How exactly do I get ahead?

Warning This post could be construed as whining/complaining or just general patheticness but I’m looking for good, honest advice.

Just a little bit of background. I’m a 28 year old professional, working as a consultant. The job market being what it was, consulting work is all I’ve been able to find to keep myself fed.

I will try to spare too many pointless details, but I do think some of that might count.

At 16, I met the man that I would later marry at the age of 19. At 26, we divorced, three kids later. When he left, I was jobless, carless, nearly homeless, and penniless. For that reason I gave custody of my children to him (despite his many, many flaws, he is a phenomenal father).

I was able to find a consulting gig shortly before the divorce went final. I moved into an efficiency apartment that took half of my weekly pay. All but 50 dollars of the other half went to child support. I managed to save enough to get a beater of a car (on financing, sadly enough) and move into a house-sharing situation. I got a better gig, made a little more money, and all was looking up. Child support was going out on time, all was well.

Then that gig ended, and since things had JUST begun to shore up financially for me, there hadn’t been enough time to prepare for the unexpected end. I had to move out of the house I was in, and into with a friend (my angel) while I sought work. For 3 months, I was unemployed, which, granted, is not long compared to the time that some people are out of work, but when you have no one else providing any income, or any sort of financial support, three kids to help support, and no sign of improvement, 3 months starts to feel like a lifetime.

Finally, I found my current gig, which is a very good one, pays even better (though not by much) than the previous one, and I have been there about 2.5 months - long enough to secure a new, permanent living arrangement. However, now I’m 6 months behind on child support. I am 6 months behind on my car payments, which, incidentally, needs a new exhaust system. I cannot seem to catch a break. If I could hit mysterious reset button, and start off fresh from today, I’d be all set. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way.

So, what DO I do? The ex has been exceedingly patient, but his patience is running (rightly so) very thin now. I just don’t know how I can even catch up, much less prepare myself for the inevitable end of THIS contract (although, that should be at least 4 months away). Of course, it is probably obvious that my credit is basically beyond repair (I don’t even get accepted for the 23.5% credit cards!! Which is good), so a loan is out of the question. Luckily, due to my several moves, the financing company has yet to track me down to retake possession of my car, but I don’t hold my breath that THAT luck will hold out for long. I have to believe there is light at the end of this rather long tunnel…

Anyone out there rebound from a situation like this? Have any thoughts on how I can start fixing things? Or at least stop them from getting worse?

I’m honestly asking for advice here - I have no idea where to go from this point.

Tough times! I wonder if you might be able to get the child support reduced by the courts due to your situation. Also, as a last result, you should consider filing for bankrupcy. The good news is: you have the internet, with vast resources - and you’re clearly an intelligent woman.

You’ll land on your feet, I know it! Good luck to you.

Thanks for the words of encouragement :slight_smile: I don’t know if I can get the courts to lower the payments or not, and I really hate to have to - I of course WANT to help support my kids as much as possible… I guess the issue is what’s possible. Unfortunately, as far as bankruptcy is concerned (or maybe fortunately?) it’s not an option - not yet anyway. Ex and I filed for bankruptcy 4 years ago, so I have at least 3 years more to wait. At any rate, there really aren’t a heck of a lot of bills out there that I need to pay - the two major things are my car and child support, neither of which would be resolved by bankruptcy anyway. I know I will figure it out eventually… The challenge is making it all the way through to eventually :wink:

Unless you are paying the minimum legally allowed for child support, do NOT hesitate to ask that the payments be reduced. It is much better emotionally for everyone if you make the ordered payments. When you have had a chance to get your breath, you can increase the money you send to the kids.

But the custodial parent has the right to know how much to expect in support.

I would not normally interject with this kind of suggestion, it’s just that the tone of your post (which did not sound at all whiny to me) reminded me very much of my wife several months ago. You seem to be intelligent and capable, but you have had a stroke of rotten luck and as you said, want to start over.

She was down about our financial situation which, while stable, never seemed to improve. It was not nearly as bad as yours sounds, but making the bills was about all we were doing. She too asked the question of some friends (as we all are here) what can I do to get ahead for a change.

Much to my (at the time) chagrin, one of her friends was selling Mary Kay cosmetics on the side and making a fair bit of extra cash for a relatively small amount of work, and gave her a tape and some reading material or as I like to call it “propoganda”.

At first I was skeptical to say the least. I knew nothing about the company or the business plan, and was not very supportive of the whole thing. Let’s just say that I’m glad I decided to relent, or at least not voice my objections so loudly. The weekend of February 28th and 29th, she netted more money than she had made during the previous two weeks at her day job.

I’m not trying to recruit you or anything, if you did get involved, it would probably be with someone who lives nearer to you, though that isn’t necessary. I’m just saying that from what little I’ve just read, you sound like you are in her position and might be receptive to an opportunity like this, or something similiar, and would be willing to put the effort into it that she has.

I’ll jump down off my soapbox now. Sorry about the hijack.

P.S. I just previewed this and I apologize for how much it looks like an advertisement for Mary Kay. It was intended to just point out that there are opportunities out there that you can do in your spare time and earn some extra money at the same time. Perhaps someone else will stumble by who knows more about another such possibilty , or can answer specific questions about Mary Kay. If you want to talk to someone about it, I can give you my wife’s website or e-mail address. My apologies again for the hijack

I don’t think that’s a hijack, since you were answering my question :wink:

I hadn’t thought of the Mary Kary/Avon type route… I’m definitely open to hearing more - at this point, any option is a good option (well, ALMOST any option).

I’ve been in a similar situation myself, so I have some idea of what you’re going through. You’ve gotten some good suggestions already (2nd job, lowering your child support payments) that you should look into, but you need to look at what your priorities are as well.

The three basic needs we all have are food, clothing, and shelter, any more than that is a luxury. (Yes, I know, I’m simplifying it a bit.) Your priority, at the moment, should be in making sure that those are secure. Can you survive without your car? Yes or no? If not, then that’s going to be a priority. You’re six months behind on the car payments, so you need to pay them something, that’ll slow them up in repoing your car (mail 'em a money order with a PO Box or fictious return address so they can’t show up in the middle of the night to yank your car). The exhaust system might not be a critical repair. If it’s just the muffler going out (and it’s not very noisy) and you don’t have to run the car through emissions testing any time soon, then that can sit on the backburner for a while.

If you belong to a church, you might asking there for help, someone might be able to fix your car for you at a reduced rate. (If you do have to have your car fixed, then have a male friend take it to the shop. Many places seem to enjoy overcharging women for car repairs.) If there’s anything that you’ve got that you can sell, do so. (eBay’s a great option, since you can always jack up the shipping charges if the bids too low. Yeah, I know, a bit unethical, but lots of people do it, and you’re in rough shape, so it’s not like you’re selling something just because you don’t want it any more.)

You might also check around and see if there’s any non-profit organizations out there who help divorced women (I’d be willing to bet that there’s at least one or two), and see if they can’t do anything for you.

The main thing that you need to do is keep the cash flow coming in, so since you know your current job isn’t going to be permanent, start casting an eye for either some kind of part time job or a permanent position someplace. With the part time job, it’s not really so important about how much you make there, only that you make some money.

Yes, I know it’s tiring, and you might really hate the part time job, but you need the extra dough, plus, if you take a part time job that deals with the public alot you might meet someone who can clue you in on a better paying job.

And sniff around where you’re currently working. There’s been places where I’ve worked that have had openings and someone who was temping there just happened to be the most qualified person for the job and was able to slip into a fulltime position that way.

Here are the basics.

And here is my wife’s site. Her contact info is in the upper left. Or if you prefer, I can have her contact you. Either way.

Thanks, Mastema :slight_smile: I will check it out…

**J66 ** - I agree completely that he has the right to know how much to expect, and obviously anything is better than nothing. I guess my issue is the (possibly neurotic) sense that if I ask to pay less, I’m shirking my responsibility somehow, and being there for them “less”.

**Tucker ** - You’re right about the priorities, and I have to say that I consider myself extremely lucky to have the very basic life necessities finally taken care of. I don’t belong to a church, or any organization for that matter… One of the things I forgot to mention in my OP is that my commute takes 6 hours out of my day - I joke that it IS my second job, but in all seriousness, that killer commute does obliterate any chances of getting an actual part time job. Mastema’s suggestion for Mary Kay or something similar may be a good work around for that. I will have to look into the organizations for divorced women, anything is worth a try! One of the obstacles I came up against during my unemployment was very frustrating - there is very little help out there for a person who is capable of working (regardless of their ability to FIND work) with no dependents. (And no, kids you pay child support for don’t count in that regard). I even had one woman tell me that the only way I’d qualify for help was if I had a drug problem. I thought, is that an invitation to start?? Very frustrating. Of course now, I have this wonderful job, and at first blush, it would seem that I make a lot of money. I really do make good money - like I said if I could start fresh from today I could make all those obligations with little difficulty. So I’m not too sure how willing any organization is to help someone who makes as much money as I do. At any rate, you’re definitely right in that I need to find a permanent position, somewhere. Once this contract ends, I don’t want to find myself even further back than last time.

Still open to any other suggestions anyone might have while I start looking into the ideas already offered :wink:

While I hate to say this, and while I’ve heard very bad things about the author, I did see one of those Matthew Lesko books (“Free Money to Pay Your Bills”) at the bookstore and I thumbed through it. Here’s what I saw:

It doesn’t look helpful in terms of filling out forms and making things happen real quickly. But it did list a lot of things I was genuinely suprised may exist. E.g., there a section, listed by state, that lists contact addresses for grants to help you pay your rent.

If you have a spare few minutes and some dimes for the copier, maybe a stop by the library will give you some addresses to apply for grants that you never thought existed.

I don’t know if the guy is a crook or just some geeky grant-writer who saw a wide market for his research skills. If it is the latter, you it may be worth some time at the library.

The only other thing I’d suggest is turning to a family member if you can.

I don’t have a great life-changing suggestion for you, but I do have this: switch your grocery-store business to a food bank. There are food banks in the Pacific Northwest that do not ask for any proof of income or, indeed, ask any questions at all. Maybe the same is true in your neck of the woods. There’s no shame at all in it. I’d hope you could reduce your food bill to 0 in this way.

See if you can get your ex to view child support payments in terms of percentage of income. If you’re supplying 40% (or whatever) of your income for their support, but he’s only supplying 5% of his income, something’s not right here. He sounds like a nice enough guy that maybe he’d testify in court for you that he just doesn’t need as much money from you as he’s been getting.

A 6-hour daily commute is just a nightmare, as you know, and gas prices keep going up. I’m about to undertake a 3-hour daily commute just to save on rent, and I hope it will be worth it; like you I view the commute as a second job (and a pretty sweet second job too, with no annoying co-workers or bosses) but perhaps you ought to spend more time looking for work closer to home? Or consider moving closer to work. I work in such a wealthy area that I have to get a great distance away before the rents drop at all; maybe you work in NYC and you’re doing the best you can already.

I don’t have any links to government handouts, unfortunately, and of course those are few and far between. But if you have any opportunities to suck the teat of the State, please, please do so. Lord knows you’ve paid for it already in taxes, and support of the poor is one of the very least of the State’s concerns. Take all you can get while the getting’s good (which it isn’t) :frowning:

Oh, and not that you have much free time, but see if you can get your rent reduced in exchange for any chores you might be able to do.

And another wacky idea: see if you can make any money on eBay. My mother’s boyfriend makes, seriously, several hundred dollars a month buying crap on eBay, cleaning it up, and re-selling it on eBay. Before you buy on eBay, try selling first – go to Goodwill on a Red Tag day, pick up stuff you think is a bargain, and find out what the market will bear.

(btw your OP was not whiny AT ALL. You have a great attitude which counts for so much. That’s why you’re able to sell your services as a consultant, something I could never do myself. Don’t lose sight of your own value and keep believing in yourself.)

Thanks, Mason - definitely some good ideas… I will be checking out the food bank thing, for sure.

And the Goodwill to eBay thing is actually a really good idea - back in my halcyon days :wink: I used to buy things from Goodwill and fix them up just because I enjoyed that kinda thing. Never thought of doing it for a source of income.

Thanks for your compliments too… My outlook is the only thing keeping me sane at the moment. Well that, and coffee. LOL

This thread is better suited for In My Humble Opinion. I’ll move it for you.

Cajun Man
for the SDMB

could you say why your commute is six hours a day? there might be a good reason, but that’s 30 hours a week that you could use at a part-time job, or job-hunting, or doing something else for yourself. and i suspect that you feel like you never get a chance to catch your breath (that’s certainly how i would feel), which obviously gets in the way of working on the other stuff. could you move closer to work at least on a temporary basis, and then get some kind of part-time job in the same area? that might make daily life easier, you would earn extra income to get caught up, and it would demonstrate to anybody who needs to know (like a judge at a child support proceeding) that you are doing everything you possibly can to straighten things out. a second job doesn’t have to be a step on the career ladder–plenty of young people do things like tend bar and wait tables while they get the long-term stuff worked out. you could make some money and meet a variety of people, some of whom might know about jobs in your field.

This will answer two questions lol -

I commute 6 hours a day because, yes, Masonite, I work in NYC. I live in Connecticut. The more indepth answer is, I commute 6 hours a day because, that’s where the work was. I did move closer, or else I’d be commuting 8 hours a day. Unfortunately, the dynamics of NYC are, to live within commuting distance at all costs a heck of a lot of money. I’ve gotten as close as I can afford to get. To be able to afford to live any closer I’d have to… get a second job. Believe me this is a stupid Catch 22 that I’ve thrown around in my head for a while. If I move closer, I can get a second job, and can afford to live closer… and any income from the second job just goes towards paying the additional rent and doesn’t put me any further ahead. If I found work closer to home, great, time for a second job, no change in rent, but I’d take literally about a 50% pay cut for doing the same type of work. So I’d be working twice as much, and bringing home the same amount of money.

And yes, you’re definitely right about one thing - I definitely feel like I don’t have time to catch my breath. I wake up, go to work, come home, have maybe 2 hours of time to do whatever I need to go, and go to sleep. Luckily, I love my job, which in itself is no small thing.

<idle ramble>

One thing that I was thinking this morning is, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my situation… Well, 2 maybe:

  1. Guys, teach your kids about the financial facts of life. Somewhere in between the birds and the bees, teach them about the green. My parents never gave me any insight into the reality of money, how to save, how to plan, how to prepare. By the time I figured it out on my own, a lot of damage had already been done. I’ve definitely been trying to teach my kids differently - something as small as a savings account can help lead to shrewd, intelligent spending/saving habits.

  2. I was extremely foolish (I claim the stupidity of youth) to have let myself get into a situation where I had no means of supporting myself should my marriage for some reason cease to exist. I had worked throughout the marriage, and had given up my job only 6 months before the divorce, but I had absolutely no contingency plan in place. Not the brightest thing I’ve ever done, especially knowing as I did then that the union wasn’t built on the most sturdy foundation. It’s not much fun finding yourself heartbroken *and * broke.

</idle ramble>

you obviously know more about the local real estate market than i do, but my impression is that connecticut has some of the priciest property in america (greenwich, etc.). is there any chance you could rent a cheaper place somewhere in new jersey, much closer to new york city? most of northern new jersey is within an hour or so drive of nyc. even if you don’t want to live there forever, doing it for a few months might help you get on your feet.

You haven’t mentioned what type of consulting you do, TellMe. To attack this problem from a completely different angle, try this on for size:

Move some place much cheaper to live, but where you can still work at whatever it is that you do (assuming it is a transportable field, not something super-specialized). My husband and I live in Calgary, which is nowhere near as expensive as New York, but is plenty expensive for two unemployed and chronically-underemployed people. If we were to move to a smaller centre in Alberta, we wouldn’t have to work nearly as much to live a higher quality life. We were discussing this just yesterday; to move to a smaller city and live much cheaper with a couple of well-paying jobs might be enough to get us on our feet again, so that in a couple years we can move back to Calgary debt-free. If your job is ending soon, that might be an ideal time to pack up and move some place that won’t drain you financially and physically.

Sometimes you can’t always get where you need to go from where you are. You might need to take what seems like a couple steps backwards or sideways. I guess the bottom line is don’t throw any idea out as impossible. Try to attack the problem from different angles, and be open to new ideas.