What bills do I pay first?
May 1, 2014 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I have $13 to my name and a long list of financial obligations. Can you help me prioritize them?

Due to the perfect storm of stupidity and catastrophe I am completely penniless. I moved to a new city April 1st with a job lined up and $2500 in savings. Within the first week of being here I had to replace the head gasket, the clutch, and some other little things on my car for a total of around $3000. This was not completely unexpected, but I had been planning these repairs for later in the year. I paid for $1000 in cash and put $2000 on a credit card. After a security deposit and rent, then my car loan and student loan, my savings account balance went down to $0. Throughout the month I have put another $500 for groceries and stuff on my credit card and my total balance is now $3000 which is my limit (credit card was carrying $500 balance at the start of the month.)

Also at the beginning of the month the job I had taken fell through (I was hired as a full time nurse and then was told they no longer needed me). Looking back, they had not formally offered me the job before moving and I should have set things up more concretely.

The good news: I got a job and I'm going to be paid weekly! This week is my first paycheck. It will be for $200. In the future I will be making $600 weekly.

My expenses:
-medication: I am uninsured. I will get insurance august 1.I have three pills left of my antidepressant. I called it in to walgreens and it will be $100. I think this should be my first expense.
-laundry: I have been washing clothes in the tub but really need to use a machine for my scrubs. This will be $10/weekly.
- rent: I borrowed money from my parents to pay for May rent. I would like to pay them back ASAP because I have never borrowed money from them before but I don't know if this makes financial sense (also, they aren't expecting to be paid back right away and do not need the money). June rent will be $550.
-phone: we do not have internet and my phone bill is $100 as I have rung up some data overages.
- car insurance: my car insurance, which I had paid yearly, lapsed a week ago. I know this is BAD but I have had no way of paying for it (again, bank balance zero and maxed out credit card). I think it will be around $80 to reinstate it for a month.
-car loan: through a credit union $250
-student loans: sallie mae $500
-my credit card bill: I want to make this a priority as it has a $3000 balance and the interest is over 20%.
-regular expenses: cat food, groceries, gas, saving money each month for rainy day
I realize that I behaved like a dummy (phone overages especially) and was not financially prepared, and now I am paying for it.

Oh, also: when my car insurance lapsed I stopped driving and used my bike for the last week, but then my bike broke and it won't shift out of the easiest gear so I would like to get it fixed so I can ride it again.

Is this situation dire enough for bankruptcy?
What do I pay first?
Mefites who are good with money: if you were in my situation, what exactly would you do?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (34 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If I were in your situation and had parents from whom I could borrow a good chunk of change, who neither expected to be paid back nor needed the money right away, I would ask them for a whole bunch of money so you can pay all of your bills until you can get back on your feet. $1,000, maybe? It's so much easier to borrow a big chunk from one place as opposed to scrambling around with IOUs to various and sundry businesses.

Your parents know and trust you, they know you are employed, and as far as I know, most parents will do anything in their power to make sure their kids are healthy, housed, fed, and safe. If it would make them or you feel better, you could sign a written agreement stating that you are borrowing $Y and will be paying back $X per week/month until you reach $Y. Can you do laundry at their house?

If that is not possible, make a list of all of your debtors, pick up the phone today and start calling them to work out payment plans. Sometimes companies will let you temporarily drop down to paying a pittance on your outstanding debts (like $25/month instead of $250/month) if you are in a tough spot, especially if you can show them proof of future income. Phone companies in particular will almost always let you do this, unless you're already multiply overdue.

Call your prescribing doctor and ask if there are samples of your medication they could swing you to get by until you are able to afford the full medication price. Look into the ACA exchange for insurance options.

Reinstate your car insurance at the bare bones level -- getting pinged for a lengthy lapse can affect your rates for a long, long time, so I'd put this fairly high on the priority list, especially since having something happen to you or your car while you're driving uninsured is liable to be financially ruinous like few other things can be. Car payment should be at this priority level as well, especially if you need it to get to work. Your credit union may be more lenient with you taking a bit more time to pay than usual.

Pay the minimum payment on your credit card and not a penny more until you are on steadier ground. A 20% interest rate sucks a lot, but getting wrapped up around the axle of spending all your available cash paying down your credit card and then not having any cash to actually get by without leaning back on credit sucks much, much more.

Other folks can speak to dealing with Sallie Mae, but I'd be very surprised if they didn't let you cut back on your payment requirements temporarily as well.

Call around to bike shops in your area and see if one of them has an apprentice who might be able to work on your bike for a cut rate.

This is definitely not dire enough for bankruptcy.

Breathe, take it one day at a time, hang in there. It'll be tough for a spell, but you will absolutely see the other side of this. Good luck!
posted by divined by radio at 11:13 AM on May 1, 2014 [16 favorites]

This would be my order:

2. Laundry --- see #1 plus you work in a job where sanitation is important.
3.Car loan
4. Credit card
5. Student loans
6. Phone (maybe temporarily switch to a prepaid plan only?)

I wouldn't even THINK of paying back your parents for the rent until you can reliably pay rent each month yourself. Give yourself a couple of more months to get back on your feet, and once you are, I'd start paying them back in small increments over several months. I'd also ask if you could borrow more for the month of May to help dig yourself out of this hole and then start to pay them back in June or July.

I don't think anything here is beyond repair, but you need the time to do it. If anything is in default with the student loans, I would call them and see what they can do for you. You may qualify for a reduction in your monthly payment since you were out of work or you may qualify for some kind of income-based repayment as well if any of the loans are governmental in origin.

I'd fix the bike only after you've started rebuilding savings.
posted by zizzle at 11:14 AM on May 1, 2014

First: What are the due dates on all of these expenses? Obviously things that are not due immediately shouldn't be prioritized.

Medication: Can you get a generic form? Often Walgreens and other stores have discount programs for generics.

Bike fixing: There are many, many tutorials for fixing bikes on Youtube--make sure this is not an easy thing you can fix yourself.

Is the $600 before or after taxes?

For now, I would put credit cards (beyond the minimum payment) and parents as the last priority, because putting those off will not result in loan default, eviction, medication loss, or starvation.
posted by schroedinger at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2014

Keep in mind also that many creditors won't even bother reporting a late payment until it's over 30 days late. (Sallie Mae might, but I've paid credit cards 4 or 10 days late and it hasn't been reported.)

You're not in a bad enough situation for bankruptcy. It can cost $2k to file bankruptcy. And it would only get rid of your non-student-loan debt (i.e., a $3k credit card debt, in your case).
posted by ethidda at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The things that will be most easily pushed off will be 1. the money borrowed from parents, and 2. student loans. Call Sallie Mae and ask for a forbearance for a few months until you get back on your feet (this assume's they're federal loans; I don't know if you can do it with private loans). You'll accrue interest, but they should let you temporarily not make payments. And, $500/month is more than 20% of your monthly pay. That is crazy. When you're out of forbearance, get on a different payment plan if you can.

For your bike, if you're handy in the least, check out the Park Tool site and see if you can get the shifting straightened out. If that's not an option, look around town for a bike co-op or club who could give you some cheap help.

Beyond that, I would cluster things from highest to lowest priority:

Rent - homeless is BAD.
Car loan - not paying creditors is BAD.
Medication - not taking medicine is VERY BAD.
Credit card bill - at least minimum payment, but make sure you can cover other stuff before paying more. Carrying a balance sucks, but it's better than NOT paying other stuff.

Phone - you need a phone, but fewer dire consequences here.
Car insurance - as soon as you can, of course, and don't drive until you have it. Use the bike until then: no gas needed, either.

Laundry - you can get better at doing laundry by hand. Other stuff comes first.
Cat food - hope they like the cheap stuff.
Gas - not if you're cycling.
Food - eat as cheaply as you can. Sacks of rice, beans, etc. In my dark times, I really loved mujadarrah: lentils (cheap) and rice (cheap) with some sautéed onions (cheap). Just think rice and beans and PB&J on white bread. Not that fancy PB, either. Store brand until you're on your feet.

Good luck.
posted by The Michael The at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

No, you can't bankrupt on student loans,

Call all of your debtors, including the phone company and tell them that you need to skip a payment. They'll work with you, car and sallie mae, phone company, etc. You may get a slight ding on your credit report for being over 30 days late, but it's not the end of the world.

Wait a few paychecks before you start paying your folks back. Send them $50 per week if you can squeek that out.

If you can put your insurance on a credit card, do that now before you skip your credit card payment. If not, don't drive it until it's insured again. It may be a week or so. Or, call your insurance company and ask them if you can skip a payment, and catch up next month.

Medication: Call your doc for samples, or ask if there's a cheaper drug in the same class. I had to do this when I changed insurance. A lot of antidepressants are dirt cheap as generics.

All money problems are temporary. If you need a tutorial on how to eat for a week on $13, let me know, I got this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:19 AM on May 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Look into the healthcare exchange in your state! Getting a new job is generally a qualifying event and you may qualify for cheap insurance because of the ACA until August when whatever other insurance you have kicks in. You may not have to spend so much on your meds!
posted by brainmouse at 11:20 AM on May 1, 2014

Do not pay your parents back until you are on firmer financial footing. They don't expect it and you have more pressing priorities right now.

Your priorities should be food (rice, beans, veggies, that sort of thing), your meds, making sure you have reliable transportation to your new job (maybe that's just fixing your bike for now), cleaning your scrubs (if wearing hand-washed won't fly at work), and saving up enough money during May to be able to pay your June rent. Your priorities have to be keeping yourself healthy and fed, having a place to live, and making sure you can keep earning money. So, use this initial $200 to pay for food, meds, laundry, and maybe fixing your bike.

Once you have enough extra to start to pay other bills, focus first on car insurance and car loans as you don't want your car to be repossessed and you may need transportation going forward based on weather or to get a different job. Call the student loan company and see if you can get a forebearance. Pay the credit card and phone once you have a bit more stability. 20% interest is terrible, but you need to focus on the basics right now.
posted by Area Man at 11:21 AM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re: cat food
Some animal shelters have "pet food pantries" for instances like this. Please take advantage. They would LIKE to help you out and keep your cat(s) in your home.

Re: people food
Cheap, as people already mentioned. Food pantries. Aldi. Friends.

Re: car insurance
DO NOT DRIVE UNTIL YOU PAY THIS OR TALK TO YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY. I say this because any sort of problems would be multiplied many times over if you got pulled over/into an accident without insurance.

Re: medication
Call other pharmacies, their prices can vary by a ton. Some companies will also send you medication free - I don't know these programs, but they do exist. Think the commercials like "If you can't afford your medication, AstraZenica can help" or whatever that one is. Call them.

You got this. Good luck!
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:33 AM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Loan from parents would be my first step as well. You've learned the lessons here and if you've never asked them for money before levelling with them and asking for help when it's very badly needed is actually a grown up thing to do. I'd take your little summary here and show it to them and share just how badly wrong this week went and what you're doing to fix it.

Firstly, they may have suggestions that are helpful or even be able to help in practical ways, i.e. they may have a bike you can borrow or whatever. They may also be able to give you more money to sort out some of the most urgent bills. Then put in place a repayment plan and set up a weekly transfer into their bank account to coincide with payday. Make the amount as small as it has to be to to be sustainable. If it takes a while it takes a while, but as long as you stick to the payment plan it will take care of itself.

Then, I realise you spent a lot of money repairing your car but did you manage to get around ok on your bike and get to work and do what you needed to do? If so, do you really need a car at the moment? Not having the car would probably make your budget significantly more manageable. If you decide you really do need the car sort out the car insurance thing as a priority because this could go badly wrong.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:35 AM on May 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

There is some good advice above. I am wondering if you could talk to you parents about a loan that would pay off your credit card bill. 20% interest is super high. You could pay them 5% and you'd potentially all be ahead. Maybe you could roll the $550 into that and get on a payment plan over 2 years. Say you were paying $150 in interest a month before. If you were paying 5%, you could potentially put $100 into an emergency fund each month instead. Then you could pay back your parents and be assured of a better financial situation. Alternatively, see what your bank would charge.

As you seem to have high expenses, I am wondering if you could get a weekend or evening job or else pick up a casual nursing job or even some babysitting. If you made an extra $50 a week, you could have enough for a couple of months of rent or a small car problem in 3 months.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:40 AM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you are willing to tell a mod your location, perhaps some cyclist MeFites might help with the bike repair.

Agreed that asking your parents for a loan is your best option here. Pay the minimum payments on everything until you are in a better place financially. I know having debt is OMG THE WORST, but it is really not the worst because a roof over your head and food for you and your cat are necessary things. Nthing calling your doctor or pharmacy for help with the medications as well.
posted by bedhead at 11:43 AM on May 1, 2014

1. You are already behind on this. It will be tough to dig out. Have an honest conversation with your parents. They should be near the LOWEST priority to pay off.

Shelter: you need to make sure that you have rent money first. Normally, that means I'd pull it from week 1 and week 2, but there are a lot of compounding things in this list that have to be attended to quickly. As such, We'll devote week 3 to 'Rent'.

1. This is security of your financial stream. In other words, you need to get insurance as quickly as possible. Contact them this week and find out what liability will cost you and if they will allow you to monthly or quarterly pay this (assuming it is over $600 to insure you for the year).
2. Medication: If you don't have it, pretend you don't have a job.
3. Laundry: If you are too far from your parents, then bite the bullet and allocate $15 to laundry. You can't work as a nurse with dirty scrubs - period. That will get you fired if it is figured out.
4. Bike repair. Assuming you live somewhere warm enough to bike for the next few weeks, get it fixed now. Let em know you have no money - they'll hook you up. Bring 'em beer in a few weeks when you have a little money. Every day you do not ride is another day you can drive in the rain.

This is the rainy day. No immediate rainy day savings. Your 20% CC interest is roughly $50 a month, meaning that if you pay a minimum payment of $60?, you'll die of old age before this is paid off. If you pay an additional $100 a month over your minimum, you'll clear the debt in 28 weeks. If you pay $200 a month over your minimum, you'll clear it in 15. If you pay $300 a month over your minimum, you'll clear it in 10 months. The difference in interest between paying $300 and $200 additional a month is about $110 over the long haul.

Week 1. Food, cat food, medication and laundry ($200)
Week 2. Bike shop, Car insurance installment ($600) and food
Week 3. Rent - JUNE and food ($600)
Week 4. Credit Card minimum payment, phone, full tank of gas, and food ($600)
Week 5. Student Loan, and food ($600)
Week 6. Car payment, medication, car insurance, food
Week 7. rent - JULY and food ($600)
Week 8. Full tank of gas, laundry, Credit Card minimum, and food ($600)
Week 9. save for the principal payment, phone, food
Week 10. Gas, beer for the bike shop, food, save for CC payment
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:50 AM on May 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Laundry: only machine dry what mst be dried, otherwise let it dry on a rack.

Student loans: check to see if you can do forbearance or pay the minimum. Once you get on your feet in a few months you won't have accrued anything terrible in interest.

Phone: check your data usage weekly. Phone overages can be seriously ridiculous.

Credit card: pay the minimum. Yeah it sucks but you need to get back on your feet first.

Parents: Pay them back once you've started saving and stopped hemoraghing. Give them updates so they don't think you're taking advantage.
posted by Aranquis at 11:52 AM on May 1, 2014

It is very, very, very easy to put student loans into forbearance, or even into deferment when your income is low. You can do it on the website. It sucks to rack up the interest while you're not paying, but if you can't pay it, you can't pay it.

If you're having trouble with the website, call them. They're usually very helpful.
posted by hought20 at 12:06 PM on May 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you can get around without the car, why not sell it and use the money to fix the bicycle/get a more reliable bicycle and pay off debts?
posted by GregorWill at 12:17 PM on May 1, 2014

In addition to all the excellent advice given above, something that stuck out to me was the phone. Maybe this is because I am a (mid-twenties) old lady with a grudgingly-carried flip phone, but I'd suggest getting rid of your phone. I'm going to assume it's a smartphone if you're mentioning data plans. It's really fine not to have a smartphone. If your job requires it, as some do, they will also help you pick up the bill for it. I can't think of another reason why you would *have* to have one, since you're not in school either.

I get that it's part of modern life and modern safety to have a phone, so I'd say to get one of those cheap prepaid phones where you only pay by the minute and use as few minutes as possible. Or see if your parents can add you to a family plan (which is what my old flip phone is on). They might be able to pay for it as a small way to help you out, or you can pay them the much-smaller amount it costs to add an extra line. As a bonus, some plans let you have free minutes within their own network, at certain times, or to certain numbers. So you might not have to pay much at all. Don't get a data plan at all, and there will be no over-use charges.

Find your local library, get a card, and use that for your Internet access (and computer access, if necessary) and the majority of your entertainment. Books, movies, music, sense of community, all for free! Some of them even have other programs-- free museum passes, movie nights, lectures and lessons, and maybe even resources for helping you get back on your feet. Go and ask!

I think the most important things to you right now are to 1) budget, keep track and plan, so this doesn't get away from you again (I'm sure people will chime in with just how to do that, and there's lots of other questions like yours in the archives) and 2) take a deep breath and work hard, but go easy on yourself. It sounds like you're beating yourself up about this, but keep on track and you'll be fine. You're not stupid, it'll be OK. Definitely not bankruptcy-worthy. You even already have a job! If you keep at it you can be out of this hole in a few months. Plan it out and mark it on your calendar. There can be a day, very soon, when this will be all worked out and in the past.
posted by spelunkingplato at 12:24 PM on May 1, 2014

As a parent, I agree that you should explain this situation to your parents and ask for advice and help, barring them being awful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:34 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mefites who are good with money: if you were in my situation, what exactly would you do?

My name is J.D. Roth. I write about personal finance for a living. I just spent the last six months working on a project based around this sort of thing. There are three things you can do to make a big difference in your finances. All three require mental fortitude. First, reduce housing costs. Yours are already low, so that's not an option really. Next is to reduce transportation costs. This is a big option for you, and you should seriously consider it. Nothing else will have as big an impact. Except for maybe #3: Take a second job.

I don't know what city you live in or where you live in that city, but my first move would probably be to get rid of the car and embrace bikes and public transit. Instant huge savings. Seriously. Nothing else will really come close. Getting your bike fixed might cost $100. That's not much. Do it.

If I were you, I'd also take a second job. Fast food. Retail. Whatever. I'd work as much as possible until I had regained control of my finances.

And in your specific case, I'd probably ditch the phone, although the specifics of your contract and situation might make this a less enticing candidate.

Again, your biggest challenge is going to be overcoming the mental stuff. You'll probably have reasons that you can't ditch the car and the phone or work a second job. But as somebody who's good with money and who writes about this stuff for a living, I'm telling you these are your three best bets, and by a long way.
posted by jdroth at 12:41 PM on May 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Maybe look into a credit card where you can transfer a balance interest free for x amount of months. You will still need to meet minimum payment but at least you will be able to make a dent into the CC debt without accruing interest.
posted by kmr at 12:46 PM on May 1, 2014

Quick tip re: phone overages. If it's the first time it's happened to you, call the company and put on a "poor little ol' me" show. Ex: I had no idea I was going over! I've been a customer for X years and I would never have done this if I had known! Is there anything that you can do?
posted by Flamingo at 1:30 PM on May 1, 2014

I'd make a pitch for picking up some extra work. Look on Craigslist for some babysitting or housekeeping jobs. Can you tend bar 2 nights a week?
posted by amaire at 1:33 PM on May 1, 2014

If you have Federal Student Loans, call for a forbearance ASAP. Also, get on Income Based Repayment when you can start repaying loans. If you're working for a non-profit (hospital) you will qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Like others have said, you need to call your creditors and let them know what's going on.
posted by cnc at 1:49 PM on May 1, 2014

Have you looked into baby sitting as a second job? Parents of children with special medical needs often pay a wage premium for babysitters with an RN.
posted by oceano at 2:06 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another option to potentially reduce your prescription cost is a discount prescription card, like this one offered by United Way. You can use that site to look up your prescription to see if there would be a savings.
posted by wsquared at 3:43 PM on May 1, 2014

Do you have old stuff you can sell? Phones, furniture, electronics, books you're sure you don't want anymore, etc. Put them up on Amazon or Craigslist. It's not a lot of money, but you'll be surprised how much your junk is worth to other people.

Speaking of Amazon, you can use your free time to earn money on Mechanical Turk as well.
posted by redlines at 4:48 PM on May 1, 2014

Also, if you want to keep your smartphone, ask your parents if you could be on a family plan with them. If they have a family plan between them already, the additional line costs very little extra. You can pay them back.
posted by redlines at 4:52 PM on May 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ting is another low-cost phone option, if you're not locked into a contract.
posted by moira at 5:11 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

RE car insurance: in my state, if you don't turn in your plates at the DMV when insurance lapses, you're faced with BIG fines and possible loss of license, even if you didn't drive the car. Look into whether this is an issue where you live.
posted by metasarah at 5:24 PM on May 1, 2014

Stop feeling stupid. You're presumably young and not very experienced. Learn from this, and cut yourself some slack.

Put together a budget. It's really important to know what expenses are coming up, as well as income:
-laundry - Is there anyplace you can hook up a washer? you can sometimes get a working washer on craigslist/free or freecycle. Hang things to dry.
-loan from parents
-data overages - get in the habit of visiting the library, Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, etc., to use free data. The public library is a fantastic resource at any time, but especially when you're broke.
-car insurance
-car loan
-student loans - 500/month is high - check to see if there are options.
-credit card bill - You may be able to get your credit amount raised. I purely hate credit card debt, but I also hate getting dinged for exceeding my limit.
-regular expenses: cat food, groceries, gas, emergency fund

I'd set it up in Excel or Google spreadsheet. Last time I was in a financial pinch, it really helped to be able to see what was coming up, and when.

2nd job is a great idea. You can easily earn 15/hour as a babysitter, personal care attendant - providing backup coverage or respite care. One nice thing about a 2nd job - you meet more people in your new town.

If you have a realistic budget showing how you'll cover expenses, pay off loans, and develop an emergency fund, your parents are likely to be happy to accept a payment plan, and they'll worry less. You don't have to think you're a dummy; you're not, but do be appreciative of the lifeline from your folks with a heartfelt thank you note.
posted by theora55 at 6:15 PM on May 1, 2014

If biking to work has been a thing that worked for you, would you be willing to do it more longterm? Depending on your city, jdroth is right, ditching the car can be a huge financial boon in the first place, and since yours has been giving you trouble, selling it might actually put you closer to paying things back. At very least, it justifies paying to fix the bike. I know for a fact that Sallie Mae does emergency forbearance because I've done it. And not to sound glib, but if you have no savings and are looking for a break to get back on your feet, sometimes food stamps are right for you. Check your state's requirements. Couldn't hurt, might help.

My public library was a godsend to me when I was this broke. Ditto Craigslist free stuff listings. Things you could easily find for free that would be very helpful right now: slow cooker (so many beannnssss), old TVs or DVD players (entertainment, thy name is free DVDs from the library), drying rack for clothes (or, you know, one of those cheap wire bookcases. Same difference.) I know how freaking stressful this can be, but breathe deep kiddo - you've got a brain and you've got a job and you can do this. And you will feel so proud when you have!
posted by theweasel at 6:18 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here is a list of Community Bicycle Organizations. These are places where you go to learn how to work on your bike. If there's one in your area, you can go fix your bike up for cheap or barter (volunteer).

I can let you know all about commuter bicycling on the cheap if you're interested in bicycling as a long-term solution.
posted by aniola at 6:59 PM on May 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Walgreens tends to be very expensive for prescriptions. Do you have a Costco near you? I found out that you do not have to be a member to use their pharmacy and they tend to be much cheaper. For example, I had a prescription that I had to get, called Walgreens and they said it would be $100, no insurance. Called Costco pharmacy, same prescription is $24. Definitely shop around. A useful site is GoodRx.com. It tells you who has the prescription cheapest in your area.

I've been in a similar situation. Eat cheap. I can get away with spending $100 on groceries for the month, if I play my cards right. Get rid of the car if you can and use your bike or get a bus pass. I lived in Seattle without a car and it was awesome. I walked and biked everywhere.

Also, as others have said, keep track of your expenses on a spreadsheet. Really helps with staying within budget when the numbers are in front of you.

Also, it might be helpful if you could contact the admins to post your location?
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:09 PM on May 1, 2014

From the OP:
I am in Portland, Maine. I don't want to give up my car because I work the evening shift (pay is good) and get out around midnight. I live about 3 miles away and don't feel comfortable biking home that late. Also my car is FANTASTIC in the snow and my job requires me to be at work even if it's freezing rain and spitting snow.

THANK YOU for the fantastic advice. I'm going to call sallie Mae tomorrow about forbearance and will shop around for my script. I am also going to look at getting cheaper car insurance.

I really appreciate everyone's responses. I feel like I can outline a plan and move forward.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:42 PM on May 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

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