April Showers bring May Flowers…
Spring isn’t arriving very quickly here in Ontario. We are in the tail end of what we are hoping will be the final blast of winter. The beginnings of tulips and daffodils are starting to pop through the dirt, and the birds are singing. We are still inside, though, waiting for the sunshine and warmer weather.
There have been a few changes lately. I read that mortgage rates will continue to rise in Ontario. I’m personally seeing the stress test affect buyers, and house sales seemed to have slowed down. (Some say it hasn’t, but here’s an article that spends more time debating it then finding out the facts.) Plus, the standardized lease for residential tenants and landlords takes effect in a couple of weeks.
Life As I Knew It…
As you know, I’m battling an old student loan debt with a collections agency, and I can’t say it’s going well. A couple weeks after I reached out to the company, I still had not received my statement of loans. I did, however, receive a letter from them. Inadvertently, I may have made a comment about income. Bad move! The letter said, “we have learned that you are employed. If we do not hear from you within 10 days with a repayment plan, we will be recommending legal action be commenced against you.”
I called them immediately. How dare they send me a letter threatening me, when I am still waiting for them to prove authenticity of the debt!
My (Not So Humble) Opinion
When you are in collections, it seems like the rule of thumb is to not contact them until you have means to pay. While that may not be the right thing to do, it seems the safest.
Do Your Due Diligence
I can say I did my due diligence. I called the government. I called student loan centres. I’m satisfied that I owe this debt, but that doesn’t lessen the desire to see a statement.
When I had spoken to the supervisor at the collections company, he had recommended a few different ways to pay off this debt. It seems to be a standard list of suggestions, most of which made me inwardly laugh. If I had access to most of these suggestions, I wouldn’t be in that position in the first place!
Suggestion: Pay it in full. Great idea. I don’t routinely keep $10k sitting around, so that’s not so much a thing.
Suggestion: Borrow money from family. Gee, why didn’t I think of that? Sorry, not an option in my family.
Suggestion: Get someone to co-sign a loan. Umm… see above.
Suggestion: Cash advance on credit cards and pay off loan. Yikes! This option is not a good one. Borrowing to pay off debt is never a good option, and cash advances are not like your regular charge on a credit card. Cash advances are charged daily interest, and are the last segment of debt paid off when you make payments against your balance. Most cards have a limit as to how much can be “cash advanced”, and its usually lower than the limit of the card.
Suggestion: Play the balance transfer option on credit cards until it’s paid in full. SMH.
Suggestion: Fill out a transparent budgeting sheet, complete with account numbers, institutions and whatever else they desire, and make a repayment plan. I gave my permission for the company to send me the form. This was the only option I could take.
I started to work on the form, and decided I was not comfortable disclosing all of the information they requested. I called up the company, and she said I could block out the account numbers. Their only interest was to receive confirmation that the numbers on the budget were in fact accurate.
When the Hustle Isn’t Working
Here’s the part that really got me.
Once I had completed my due diligence, my intention was to hustle like I’ve never hustled before. I wanted that debt paid off in full as soon as possible. That blemish was holding me back, and in combination with other debts I am paying off, it was keeping me up at night, and distracting me during the day.
I started throwing as much money as I could at it. The payments that were once directed at credit card debt were now covering the minimums and going towards this account. I had made four different payments in two weeks, paying off a whopping 3% of the amount owing.
She said they still want an agreement because of my history.
I wanted to shout. Scream. Cry. What history? The history of the collections company saying there was no statement to provide? There was no history, as I had no idea this debt existed! But it did. And I hadn’t been paying. I suppose that makes sense. If I was the creditor, I’d be even more aggressive. But I’m a person. So naturally, I was offended, and yet, I understand.
Hey, You. Yes. You.
There’s a big part of me that hopes this post is never useful to you, because that means you have not, or are not, going through debt problems. I am only human, which tells me it’s more likely I am not alone. I know, however, that many people will not talk about these problems as they are embarrassing, humiliating perhaps, and entirely annoying. Don’t let your pride or your perceived pride get in the way of taking care of your debts. You can’t run from them, and there’s no way to make them disappear. There’s no bankruptcy from Canadian student loans.
With that said, I am still on the hustle to get this paid off. I started my first freelancing writing gig (I write for a retail gift site). I’ve applied to positions that allow me to work from home (more work, less transit time). Some sites offer payment for use, and there’s aways surveys, mobile apps and affiliate referrals. I am saving up as best I can, and I am cutting spending at the knees.
Have you noticed my Virtual Assistant page? I started a new course to help me build up my side hustle business. It’s called $10k VA with Kayla Sloan. She is so friendly, helpful, and really supportive. Now is the time to start if you are thinking about it, because her prices are going up. As they should – so far I’m loving the material.
Staying On Top Of Finances
I track my spending in a planner, much like an Erin Condren Life Planner. It’s dedicated to finances only, and I mark each bill or authorized withdrawal in it. Every two weeks, I get paid, and I look at the calendar to see what is coming up for the next two weeks. I deduct those expenses, and I write down every transaction that has gone through my accounts over the last two weeks.
By writing each transaction down, I can see if there are any fraudulent entries, and I can take note of any spending issues or habits forming. It’s great for lifestyle creep as well. I also make note of how much interest I was charged on my credit card balances, if I carry one.
Every two weeks, I also have a chart that I fill out. It lists my main accounts (chequing, travel, emergency fund, all credit cards). I write in the balances of each account, and monitor that they are going in the direction they should be.
The travel account is added to automatically each payday. This is my saving grace of accounts. I know I could be directing this money to debt. I also know that a vacation helps my sanity. I have a small amount going to the travel fund so that my partner and I can go away to a budget-friendly resort at least once a year. It is comforting to know that, while I am giving up spending and hustling so hard, I will be rewarded by that vacation no matter what happens.
The emergency fund is an account that just sits and collects
dust interest. My emergency fund is low, usually around $1,000 – $1,500. This account is for the true emergency. (I am going to admit: Worst case, I rely on credit while I am paying off the debt.)
This is my life right now. I hustle at work, and then head home to try to find more hustle opportunities. Malls and stores are visited on a need-only basis, and the only shopping I’ve done lately is for cat food, litter and toner for my printer – which died right in the middle of printing my tax return.
Do you have any recommendations? What do you do for side hustles or extra income? Tell me in the comments, or join me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. What the heck, click a few ads or two, that would be fun too!
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