I have financial troubles, now what?

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    Tofu Stir Fry

    I am 41, single, pay all my bills on my own, and make $10.50/hour. I earn less than I owe. I have credit card debt, need to eat, pay rent, have student loans, and put gas in my car just to name a few of my expenses. I got rid of my monthly mobile phone bills and bought a Tracfone for $89 for the entire year. I have cut many corners to pay my bills on time but I just can’t do it. I keep my mind calm and usually this doesn’t bother me too much but I am aware of it. I am not asking for advice on how to deal with this by way of breathing or using relaxation techniques, I am just wondering if anyone has thoughts on this in general. I work with disabled adults but there’s just no money in that field. What do I do?

    Tofu Stir Fry

    Just to be clear, I have zero savings and often zero checking, as in I have no money, just debt.


    Dear Tofu Stir Fry:

    How much debt do you have (about)? You mentioned students loans: did you complete a formal educational program/ bachelor degree…? What is it?

    Do you live alone, with parents, roommates? How is your social life/ ties to the place where you live? I am asking because you may want to move as part of the solution…



    Tofu Stir Fry,

    I’ve been there, it’s tough. Digging out of debt takes discipline, patience, and a little luck.

    First off, if you can, consult a professional financial adviser. (They’re not just for rich people!) Go to your local library (assuming you have access to one) and have the people at the research desk help you find one. Just as someone with depression needs a good therapist, you will probably benefit from an expert to come up with a game plan tailored to your situation. Come ready with all your bank and credit card/loan statements. They may want to contact your creditors to try to lower your interest rate/monthly payments (it never hurts to ask!), so be prepared for that…especially if you’re late/behind on payments.

    Now if that’s not doable, I hate to say it, but you’re going to need to either get a raise, find a better paying job, or side gig. You can slash your budget to the bone, but the fact of the matter is the cost of living will continue to rise, so any cost cutting will only be a short term cure. Again, I’ve been there, so I don’t say this lightly. I started out working in a call center gig and clawed my way up, switching jobs/companies/careers…it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Don’t limit your search to your current role or field, think big…you’d be surprised how many transferable skills you have.

    I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you! I wish I could provide more bite-sized action items, but since I’m not an expert in such matters I don’t want to give you bad advice. The only final thing I’ll say is you are not alone in this and if there’s a silver lining to all of this is it may be the “push” you need to get to you to where you are meant to be.

    Best of luck to you!

    Tofu Stir Fry

    Anita, my debt is 13k in student loans, 9k for a loan I got to pay off credit cards, 4k for current credit card debt. So about 26k. I did not finish college and have no degree. I live alone. Moving would be very difficult. I just moved here almost 2 years ago because the rent is cheap ($495/month) and I can have a cat. I don’t want to move since I’ve moved a lot in my life. But I understand why you suggest moving, it is my biggest monthly expense. Next would be the $324 automatically taken from my checking account to pay off the loan I got to use for my old credit card debt. My current credit card debt I pay as much as I can when I can but last month I could not pay, this month I paid way less than the minimum. I need to make more money but am unable to find work that pays more. I also switched jobs two years ago when I moved. At 41 I don’t want to keep switching jobs and moving. I supervise disabled adults in a work-training facility. My friends in the tech field make 50-90k, no exaggeration. I do not understand that field or what they do. I choose to help people but that’s not a top paying job. I love where I work and what I do. I don’t want to leave it but I guess I would ifa better financial opportunity came up. Thanks for replying, I’m actually off to work now.


    Hi Tofu Stir Fry,

    I was in a very similar situation like you.

    If you want to keep your current job, I’m going to agree with Miniature Boddhisattva, and suggest for you to pick up a side gig/ weekend job.

    I know this does not sound ideal but speaking from experience, it’s very doable.

    Also, retail stores are starting to hire for the Christmas season. This should increase your chances of finding a weekend or part-time job to supplement your income.

    BTW, not sure if you know this or not but this happened with me when it came to paying my student loans…you can call your lender and ask them to adjust it based on what you are making. I think there is some rule about student loans not being more than 10% or 15% of your income.

    That may mean that you pay more interest on your student loans in the long run but it may allow you to direct more of your resources to paying off the higher interest credit card debts and or more resource directed for essentials like food and utilities.

    Good luck!


    Dear Tofu Stir Fry:

    So as I understand it, you enjoy your job. You like it and wish to continue. You also like your living arrangement, alone, with your cat. And you don’t wish to move.

    I don’t see a reason for you to move because:
    * You are not living with people who are disrespectful or abusive to you (you live alone)
    * Your rent is relatively inexpensive; wouldn’t be less, or significantly less elsewhere.
    * You enjoy your job, where you are.

    If you were able to magically get rid of your debts, would you be okay with the money you make?

    I wonder if you have a … family member who can pay the debts for you, or greatly reduce it? That would be a heavenly gift, wouldn’t it? I also wonder if a personal bankruptcy law can apply to you- where much or all of your debt can be forgiven???

    Hoping to get answers from you and continue this discussion.


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