Looking for advice & direction in this difficult time
December 5, 2006 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I am 21 and have serious money problems, including a huge debt. The problems are turning into a depression. They affect my ability to commute to work (by car). And now, To top it off, an old friend of mine hung himself 2 days ago. Why? Because of money problems. I dont want to kill myself at all, but I am deeply depressed. Happy Stories, Life Advice, or insight .. all deeply apprecaited.


I am a young man at 21 years of age. I turn 22 in a few months.

I have a job in the internet field paying about $400 a week after taxes. I am at an EXTREMELY difficult time of my life right now. For many reasons, mostly money related:

1. I have about $10,000 in credit card debt which I have not made any payments on. I have been served papers already. This makes any applications for credit options impossible.
2. I have many unpaid parking tickets and my license is currently revoked, for 1 year starting when I turn it in (haven't done that yet)
3. My used car (only transportation to work) is on the edge of death and also becoming unsafe to drive.
4. I can probably afford ONE of the following .. all of which I am having trouble finding at a do-able price:
a. A studio apartment close to where I work (so i wotn have to drive nor need a car)
b. Another used (read: abused) car for transportation between my parents' house (where I live currently) and my work (about 14 miles away)
c. Repairing my current car. Thsi will eat up ALL of my savings for sure.
4. My parents divorced 5 years ago. The parent I live with, Mom, refuses to help with transportation to my job. My dad commutes to work and cannot help with transport either.
5. There are no public transportation options available. Therefore I will lose my job once my car blows up
6. I have no college education. I had to drop out due to.. you guessed it, transportation problems.
7. My mom is on the verge of kicking me out of the house. Or makign me pay rent. Neither of which I can afford right now.
And, as if things couldn't get worse...
8. An old friend committed suicide (hung himself) 2 days ago, mostly because of money problems. He once said "I hate money. It will be the death of me"

I need some sort of direction. I am definitely experiencing a depression and I don't know where to turn or what to do. My friends death makes this 1000% times worse on me. Please metafilter .. help?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (58 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I will not try to give you specific advice on how to deal with the depression, but looking at your list, 4.a (getting a studio near your workplace) may help you a lot. Why? Well, as per 2 (revoked license, unpaid tickets), 3 (car on the verge of death) and 7 (being kicked out), repairing your old car or getting a new one will only give you more headaches. Getting a place for yourself solves you Mon and your car problems all at once - and you can sell the car and start paying your debts.

There's a serious problem with this - moving out alone when you're on the verge of a depression may be a very, very bad move. Maybe you could try to find someone to share an apartment or a studio.
posted by nkyad at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2006

I agree with nkyad. That, and get a second job. You need it, even if it's flipping burgers or stocking shelves all night at a grocery store -- find something, ANYTHING to bring in an extra $100 per week. You'd be surprised at how fast it adds up. Bonus points if it's in food service where you get at least one square meal a day.

See if you can apply for any poverty relief once you're out on your own. If you make $400/wk, you're only making $20,800 per year. Find out what your options for food stamps and other assistance are. Also, look into declaring bankruptcy to get out from under the debt and being able to start fresh. You don't have the ability to repay $10k of credit card debt, and there's no way in hell that you're even going to be able to pay the interest.
posted by SpecialK at 2:01 PM on December 5, 2006

You say that you aren't considering suicide right now, but please write this number down and put it in your wallet. 1-800- suicide. That is the number for Hopeline. Even if you aren't thinking of it, they will listen to you and will probably be able to point you in the direction of some resources near where you live. And even if you aren't thinking of it and they can't provide you any ideas, at least someone will listen to you, beause sometimes that's the most important thing, to be heard. Good luck.
posted by bilabial at 2:02 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with nkyad. Get the apartment and ditch you car. Take all the money you would have spent on insurance, repairs, and gas and put to toward paying off your debt.

Consider getting a second job, if you can. For years, I worked both a full time office job and an evening/weekend job at Barnes & Noble. It's very doable as long as your second job has somewhat flexible hours. That sort of thing would earn you some extra money and minimize the time you might otherwise spend sitting alone in your apartment.

I am sorry about your friend.
posted by mauglir at 2:03 PM on December 5, 2006

Oops. I just saw that the $400 is after taxes. That's $1600/mo post tax, so probably $2000/mo pre tax, which works out to $24k/yr. You might still be under the poverty level for a single person living alone in your area.
posted by SpecialK at 2:04 PM on December 5, 2006

How's your support network? It sounds like the family side of things could be better, but do you have friends to talk to? If yes, then getting your own apartment close to work definitely sounds like the first step. It sounds to me like a car would just be further liability until you can get other areas of your life in order.
posted by lekvar at 2:05 PM on December 5, 2006

Oh, and: How one girl got out of debt. I realize that what she did won't work for you exactly, but it's a good example nonetheless.
posted by SpecialK at 2:06 PM on December 5, 2006

I second all the advice. Also, get a bike. When I was just out of high school, I spent my last $150 on a good bike, and got a job, kept in shape, etc etc. Roomate is great idea too.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 2:10 PM on December 5, 2006

Lord son, when I was 21 I was poor poor poor. The kids from the local high school gave me their thanksgiving basket of food for the "needy".

What helps? Well nothing but just working through it. Start by getting legal with whatever you need to do, turn that bitch in. So in the future, when you have more money (that day WILL come) you will be ready, license in hand.

Go to a thrift store while you still have a car and get a bike. 14 miles is less than an hour ride! Think of how great your thighs will look! Ok, I am half kidding about that, but you will need a way to get to the grocery store and such when you get your studio. BTW, this is obviously what you need to do. Your almost 22, you shouldn't be living with your mom, especially if she isn't particularly supportive.

Do you have friends that work in your area? Can you be a roommate for a while, perhaps your community has a vanpool. They can be hard to find, but useful.

Check out welfare of some nature. You should qualify for food stamps. If you don't, there are lots of cheap food threads here.

Is there a bar or good rest. near your house? The thing that helped me start not being poor was becoming a damn fine waitress. My first job netted me perhaps 60-90 a night, but I ate ALL my meals there for free five night a week. (I would eat "lunch" at 3 while opening, eat dinner around 10, and snag part of that dinner for bkst the next day) Not every rest. is like that. I bartend now, but only every other Sat. and every Sunday. That brings in an extra 600 a month.

The point is. You are reasonably smart and well spoken, you've got to break out of your anxiety and just, well, get 'er done, as they say. You can do it. Remember, absolute idiots end up making it! You can too!
posted by stormygrey at 2:11 PM on December 5, 2006

A bike, an apartment close to work, roommate, all great ideas.

I don't know what "served papers" means, but are you able to do any credit counseling? We started a program a few months ago and it's made our lives so much easier and stress-relieved. Our debt is going down, and we have more money day-to-day to live with. It's scary but worth it if you can.
posted by agregoli at 2:13 PM on December 5, 2006

Can you sell whatever you spent the $10,000 on?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:15 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

People have given you great advice: move out, get a bike, a second job, etc. I'm sure no one will be happy with this suggestion but I'm going to make it anyway since no one else has. You are 21, the perfect age for military service. It might give you what you need: structure, escape from a negative environment, training, and a regular paycheck.

And yeah, you'd probably end up in Iraq. It's not a good thing but it must be better than suicide.
posted by chairface at 2:20 PM on December 5, 2006

You will get more advice - some better, some worse than mine. Also, there have been a lot of threads started on this subject. I'll leave it to you to find them.

However, I have been in a tough financial place like you (more debt, slightly more income), and came out of it. You can too. Now I am Obsessive Compulsive Financial Guy. My words of wisdom:
- Make yourself a budget. You can't save unless you know how much you are earning/spending. This is the first and most important step. I use Excel, but Quicken is good too. Make categories as you see fit; Food, Rent, Utilities, Car, Entertainment, etc. Some amounts will be educated guesses, but that's OK. You'll learn as you go.
- Stick to this budget. Note exactly what you spend. You can (and should) tweak it as you see fit. But live by it. Takes a little work at first, but you get used to it.
- Share your budget / financial responsibilty plan with Mom, and maybe she will cut you some slack. Maybe living rent-free, or a paying just a nominal amount. Can Dad cut you a break with living arrangements?
- Work out a plan to pay back your debt. If you have been "served papers", it sounds like you are (or will be) dealing with a collection agency. Plead your case to them. They might be willing to work with you (i.e. accept $X/month). From what I've read, they might be willing to accept a lesser total amount. Again, search here - I've seen this question asked before.
- Transportation... That's rough. Is 14 miles too far to bicycle? If it was me (I can manage 9 miles to work - and I'm old and fat), I would try - a car is a HUGE expense for someone in your situation.
- If money is tight, consider a second job. Even if it's waiter, flipping burgers, etc. The extra income will only help, and it will fend of depression - you'll be too busy/tired to worry.
- Budget. I say this again, because it is important. Note, that "budget" does not mean "deny yourself things". It just means "keep track of things". ANY time you spend money, write it down (or log it in Excel, or, whatever). You will be surprised how much you spend on things you never realized. But, then you can change your habits. For example, instead of spending $3/day on a grande latte, make your own coffee.

And just to reiterate... You can get out of this financial hole. Trust me - I've done it. Best of luck to you!
I know this question was posted anonymously, but if you want, feel free to email me if you have any questions about becoming a "born again financial guy". I promise to keep things confidential.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2006

Send me an email, I would rather discuss my experience in private.
posted by ill3 at 2:22 PM on December 5, 2006

If you had a bicycle, could you ride to work? I don't know where you live, what the weather is like or what the road conditions are like, but I have friends who ride longer distances than that, daily. You could save vast amounts of money. On second reading, other people have posted the same thing above. I think it could be a great idea.

To get out of this is going to be hard work, but it can be done, you have to realise that it's not impossible.

I am truly sorry to hear about your friend. A close friend of mine did the very same thing some years ago. I don't need to express to you how bad it is.

I don't know if `move out of home' is necessarily the best advice. If you're getting board either free or at a much lower price, I think there are better options unless home life is intolerable.

Have you talked to your credit card company about coming to some arrangement? The worst thing you can do is keep silent. Stress that you'd like to pay the money back, but you're in a tough financial situation. They would rather get it back slowly or get some of it back than crush you and get nothing, or have you declare bankruptcy.

Also, check out your spending. If you smoke, try and stop. If you buy takeaway food and junk food, try to stop that too. I used to spend about $100.00 a WEEK on unnecessary food.
posted by tomble at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2006

I disagree with the people saying that you need your own place. The last thing you need if you are stone cold broke is to have to make rent every month. You are also more likely to want to drive if you are living by yourself, and if you think the punishment for unpaid parking tickets is harsh, just try driving on a suspended license. I think that you should find a job within walking/biking (a great idea by the way) distance of your Mom's house, sell your car, turn in your license, and start going to a credit counselor. Work as much as possible. Something involving physical labor would probably pay a little better and keep you too tired to want to drive or get depressed. UPS is always hiring people to haul packages around their warehouses around the holidays. Money issues are tough, but you have all the time in the world to get them fixed. You are young and you can get through this. It just may not be fun for a while. I am sorry about your friend, but I don't think that you should necessarily tie that in with your problems. That is terrible that it happened, but I am sure he had his own particular issues, and you may be drawing parallels where none exist. Good luck.
posted by ND¢ at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2006

Depending on what you know about yourself, I would suggest getting a place near where you work and ditch the car. Living on your own can be hugely freeing and rewarding - or be depressing, depending on your mentality. (If you already know you have strong introvert or extrovert leanings, then that probably cements which way it would go :-) Also, I found that moving out of home allows you to become friends with your parents - you lose a source of friction and gain a friend.

If you move near to work, get a bike (they can be only a few dollars at thrift stores, just one to get started), this will (1) partly offset the loss of mobility from ditching the car, (2) over time improve your fitness, which in turn will make you feel better in general, which will probably also help with the depression. (Over time, your cycling range will also increase - getting to a shopping centre that used to be too far away when you started cycling will fall within your comfort zone). You don't need all that cycle gear crap to ride a bike either. Ignore all that - be simple and practical, like cyclists pretty much everywhere except the USA.

When I had money issues, I developed an attitude that helped that I guess would be summed up by "Feh - it's only money" - sort of a decision/realisation that the things affected by financial woes did not actually touch on the important things in life, or the things I needed to be happy. Money causes problems and headaches, which are chores to work through, but to happy, I needed hobbies, friends, absence of sickness, rewarding activities, and while money could grease many of those wheels, it didn't actually play a crucial role. "It's only money" means that a financial problem is going to involve work, and be a PITA that I'd really not rather deal with, but at the end of the day, it's an annoying sideshow, it's not my life, it's not what's important to my life.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:26 PM on December 5, 2006

It wasn't listed in your options, but if it is possible to get a job withing walking/biking range of your parent's place, then that option is far and away the best thing you can do.

$10 grand suddenly becomes not all that much to pay off when you living expenses are reduced to almost nothing.

Seriously - look hard at the feasibility of that possibility.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:30 PM on December 5, 2006

I also agree with nkyad, I think ditching your car (cars eat up so much money on a constant basis) and moving into a studio close to work is a good idea. It's also possible that the public transportation options (for running errands and such) may be better at your new apartment.

I think that it is great that you have listed things out because it may help you to divide and conquer your problems. You may wish to speak to a credit counselor or reputable debt consolidation service in order to help with your debt. They may be able to offer you solutions that don't have the long-term problems associated with bankruptcy.

Picking up a second, part-time job may really help you out as well. Depending on your schedule, you may want to get a low-maintenance pet to care of and to give you someone to come home to.

I'm sorry about your friend, but you do have options and I wish you the best.
posted by melangell at 2:33 PM on December 5, 2006

Another advantage to moving out and into an apartment close to work is that it gets mom off your back.

She may mean well, hoping that somehow she can give you a kick in the ass that will get you on your feet, but I imagine that having a parent who has gotten to that point with you isn't really going to help your outlook and the way you feel about yourself. By moving out you are taking control of your life, as imperfect as it is right now, and making a step to, at the very least, keep it from getting any worse.

Then you can get to work on getting some of the other problems into line.
posted by Good Brain at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2006

As someone who just dug himself out of debt (qand tends to depression) I agree with the suggestions of bike, roommate and credit counseling.

Roommate: Living alone is just wrong if you're depressed. Trust me. If only so you can have someone to compare your daily moods to. Having someone else in the same house makes it easier to keep your energy up, remain tidy, keep up personal grooming habits, etc. As depression increases, these are some of the first things to go.

Bike: It will be illegal for you to drive your car for a year, so even if it doesn't blow up, you'll be risking big fines and perhaps jail if you keep driving it. Finding an aprtment within biking distance (which may be a wider circle than you think) would help out. Plus, you'll get in better shape (or stay in good shape), which helps stave off depression.

Credit counseling: There are non-profits that exist only to negotiation with your credit card companies for you and allow you to pay them off in one payment a month. Sometimes the one payment is very daunting, but at least they will get you on a path. If you simply don't have the resources to make the payments, bankruptcy is a legitimate option (even though the rules have changed, if you truly can't pay you can still declare bankruptcy).

Search AskMe for some credit counseling stories.
posted by crickets at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2006

Individual advice is nice and all, but I want to suggest getting a system to do things. I am graduating college, at about the same age as you, and I've been lucky about having jobs.

The problem is that I've also been spending more than I make. I am a few thousand dollars in debt on my credit cards, although I make paments on them. The biggest thing that helps me is knowing what I need to do.

Check out the financial blogs, especially iwillteachyoutoberich. Focus on the 'get it done now' mentality and getting rid of barriers. On that note, I've had good luck with the Getting Things Done method of doing things. I don't implement the whole system, but what I do have has prevented me from really slipping back into the procrastination I used to have.

Write a list of things you need to do, make them actionable. That means instead of just a list item like "handle license", have something like "gather all the papers into a spot for the license", then "drive to the courthouse and see ____ about license". The definite and verb based actions help you not procrastinate, since there is no thinking needed before you do the action.

The best way of handling the credit cards might be just calling up the company and explaining that you can't pay. Then figure out a payment plan with them that does work. Companies would rather you pay something than declare bankrupcy out from under them.

Good luck with your situation, it can be much better in just a month, if you can figure out your plan.
posted by cschneid at 2:41 PM on December 5, 2006

One piece of good news about the credit card debt is that 10k or more in cc debt seems to be relatively common (you are not alone), and ask.me is full of tons of advice and anecdotes about dealing with it. You might find it helpful to look through the credit tag for similar questions.

I also think you should ditch the car, and get an apartment close to work. Right now the car is a huge money/time/energy sink for you, and it barely works. Also, I'm guessing that unless something major changes, you will continue getting parking tickets -- not having a car ensures that you will not get one again any time soon.

Finally, I notice you are not currently paying rent. $400/week is not very much if you are paying rent/utilities/food costs, but if you aren't, it is actually quite a lot (I did a rough calculation and you should have the spending power of someone making about 30k post taxes). It's hard to tell where this money is going, but it can't all be going into the car. You might want to seriously evaluate what you are spending it on -- perhaps by systematically recording all of your expenses for a few weeks. For instance, if you are eating out a lot, this can eat up a huge chunk of cash, and it is easy to not realize it. Even buying lunch every day a week can really add up (e.g. $10*5 is $50, already an eighth of your weekly income). If you are buying lunches, start bringing PB&J on wonder bread (for example) and put the rest of the money towards your minimum CC payment.

Good luck!
posted by advil at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2006

A lot of good advice above. Sounds like the best solution is to stay at your mom's for the time being. In a situation like that, you'll want to really contribute to the household, looking for ways to take the burden of her shoulders, she might dig that even more than rent money, and gain some side benefits like friendship & respect. Let us know how you're doing.
posted by artdrectr at 2:57 PM on December 5, 2006

I'm really sorry about what you've been going through and for the loss of your friend. If you have a doctor, counsellor or other trusted person in whom you can confide, I hope you'll try to do so. But thank you for asking the Mefi community to help you.

Get the apartment. If you move, you will feel like you've accomplished another phase of adulthood. You'll be able to decorate, have your own space, do your own thing. You might find this really helps.

Consider renting a room in a house, apartment or basement suite, rather than having an entire place to yourself. You'll still feel more empowered than at home, but you will have a few less responsibilities, someone to talk to when you get home, and someone to share the costs of utilities. Perhaps they will even have some furniture and a TV.

Pick an apartment near some shops, if possible. Having access to groceries is helpful. If you aren't close to shops, get a bike.

Once you've moved, walk to work. This is a great way to feel attached to your new community.

Sell your car. Can you get even $500 for it? That's 5% of your goal! Did you prepay insurance -- can you get back the amount you won't be using? Selling your car will free up a lot of your current income, too, so you can pay for your apartment.

Have a lawn sale. Sell used clothes, books, CDs, whatever you spent money on. You could also try eBay. Even if you only get $100, that's 1% of your goal.

Get a second job. Even $8 an hour x 10 hours a week will bring in $4200 a year. That's 42% of your goal by the end of the year. Add that to the car and lawn sales, and you're 90% of the way to paying off all your debt after 2 years!

Find some activities that are low cost. Sometimes, it's easy to start spending money when everyone around you is spending money. Try to find some activities that don't require a big outlay of cash.
posted by acoutu at 2:59 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

All of the above,
+ ask for a raise
+ ask for overtime assignments
+ get a seasonal job at a store
+ ask to be transferred to another office where there are more opportunities for p/t work and transportation
+ take advantage of any classes via work that you can parlay into a better-paid job down the road
+ list all unused books/DVDs/video games for sale on the web
+ sell on eBay any good condition stuff that others might want for Xmas (e.g. chess boards, toys, art)
+ look up your local Freecycle to find out about free stuff (e.g. bikes, bookshelves) you could use in your life
posted by xo at 3:07 PM on December 5, 2006

You take home $1,600 a month, don't pay rent, and you're broke? Something is seriously wrong.

You NEED to develop a budget and live by it. People who think you're making poverty wages don't know what they're talking about. $400 per week is more than I made during my first seven years out of college, a totally livable wage.

While making less than you I managed to live on my own, pay my bills on time, buy and pay off a car, pay off about $6,000 of student loans, travel across the country every year and have a social life. How? By learning to manage my money.

If you don't have control of your money, if you don't understand how much you're making and where it's going, it's very easy for it to get out of control. It seems clear to me that you're in this situation. You have a hard time paying bills as they come due -- and now you're facing the consequences.

This is what you need to do:
1. Get some counseling. You don't just need to deal with your depression, you need to deal with your psychological money issues. You're spending too much and you are avoiding the consequences.
2. Destroy your credit card.
3. Stop spending money. These are the things you are allowed to spend money on: bills, laundry, raw ingredients used to prepare food, housing, therapy. NOTHING ELSE. Your spending is out of control, you need to take control of your money and the first step is by going down to minimums. Even after those costs should still have at least $300 left.
4. Find a rental near your office. Start walking to work or riding your bike to work.
5. Call your credit card company. You're not the only person to charge up way too much money, they won't think you're a bad person. They won't embarrass you. It's not as bad as you fear. Just tell them you can't afford the current interest rate, and you really, really need them to lower it. Then stop using the card, start sending it a check for $100 every month to slowly pay it off.
6. Track every penny you make and every penny you spend in Excel.
7. After three months living very cheaply and tracking every penny you spend, you will have documentation of how you live and spend. Now you can set up a spending plan that will allow you to start having fun and living within your means.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:23 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

And remember that it will take you years to put this debt behind you. Don't despair the fact; it's just a fact. You're young. If you're looking for easy answers, you're just going to get more frustrated. It's a long row to hoe, but that's what debt is, and that's the fact, and the best you can do is to just keep chipping away at it, and just have that be a fact of life.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:25 PM on December 5, 2006

All sound advice above. I just want to point out that you're only 21. Many of us have made a terrible hash of things, or suffered great misfortune, by 21, and gone on to live happy lives after. The worst thing that could happen is that you could become bankrupt. Even so, in a few years you can and most likely will have put this behind you.

You are not doomed. This is not the end of your world. Your adult life has barely started. You are 21 and you have years and years to fix this up and start over. Please remind yourself of this when the future seems too dark.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:51 PM on December 5, 2006

You take home $1,600 a month, don't pay rent, and you're broke? Something is seriously wrong.

That's my first impression, too. When I was your age, I made the same amount, paid for rent, carried more credit card debt (for which I am still paying fifteen years later), and still managed to get by.

I suspect that you're spending a lot of money on crap you don't need, and that's the first thing that needs to stop. If you're really having trouble, then don't spend any money at all outside of necessities. Learn to use free resources for entertainment. (The library is your friend.) All of your money should be channelled to debt reduction. Get rid of your credit cards.

I maintain a personal finance web site. I read a lot of stories like yours. People can and do recover from worse financial situations than the one you're in. You can do it too. It just takes a positive attitude and a willingness to work hard.

Start here: How to get out of debt.

Stop spending money.

Good luck!
posted by jdroth at 3:58 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Here's a happy story, as requested. When I was 21, I had huge money problems, unpaid debt, a shitty $400 uninsured truck and my parents wouldn't even have dreamed of loaning me money or letting me live with them. I had to dig through couch cushions for cigarette money. I got evicted once. When I went out with friends, I'd nurse a single budweiser all night, because that's all I could afford. I dropped out of college in my senior year (well, my fourth year...) because I just couldn't scrounge up the money.

It seemed horrible at the time, but over the next few years, all those problems solved themselves. I eventually got better and better jobs, better transportation, better apartments, paid off debt. After a 7 year break, I returned to, and finished college.

I don't mean to get all Oprah on you, but in most cases, problems that seem insurmountable now will likely seem quite insignificant a few years down the road.

Oh, and you might as well turn that license in. It's not going to do you any good if you get pulled over anyway, and you'll start ticking off that year once you do it.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 4:07 PM on December 5, 2006

There isn't much I can say that hasn't already been said above, except to underscore that things will probably get worse, before they get better. Knowing that, you need to address any outstanding debts NOW. Not tomorrow, not next monday at lunch. Now.

My biggest mistake was the idea (however unrealistic) that ignoring my bills would somehow put them on hold, and that I could deal with them at my whim.

Stop this thinking now if you are at all similar.

Turn your license in. Today.

Sell your car for whatever you can while it is still movable.

Call every person/company you owe money to, and explain your situation. You need to keep them in the loop. Even if you can only pay them $10/month, it will hold them off. ($10 might be unrealistic).

I had to stop pretending you can deal with these issues when YOU feel ready, and deal with them as soon as possible. Now, and in the future.
posted by SirStan at 4:16 PM on December 5, 2006

I'm so sorry about your friend. That must be really tough right now.

I dug myself out of debt just a couple of years ago. It was student loans gone to collections, not credit debt, but I felt the huge overwhelming black cloud over me the way you are, so I feel for you. I avoided my problem for years because I was so scared and felt so helpless. But I can tell you that once you do face up to it, start answering the calls, and get proactive, you WILL feel better. I promise you. There is nothing like the feeling of going "legit" after having hid from collection calls and stuffing their bills unopened in a box for years. I'm still paying my debt and will be for years, but I feel like a 100% productive member of society now, and that is a dramatic change from the slug I felt like before.

So whatever you end up doing, I just want you to know that you won't feel helpless anymore once you've faced up to it and started on the slow, slow path to recovery. If it happened for me it will happen for you!! Take the wise advice here. Good luck.
posted by loiseau at 4:17 PM on December 5, 2006

The only thing I have to add to what's been said above is this:

Take action.

Depression is an illness that thrives on inertia and torpor. The hardest thing to do is to get off your butt and start to do something to change your situation, but you'll find that once you start, and things begin to change and you can see the benefits of the changes (which might not be apparent at first), you'll feel more in control of your situation.

Good luck.
posted by essexjan at 4:27 PM on December 5, 2006

If by chance you're in new york, email me; I might know a cheap place to stay (not mine).
posted by bingo at 4:37 PM on December 5, 2006

All the advice above is great, but I'd like to echo anyone who mentioned getting help for your depression. Depression can be triggered by stressors, and the loss of your friend on top of your situation in general are certainly enough to make your depression worse.

Someone posted this link in another thread - it's a craigslist search of therapists, and it says which ones accept health insurance (if you have it) or offer fees on a sliding scale. Also, the Hopeline might be able to point you to low-cost services. Seriously - getting your depression under control will help you deal with this.

As far as what you should do, I'd see if you can move out, especially if you can find a place that's cheap (watch out for utilities, food and other costs that you may not be paying now) - but only do it if you can. And once you do whatever you decide, budget. Budget! It's a pain at first, but it's well worth it.

As far as your debt, if you've been "served papers" I'm assuming you mean you've been sued on the debt? If that is the case, see if there is any hope to work out a payment plan. If not, chances are they will get a judgment against you, which may be fulfilled with a garnishment order (a certain amount of your wages, depending on which state you live in, will be deducted from your paycheck to pay back the debt) or seizure of any assets (bank accounts, etc.) you have. It's up to whoever wins the judgment to enforce it, so when and how they do is up to them. Just a heads up, in case this has some bearing on what you decide to do. (IANAL, etc.)

Finally: hang in there. It really is not as bad as it seems, and I say this as someone who just starting to come out of a situation very close to yours. You will get through this.
posted by AV at 4:55 PM on December 5, 2006

One thing that always makes me feel better, is knowing I am not alone. And let me tell you: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

There are more people in your situation than not. When I was 21 my arch-nemesis was for sure the meter maid. I got so many tickets that my car was booted and impounded repeatedly. And when it wasn't booted or impounded it was in the shop. And when it wasn't in the shop, it was out of gas or needing insurance. I totally remember feeling like I just could not catch a break -- there was always some new penalty, some new fine, some tax bill and I thought I would never get ahead.

Here's what else always makes me feel better: knowing that all things pass. I'm not poor anymore. But as hard as it was, it was worth it because I really truly appreciate the freedom I have now. And the sacrifices taught me about discipline which is what ultimately helped me get my head above water.

But the thing that really makes me feel better when I get depressed is helping other people. Not only does it take your mind off of your own problems, it makes you feel valuable and worthwhile. It gives you much needed perspective.

Finally, I try to take pleasure in simple things. Really really simple things like clean dry socks on a rainy day. Like being able to walk on your own two legs without anybody's help.
posted by GIRLesq at 4:58 PM on December 5, 2006

I've been in exactly your situation. I was broke, living at my mom's, in heavy debt, and everything.

Some people in the thread above have stressed the necessity to act now to deal with the debt. My experience is that that is the key to your problem. As soon as you have sorted out what you owe, how you can pay everything off and not starve in the proccess, you're gonna be a lot less depressed. And when you're less depressed, you'll be able to make the budgetary changes that probably seem very depressing at this point.

You'll also find that the amount you owe isn't all that scary. It wil change from a very big scary number to a series of smaller, not scary numbers.
posted by svenni at 4:59 PM on December 5, 2006

oh, and always remember:

This too shall pass.
posted by svenni at 5:08 PM on December 5, 2006

If I were you, I'd declare bankruptcy. Even though they rewrote the laws to make it more difficult for the casual consumer to do so, with your situation it's is a sure thing. This will wipe the slate clean. It will stay on your credit report for another seven years. That's plenty of time to get the rest of your life in order. When you're 28 you'll be immensely grateful to yourself for doing this.

Unless you're getting some kind of credit counseling, I think you're going to have a very hard time renting an apartment by yourself. Any realtor is going to do a credit check. Much better to get a shared apartment with a roommate. Look in the paper or Craig's List. Biggest priority is that it's cheap. Second biggest priority is that it's close to work.

Ditch the car. You can't afford the luxury right now. Get a bike like everyone else has recommended. You can probably get a cheap used bike for less than $50.

If you can handle another part-time job, get one. Eat ramen for a year or whatever inexpensive, make-it-at-home alternative you wish. Remember that every penny you spend on a meal out or a toy for yourself is adding days or months to your fiduciary parole date.

You best honor the memory of your friend by digging yourself out of this hole. Do this for yourself, certainly, but also because your friend cannot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:19 PM on December 5, 2006

A number of people have given great advice. I have only one thing to add - a link to a credit counseling website!


Good luck!
posted by zia at 7:20 PM on December 5, 2006

Avoid driving the car. It can and will be towed.

Also, make sure that there aren't any outstanding warrants for your arrest (they do that sometimes with unpaid tickets).
posted by Frankieist at 7:21 PM on December 5, 2006

Several years ago I was in a very similar situation as you anon. This is how I got through it:
  • I became very thrifty. I hand washed my clothes, I borrowed free movies from the public library instead of renting, and never paid full price for anything. It became like a game to save money.
  • I streamlined my life and removed any extraneous items or services that wasn't absolutely essential. TV: gone. Internet: smell ya later. Phone: I didn't have a phone line for over a year and a half. If I had to call my kids, I used a pay phone.
  • I took my limited resources as an opportunity to enjoy the simple things in life: meditation, a good book, a warm bowl of soup etc.
  • This one is important. I was grateful for what I did have. Focus on what you have rather than what you don't have, and you will realize you're not so bad off. In fact, do this and you'll be richer than a wealthy person who is not happy or content.
  • Constant faith and prayer. Go ahead, ask God for help. He will answer your prayers (maybe not in the way you expect Him to) but He will answer.
You'll make it through this seemingly difficult period, and you will look back and be see how those experiences made you stronger and smarter. I know I do.

P.S. When you get really depressed, go for a run. It'll help you feel better.
posted by dropkick at 7:40 PM on December 5, 2006 [2 favorites]

Don't buy this book... but read it if you can get it from the library. The gist of it is to try and make sense of your dollars per enjoyment ratio in everything you do. They recommend a low-tech pencil and notebook approach (total cost < $5) to make it easier to start being more in control of your day-to-day money issues... just trying it out for a few months gave me a sense of what was really important in my money and life.br>
Good luck, lots of people here are wishing you well.
posted by anthill at 8:40 PM on December 5, 2006

Great advice up above, and I can only add one thing: Debtors Anonymous. DA is a GREAT program, and you will get help and social support from others who are struggling with the exact same problems as you.

Please, go to a meeting - just give it a try. It's free, you can arrive late and leave early, sit by the door, and not say anything if you don't want.
posted by jasper411 at 9:01 PM on December 5, 2006

I know the debt must seem like a huge pressure bearing down on you right now, so just make an appointment to file bankruptcy and think no more about it for a few years. It's not the end of the world in any way, take it from someone who's still recovering from about that much debt and has a much lower income to people in household ratio. In fact, bankruptcy will probably improve your standard of living right about now. You might even benefit from not having access to credit for a few years (By they way, bankruptcy doesn't automatically disqualify you, it's actually easier to get some credit after one that with loads of debt in collections).

As to the car, if a bike is possible then do it. In the meantime you should probably start learning how to do as much work as possible to the car on your own. This is something that will benefit you in the years to come.

400 dollars per week after taxes for a single guy with no kids or rent is absolutely great. (For those mentioning poverty relief: Where the hell do you live? That wouldn't even qualify for.... well, ANYTHING.) You're having budgeting problems. No big deal, this will straighten itself out. It just FEELS like doomsday. You get used to it after a while and eventually learn to plan for it. Learn to live cheap.

Just stop. Look around you for a minute. You're better off than you know and now is the time to start thinking about how you're going to make it even better. Like the old saying goes: This, too, shall pass.

Just hang in there. It gets better.

P.S. E-mail me
posted by IronLizard at 9:48 PM on December 5, 2006

P.P.S. This time last year I was facing an eviction and a hellish load of other personal problems. This Christmas I can afford to buy my kids presents myself, I'm starting my own business and generally learning to enjoy myself a little at a time. I even got tons of dental work done. All this and we make less after the rent, utilities ect. than you're taking home without that load and this is with three kids, + nothing but medical (for the kids only) in the way of govt. assistance.

One thing I can;t stress strongly enough, when you;re feeling like this don't drink.
posted by IronLizard at 10:03 PM on December 5, 2006

I signed up for MetaFilter just to answer your question. I was in a similar situation you were in. I was in about 5k of credit card debt, 10k of student loans for a degree I hadn't finished, and struggling to make a $8/hr job fit my lifestyle. As you are, I was depressed and seriously considered suicide to stop from having to think about it all.

I was not a religious person at the time, but I went to a church one Sunday morning and in the bulletin was an announcement about a support group for overspending. It changed my life. First, there was a group of people that cared about me. Second, there were resources I never knew existed. Third, people were willing to help me out -- an old lady from the church drove me to work and back when I couldn't afford gas.

Six years later, I'm debt-free, finished college, married, and have a good job. Life isn't perfect, but God has helped me so much. My biggest advice is to watch where you spend money. Budget like crazy. Eat ramen every meal. Ditch cable, internet, etc. You don't need to pay off every cent tomorrow, so put it into manageable chunks. Every day wake up and know that you can do it. Change your lifestyle. I now have a hard time thinking of what I want for Christmas because I've trained myself to not want things.

Again, you can do it. we all have faith in you.
posted by lpret at 10:15 PM on December 5, 2006

These are all great suggestions, for sure. As some have said, I would look VERY closely at any monthly bills you are getting. Do you need a cell phone? Probably not. You need it for emergencies because you go running in gator fields? OK, get a tracphone and keep the minimum amount of minutes on it. Same goes for internet - don't pay for it! Surf mefi on public computers at the public library. If you live in Seattle, take advantage of free dialup internet via nocharge.com (I did this for a summer; it works great).

But, the most important suggestion that no one has mentioned: beans and rice. Seriously. Get a big bag of each at your local grocery store (bum a ride or do it before the car and license leave) and enjoy cheap, nutritious, hot meals for a while. Ramen is great, but everyone deserves some variety.
posted by rossination at 11:11 PM on December 5, 2006

In the short term, bury yourself in work.

Benefits: structured time, money, sense of purpose.
posted by ewkpates at 3:07 AM on December 6, 2006

I was in almost your exact situation 18 months ago. No money, dying car, multiple suicides [one being money/success related], and everything just being crap. If this friend was close, just know that others have felt what you're going through. It's going to be hard. Very hard. My email is in my profile if you need it.

I'd recommend a job as a server for quick cash. I was working at an all-u-can-eat seafood buffet when I crawled my way into teaching. It's easy to get stuck in that kind of work, but it sure as hell brings the cash in short-term if you find the right restaurant. It's also easy to find coworkers who will take you to work for a few bucks and meals are free.
posted by trinarian at 4:55 AM on December 6, 2006

One more thing: look at your bank account statements. Make sure the bank isn't taking unnecessary/hidden fees from you. This happened to me at a time when every penny counted. The bank was hitting me with service charges for using my debit card over and above what my plan allowed. (One month it was $90 in extra services charges! That sure woke me up!)

What I learned the hard way was that the banking plan with the least monthly service charges also had the most hidden fee's and the most restrictions. If this is the case with you, I suggest opting for a more robust banking plan. It'll have a slightly higher monthly service charge but less hidden fees to worry about.
posted by dropkick at 8:18 AM on December 6, 2006

I don't know how your relationship with your mom is, but to get her mercy, you might sit down and work out a budget and a plan, and share it with her.

I'm thinking something like this: Ask her if she can go another X months without making you pay rent to give you a start on paying down your debt, then offer to pay something small, $100 a month for the next X months, slowly increasing that amount as you can, until you're paying enough that you could just get an apartment anyways.

Some debtors will accept almost anything as a payment - even if you start out paying only $5 a month, it might get them off your back.

If your debt is this severe, you might consider taking anything you have in savings out and paying off your debt with it - look at it this way: if you have $1000 in savings, it might be earning you 3% interest; meanwhile, if you have $1000 debt on one credit card at 18% interest, you're losing 15% over that $1000.

Try to set aside a small amount of time for yourself every day - even if it's only 10 minutes - where you don't worry about anything. Don't let yourself worry about the debt... go outside and get some sun, take a walk, talk on the phone, whatever makes you happy.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:18 AM on December 6, 2006

I'm sorry about your friend.

Rewind...you can't afford to pay rent to your mom...how would you afford to pay rent to someone else for a studio near work? If you CAN afford to rent, do it. Sell the car for as much as you can get. This will take away gas, insurance and registration expenses, not to mention repairs. Maybe you could look at roomates.com and share with someone. A roommate might be good for you!

If you have any savings AT ALL, you should pay it toward the credit card debt. You are probably paying a ridiculous interest rate on the debt, and only getting 1% on your savings. It is costing you far more to carry that debt than you are making in interest.

Maybe you should consider debt counseling. They help you negotiate new terms with your creditors, set up payment plans, and get yourself out of debt. Just make sure you research the company thoroughly and know that it's a not-for-profit, because some of these outlets are just out to take your money.

Get a second job. Yes, you will be tired and overworked, but it will help you in the short term. It sounds like you need to get some of this debt off your shoulders to ease your mind.

Best of luck.
posted by suchatreat at 12:11 PM on December 6, 2006

If you can declare bankruptcy, now would be the time to do it, when you have the rest of your life to get your financial life back in order. It's a last resort, but it's there if you need it, and it's not catastrophic. Your life will go on. But I'd definitely try credit counseling first.

A few years ago I was $50,000 in debt and got out thanks to a credit counseling plan. Also thanks to Paxil, and a doctor who prescribed it for me. So first, see someone about the depression, and then see someone about the debt.
posted by kindall at 5:40 PM on December 6, 2006

I vote no on declaring bankruptcy. $10k is an exceptionally small amount of money for this tact, given that you make $20k+ a year and still live at home. Bankruptcy follows you for a long time and as some have mentioned is even less useful to the average consumer due to last year's changes.

Work 100 hours a week for 6 months instead. With bankruptcy you will still be dealing with it in 5 years....
posted by ill3 at 10:07 PM on December 6, 2006

Yeah, like I said, it's a last resort, but it's not as bad as all that if it comes to that.
posted by kindall at 10:39 PM on December 6, 2006

After thinking about your question, I want to mention three things:

1. Take ONE small step today. Out of all the advice you received, take one thing and implement one small step and commit to it. Your problems are not going to go away overnight. Taking one small step wil be manageable however and start you off in the right direction.

2. Don't be hard on your self. Treat your self with kindness.

3. When doing something or buying something stop and think " is this thing useful for me or leading me further away from my goal. Once again, don't blame yourself - but rather look at your actions and motivation with kindness but do make some hard choices if necessary.

Kindest regards to you.
posted by philad at 11:49 PM on December 6, 2006

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