I applied for food stamps today.

I never thought this day would come. Every time I’ve been down to just a handful of pennies in my piggy bank, or opened a letter saying that my bank account was overdrawn once again, or had to explain to a landlord that my rent was going to be late, I never imagined it would come to this.

I had to apply for food stamps today.

My husband isn’t working right now. He left an OK job for a great job, one that paid double what he had been earning, and after 3 weeks they informed him that because of an old repossession in his credit report, he was no longer employed. He travelled to Illinois for that job, leaving me here with no transportation and no one to depend on to get me to work. It was alright, though. Once he was bringing in the big money, it would all be OK. We’d pay all the bills up and start saving.

He’s been looking for a job for a month now. He’s filled out countless applications and made endless phone calls. There have been no reasonable offers, and each lead quickly becomes a dead end. He’s trying, doing everything he can to get a job, but it just isn’t working. We’ve missed rent twice so far, and 3 car payments. I only make minimum wage, and even with 40 hours a week, I can’t pay half the bills on my own.

We are on the verge of being homeless. The landlord has already threatened eviction, and I don’t know what I’ll do if we get kicked out of our house. We have no family or friends to stay with nearby, and it will cost us at least $2000 to move back to Illinois.

There isn’t much left for us to do. My husband is still owed for the 3 weeks he worked in Illinois, but we don’t know when that check will come. I will go tomorrow to see if I can find a factory job in addition to the job I have now.

I hate that I need help. That we need help. I want to be the one who gives to the less fortunate, not the one who needs assistance. I work hard, but I still can’t pay the bills. My husband is eager to go back to work, but there just aren’t any opportunities.

We applied for food stamps today.


I’m going to do better.

If you’ve read my blogs before this post, you know that money and I aren’t exactly friends at the moment. I still like money, and I think money still likes me, but we just can’t seem to agree on anything. Somehow, I end up chasing all my money away every month. But this month, I learned something. You know those moments where you’ve learned something that is so fundamentally sensible but you just had to find out for yourself firsthand?

I had that moment when my car got repossessed earlier this month.

Sure, we knew it was gonna happen. That’s what happens when you don’t make the payment for a few months. For the last 2 months I had the car, I was afraid to put gas in it. I was sure that as soon as I filled the tank, they’d come to take it away and I’d be out $40 that I desperately needed.

Fortunately, I was sitting at a quarter of a tank the day they took it.

I knew that car was a stupid purchase. I knew it, and I did it anyway. I had a Blazer that was fully paid for, and all it really needed was a set of tires and an oil change. But noooooo, I wanted a new car. Something sporty, something hot, something fast.

Hot. Sporty. Expensive.

Actually, I wanted a Stratus. We just couldn’t find one in the right color. Besides, with the money my husband and I were bringing in at the time, we could easily make double payments every month and save money on the astronomical interest rate we were being charged.

There were so many things that went wrong when we were buying the car. So many clues that I was doing the wrong thing. But I had already sold the Blazer, and I just realllllllllllllllly wanted a new car. I didn’t want a car with 432960543 miles that would inevitably have issues.

Now, I should point out that I had owned 3 Chevys up until that point, and none of them had given me *major* issues… unless you count the time that my intake gasket broke and my dad took 3 weeks to fix it. Really, for the kind of miles both my Berettas and my Blazer had, they ran great. I’d even go so far as to say that I’d probably still be driving my Beretta Z26 if I had been able to afford the upkeep on it.

Ooops, got sidetracked. Berettas will do that to me.

Anyway. We started out looking for 2 cars. I wanted an Eclipse, Brad wanted an Equinox. A local dealership had one of each and were willing to give us both for $23000. However, we couldn’t get financing from them. So, we searched for places that finance people with bad credit, knowing that we were making enough money to be able to afford the kind of payment that would come with my new car.

I decided I wanted an orange Eclipse. It was put on hold for us, but they ended up selling it before we got to see it.

Red flag #1

Then I thought a black one would be alright. I’ll admit it, that was a sweet ride.

As we were going through all the paperwork, I knew a 6 year loan for that car was a bad idea. I had just gotten married a month earlier, and I figured within a year or two, I’d have my first baby. That car had almost no backseat.

Red flag #2

We ended up having to go up to the dealership twice. It was over an hour away.

Not being able to drive it off the lot the first night?

Red flag #3

Oh, I didn’t even mention that we passed an accident on the way to the dealership the first time. One of the cars involved was a black Eclipse.

Red flag #4

Sure, I made a double payment the first month. It was great. Before the second payment was due, we found out that we were moving to North Carolina.

Big move + no job for me + Brad making less money= We got behind on the payments.

Did I mention the 24.99% interest rate?

Yeeeeeeeeeeeahhh…

Once we got behind, catching up was impossible. I called the loan company a few times– the first time was before I had even missed a payment. They wouldn’t work with me at all. There was no point in throwing whatever little bit of extra money we had towards that payment… it was going to get taken anyway.

So now, it’s gone. However, it’s still living on my credit report.

My insurance rates are more expensive.
I have to have a deposit for EVERYTHING.
I can’t get a contract cell phone.
Any job I try to get in the future will probably look at my credit report and count me out.
We can’t get a credit card for emergencies, although that’s probably a good thing. Obviously I can’t handle credit.

This week, I began talking to takechargeamerica.org. If you’ve never heard of them, they’re a non-profit credit counseling agency designed to help consumers get out of debt and have financial freedom.

I’m ready to change. Now is the perfect time to do it… it’s better if we get our finances on track now, before we have kids. We need to have a rainy day fund in place, and we need to start planning for the future. Currently, I have no health insurance, we have no retirement savings, and there’s pretty much no way in hell we could buy a house.

My goal is to be able to buy a house within 2 years. I’m so sick of renting. More specifically, I’m sick of having to hide my cats.

So, what did I learn from this whole car experience?

1. If you can’t pay the full amount up front, you can’t afford it. Period. As if the period I typed wasn’t obvious enough.

2. Even though I plan on getting and staying debt free, my credit rating is extremely important. Everything is based on credit these days.

3. Just because you have the extra money each month for an insanely high payment doesn’t mean that you should commit to it, even if you could still pay all your bills on one salary. Shit happens, and you have to be prepared for it.

4. Save up for everything. Not only will you never have to worry about monthly payments, but you won’t have to feel as guilty for making the purchase. There’s nothing like buyer’s remorse every month for years at a time.

5. I fucking hate car payments. HATE them.

From now on, whenever I think I want to make a stupid purchase, I’ll just look at my car key that’s still hanging by the door. That key will be there to remind me of the stupidest purchase I ever made. We’ll have a budget in place soon… every time I want to use the debit card when I know I shouldn’t, I’ll just look at that key.

A constant reminder.

I’m ready to get out of this hole. I’m ready to be able to say “I don’t need this and I’m not going to buy it.” I’m ready to save up for the just-in-case times.

I’m ready.