I’m a Single Mother. How Can I Get Out of This Debt and Get Ahead in Life? – Shauna

“Dear Steve,

Hi, Steve! My name is Shauna and I am a 22 year old single mother attending a community college and living at home with my mother and three other siblings in a 3 bedroom apartment. A lot, right?

Well, the thing is that I used to attend an university but was kicked out due to a substantial financial hold on my school account. I didn’t wanna go back home so I got an apartment that I knew I would struggle with rent payments for. I was there for 2 or 3 months until I got pregnant and had to go home (I was also behind on rent and was possibly getting evicted soon, anyway).

NOW, I have a debt of almost 6K from school and the apartment (the apartment being the bulk of it since the lease was for a year). I wanna get a car to get to and from school with. My mom has the only vehicle but because one of my siblings is graduating early and going to work, she will also need transportation from school early and to work.

I also want to move out and get my own apartment because one of my siblings is sleeping on the couch because my baby and I are sleeping in his room now. I can’t get anything with this debt affecting my credit.

I just recently got a job working minimum wage at a restaurant and joined a program that will help with gas to and from school and daycare. What can I do? I feel like a burden here and very dependent. Please help me!

How can I get out of this debt to get ahead in life?


Dear Shauna,

I’ve been helping people since 1994 to deal with financial problems and difficulties. Some really excel and find a great new life after debt. Some just fold under the pressure and decide that despair will be their future.

The key factors to making it is one that nobody can give you. You have to muster it up yourself. They keys – hard work, perseverance, never giving up, and setting your eyes on the goal.

The goal can’t be something material though. It must be a vision of a life you want to live. Material stuff is emotionally hollow and will be unfulfilling. It’s just stuff. But a future that brings you joy and happiness for you, your child, and the people around you, well, that’s special.

Focus on the emotions you want inside your future home. Not the home itself.
Focus on the emotions you want inside your future home. Not the home itself.

And the ability to persevere is rare and hard to come by. It means constantly getting back up and taking that next step forward when you get knocked back by life. It’s hard and not fun stuff but it is the core of moving forward.

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You’ve been kicked down pretty hard by circumstances and getting back up has to be measured in small victories at first and then larger ones as you move forward.

This adventure is not going to be a sprint. It’s going to be a marathon. You have a lot to overcome here but you can do it.

Before we can worry about the debt we need to worry about the income. Your income is available in three areas. There is the money you make and the money you are eligible for.

I would urge you to go to benefits.gov and find every single program you are eligible for and then slog through the paperwork and qualification process. I don’t care how boring that process is. You must do it.

You need to pursue the father of the child for child support. That child support is not for you to spend but to help support his child. That help will help to lessen your burden and give you a bit more of a chance to move forward with your life.

Then there is the money you make. I need for you to be the best employee at your job, day-after-day. Don’t bitch about your job, embrace it. If you don’t like your job, find a better one.

You need to work every day to provide maximum value for your employer so they can see the benefit you bring to the job and reward you with additional pay or responsibilities. Your job owes you nothing but opportunity.

I want you to be ten minutes early every shift. Come in with a smile, ask what else you can do, be kind to the customers and work hard. Over time, excellent work is rewarded or creates new opportunities.

Once we improve the income then we can turn towards the debt. Focus on the income first and then report back to me and keep me posted in the comments or on my Facebook page about your progress.

You said you feel like a burden. I can understand that feeling. But right now it’s because you see your current reality as your future. It’s not if you don’t let it be.

Look at your current reality as a blessing instead. Apparently you have a mother that loves you and is willing to help. You have a roof over your head and food on the table.

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

Start dreaming of that future I told you about. Create a vision board like I recently did with my Pinterest account. Track images and stories that typify where you want to head with your life.

If you can’t envision a destination you are just wandering blindly in circles.Click to Tweet

Please download a free copy of my book The Path to Happiness and Wealth as my gift to you on your journey. It will help you to align your reality with your path and give you some clarity about the adventure before you.

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By the time you’ve read down to this point, I’ve either cracked the door a bit and you see I’ve laid out a realistic plan or you feel like a victim and that life owes you something. If you feel like a victim and you just want the things you listed without committing yourself to the path I laid out, there’s not much myself or others can do for you at this point. You’re not ready yet.

But if what I’ve said resonates with you and you are willing to work and try to focus on the future through study, hard work and perseverance then this is the first day of your new and fabulous life that awaits you.

Props to the community college. Community colleges offer an amazing opportunity to help people walk a path towards higher education. My father begin his journey of higher education at a very small community college in an old elementary school and became the first political science Ph.D. graduate from Michigan State. Big destinations start with but a humble step.

Bottom line: focus on maximizing income, child support, and benefits and then report back.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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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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