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I'm an on and off again lurker, and I was hoping I might get some ideas from y'all. (Sory, this turned out to be longer than I was expecting.)

I have about $150K total debt (not counting my car loan, which is still around $8K): $25,500 is credit cards, the rest (!) is student loans. My loans were not originally that large, but I've never been able to afford to start payments (I graduated 4 years ago with my PhD), so even though I get forebearances, the interest capitalizes and the principal continues to grow (I should mention they're already consolidated with a 30 year payment).

When I first graduated, I took a ft job at my university (not teaching, I had decided long ago I didn't want to go that route). That first job paid a whopping $21K a year (I was bringing home $1200 a month). I didn't stay in that job long, and moved to a better-paying position, where I stayed for 3 years.

6 months ago I left the public sector (for some reason, the state of Texas just doesn't want to pay their employees a living wage) for the private sector. I'm essentially in an entry level position, but making $38K a year (I bring home $2400 a month after taxes and a very modest 6% for 401K).

So far, I'm in good shape on making my credit card payments (I pay around $600 a month, but those are the minimums). My rent is $620, car payment/insurance/gas is roughly $320. Fortunately my utilities are low, phone, electric and water under $100, even in the summer when I run the AC a lot.

I'm trying to save just a little ($100 or so a month), which I know all the wisdom says not to do until you pay off your debt, but considering I'm now in high tech, I think it important to have a little bit of cushion (I don't want to be one paycheck from the streets like I was when working for the state).

That doesn't leave me much for food and other expenses that may pop up, plus entertainment. I'm currently looking for ways to cut my expenses, and I know the biggest place is eating out lunches. This is tough, because usually a group from my company goes out every day, and it's often frowned upon if you bow out too many times. But this is a place I can save.

Realistically, I cannot cut out my bi-monthly trips to Half Price Books or the occasional movie or video. These are it for entertainment.

I have a second job of petsitting, but it's not regular. Getting a second pt job with a regular schedule is not possible, since I'm salaried, and my hours vary depending on what I have to do in any given day. (I'm at a startup, so my hours are already on the long side.)

As a single woman of 38, I would love to think that someday I could afford to go on a real vacation, or even buy a house. That is my dream. I don't need anything big or fancy, but I'd love just to have something of my own. I just don't see it ever happening because of my debt load.

I also need to look ahead to retirement, which is why I make a point of putting money into a 401K every month. I can stop the deduction (which is $140 a month), but don't want to.

Last year I toyed with the idea of bankruptcy, which would take care of the CC debt, allowing me to start paying on the student loans, but decided not to.

So, I see this big mess I've gotten myself into (over the past 14 years or so), and I'm looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.I know that a debt management program can help somewhat with the CC debt, but how can I manage the rest of it?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


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