My name is Stephanie and I’m a domestic violence survivor. I prefer the word survivor, not victim. I’m also a newly divorced parent to two wonderful girls, ages four and six.
I have a great job and I’m college-educated, but there’s no education or experience in the world that teaches you how to pull yourself, and your loved ones, away from an abuser. It was the hardest, yet most freeing, decision I ever made.
That said, I’m emotionally and physically exhausted most of the time from being a single parent and working full-time. Being in a domestic violence situation also robbed me of a support system, which I’ve been struggling to rebuild. I’ve also been learning to budget as a single-income family.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for DailyWorth to pair me with national credit and financial expert Erica Sandberg for the Money Fix. Erica is an angel from finance heaven! She helped me design a plan to get and stay on the right path:
- Close my monthly budget shortfall of almost $500. Yes, $500. I currently juggle bills from month to month and use cash advances from my bank to get by between paychecks. I have minimal available credit, since I carry a lot of bad debt from my marriage.
Erica suggested I cut my budget more and bring in more income by babysitting evenings or weekends. She said if I were to charge the going rate of $10/hour, babysitting 20 hours a week could add another $200 a week.
This seems like the most reasonable way to close the budget gap, since I’ve already shaved my expenses as much as possible.
- Pursue the $500 monthly child-support payments that I’m owed. My ex-husband has never paid child support, and is nine months behind. I applied for services through the Child Support Enforcement division in my state in January and have only received one letter asking for additional information.
It’s time to be more proactive, but it’s difficult to reach this office by phone and I can’t afford to spend time away from my job to chase them down. The red tape involved with something that seemed so simple is quite daunting, especially when it’s the state’s job to be proactive in these cases.
- Deal with my debt and rebuild my credit. An attorney advised me not to file bankruptcy, so I talked with Erica about sitting on the debt until the collectors are no longer able to take me to court. Erica suggested that I review my credit reports for the date of last activity (the day the creditor charged off the account, or the date I last made a payment), since the statute of collections for each state is different and is based on those dates.
This strategy will essentially allow me to start from scratch and rebuild my credit without carrying the burden of bad debt. Rebuilding my credit is another important key to my future. Owning a home is one of my dreams.
Talking to Erica helped me see that I’ve been doing the right things for the past year. A lot of times I felt like a failure and that I should be doing better, but now I finally feel like I’m heading in the right direction.