I recognize that this can be a very, very emotionally-charged issue at times. My writing style is direct (read: blunt). I will be blunt here. But I want all readers to know this:
If you are having financial difficulty, and are possibly contemplating personal bankruptcy, that does not mean in any way you are a bad person. It happens to the very finest of people. It is not a reflection of your character. You are still of immeasurable worth.
I’ve outlined below 7 ways to avoid personal bankruptcy. These are most likely the same suggestions I would give anyone having financial difficulties. If you are considering filing for personal bankruptcy then you certainly should read on. It just may be that you can avoid filing bankruptcy all together.
Get on a Written Budget
One way to avoid personal bankruptcy is to immediately get on a written budget. You will need to get absolutely intense about your money. Money that is told what to do prior to it landing in your wallet will work harder, last longer, and keep your finances stronger than any other financial move you can make.
The simplest budget may work best for you: pencil & paper. Others enjoy the use of excel spreadsheets or fancy software packages. The key is not in what you use, but that you use it. You can take a look at this article on setting up a personal budget. We won’t go into the details here.
Just know that the #1 way you can avoid personal bankruptcy is to get on a written budget.
Sell, Sell, Sell Your Ball and Chain
What is causing this extreme financial pressure? Have you purchased too much home? Is your house payment representing 40% of your take-home pay (that’s too much)? Do you owe money on any vehicles? Many times personal bankruptcy can be avoided by people just taking a good, hard look at what they owe and why they owe it. While it’s true that most bankruptcies have been caused by health-related costs, we still need to analyze why a medical bill caused the ultimate pressure that led someone to want or need to file personal bankruptcy.
Not only do you need to assess what types of ball-and-chains you have lying around, you also need to see what type of junk you can sell quickly to cover any month-to-month cash shortages you may be experiencing. Do you have a ton of books or CDs that you could sell? Any hobby items you no longer use or need? Freeing up this cash can go a long way in giving you a clear head about your finances. It will give you breathing room – which will allow you to think clearer about other ways to avoid personal bankruptcy.
Cut Up Your Credit Cards
In no way – under any circumstances – should you be using a credit card. Destroy them. Cut them up. Even the one for “emergencies”. We’re talking about ways to avoid personal bankruptcy, not walk right into it.
But Jesse, I don’t have the cash right now to be able to handle any emergencies. And life is surely going to happen! I’ll just use it for emergencies.
That may be true. You might just use it for emergencies. But I guarantee that your definition of an emergency will become much stricter if you don’t have the ability to charge anything in the first place. All of a sudden having the air conditioner going out in the car isn’t an emergency. Why? Because you can’t afford (right now) to repair it.
Please don’t fall for that line of thinking. Until your finances are completely under control, you shouldn’t be using credit cards.
Negotiate or Surf to Lower Interest Rates
That’s right. After telling you to cut up your credit cards, I’m now telling you to surf high-interest-rate balances to new cards. But that doesn’t mean you actually keep the card – it’s cut up. You do want to take advantage of any low-interest offers you receive (take a look at the 50 you get each week for starters).
Your object in doing this is to create some short-term positive cash flow. Getting down to a lower interest-rate will bring you that much closer to avoiding personal bankruptcy. True, you won’t be getting out of debt any faster, but you will be freeing up some cash you might need to get by month to month. Not only will the extra cash help out there, but you’ll feel better, a little calmer, knowing you’ve got a bit of wriggle room.
Increase Your Income
While this might seem a bit obvious, it’s overlooked very often. You shouldn’t just look at cutting expenses. What can you do to increase the other end of the equation? The income side? Can you work overtime, get a second job delivering pizzas? Work for UPS? Can you mow lawns, trim hedges, paint houses, wash windows, flip burgers, etc.? A part-time job that brings in just $500 extra per month will do wonders for your monthly budget.
This is not a time to be prideful. You need money. You’ll need to work for it. You might even need to do less-than-glamorous things (I listed some above), but you’re doing this for a short amount of time so you can avoid a long-lasting curse: personal bankruptcy. Avoiding this financial pitfall by gutting it out for the short-term will bring you long-term benefit.
Nine times out of ten this leads you to personal bankprutcy – it doesn’t help you avoid it. Do not fall prey to predatory companies that hunt the weak, desperate, and vulnerable for customers. CONsolidation will free up your monthly cash flow (which is a good thing) but it does this by extending the length of time you will be in debt (this is not a good thing) and hurts your credit badly (this is also not a good thing). Please, avoid the illusion of debt consolidation. Focus on increasing your income, cutting your expenses, lowering your rates, selling your junk, getting rid of any ball-and-chains (new car?) and getting on a written budget.
Maintain Your Perspecive
Times are most likely very emotional for you right now. Your marriage is probably stressed to the max, and you think about your money problems constantly. This is not a time to jump into any crazy ideas. You need to gain the advantage of many minds and consult with trusted friends and family. Consult before you decide to make any financial moves. Above all, remember that your worth is not tied to your net worth. You are not a bad person for being in this situation. While I do not completely write-off your contribution to this predicament (we’d have to talk one-on-one for that) I do recognize that life happens – sometimes in a very harsh way.
I admire your desire to look for ways to avoid personal bankpruptcy, instead of just filing and not taking responsibilty for your financial life. If you need free personal counseling or advice, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.