis for a while, to get out of the overdraft. I used to do the float dance, and it killed my self esteem to be always trying to juggle things like you are.

    Finally, I’d suggest sending your budget to Mark with the request that he takes a look at it, but doesn’t open it up to posts being made on it. Perhaps he can look at some options you could cut, or other ideas. I’d even be happy to overview it with sensitivity if that would help. I’m no expert, but I’ve helped others who were feeling incredibly overwhelmed with their funds before.

  19. Shayna

    Working extra hours or getting a second job to earn more money has never sat well with me. I have never been more stressed and unhappy in my life as when I worked two jobs. We are not machines. We need downtime to regenerate and be physically, emotionally, and mentally ready to go out to work the next day.

    I agree with the consolidation loan (which would include financial counseling I would imagine), slowly working toward a buffer or carving it out of the consolidation loan, and eating less, as groceries is probably one of the biggest budget items for most families. In our modern day and age, we find it abhorrent to not eat enough, when in reality, we eat far far far more than our bodies actually need (unless you have an extremely physically demanding job). For most/a lot of people, 3 square meals a day is like icing on a cake. And you don’t need to eat meat every day, which is very expensive. This is possible for children as well (nobody call CPS on me for mentioning it!) although you should take extra care that they get a good variety of vegetables, especially vegetables loaded with calcium for their growing bones.

    Like I said, cutting down THAT much on food goes against the grain. This should be a personal choice.

    Good luck, Rob.

  20. Emily

    Rob seems like a very organized and responsible guy. Only because of this do I make the same suggestion that Bob mentioned before me: Get everyone to waive a month. Talk to your Uncle, explain your situation and see if he’ll let you skip a month paying him back. Call your landlord and see if you can skip a month (hey, I’m a landlord and would much rather have a tenant with a plan and an ability to pay than a plan based around an inability to pay.) Same with the electricity and phone. If they won’t/can’t help you go to a church and ask them to pay it. You are living at the extreme enough that you can justify this. Once. Just doing this one month would probably get you at least halfway to a full month buffer. (Just don’t spend it!) It’s a great start. Overdrafts are usually at least $30 a pop and if you have just three (non-covered) of those a month that’s basically $100! You can do a lot with $100/mo.

    Of course cuts and increases to income are definitely things to look at when things are this tight but I think before you can even seriously look at those (step down from the chair) you need to loosen the noose. Your organization and attention to your money could do you WONDERS with the YNAB way. The biggest is taking out all the stress. Once you’ve backed off from the edge maybe Mark can post your expenses and we can help you find ways to trim. I know what it’s like to need Excel to help you plan your checks/bills by date but if you can get away from it there is much freedom.

  21. Georgia King

    Maybe this person should use cash only for a while. Use money orders in place of checks. When your money goes out as fast as it comes in, it’s just a waste of time to put it in a bank (its not like it’s there long enough to earn interest), plus its a big risk putting it in a bank that might charge you fees.

  22. Blog Goliard

    I can certainly relate to this. I feel pretty stuck most of the time in addressing my income problem…and what may be meant as helpful advice often leaves me feeling worse, while also no closer to a solution.

    What I’m trying to learn to do, when I run across such things, is ask myself: “Does this sound right for me? If I think about it, can I identify an opportunity that I have the right skills and enough energy to seize?” If so, then that’s something I need to set about doing…if not, I need to just walk on by, and refuse to beat myself up for not doing it.

  23. Blog Goliard

    (My comment is meant to be a reply to Invert Sugar, by the way, in case the threading hasn’t worked.)

  24. Solvent Debtor

    Rob, you are me. You are me, many many years ago. I dealt with the exact same issues, not enough money coming in and too much going out, no wiggle room for emergencies, or pants. Overdrafts, knowing exactly how the bank operated with regards to overdrafts, playing the system. I was smart, too smart, and spent a good many years paying hundreds of dollars of fees to the bank, because they were “nice” and let me spend more than I made.

    I was kiting checks. That is illegal. I was doing illegal things to get by and I was proud of myself for making it work.

    I’m going to make a few simple suggestions, you can take them or leave them. But believe me when I say, this will not continue to work for you or your family. Because at some point, there will be something that throws the whole thing out of balance and you will not be able to recover from it.

    People like you and me who live like this out of what we perceive as necessity end up either in jail, in a mental institution, or dead. Period. That is the reality of what we live with.

    So, suggestions:
    1) Do not take on ANY unsecured debt. Not one thing. Not a late fee, not an overdraft, not paying a bill late. Not a loan for a nickel. Not borrowing a pencil. Do this for just one day. Just one. Then do it again the next day. It doesn’t make your immediate needs better, but it does stop the bleeding and it doesn’t get worse.

    2) Write down everything you spend and take in for 30 days. Or more. In Notepad, on YNAB, on the back of an envelope. Just do it. Break it down into categories so you can see the numbers, no judgment, just to see where your family’s priorities are. They aren’t good or bad, they are YOUR priorities. Seeing these numbers in black and white, seeing how much is actually spent in overdraft or late fees that could be buying you pants kind of makes us think a bit beyond getting the next bill frantically paid. EVERYTHING.

    3) Seek out others who are living exactly the same way you are, or who have done so and are now out on the other side. Talk, listen. See if you can find someone with something you want. I used to pray for just ONE person who understood the convoluted machinations I went through to keep the lights on and crappy food on my table. I eventually found thousands. We’re out here, Rob, I swear. And we KNOW what it’s like, we KNOW what it is. We don’t judge. We need you as much as you need us.

    I’m not going to tell you what others are saying. Extra hours, extra job, cut back, use a budget. I will say that no, YNAB cannot help you, IMHO, at this point in time. Other than the fantastic spending tracking inherent in the program, and the way that using it helped make me see that my life could be different at some point, down the road. That IS helpful. But it doesn’t get you from where you are to where you need to be.

    Changing the behavior that is inherent in your situation is the only thing that can get you out of it. God yes, it’s scary, and looks insurmountable. But there is at least one way out of this hell you are living (and it is hell, I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt — and can easily fall back into it). Maybe more ways. I know of one.

    I’m happy to correspond with you, or anyone else, to provide the resources that have helped me have hope and actually LIVE instead of want to die.

    It’s only money, Rob. Breathe.

    • clouwho

      absolutely agree with this post except the part about increasing income. $100 extra a month could give you enough breathing space to get off the overdraft wheel and save those fees. Those fees, in YOUR account, not in the bank’s account will buy you some wiggle room.
      just stop for a moment and breathe. track every single penny. cut every single penny you can.
      there are many, many, many of us on this board, MMM and ramsey’s who have been where you are and escaped the hell. One step at a time, one day at a time, one dollar at a time.
      My best to you and your family, rob.
      p.s. agree about sending mark your detailed income/expenses and logistics so he can help you look at it from fresh perspective. don’t make it public if you’re feeling fragile.

      • Solvent Debtor

        Increasing income does help. Sometimes it’s not feasible, though, and without addressing the straight-up behavior any extra disappears with the four winds.

        SS,DD. Been there, too.

    • Julie Hart Davis

      Excellent comment. I just clicked back over here to read any additional comments and to see if Rob himself ever replied to any of them and saw your comment. Your advice is perfect. Thanks for posting it. I just hope Rob has read it and will heed your advice.

  25. Hannah

    This sounds very stressful. I admired his organization in keeping up with what little he has.

    And about the pants: Could he go to a thrift store and get 1-2 pairs of pants? My local Goodwill has certain tags on sale for $1.29 each Monday. It might not be the most fashionable stuff but will at least keep your legs warm.

  26. Timothy S Burby

    Rob, I’m sorry to hear about what your family is going through. Hopefully the suggestions above are helpful. Solvent Debtor’s reply was amazing and putting yourself out in the forum took a lot of courage.

    I might get some flak for suggesting this but since I didn’t see anyone else mention it and you’re looking for any and all options one of the things I would look at is late fees on some of the accounts you’re paying on. I get that rent is due on the 1st of every month. I’ve had all kinds of landlords and while it is due on the 1st and they want it on the 1st there’s a 10 day grace period before any action can be taken or it considered “missed”. For me $1,000 paid on the 7th is better than $1,035 paid on the 1st. The same thing goes for my car payment. My payment is due on the 16th of every month. I get assessed a $10 late fee if it isn’t assessed by the 26th. I haven’t have to “play that game” in a while now but still a $10 hit is better than $35 (which is what my bank would charge for ODF). My electric company assesses a 2% penalty for a late payment.

    By reading the excerpt I see that you’re already more than 30 days behind so the above may not be an option. I don’t care if I get slammed for the advice. I’ve had to make the choice between groceries and a bill in the past and my wife and three small children’s bellies win out every single time. I’m on the road to getting our financial house in order and it has cost me letting go of some credit cards (stopped paying, trashed my score, will get to them when I’m able) but it’s made a difference and my phone isn’t ringing off the hook anymore because I’ve been able to go back and deal with them and work our arrangements. I advise working out the arrangements BEFOREHAND. Assuming you have credit card debt call all of them as soon as possible and start negotiating. If you can’t afford the minimum payments after rent, food, lights, gas, car payments and insurance then you tell them what you can afford to pay them and put it all in writing. They won’t like it but it beats the alternative. If you can get through one month without paying ANY ODF you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel and start racing toward it. :-)

    As for personal loan, you stated you owe your uncle $700 so I’d say that’s not an option at this point. You wouldn’t want to borrow from another family member and add to your stress. This is one of the things I take from Dave Ramsey in that borrowing money from relatives changes things. Talk to your uncle, maybe he’ll forgive the debt or at least not require you to pay him back in equal time with all your other bills.

    As for more work, I don’t know what you do or your schedule. Is there any room for another job? Do you make overtime? I don’t agree with the folks who say this may not be a good idea. A second job isn’t a life sentence. It’s a temporary emergency measure to beat back the debt monster. You have to approach the extra hours, second income, whatever like a firefighter. If you don’t act your house will burn down eventually. You know what your limits are. Do it for 6 months, 12 months, in either case it’s a short period of time after which you may be able to breathe more easily. Maybe pursue this AFTER doing what Solvent Debtor suggested which is, write everything down and assess where you’re at.

    The reason you can’t buy pants is the bank is sitting there counting your $965 dollars laughing at you while extending their “generosity” to you by allowing you to bounce two checks a month. With that your uncle could have been paid back his full $700 and you’d still have $265 to go shopping with. Find a way to quit feeding that beast.

    • Matthew Weirath

      Great points. Maybe the uncle would allow him to pay $600 for a while instead of $700. Using that extra $100 a month could help start getting some of those bills paid sooner, and stop having to pay all the fees. I would hope that if the uncle heard about the stresses that he is going through to pay everything each month he might give him some leniency as long as he keeps on paying.

      Right now part of his income is coming from a student loan. If he doesn’t get his situation in order before that loan becomes due he is going to be in a really bad position.

  27. bethelprescott

    Rob: One thing really leapt out at me about your situation, so I wanted to comment on that. As for what the other commentors have had to say, much of it is at least considering. Use YNAB to track your spending for a bit, that’s certainly useful. Find a way to make extra income, or don’t. Sure. That advice, depending on your specific situation, is good enough for what it is. Etc.

    But here’s the thing. Nothing will change until you have an attitude shift.

    I mean, you’re wearing one pair of shorts, which need mending. You’re so stuck on that fact that you can’t see that shorts which need to be patched are probably so threadbare that they won’t hold a patch for long anyhow. And yet you bought a patch.

    First off: See if your family qualifies for food assistance. There’s no shame in using that resource when you really need it. And you, my friend, appear to really need it.

    Second: There are many, many, sources of free clothing. Free. Not Goodwill. Do a little bit of calling around. Perhaps the folks at your local food bank (another resource you should be looking into!) will have a stock of clothes. Maybe a crisis center will. Call around, see what your community might have. Ask a friend if they’ve maybe got an old pair of jeans you could work/trade them for.

    Third: And please, please, PLEASE just think about this…. What is it you are getting out of wearing the same old holy shorts? Why don’t you think you deserve a pair of pants in the winter? I mean, I take it your wife has pants, and your kids have pants…. You mentioned that you’ll be doing house repairs and buying new shoes for your kids… How is it that house repairs come before covering your own butt with something decent? If you were female I would suspect you might be a Ferengi.

    No judgement here on that one. Because I’ve lived that exact situation. In my case it was my one and only pair of pants, which I’d had for over two years, literally falling apart. And I didn’t have a coat, or a decent sweater. But my husband and son both had all the clothes they needed. It took me overhearing a snide comment in church about my crappy attire to get me to wake up and realize I also deserved to wear clothing that wasn’t falling apart. After a bit of introspection I realized also that one reason I didn’t insist on getting myself decent clothing was that (in large part because we were pretty damn poor) I got some misplaced pride out of martyring myself in order that the rest of my family wouldn’t go without. And that’s an unhealthy attitude to have.

  28. Barbara

    One question. What size pants do ya need Rob? I’d be happy to send some over. Matter of fact, if you make a list I have lots of stuff that needs a home.

  29. Tuxgirl

    If you can sell something or find *some* way to avoid the overdraft fees for one month, you could save the money that you spend in overdraft fees, and apply those to the next month to avoid overdrafting again. It won’t be perfect, but just adding that little tiny bit of money back into your budget should help a bit.

    Do you qualify for any type of assistance? Are there any churches in your area that you could talk to for assistance? It doesn’t have to be a long-term thing (and ideally shouldn’t), but just getting groceries provided for one month, or some clothing donation could help get you out of the hole.

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