Ask The Get Out of Debt Experts How To Get Out Of Debt

What Can I Do to Take Charge of My Horrible Finances and Get Out of Debt?

Written by Steve Rhode


Dear Steve,

I am a Navy Veteran, who became a stay at home mom, who came from a line of stay at home mom’s, who was an entitled child who didn’t have to earn or learn anything, because I was just given love, attention, and money when I needed it.

I am not a selfish person, quite the opposite, but schooling and money was never brought into my life growing up. I never had to see paper exchanged in the Navy, never dealt with insurance or emergency medical visits.

My pregnancy was paid for with no exchange of information even. I didn’t have money growing up either, so I didn’t necessarily get everything I wanted. My main issue is I never learned how to be frugal, and I am not. I never learned the true value of a dollar. I never saw money come and go, until after my divorce.

Now I am a full time single mother of an 8 year old, and I became highly financially dependent on my now ex-boyfriend. I quit a good paying job ($22 an hour…) due to depression, and I am so ashamed at letting myself get here.

I keep paddling but I’m running aground. I have medical bills unpaid, an eviction under my belt, I owe money to every company you can imagine, except for credit cards– I never applied for one because I knew what would happen. I need help, drastic help. I am ready to take charge and figure out what my first step is, but I am so overwhelmed and want to take the RIGHT step that will work in everyone’s favor.

I am a 28 year old woman, and I can’t get it out of my head that I’m still 18 just starting out. My ex husband and I are civil and decided that as long as my son is covered under his insurance and his medical visits are taken care of I wasn’t going to ask for child support or alimony, even though he makes a substantial amount more than I do. I just wanted the clean slate, I want everyone to be happy and I don’t want to ruin his life for 18 years by taking all of his money. I need a direction here, I’m ready. I’m ready to take charge of this.

What steps can I take that will effectively get me on track, and help me find out where all my debt is? I’ve moved so much and I know I have many bills unpaid, how can I get everything in one location so that I can begin to understand what I need to pay off? What resources do I have? Is bankruptcy my only option?

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Dear Allyson,

You’ve done the best thing you can do, asked for help. The first step of any recovery is admitting you have a problem and asking for help.

The way we deal with money is less dependent on numbers than it is about our personalities. I would suggest you take the money personality test and see if that helps you to uncover your underlying money personality.

There are a number of issues that drive how we relate to money. And when it comes to debt it is the symptom of the issues that led us into trouble. If you can’t uncover how or why you spend or deal with money, you’ll never break the cycle.

Here is an Ultimate Truth

Not everyone is good at everything. Some people are great at accounting while others are more creative. Some love to budget, others hate to budget. You are not necessarily good at dealing with money. And when it comes to relationships, savers tend to attract spenders.

Fundamentally dealing with money is about math. Money in and money out. But when it comes to forecasting how we are going to deal with obligations, people vary wildly on their inherent skills in dealing with their own behavioral economics.

You might want to read How to Get Out of Debt. The Honest and Unvarnished Truth.

So you find yourself at a self-aware crossroad. There are two roads you can follow. You can turn right and pursue the punishing road of digging yourself out of the mess with years of payments and penance. But at what cost?

You should read What Repaying Your Debt Will Cost You in Retirement so you can make the best decision possible for you to understand what that path can cost you.

Or you can turn left and make this your teachable moment, learn from your experience, become more self-aware, and start with a clean slate and do better.

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In that case you should read Those That File Bankruptcy Do Better Than Those That Don’t.

You ask if bankruptcy is right for you but only you can answer that question. All I can do is point out to you what the facts are. You should always consider meeting with a local bankruptcy attorney or two and finding out what bankruptcy would mean for you.

You should also understand that your mental health and/or depression plays an important role in being stuck in the debt rut.

You should read Survey Finds Debt Equals Depression For Many: Women at risk to suffer with financial depression.

“Depression creates an inability to conquer financial problems,” said Staff Psychologist Joe James. “People become emotionally paralyzed, which leads to the inability to develop a plan or take action and compounds their financial problems. This is why people who are having money troubles should get extensive professional help as soon as possible.”

So tackling your depression with medical care is a critical step to dealing with a better financial future. Depression leads to the inability to follow through and take action and that might sound familiar. I would suggest you tackle the depression first.

If you do decide to close the door on your past financial problems and start fresh with bankruptcy, which is your legal right, you can then get a better handle on your personal math.

Moving forward you need to make sure your obligations fit within your income and you are saving money. You might want to read Here’s How to Build the Best Budget.

Rather than get stuck in regret, my wish for you is that you make this a new day and do better moving forward. That approach makes the most logical and most mathematically sound approach. There is little you can do to repair the past without ignoring your future.


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.

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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