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My wife and I are 40. 6 short years ago we had 0 debt, aside from our mortgage. Then, we had super-preemie twins, my wife had to stay home with them, I was laid off 3 years ago, so I went back to school to complete my bachelor's, and needed to use credit to stay afloat. Now, I have $50k in loan, car and credit debt, and $33k in my Foolish Fidelity Retirement account with a great rate of return, and $10k in a new 401k with my new employer.

Pulling out the investments to pay debt sounds good, but taxes make it less desirable. I just hate paying interest!

Any advice?
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Any advice?

Don't.

Seriously. Taking money from retirement accounts is a bad habit to get into. And there might well be an occasion where you actually need the money, rather than just paying off some debt.

If you'd be willing to post some of the details, we might be able to help you find a way to pay the debt off sooner.

Nancy
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Find another way to pay off the debt. The group here can help you parry down your budget to squeeze more cash out of it and help you with organizing and managing your debt. Or you can call an affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a legitimate organization for helping people manage their debts, for a consultation.

Fuskie
Who congratulates you on the fresh employment and notes that while it takes less time to get into debt than to get out of it, the recovery is still time worth taking...
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Don't panic. Taking money out of a retirment account when the situation is only annoying and not critical is a bad idea.

Does your current 401K have a match?

The twins are now 6 years old? Has your wife returned to working?
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Has your wife gone back to work yet? Solution could be to devote most of her salary to debt pay-back till it's gone.

Can you sell anything you bought on credit to help with the payoff? Is your house or car pricier/bigger/fancier than you require?
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I have agreed with that philosophy thus far, but can't help wondering if it's the right move. Trust me, the thought of selling WPRT, DDD and others now is repulsive, but I want to make sure we can retire and getting back on track seems impossible at times.

Yes, kids are 6 and after many NICU surgeries back then, they are miraculously in perfect health now. My wife is back working as a teacher again.

I put enough in my 401k to get the company match, and no more. I'm currently not adding to my IRA because there isn't enough. She has a Teacher's Retirement account.

I have tiny Sharebuilder accounts for the girls, and they know they have Disney stock :) I also started 501 college funds, but have no $$ to put in so it seems pointless.

I use pre-tax deductions for the HSA and Dependent care MAX for after school care to cut taxes.

Mortgage = $275k (2k/month) 4.6%
Car = $11k ($271/month) 1.9%
Student Loan = $8k (($75/month)
Card #1 = $2240 ($73/month) 16.9%
Card #2 = $3000 (25/month) 15.9%
Card #3 = $9100 ($175/month) 8.5%
Card #4 = $5000 ($67/month) 14.5%
Personal Loan = $18,000 ($400/month) 10.5% (auto deductions to pay off in 4 years)

and we have a 10 year old car with high mileage which will need to be replaced soon.

No emergency fund.


What a difference 6 years makes :(
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Think I'd be looking at a classic snowball, taking highest interest rate first, assuming the 8.9% stays that way.

Minimum payment on the cards aren't bad, so throwing any extra money at them in sequence should clear up the smaller ones pretty quick, giving you larger amounts to send to the others.

It's that personal loan that's killing you. Yikes.

There's lots of problems with cashing out retirement, and assuming you can handle the payments and come up with at least a small amount extra (and you stop using the cards) you can get out of this sooner than you think.

One of the biggest things we've seen people do over and over again is cash out retirement and get right back into massive debt again within a couple years. Every one of them said they'd learned their lesson about debt and wouldn't do that, but they did. It's just not a good idea.

Ishtar
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Yes, kids are 6 and after many NICU surgeries back then, they are miraculously in perfect health now.

I also had my twins prematurely, so I know how that goes. It is good that they seem to be past the hard part now and are in school.

My wife is back working as a teacher again.

Is it possible for you to live on just your pay? I am thinking you could then put the bulk of your wife's pay towards the debt, and once that is paid off, that can go into retirement and college savings.

I have tiny Sharebuilder accounts for the girls, and they know they have Disney stock :) I also started 501 college funds, but have no $$ to put in so it seems pointless.

I wouldn't be putting much in the accounts for the girls at this point. Do you look at this as money to teach them to about investments, or do you look at this as college funds? I would opt for the former for several reasons. First, that money belongs to them, and they can use it for whatever they want once they turn 18, and that may or may not be spent on college. Second, their assets are counted more towards financial aid, so that can have an impact. Third, you lose flexibility in how you spend that money, and you may find that you want to spend different amounts on each of them. You may also find, for instance, that you need that money to be spent on something else (i.e. you get laid off, and it looks a lot more like mortgage money than college money).

I also don't care for 529 plans, especially for twins. I see from your profile that you actually live pretty close to me, and I can tell you that there are no tax advantages in MA for saving in 529 plans. Remember, they have other options for paying for college including things like borrowing or working a few years before going or looking at ROTC etc. You, on the other hand, cannot borrow for your retirement, so you want to ensure that you fund your retirement first, and then their college funds. I also don't like 529s for twins because you will be spending that money on them at the same time, so you can't pay for the first one, and then change the beneficiary to the 2nd one because you will run out of time.

I did do 529s for my twins because I wanted to feel like I was using all the tools available, but I put very little money into them for the reasons above. I also wasn't sure that DS was capable of college giving his learning disability, and so I did not want to lock up a lot of money. And I used all of the 529 money for each child in their first year of college.

and we have a 10 year old car with high mileage which will need to be replaced soon.

I'd keep maintaining that 10-year-old car as long as you can so that you do not need to replace it soon. You say it has high mileage, but I don't know how much that is. I do tend to keep my own cars for 8-10 years, and drive them for at least 200k miles, but I could probably go longer. That is something you want to consider doing. I would also recommend that when you do replace it, you try to buy a good used car and pay cash, or take out a minimal loan.

And when you finish paying off that $11k car loan, I would recommend that you continue to put that "car payment" aside every month. You can use it to beef up your efund, or preferably to be funds to replace the car which has the loan on it now.

Dependent care MAX for after school care to cut taxes

If your wife is a teacher, do you really need after school care for the girls? Is there a way that they can just go home with your wife, and then you could eliminate this expense and put that towards the debt? If not, then remember that this will end in another couple of years, and that money can then be reallocated to their college savings since it is already in your budget. I did that with daycare (my kids were in full time daycare) and then after school care, and that worked very well because it was money I was already spending, and so I just spent it another way. Remembering this might also help you see some light at the end of the tunnel.


You list all of your debts, but I would also recommend that you take a hard look at all your expenses as well to see what you can cut out or cut down so that you have more money to put towards the debt and then to savings for retirement, college, car replacement etc. Talk to your wife about your priorities and where you would like your money to go, and then eliminate those expenses that are not on your priority list. You can post your budget here if you want more input and feel comfortable doing that as folks will review and make some suggestions, although it can be tough love, so be prepared for that.
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What a difference 6 years makes :(

You now have healthy twin daughters. Don't forget what you have gained.

No emergency fund.

The first step is to build an emergency fund.

Is the payment for Card#2 correct? It appears to be less than the interest.

Given your listed payments on the Cards and Personal Loan, you are paying off approximately $386 a month. The car loan is mostly prinicipal payment.
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Thanks 2gifts, I appreciate talking this out. The Sharebuilder accounts were primarily for them to be lifetime investors and learn about it early, unlike myself. only $300 or so in each. They each picked their own stock last year from MF Best Buys, so they are not exactly the same.
I agree about the college fund vs. retirement and wish I had not even set it up now. I won't put any more in it, but will let grandparents know that it's there in case they want to donate instead of buying useless toys.

Car has 185k and we will drive it until it dies. Then, get a used car with a low rate through our credit union. Can't see that we'll have enough cash, as you can see.

Unfortunately, my wife works in a different school system, since jobs weren't available in ours when she went back. She did try that. It's a $182/wk. expense, and not any other options.

We have reviewed every expense from last year, and have a budget based on that.

I also do pay more than the minimums, but I listed the minimums. I pay $100 and $150 per month on the two with high %.

Still seems like we'll never get out because each year something (car repair, house repair, medical bills) comes up, so I thought I would ask the MF Intelligencia if it made sense to have an investment sitting there, with all of this debt sitting here. I was thinking it may make more sense to pay debt as much as possible, then start investing in chunks again, and having all interest working for me, rather than against me. The answer seems to be; just keep on keepin' on.
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Is it necessary for your children's after-school care to cost $182/week? Let's say it's for 2 hours a day, which would be 10 hours at $18/hour. Couldn't a neighbor teen or preteen babysit at their home or yours for less than that--probably less than half that?

I went back to work during "mother's hours" (9-2) when my youngest was about the age of your twins. Once a week I needed to work till 5, and I hired a neighbor 12-year-old to babysit. She was the eldest in a large family with much experience looking after children. She was happy for the income (and respite from her crowded house!), I was happy to have someone both trustworthy (her mom right up the block) and cheap, and my kids liked her very much. Win-win-win.
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Unfortunately, my wife works in a different school system, since jobs weren't available in ours when she went back. She did try that. It's a $182/wk. expense, and not any other options.


She might try keeping her eye open for something in your district, if that makes sense. Or you can also look at school choice into your wife's district. Just something to consider in case you haven't thought of it.


We have reviewed every expense from last year, and have a budget based on that.


That is a good start. You might see if there are ways to cut the expenses you have. For instance, do you shop at the cheapest grocery store? In my case, I can spend a solid 30% less by shopping at Market Basket instead of Shaw's or Stop & Shop, and be buying exactly the same things. So if you're not shopping at the least expensive grocery store in your area, just making that change, even if you have to drive a little further, can save you money without changing anything that you are buying. Is there a less expensive, though maybe less convenient, place to buy gas for the car? What about your cable or internet provider? Have you called them to ask if they can find a way to reduce your monthly bill?

Do you go out to eat at all? Maybe you can cut that in half, so instead of going out to eat once a week, perhaps you go every other week. Can you cut your utility usage by changing to compact fluorescent bulbs? Call the electric company and ask them to do an energy audit. They will actually give you the energy efficient bulbs and other things to help drive your energy costs down, and you won't even notice an impact to your lifestyle. These are just examples to maybe get you thinking about your own expenses and if you can tweak anything.

Sometimes, you can just look at your existing expenses and find ways to cut them with small changes or a few phone calls. Other folks here are much better at suggesting those sorts of things, so maybe someone else will have an idea.

If you can save a little here and a little there, you will have more money to throw at the debt or build a small efund.
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Because I'm kinda bored today, I plugged your numbers into a snowball calculator: http://www.flatbow.com/Snowball.html

If you start with your highest interest card and throw all $250 extra payment towards that card, it will be paid off by Oct, then you snowball that entire payment into the next highest interest rate.

Doing that has you out of non-mortgage debt by May 2018.

But, a couple of notes:

- you gave us some nice round numbers. I doubt your real numbers are that round, so you need to make sure you're using the right numbers.

- you mention that Still seems like we'll never get out because each year something (car repair, house repair, medical bills) comes up, . . . Here's the thing, these things are going to KEEP coming up. Every year. Every month. Over on the YNAB forums, there's a saying that there is no such thing as a normal month. You have to start including these things in your plan, your budget.

It's not easy to do at first. I have a hard time because of low/unstable income. But when my income is steady, I can do it.

You need budget line items for car repair (you know they're gonna happen!), house maintenance (something always needs fixing), medical, dental, orthodontia, kids clothes, clothes for you, car insurance, house insurance, etc. Some people have an "oh, crap!" fund, or an "unexpected expenses" fund in their budget.

When people make budgets they often forget those expenses, but they can be planned for.

Looking back at the last year's expenses gives you a rough idea, but it is rough, and it will always be changing (which is why You Need A Budget is a great tool, and I'm sort of evangelistic about it - but not the only one that uses it).

You should try to build at least a "mini" e-fund so you can take care of these unexpected issues - because they aren't really unexpected.

And then start snowballing.

I bet there are things that you can do to cut expenses somewhere and/or find more money to throw at the snowball.

Ishtar
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Couldn't a neighbor teen or preteen babysit at their home or yours for less than that--probably less than half that?

How would the children get home since his wife can't be there to pick them up after she gets off work?
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Unfortunately, my wife works in a different school system, since jobs weren't available in ours when she went back. She did try that. It's a $182/wk. expense, and not any other options.

Would it be possible for the girls to enroll in her school system. Locally, it is allowed.
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we have a 10 year old car with high mileage which will need to be replaced soon.

others have address the heavy lifting, so I will jut ask about this line item.
Will the car need to be replaced soon because it is unreliable?
or just because it is old & has high mileage?

I ask because the car you described is the kind of car I usually buy... 10-15 years old, high miles, reliable (and subaru)
The 98 forester I bought 3 years ago had 214k on it IIRC - still going strong ...

So if your car is only 10 years old, and under 200k, and a SUbaru/Toyota/Honda/Volvo, I suggest driving it for at least five more years.
I am not so familiar with other makes, but if it is still reliable- seriously consider the trade off costs between a $1000 repair and a whole nother vehicle...

peace & auto trader
t
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You're getting great advice, so I'll leave that part alone and instead will be the cheering section:

It is completely awesome, and I mean that sincerely, that you and your wife are on the same page, taking this on, and working on it. I realize it's very difficult to admit to being in trouble, and asking for help -- even if it's just other people's thoughts and advice -- is a powerful step. Many folks struggle to be on the same page with their spouses, and many feel a significant shame in trying to get out of trouble once they're in it. You guys are two for two on that.

After those things there is "just" hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and most of all -- persistence. Just keeping doing what you can every single month, and things will surely improve. Get rid of those high-interest cards as quickly as you can, and you'll really see things pick up quickly. Do build up a small emergency fund. $1,000 can save you a lot of worry on a mildly difficult day, even though it won't do much against a Really Bad Day. But when you make it to $2,000, you're that much closer, and you can just keep going.

One last thought. Is there a possibility of overtime for either of you? Time and a half is a wonderful thing, though I recognize that it can be hard to do with little kids in the household. If not, is there a possibility for a small amount of extra income? Lawn mowing pays reasonably well in a lot of neighborhoods, and there are many other manual labor type jobs that pay pretty well and are pretty easy to get. If you know anyone in that business, there is a chance of being a helper on weekend work if you're flexible and willing to learn.

ThyPeace, there is also writing a best-seller, if you're more academically inclined, but it's more of a long shot.
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I also do pay more than the minimums, but I listed the minimums. I pay $100 and $150 per month on the two with high %.

As already suggested, you need to stop splitting the extra payments and put everything on the higher rate card.

We have reviewed every expense from last year, and have a budget based on that.
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Still seems like we'll never get out because each year something (car repair, house repair, medical bills) comes up


If you have budgeted based on last year's expenses, aren't things like car repairs, house repairs, medical bills, etc. covered in your budget? Yes, they are 'lumpy' expenses, so you may not have money set aside for the ones that happen at the beginning of the year, but you should be setting money aside for them every month, right? So, if you had $1200 in car repairs and $1800 in medical bills last year, and you didn't have either of those in January, there should be $100 for car repairs and $150 for medical bills sitting in a savings account waiting for the next occurrence.

If, for some reason, you chose to ignore those items when building your budget, you need to go back and look at your budget again.

I thought I would ask the MF Intelligencia if it made sense to have an investment sitting there, with all of this debt sitting here.

But they aren't just 'investments' - they are retirement accounts that will incur additional taxes and penalties to tap them at your age, right? If that's the case, the taxes and penalties you pay are likely to cost significantly more than your interest cost over the next 3 - 4 years as you pay this off.

From your other post (with a guess at the interest rate for the student loan), here is the non-mortgage debt from highest rate to lowest rate:

Account         Balance          Rate      Minimum 
Card #1 $2,240 16.90% $73
Card #2 $3,000 15.90% $25
Card #4 $5,000 14.50% $67
Personal Loan $18,000 10.50% $400
Card #3 $9,100 8.50% $175
Student Loan $8,000 6.80% $75
Car $11,000 1.90% $271

Total $56,340 8.87% $1,086

The good news is, your weighted average rate is pretty low for consumer debt - less than 9%. The bad news is, you said you had about $50k - when you add up the round numbers you provided, it's actually over $56k, and depending on which way you rounded, it might be even higher.

However, as already suggested, if you put the entire $250 extra toward Card #1, you can have that paid off later this year (Sept/Oct timeframe), to be followed mid next year by Card #2. At that point, your weighted interest rate will be less than 8%. So, if it takes you 4 years to pay all your consumer debt off, you will probably pay less than $10,000 in interest.

In comparison, the taxes and penalties on the $43k you have in retirement accounts will probably be at least $15k, and would only pay off $28k (about half) of your consumer debt after taxes. So you would still be stuck paying off debt for a couple of years.

AJ
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How would the children get home since his wife can't be there to pick them up after she gets off work?

Since it seems they go to public school, they'd take the bus home. They must be taking that to the afterschool program if it is not at the school. Around here, that can happen either way.

I am familiar with the OP's town, and it is similar to my town. Children that age get dropped off at their house,, and not at congregated bus stops. I would be surprised if the OP's situation is different than that, so he'd need to have someone who lived nearby, or could ride the bus home with his children.

In my town, we have K-8 on the same bus, so it is entirely possible to have a child old enough on the same bus.
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Since it seems they go to public school, they'd take the bus home. They must be taking that to the afterschool program if it is not at the school. Around here, that can happen either way.

I am familiar with the OP's town, and it is similar to my town. Children that age get dropped off at their house,, and not at congregated bus stops. I would be surprised if the OP's situation is different than that, so he'd need to have someone who lived nearby, or could ride the bus home with his children.



Wow, we haven't even had school buses at all for years, much less ones that drop you off at home.

Ishtar
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Wow, we haven't even had school buses at all for years, much less ones that drop you off at home.

In MA, towns are required to provide school buses. In towns that are not regionalized, the town can now charge a fee for this, but in towns that are regionalized such as mine (and I think the OP also lives in a region), there cannot be a separate fee for bus usage.

The OP lives in a fairly rural area similar to me, and so we don't have things like sidewalks, and the buses here pretty much stop at each house because they are so far apart. They definitely do that for all the kindergarteners, even if they happen to live on a street like mine that does have sidewalks, but there are only 2 or 3 places in my town that have sidewalks.

I know that the more populated cities and towns have bus stops, but we don't have that here because it is not safe for the kids.
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I'd never recommend cashing retirement early unless it is to avoid homelessness or equally dire circumstances.

Start the emergency fund with whatever you can - $20 here, $50 there. It'll build up. You'll possibly have a tax refund coming - use that to get your emergency fund funded and put anything else toward your highest interest debt.

Start making the rounds of calling your cards every couple months and seeing if they'll lower your rates. Look for credit card offers with lower rates and see if you can get a good rate even if it is for a few years and consolidate your higher rate debt. If you could roll that personal loan into a credit card offer with a lower percentage, it would save you a bunch of interest.

Any chance of extra income? Overtime? Second job on weekends or evenings for you? Tutoring gigs for wife? Even if its not much, anything will help.

Cut what you can. If you post your complete budget, people can help you see where to trim. Cable TV, phone packages, subscription services are all areas to look at. Most adults can get by without new clothing for a while - cut that down to the bone. For the kids clothes shop at garage sales, thrift stores and you might try to find some clothing swaps in your area. Groceries - trim where you can. Try Aldi's or other discounters if you have them - I save 30-50% on staples by shopping for them at Aldi's. I supplement where I need to from traditional stores.

You can do this without pulling out your retirement. Stop new investing (other than anything with a match from employers), build that e-fund, cut where you can and just plug away at it. It'll get faster and easier as you go. I've seen accounts of a lot of people with a lot more debt being able to dig themselves out.
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Still seems like we'll never get out because each year something (car repair, house repair, medical bills) comes up, so I thought I would ask the MF Intelligencia if it made sense to have an investment sitting there, with all of this debt sitting here.

To make progress you need to stop using credit. I had assumed that from the first post, but this post makes it clear that you are still charging "emergencies", and without a budget for irregular expenses many things appear to be emergencies.

An emergency fund to cover unplanned but predictable expenses and unpredictable expenses is needed. With a family of 4, there will be medical expenses. Car repairs are unavoidable. Some household repairs are going to be needed.

Put the extra $250 a month aside for an emergency fund, and stop using the credit cards.

Even if you took the entire $33K out of your retirement account it would pay less than half of your current debt. The federal penalty is 10%. Your state may add an additional penalty. Plus the total (including the payment for penalty) will be taxed. It is additional income which means it will be at your highest rate for both federal and state. It is best to leave it.
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How would the children get home since his wife can't be there to pick them up after she gets off work?

My kids had a school bus. How do most kids get home from school?
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My kids had a school bus. How do most kids get home from school?

Around here parents or older siblings drop them off and pick them up. On average, the parents are far more agressive and worse drivers than the older siblings.
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My kids had a school bus. How do most kids get home from school?

Only about 25% of the Omaha school district kids ride the bus. Probably way less in the suburban districts.

Kids here get a ride with a parent or walk.

Always ;-)
Hunzi
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Thanks very much for your suggestions. We had a choice of my wife going back to work and paying for after-school care, OR staying home. The first year we did try neighbors, etc. but it was unreliable and we could not continue that way again. So, we opted for a community center who runs care at the school. It's safe, convenient, and reliable, and comes with free memberships to the actual community center. Of course, the expense stinks, but it's still many thousands better than her not working. We do use the Dependent Care Account to take the money out pre-tax to help a little.

I'm so jealous of my friends who have retired mom's care for their kids. I don't think they get how lucky they are.
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Agreed, regarding cutting expenses. Cutting grocery bills by 20%, and nearly eliminating dining are two of our goals for 2014. So far, so good. Thanks for taking time to offer advice.
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Ishtar, thank you. Yes, the numbers are round for reader's sake. Yes, snowballing will work and I too have calculated that we should be out of this in 5 years. My main point to this was to see what people on my favorite site thought of paying interest for the next 4-5 years, while having money sitting in investments.

I do have car repair, house repair, dog repair, clothes, work expenses, etc. in the budget, and with last year's real data with both of us working we get to adjust where necessary. Eating healthily is very expensive, but we are going to cut the bill by 20%, somehow. Month 1 was a success.
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It is an option, and we have discussed it. We would prefer to keep them in town so they can develop relationships, AND so that we don't have to drive 35 minutes to birthday parties, etc. to see friends in my wife's school system, since she makes that drive 10x a week now. We may have to take this option, but we are trying to avoid it, if possible. Also, we strategically chose this town 6 years ago since it was "up and coming" and not already too expensive, and the plan is coming to fruition; they are building a new school that the kids will get to enjoy starting next year.

Thanks for the suggestion.
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Yes, snowballing will work and I too have calculated that we should be out of this in 5 years.

My plan had you out in 4 years, 3 months, not 5 years.

Just sayin'.

For the record, I don't think your after care expenses are that out of line.

10 years ago, I was paying $125/wk for one kid.

Ishtar
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I like your style. It's a 2004 Jeep Liberty. We've kept that philosophy that a $1000 repair is still better than a car payment, and we've consistently paid that over the past few years. Hopefully, it will keep on going, but I'm doubtful right now.
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Yes, my wife and I DO make a great team. We've been through some amazing challenges and barely ever argued or gotten angry with on another. We're committed to getting back to 0 credit debt and this board has been a sanctuary so where better to go for advice.

We are also committed to being with the kids as much as possible. When we pick them up there is homework every night (in 1st grade!) While one of us makes dinner. After making lunches, baths, laundry, story time, financial time, there is still take home work for both of us.

Also, neither of us have overtime as an option. I believe we make enough that if we can first reduce expenses and make some hard choices we can start to reduce the debt. However, over the last 12 months we have only survived, so we need to get better.
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EXCELLENT POST. Thanks. You've laid it out perfectly. I didn't list the student loan % because there are two and each is different, but you've hit the average pretty close.

You captured the question I was asking and took the time to weigh my options. Thank you so much for taking time out of your own day to do that. It is not that I do not know how, or have a plan for paying it down, I was just curious if it made sense to do so vs. my "other", also not attractive option.

I do agree that I am making one classic mistake; I will stop spreading out the payments and focus any extra money on just one until it is gone. Minimums for the rest. I should know better, but thanks for the reminder.
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THanks so much for your advice. The bus is k-5, and my girls are 6. I'm not ready to trust them with a 5th grader. We did have some cheaper help last year, but it turned out to be unreliable. The girl next door is the ideal babysitter. However, she's so involved at school she isn't available to babysit very often, and not after school.

Great ideas, and I appreciate them.
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I'm so jealous of my friends who have retired mom's care for their kids. I don't think they get how lucky they are.

A couple of years ago my niece and her husband had lost their nanny (she had to quit to take care of her father) and were waiting for a spot to open up in a daycare center. They live in DC, and they finally decided it was cheaper and easier for his mother to fly in from Indiana for a couple of weeks at a time than it would be to hire someone else.

And my mother baby sat her godchildren for weeks at a time while the regular caretaker recovered from a broken leg, so yes, I hear you.

Nancy
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Is your wife actively looking for a job in your district, which would really help with your situation now and going forward? If not, I suggest that she continue to do that so that when something does come up, she can make the move.

In the meantime, I would suggest continuing to look for after school care where someone can come to your house and watch the girls til your wife gets home. I imagine you're not using the after school program for more than an hour or so each day, and so for you, that would make it expensive even though it's a pretty good rate.

The girl next door is the ideal babysitter. However, she's so involved at school she isn't available to babysit very often, and not after school.

You sure that she wouldn't be willing to do this for you if the price was right? What if you paid her $20 per day for what is probably an hour til your wife gets home? That's good money for her, and would be an $82/week savings for you, so everyone would win.

My DD used to babysit in the neighborhood when she was in high school, and she would rearrange her schedule after school for certain clients because they paid her really well. And if your neighbor is in high school, she probably could use the money towards her college savings.

You have nothing to lose in asking, and even if she cannot do it, you could ask if she has a friend who may be interested.
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You sure that she wouldn't be willing to do this for you if the price was right? What if you paid her $20 per day for what is probably an hour til your wife gets home? That's good money for her, and would be an $82/week savings for you, so everyone would win.

After school care requires a very reliable person. The whole deals falls apart if you get called several times a month by the care giver to say he/she can't make it that day.

PSU
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My kids had a school bus. How do most kids get home from school?

When my kids were in afternoon care, the facility sent a van to the school to transport the kids.

PSU
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When we lived on the Cape (2008-2013), kindergarteners were required to have an adult meet them at the bus stop or they were not permitted to get off the bus. I do not know if a high-school babysitter would qualify under those parameters.

Minxie
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I'm pretty sure in order to get the childcare credit you have to have a Social Security or EIN for the babysitter/childcare person.

I don't think the high school kid would qualify, but what do I know. She/he would have to be made aware of the fact that it is taxable income.
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Yes, my wife and I DO make a great team.

Excellent! I'm glad to hear it. Keep checking in with each other -- hard times affect people in many different ways.

committed to being with the kids as much as possible

Again, good! Knowing your priorities is a really important thing. I get myself in trouble when I forget that I have chosen spending time with my daughter over opportunities to advance my career. I start to get down on myself for "only" being in the (actually pretty great) position that I'm in at work, and "only" making a certain amount of (also perfectly adequate) amount of money. But really, 11 years ago when I decided to work 4 days a week -- one of them a Sunday -- so I could spend every possible moment with my infant daughter, I made a choice that had long-range implications in all areas of my life.

Obviously lots of other choices have had a major effect as well -- if only I had become enamored of investment banking instead of physics when I was in 8th grade!

neither of us have overtime as an option

Well, there is still the great American novel...

ThyPeace, something else I missed out on at about 8th grade, but I still think about writing more than here on TMF. I've started so many books. Trouble is, each one of them is terrible!
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I'm pretty sure in order to get the childcare credit you have to have a Social Security or EIN for the babysitter/childcare person.

Yes, that is correct or furnish a statement that they refused to give it to you but that brings a whole other set of issues.

I don't think the high school kid would qualify, but what do I know. She/he would have to be made aware of the fact that it is taxable income.

Yes, any child care person with an SSN who is not an immediate family member qualifies. IIRC, 2gifts' daughter babysat and used that money to fund a Roth IRA so she may have more insight into that end of it.

Minxie
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