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$48K in debt (student loans, credit cards, private loans) - asking for advice

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    $48K in debt (student loans, credit cards, private loans) - asking for advice

    Iím reaching out here to get some advice and suggestions on my current situation/predicament.

    Background: Iím 29/M and moved across the country a little over 6 years ago to pursue a career in entertainment. I have a job at a studio now, I love it, and make $45k a year including OT (I work 50 hours a week). However, I just started here and donít see myself getting a raise or promotion in the near future (at least a year). Iíve started Lyft driving on weekends (which nets me around $100 extra per week ($400/month), if I drive for about 6 hours. I know I should be doing more of this, at least for the time being.

    Iíve been struggling with debt ever since Iíve been out here, digging deeper and deeper in debt. That being said, I made so little at my first job, and between that and keeping up with the joneses out here and being a complete idiot with my finances, it has got me in the following trouble.

    Debt Ė ($48k in total debt)
    $1700 @ 22.99% (CC)
    $5000 @ 19.50% (CC)
    $4500 @ 14.99% (CC)
    and $27k in student loans

    I am ALSO paying down an Upstart loan which is currently at $10k (I pay $517/month on this and will end in Nov 2019) (I consolidated credit cards and then ran them back up again).

    Iím really mad at myself, am under so much stress, and can barely even figure out how to approach this. Iíve been listening to Dave Ramsey, read tons of articles about debt management, personal finance, etc., and have started to take a more positive approach about how to handle this. Since the new year, Iíve been on a warpath trying to make things work and start to climb out of this massive debt mountain, but still have to keep pulling from what little savings I have in order to live.

    Here are my expenses broken down (and yes, the answer is that I have done so much budgeting but still feel that I can never get ahead). Between all the debt payments each month, my student loans, car payments, rent, etc. I am saving so little (and have to keep pulling from it), as well as living paycheck to paycheck. I feel like Iím drowning with no help in sight. Each month the minimums keep going up (even though Iím paying the minimums and paying them on time). I have stopped digging (for now), but feel that I can NEVER get ahead.

    Back to my working life, I want to find a side hustle that I can do that makes me more money than Lyft driving, but I feel as though I have no skills, or get discouraged every time I try to start something new and attempt to make more money. Iím overwhelmed with what options I have, etc.

    Here are my expenses per month:
    Rent - $892 (per person, split $1784 per month with my GF)
    Car Payment - $211
    Car Insurance - $195
    Gas/Electric bills - $20 estimated
    Gas for car - $75 (sometimes more if I lyft drive)
    Groceries - $200 (per person - $50/week)
    Haircut - $17
    Cell phone - $58
    Entertainment - $91 (includes streaming services, gym membership, internet) Upstart Loan - $517
    Student Loans - $134
    Between all credit card minimums itís about $250, but Iíve been trying to pay $300. I save $50 per paycheck, so $100 per month, which ends up coming back and being spent on something else in order to live.

    All this nets me not even $75 for spending cash, which is absurd. I feel like Iíve cut back tremendously but canít even make ends meet! Please help!
    Do I withdrawal from my 401K to pay off debt? I have about 6K in there I think? Try consolidating my debt even more? Ask family for help? Not sure what other options I have. I feel helpless. Please help!

    Welcome to the site.

    So is it 48K plus another 10K for the Upstart loan, so 58K total?

    Can you tell us what all of that debt was for (other than the student loan of course)? Were you using debt to cover living expenses until you got settled in the job? Are you done adding to the debt at this point?

    I would absolutely not cash out the 401k. After taxes and penalties, it won't get you that much anyway.

    The more extra work you can pick up, the better.

    As for your budget, any little bit you can trim will help. You have internet. Ditch the streaming services for now. Just watch whatever you can for free online. Pretty much any show can be found online for free. You don't need Netflix or Hulu right now.

    Get some fresh quotes on auto insurance. Unless you have a bad driving record (and even if you do), you might be able to lower that bill.

    Consider cutting your own hair. For $20, you can get a clipper kit from Amazon. I've been cutting my hair myself for years. I'm on my second clipper so I've spent a total of about $50 in about 7 years. Sure beats $17/month.

    Are the student loans on an income-based repayment plan? If not, see if you are eligible for that and if it would reduce your payment.

    Otherwise, throw every spare penny at the 22.99% debt until you wipe that out. Then attack the next highest rate and so on. Each time you knock one out, it gives you more breathing room in your budget. And every dollar you can free up or extra dollar you can earn also gives you more flexibility. Assuming you're in good health, now is the time in your life when you can work a ton of hours. Just make sure you're eating well and sleeping well so that you aren't tired when doing the Lyft work.

    Keep us posted on your progress.

    * Despite the high cost of living, it remains very popular.
    * Why should I pay for my daughter's education when she already knows everything?
    * There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.


      Hi Steve,

      Thanks so much for responding. Here are the answers to your questions:

      So is it 48K plus another 10K for the Upstart loan, so 58K total?

      It's $48k grand total, including the $10k Upstart loan.

      Can you tell us what all of that debt was for (other than the student loan of course)? Were you using debt to cover living expenses until you got settled in the job?

      I got into a lot of the debt mainly for living and being stupid. It was living expenses, traveling, dining out, bars/alcohol, etc. Anything I "needed" it for. It just got larger and larger and if those cards were available to me, I couldn't stop. They are (thankfully) put away and I don't carry them anymore.

      Are you done adding to the debt at this point?

      I stopped officially a month ago, been keeping 2018 debt free so far, but I keep dipping into my Christmas money I received (aka the little savings that I have)

      I'll check on auto insurance, but in 2015 (August I believe) I got a ticket which bumped up my insurance and apparently it takes 3 years to remove from my record. That being said, I also drive a 2016 Nissan Sentra, so naturally it'll be more, but I'll double check.

      I believe I'm on the income based repayment plan, but I'll dbl check that too.

      I am in good health, I just get discouraged with any other side hustle I'd like to pursue. But at least I have Lyft which nets me some extra cash.

      Really appreciate your speedy response, thanks so much!



        Iwas about to say what Steve did, but he got there first. I would suggest that your GF cut your hair for you instead of you trying to do it yourtself. Until I got to the point where I couldn't stand long enough, I have been cutting husband's hair plus my boys for years. Divorced the one guy and whenever my mmisfortune to bump into him, his hair is never better than when I was cutting it. Hubby cuts his own now but does a terrible job, but he is in general a hermit so no big deal. the point being It doesn't take years of barber school to learn how to do one guy's hair cut. May be a little weird at first, but it won't kill you. At this point in time, you can not afford luxury like this. I have bad arthritis and when I had to break down and hire a cleaning lady, I had to stop getting pro haircuts. After three years hubby trimmed it and made a mess and eventually I had to fork out to fix it, but that was 1 haircut in 4+ years! I can't afford them.

        Get rid of all this: includes streaming services, gym membership! You can't afford it and all it does is show you trying to keep up with the Jones's. We have rabbit ears on our TV and have had for 10+ years. If we don't like what is on TV, we have DVDs and videos picked up cheap or given to us as gifts. Even if we could afford to, I acn't tolerate going to a movie theater so my son pays attention to commercials for movies coming out or looks for my favorite actors/actresses to buy me DVDs, so we have plenty of those. I also read which is a free activity by way or your library.

        Have no clue where you live to be an entertainer, but your rent is unbelieivable! Anyway you can move some place cheaper yet safe for GF? Is electric your only utility bill? It seems really low. What about heat, sewer/ water, etc.? Your portion of the rent with the electric such as it is, is 1/4 of your income. How much of that income is your take home? If $45K is your takehome good. If that is the number before taxes and other deductions, then things are even worse. You may not want to live in a lower cost of living area, but that is what you can afford. Those other oflks living there don't like it either. You can't live as if you are making a certain income, when in reality you aren't and are most likely living far over it.

        Adding up your expenses I get $31,900/year $2660/month leaving $13100 unaccounted for. This is why it would be good to know what is your actual takehome. So we have some more real numbers.

        I would also suggest if at all possible to get a cheaper cell phone. You can get on a Tracphone policy for a lot cheaper than $58/month. You are in the debt plan where you have to cut out everything and squeeze pennies till they scream.

        I comprehend The kind of debt you are in. But to get out of it means making sacrifices about the lifestyle that you want until you can afford it. I agree with Steve, in throwing every spare penny at your highest interest debt, and for the others round up to the nearest dollarwhen paying the minimum, as in if the minimum is $47.63 you will pay $48. Also, and this is important, it is now possible to pay all credit cards bills on line. Whenever you have a payday, Pay on those cards then, don't wait until the due day. Paying even PART of the minimum as soon as you have the money will slowely be chipping away at the interest being charged, because once some of the balance is paid off, you won't be paying interest on it anymore! So if you get paid every week, you will want to make 1/4 payments on all of them every week. Make extra driving, put that extra into the highest interest card, but don't count it as part of the minimum, it is the extra (throwing every penny) at the bill. You should start slowly but surely start to see some changes. As the changes make life a bit more bearable, start rounding up payments to the nearest five dollars. So if the before mentioned bill was $47.63 but is now down to $42.98 because you have been paying and not charging, pay $45.00 on the bill.

        You should also be looking for more ways to make money to use or to spend on necessities. Today, thanks to someone's mention on this forum, I discovered I had enough reward points on Bing to cash part of them in for $5 to PayPal! We are living in some bad financial straights ourselves, so getting a spare $5 is enough to make me happy. Another person here mention ebates, and I signed up and got $10, plus when I have had to buy something for my business, I have earned some cash back. I will never be getting the kinds of cash back the commercials talk about, but to get a bit back is better than nothing. But this is only for absolute neccessities, in this case I needed an ink cartridge for my business. Ebates got me free shipping and a $0.60 kickback. Plus I bought the cartridge at the cheapest place possible - would you believe my drugstore on line!

        We are all happy to help you and encourage you. This is not going to be quick and easy or painless, but it is doable.


          Originally posted by Jackson251 View Post
          Are you done adding to the debt at this point?

          I stopped officially a month ago, been keeping 2018 debt free so far

          You are doing awesome. In the beginning it is real slow, but you are making progress! Don't get down about setbacks, you will have them. You can do it just keep chugging. A little progress every month and you will win.

          Keep doing what you are doing. All Steve's suggestions are good, but most important don't turn back. All the little things add up, but $10 or $20 isn't going to destroy you. Celebrate the little victories.

          I personally would pay the smallest of first because I get energized by crossing them off, tearing them up, and never opening them again. When I was in debt over my head I switched jobs to something that required time away from my apartment so I lived very frugally on per diem and worked tons of hours. Mostly so i couldn't spend any money. Consider doing something radical like that for a short period to break the log jam.

          Please keep us updated over the year because we want to hear your winning story.



            Originally posted by Jackson251 View Post
            I keep dipping into my Christmas money I received (aka the little savings that I have)
            For what? Make sure you are keeping track of where every dollar is going. If you have to keep dipping into savings, there is stuff missing from your budget.

            * Despite the high cost of living, it remains very popular.
            * Why should I pay for my daughter's education when she already knows everything?
            * There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.


              First of all, congratulations on finding a job you love. That is a huge asset. To me it doesn't sound like you are helpless!

              Big Picture Question: What is it about this time around that makes you believe things will be different? What is your motivation?

              Regarding Lyft: This raises a red flag for me. Does your auto insurance cover you if you are in an accident while driving for Lyft? Make sure that your side hustle (this one and any you consider in the future) isn't putting you at risk for digging an even deeper hole.

              Budgeting: Are you tracking where every dollar is spent, not just your regular bills? In your particular situation, I don't think you'll be able to come up with a helpful plan until you know exactly where every dollar is going, and it sounds like you don't know right now.

              Trimming Expenses: As far as where to cut back, we can give you suggestions, but you are the one who has to decide. Expenses that contribute to your career advancement would not be the place to start IMO. For example, cutting your own hair would be a great idea if your work is not the type where appearances are crucial. We have no idea what sort of work you do in the entertainment industry (and you do not need to tell us). If you work behind the scenes, where no one cares about your hair, then cutting your own hair is probably just fine. But if your work is the type where you are judged on appearances and it's important to have a fresh, trendy 'do, then maybe you need professional cuts. The same can be said for the other expenses. You are the one who has to decide where to cut back. You probably need to track spending for a couple months, take a couple deep breaths, and then when you are in a calmer state scrutinize every single expenditure and ask yourself where you can eliminate, cut back, or find less expensive (and maybe even better) alternatives.

              In general (increasing income and trimming expenses), whenever possible, try to kill at least two birds with one stone: Look for solutions that will offer multiple benefits. For example, are there side hustles you could take on that would not only earn money but also give you physical exercise (so that you could cut the gym membership) or increase your skills in your chosen field of work (to potentially increase your future earnings)? Are there ways you could trim expenses (possibly extreme ways focusing on major expenses such as housing or transportation), using creative alternatives that would stretch you as a human being and possibly enhance your life long-term? I have ideas but I think the "exercise" will be more helpful long-term if you come up with ideas either on your own or together with your girlfriend.

              Next Steps: What do you plan to do as your next steps? What other questions do you have?


                Look you are making progress by not adding to debt and paying it off. Cut everything you can and work more lyft. I sound stupid but seriously working more = less time to spend money you don't have.
                LivingAlmostLarge Blog


                  Congratulations on wanting to get debt free. I was in the same situation 10 years ago. I met my wife 10 years ago and decided then I needed to get debt free. I had a lot of help though. I moved home with my parents for four years to get started. I had about $70k-$80k in debt. Eventually in four years I had about half or a little more of that paid off. I then got married and moved in with my wife. We rented for four years and with her help three years in we were debt free. We then saved enough over the next year and a half to put a down payment on a house and that is our only debt to this day. The kicker is we did all this making only between $50k-$75k gross a year combined. Though we do live in an area where living costs are low and our commutes are short. We both worked extra jobs and did things on the side to make more. It was all worth it in the end though and the feeling of not owing anyone or anybody anything was worth it.

                  My advice would be to work as much as you can handle and cut anything that is not a need. Find things that are free to do for fun. We took up hiking and it's become a really enjoyable hobby that gets us outside and keeps us healthy.

                  Good Luck!!!


                    Hi everyone, thank you SO much for your kind words and suggestions. I really do appreciate it and will be including lots of these in my game plan moving forward.

                    To answer "GAILETE"s question, I am currently living in West Hollywood (Los Angeles) and rent is SUPER expensive. The thing is, I work as an assistant in Hollywood (the tv/movie business) and I've spoken to my girlfriend already about what's next for us, because in a few years, we're simply not going to want to live in Los Angeles anymore because it'll be time to start thinking about a house. Can't do that in LA. Rent is astronomical. That being said, we JUST moved into this place last year and signed a one year lease, we love it there, but we simply can't afford to spend more money in moving costs, as well as a deposit etc. because we don't have the money (in savings, etc).

                    Electric/Gas Bill is super low for some reason, and since being in my new apartment, we haven't paid over $20 a month for it combined, per person.

                    My income is $45k with OT, gross, takehome pay is $2886/month estimated. You had mentioned $2660/month, which is all of the expenses I listed. That being said, I'm currently paying $300 on CCs (instead of the CC minimums which comes out to around $250). As well as $50 per paycheck ($100 per month) in savings. Total comes to $2811/monthly expenses, leaving me $77 spending.

                    To answer "SCFR"'s big picture question, my motivation this time around is simple. I cannot afford to keep doing what I'm doing. I ran out of credit (probably for the better), and simply want to change my behaviors up, rather than keep doing the same thing over and over. Started listening to Dave Ramsey, making grids, charts, etc, and tracking everything.

                    Auto Insurance doesn't cover Lyft, but I believe that Lyft has it's own insurance to cover their drivers.


                      I grew up in San Bernardino, before the cost of living was astronomical. When we moved we were paying $90/month on land contract for a 4br/1ba house on 1 1/4 acres. Saw my old stomping grounds via Goodle maps a few months ago and barely recognized the place I was seeing!

                      Keep that focus on being as financial savvy and frugal as possible. Especially since in Hollywood, so many things you see are just pretend or a mirage. You would think everyone has oodles of money to live on when you watch TV.