Roll with the changes

I received a phone call last Friday from Twin Town pedicabs asking me when I was going to start going out again. I guess that is the first true sign that winter is on it’s way out. We’ve had a couple days now of above freezing temperatures so the snow is starting to melt. I don’t want to get too optimistic because I know it’s still going to be a bumpy ride but at least we are heading in the right direction.

Last time I wrote anything of substance I mentioned that I was helping a friend shop for a new car. At some point during the process I decided that a new car was probably the best option for me as well. I was looking at upwards of a thousand dollars worth of repairs to a van that is only worth five-hundred; a van I no longer needed or wanted. The more fiscally prudent thing to do may have been to get a two-thousand dollar car for cash but where is the fun in that. I also didn’t know if that would resolve my constant repair problems. Now that I’m driving my teenage daughter around everywhere, having a reliable, fuel efficient vehicle just seemed like the responsible thing to do.

It just kind of blows my mind. A year ago I was flat bloke and realizing that I needed to cut my expenses any and every way possible. With my vehicle being one of biggest expense I figured it would have to go. The only problem was that I needed it for one of my greatest sources of income. So I set out to create a job where I didn’t need to drive. I did that. I was still worried about how I was going to see my daughter but it was looking like she was moving back to the city. Back in September, the driving job ended and I was ready to dump the van. Then I lost all communication with my daughter. I held onto the vehicle simply because I had no idea what was going on.

Now I’m the proud owner of this…

New-2014-Ford-Fiesta-SE_ID20739620_o

 

It was really such a crazy decision. I never thought that I would own another vehicle again, let alone lease a brand new one. I feel like I’m going back on everything I believe but I’m really not. The only thing I truly believe is that I never want to be beholden to my beliefs. Well, that and love. I still believe in love and buying this car was an act of love.

Advertisements

I think we are gonna crash

Over the past six years or so I have seen my financial situation get slowly but steadily worse. For the most part this hasn’t been a problem. I don’t need much. I don’t live lavishly, I don’t take vacations, I don’t drive much and I don’t need anymore stuff. Most of my money has gone to supporting my kids, caring for my friends and spending time with the people I love. This last year, however, has seen my income cut by 40% and my living expenses go up considerably, mostly due to increased auto expenses in order to see my kids who both live out of town, but also due to increased housing expenses; my mortgage has gone up $100 a month as a result of higher taxes and insurance cost.

I have done everything I can think of to cut expenses without jeopardizing my mental or physical health but it still isn’t enough to make ends meet. The past six months have been tooth and nail just to make it through. By putting off purchases and repairs, some creative financial juggling and some unexpected monies showing up just in the nick of time I have been able to squeak by. I knew I couldn’t keep it up for ever but I held on hoping for a miracle that never showed up.

I tried to refinance my home but I have too much debt, not enough income and not enough assets. Even though I had been paying my mortgage every month for the past 14 years without fail, and refinancing would have made it easier for me to keep doing that, I was told I was too broke to lower my mortgage payments. That’s fucked up!

I don’t have any savings because I’m carrying credit card debt. Any extra money I’ve ever had I have used to pay down my balances. Then when I hit hard times I turn to the credit cards just to get by. Now, that isn’t even an option. I am maxed out. For months I’ve just been making the minimum payments but in December I couldn’t even do that. I had to call one of my credit card companies to see what I could work out. This card has been closed for years so all I’m doing is paying interest and paying down the balance and I haven’t missed a single payment. I was able to refinance at a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. They let me slid for December as long as I paid them $125 by the 5th of January. I could do that and I though this might just be what I needed to balance my budget.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how much my van would cost me in January. This was the month where I could no longer put off needed repairs and I needed my van to do my job and see my kids. I had to spend the money. Once again, January saw me just squeaking by.

My primary source of income is Social Security so when that money came in for February I went on-line to pay my credit card bill. Instead of a bill for $125 like I expected I saw a bill for $250 with $125 being past due. Instead of my due date being the 5th of the month as we discussed, they switched it to the 26th. I never received a bill or any notification that they were doing this; not that I could have made another payment in January anyway, nor could I pay $250 by February 26th as the were requesting. So, I paid the $125 like I had planned and figured I would deal with this when I got back from tour.

Once I got back from tour I was able to deposit money in my checking account. I tried to take out $20 just so I would have some cash in my pocket but was told that funds were not available. This made me nervous  I could understand the deposited funds not being available right away but I should have had $70 in my account even before making the deposit. The whole day I was stressed out; wondering how much money I had, what bills I could pay or not pay, what I could sell to generate more funds and generally just working myself into a frenzy. I really try to never stress about money. I saw how disastrous it was for my parents growing up but there I was, falling apart over money.

Once I finished work I was able to get on-line. I saw that two automatic payments had been made from my checking account while I was out of town sending my balance into the red. I didn’t think this was suppose to happen. I thought the new Federal regulations passed in 2010 protected me from becoming overdrawn. Apparently it does not apply to automatic payments. Anyway, my deposit was enough to cover the payments and leave me with a positive balance. It didn’t appear that there were any overdraft charges so I thought all was good.

My next concern was my credit card payment for the computer I just bought so that I could start writing this blog. I hadn’t received a bill yet so I had no idea when that payment will come due. With no-interest financing I didn’t want to fuck it up.

I went to log-on to that account but was told that my ID and password did not match. What?!? It was the same ID and password I used last month to check my account before buying the computer. So I tried it again. Still no luck. I tried every combination I could think of but I still couldn’t get into my account so I clicked the link to have them reset my password. Fifteen minutes later I received an email saying that they didn’t have an account linked to that address.

WTF! I know they have my email address, they sent me the receipt for my purchase, goddamn it! What the hell is going on here?

So I picked up the phone and called the number on the back of my card. I just wanted to talk to a human being and figure out what was going on. Of course I had to make my way through a maze of computer prompts before that would even become an option. Actually, that never became an option. I got to the point where the computer voice told me that I would be transferred to the next available customer service representative but instead I was transferred back to the same computer voice now telling me to enter my card number. I complied but was told, “I’m sorry, I did not get that. Please enter your card number.” I tried again and got the same response.

“Fuck you! I just want to talk to a real person!!!”, I yelled into the phone but the computer voice just repeated over and over, “I do not understand your request. I do not understand your request. I do not understand your request.”

At this point I was shaking with frustration. My heart was pounding and I was ready to explode. I stopped myself just before hurling my phone across the room. I took a deep breath and said, “I’m done.”

I’m done with credit cards all together. I mean, who am I kidding?  I have no business using credit cards. Using credit to survive is fine when you know that things are going to be better in the future and you will be able to pay it back. I honestly thought that would be the case. I figured at some point I would be able to sell my house and get out of debt, but that’s not happening. My house is worth $50,000 less than it was in 2006 and it’s continuing to lose value. I see no chance of my financial situation improving, not in the near future, perhaps not ever. It’s time for me to stop borrowing and live within my means, measly as they may be.

In a moment of clarity it all made sense. A feeling of calm came over my body and I knew what I had to do. I had to break up will my credit cards.

DEAR CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: I can’t deal with this anymore. I’m sorry but you mother fuckers are on your own. I’ve got nothing left to give you. I tried my best. I hung in there as long as I could but now it’s over. We had a good run. You made shitloads of money off of me over the years but the gravy train has run out of track. Come after me if you want but I have given you my last dime. Literally, I’m broke; completely, totally, undeniably and utterly fucking broke!

… well not completely broke. I still had a little bit of available credit on one card. Okay, now this was clearly a dickhead move; maybe a little vindictive, maybe a last ditch effort at survival, maybe a purely logical decision; but considering that I was about to trash my credit rating I thought I might as well go all in. I was going to run up my credit card as far as I could. I headed to the liquor store and spent $70 on booze; 5 liters of wine, 1.75 liters of whiskey, 1.75 liters of vodka and a 30 pack of beer – enough to get me through the month for sure.

I still have $55 dollars left. Hopefully that will be enough to fill my tank, get a little food and toilet paper – then I’m done. I will spend what I earn and no more. And I’ve got a plan. I can do this. It is going to be okay.

By the way… my bank did sack me with overdraft charges, $37 for each payment, $74 in total. Yeah! Mother fucking bank, I’m done with you too! Tomorrow I am closing my account and as soon as I have some money saved up I’m opening an account at the credit union.

%d bloggers like this: