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I’m Living in Manhattan, Just Lost My Job, and Super Scared. – Elizabeth

“Dear Steve,

I am 36, living in Manhattan, pay $1900 in rent, owe $20,000 in debt, was laid off three months over the summer and just lost my job again. Credit cards are maxed out, severence was enough to cover rent for one month only and I have to wait one week for unemployment to kick in, which will voer almost my rent, but nothing else. I will do what I have to do to cover expenses, but I don’t know what to do that would help me pay more then the minimums.

On $80k a year (my old salary), I was barely making ends meet… I took home $3800/month, with $1900 for rent, $700 for credit card payments, $400 in monthly expenses, $250 on groceries…I just couldn’t seem to get ahead and now I am at $23 in my bank account and no credit! I am a strong, resourceful woman and I trust myself, but I am super scared. So on to my question:

I want to pay all of my debts back–I really do–I made the debt and it is mine to own, but how do I when the rates are so high? I am at an average of 21% interest.

Many thanks,


Dear Elizabeth,

I get the desire to pay back what you owe, but that’s not going to happen right now. You need to adjust your priorities and focus on food, shelter, and utilities first before you make $1 in debt payments. In fact, if you have any money left over after paying the basics, you need to save that before you give it to the credit card companies. You need to protect yourself first right now.

The bigger issue here is that unless you can replace the income, you are going to be close to being homeless soon. After all, how can you use all your unemployment to pay the rent and then what are you going to use for the rest of the necessities.

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If you want to stay in Manhattan then you’ll probably have to rent a room or move in with a friend to reduce your living expenses. Yes, it does suck. But you might just find this is the kick in the pants you need to broaden your horizons. I understand there are almost 9,000 jobs open in Bismarck, ND so maybe looking afar for a new opportunity right now isn’t such a bad idea.

What you will probably have in your future is a bankruptcy. Now bankruptcy does not mean you are a bad person and nothing in bankruptcy prevents you from repaying your debt if you want to. but bankruptcy is the only legal tool you have to break free from debt that will otherwise drown you.

Please update me on your progress by posting updates here in the comments section of your question. I’m very interested in how this works out for you.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

P.S. Be sure to read ‘The Secret of Surviving Through Difficult Economic Times. What I Learned On My Journey‘.

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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