Yup, I filed and completed the process. While I am not screaming it from the rooftops and saying it when I introduce it to people I think it is something to post about.
I never thought I would file for bankruptcy. I prided myself as someone who always paid their bills, who did whatever it took to pay on time. I have taken second jobs. I have scrimped and saved. I am not one to live outside my means. But here I am, a newly bankrupt person.
It all started simply enough, getting a credit card when I started college. I watched that I didn’t owe much on it and used it sparingly. Then I was in my only other serious, long term relationship. I bought a house. I started using the credit card more often. The ex-boyfriend went from job to job. He was often working two jobs, yet I was the one paying the majority of the bills while working and going to school. He went through money like it was water while I was budgeting every penny.
After living together for 5 years and acquiring more and more debt on my credit cards, as well as student loans, he dumped me. Here I was with all the bills on me and I just bought a new dream car (my biggest splurge ever!). I was determined not to lose the house or the car. I was careful with every dollar and took out larger student loans. I was close to maxing out my credit cards, but still made payments every month on time. Over the years the credit cards kept upping the limits.
I finished school. I met the husband and he moved in. He gave me money every payday towards bills while still paying on his house. We were making the same amount. By then I had a $10,000 more a year paycheck. I also had student loans to pay back. I consolidated them to save money.
I had to get a second job again even with a good paycheck and the husband helping out. I kept making payments to the credit cards. By now I was paying half my paychecks to two credit card companies. I plugged along for a few years. Then the husband was suddenly laid off. He went from making as much as me to a short severance and unemployment. After the severance ran out I definitely couldn’t pay it all.
Someone I knew went to a lawyer to file for bankruptcy. They told me about how it worked. It sounded like an option for me. For years I thought if I could be free of those credit cards I would be able to keep my financial head above water. I went to a lawyer to talk about it. I came out knowing that was what I had to do.
The husband got another job, but was making half the money. I could pay every other bill and still eat every month, but there was no way to pay the credit cards. I made up my mind and started making payments to the lawyer. It took a year to pay it all off. I struggled through the mounds of paperwork. I was filing by myself; the husband wasn’t interested because he didn’t have all I had piled up in debt. I still had to give all his financial information.
The lawyer was helpful. I completed the debtor class online. I knew the answers about how to budget and live within my means. I had been doing just that while I was working towards the actual bankruptcy hearing. The credit cards actually stopped calling me once I gave them the lawyer’s information.
I only told a couple friends what I was going through. They still acted a little strange. There is such a stigma about bankruptcy, even from people I know who don’t pay all their bills on time. The people I knew who were going through bankruptcy are still making payments to the lawyer. I have been giving them updates on the process as I go through it. It is nice to have support and understanding from people also going through the same thing.
Today I did the final step, the hearing. Ends up there were a room full of people going through one form of bankruptcy or another. I was nervous at first. Then hearing the people answer the questions I knew what to do when my time came. The hearing portion was the quickest part of the entire process. Now that it is over (well, I have a final debtor class to do online) I feel like my life can go on.
Now I can look into a second job since there is no limit on how much I could make. Now I can work on paying off the debts I still have (I kept the home and car) and student loans are not included. I am looking into a loan forgiveness program for them.
Also this experience helped the husband talked more openly about his own financial issues in the past. He finally opened a savings account. I have less financial stress. Yes, the husband still makes less than I do, but he has had multiple raises at work since this process started. I helped ease other people’s anxiety about going through bankruptcy themselves. If someone brings up the topic with me I can let them know about my own experience.
Would I change what I did? No. I was so worried when I couldn’t pay the credit cards that I worried I would lose my home. Finding out what my options were eased my worries. I did work hard for years to get what little I have. I will have the house paid off in a few years. While it may be more difficult to get credit in the future I still have what I valued most – home.
Do I feel like a failure because I filed for bankruptcy? Not anymore. While it may not be everyone’s choice it was what worked for my situation. I paid huge companies an enormous amount of money for the privilege of borrowing money from them. I held up my end of the agreement until extenuating circumstances (the economy) wouldn’t allow me. I still take my finances seriously. I still pay every bill every month on time. I know that I will not get a credit card so easily. If I do get a credit card it will be low interest and a low balance, only used on emergencies, plus paid off ASAP.