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Dave,

I'd like to weigh in here. My points have already been mentioned, but I feel they are important enough to repeat.


<< I obviously have car insurance (well over $200/month including teenager who has damaged all 3 of my cars) >>

My brother was just such a teenager. The day he got his license he loaded up all his friends and promptly rolled Mom's 3yr-old Volvo station wagon. Thankfully no one was injured, but Mom had to use the house painting money and cash advances from the "emergency" credit card to replace the car. He was forbidden to drive either of the family cars and was taken off the insurance. He was required to buy his own car and insure it himself. He got a lot of use out of his bicycle for several months, as well as rides from his friends. (Believe me, they were much happier driving him than riding with him!) Mom doesn't believe in the 3 strikes law. Good thing, as he also damaged his first 2 cars. He learned about consequenses for irresponsible behavior, and the value of a buck. Wrecking his own 20yr old Volvos were a whole lot less expensive than replacing Mom's next Volvo station wagon!


I know it was true in my family, so I'm guessing it's also true in yours -- that financially unaware parents teach those habits to their children. I'm assuming that up until now your teen has had a free ride through life (at least financially.) It would be a great service if you were to require him/her to begin paying for every thing above the basics; room & board.


Once you get the budget worked out, you might sit down as a family (of course the little ones are exempt) and lay it all out. Treat it as a teaching moment. Once everyone understands the problem, the cutbacks will be easier to go along with. When everyone has an active part in deciding what is to be cut, your project will have the greatest chance of success. Also, There's no sense letting your teen loose on the world without a basic understanding of the costs of housing, food, and fun. Let the lessons be learned while the consequenses are still small.


<< Despite my rounding of the numbers, I am actually fairly anal about tracking everything and I do have the detail available in Money. >>

It's a good sign that you've already got some details you can look back on. Laying them all out next to your income is going to be an eye opener, I'm sure. When I did this the first time, it blew my mind! I was shocked to see just how far off my "figures" were. I call them this because I'd obviously just "figured" what they were rather than using raw data. I was also dismayed to see my past Quicken data listing almost 1/3 of my expenses as "misc" and not separated out. I'm anal too, but I was clearly doing a half-@$$ed job of tracking my spending.


<< I may have to drill-down a little though....also, I don't do a great job of tracking toiletries or beer/alcohol vs. groceries. >>


Here's a great place to redefine your wants/needs. Groceries & toiletries can likely be cut a bit, but are needs. Beer and alcohol are wants, not needs. If they are needs, perhaps that's another problem that needs looked at. (Barring religious needs, but that's not likely to cost as much as general social drinking.)

I'm wondering if you need cable at all. I do because I live in a gulley, and the broadcast signals don't come in clearly enough for me to read the closed captions. I have only the very basic, non-digital cable service. I pay only $11.38 now that it's bundled in with phone & internet. The entire bill is under $100/mo. I've considered dropping the internet, too and going back to dial-up. I will if it comes to it, but I'm more solvent than you seem to be. I don't know what options are available to you, but it's worth checking into. $80/mo is pretty good, but how low can you go?


You're at the beginning of a long road, and you're starting to see what needs to be done. Keep going, you're headed in the right direction. It's going to be frustrating and seem impossible from time to time. It's very rare for that to be the case if enough cuts are made. There are going to be wants that seem like needs because "we've always had that" or "but everyone has this." That's one of the great benefits of posting here with great detail. We can point out things you haven't noticed.

Extra jobs or changing to more well-paid jobs are, of course, also good to consider -- as others have mentioned.


Credit counseling may be a thought, but first lay out your budget and let the Fools on this board have a crack at it. No extra fees for this service. (grin) You'll need a very detailed budget in any case, so I hope you'll take the time to do this before jumping anything drastic. Same with ditching the house. Likely a good idea, but the first step is to fully understand where you're at now. And that comes from a detailed budget.


Penny
$90K in debt,
$40K income
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