Surviving Rock Bottom (Finale)

Over a month and a half later, and this plot line is finally wrapped up!

If you’ll recall, my husband and I were going through a financial hardship back in March. We owed a lot to the IRS for taxes, and I’d had one of my bank accounts hacked, too!

Well, despite a lot of research and discussion, we weren’t able to find a way out of the tax debt, but I finally got my money back! So, you know, there’s…something.

SRBF

Looking back on the whole situation, I’m pretty happy with the way we handled it. In dealing with the tax issue, we talked to several people for advice, and did a lot of research. We were able to take a good look at our money and determine what areas we could pull from to pay for the debt. Then, when it became obvious that we still weren’t able to get the money in time ourselves, we put aside our pride and asked for help.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything we could have done better in that situation.

After dealing with the banks and Google Plus (which is how the money was stolen), there was definitely a lot I wasn’t happy with, but it’s not really something I can change. It may help you to have these tips, though.

  1. Make sure your bank will fight for you from the start.
    What bothered me the most about my particular situation is that my bank wasn’t willing to fight for my money on my behalf unless I showed them proof that I had tried and failed to make any progress. This is total crap. What is a bank for except to hold and protect your money? If you’re in the market for a new bank, make sure to ask them about their policies regarding fraud. If they won’t handle a difficult situation like this for you from the start, you probably don’t want to give them control of your money.
  2. Be careful about what sites you buy from.
    We still aren’t totally sure how my card numbers were stolen, but it may have been from a site I used to get a bridesmaid’s dress. The site in question is prefectbridal.com. A further search into this site revealed that some people had experienced problems with their products and website in the past. I received my dress without any apparent issues, but I do wish I had checked for reviews on this site before I made the purchase. If you’re not sure about a site, do a search of the website name and the word “scam.” If anything comes up with people sharing bad experiences, avoid the site, even if it means you have to spend a little more. Again, we have no way of confirming that this site is the source of the issue, but it’s still a useful tip.
  3. Don’t take “no” for an answer.
    In order to get my money back, I had to spend a lot of time on the phone, or chats with Google Play trying to figure out what had happened. This was incredibly frustrating, especially when I could tell half the time people were just spouting a scripted, “I know how stressful this must be for you.” Since I’ve worked a phone job before, I have a hard time being rude to people on the phone. I’ve been on the other side, so I just don’t want to make someone else feel the way I did. But honestly, if you’ve lost a large sum of money, the situation is serious. Don’t waste your time talking to someone who has no idea what they’re saying. Request a transfer to someone in charge, and make sure that they speak the same language as you. Being firm may feel terribly rude to you, but keep it businesslike and the person on the other end won’t fault you.

So, there we go. A few tips that will hopefully help you avoid any problems like the ones I had to deal with.

Extra Cash, APPEAR!

eca

If only, right?

I’m taking a short break from the Principles of Success series because I realized that, other than some generic descriptions of how to change your mindset, I haven’t been giving any tips lately! Don’t worry, there will be more principles later!

Anyway, here’s an update on our rock bottom situation. It’s been almost a month since we discovered that my bank account had been cleared out. After having to deal with multiple people who didn’t seem to know anything, I’ve basically decided that the money is gone, but I’m still working with the bank. Hopefully it’ll all work out.

We’ve also finally got all the money together to pay for the taxes that we owed. Man, writing that check hurt!

Now, in the aftermath of one of the most stressful months in our recent history, we’re at the point where we can move forward. I just checked our finances today and they’re definitely going to be tight. So, the next question is; how can I make some extra cash on the side?

In the past, I’ve tried various online methods. Keep in mind, that these are very easy.

Easy does not mean lucrative.

Normally, I’ll do these a little bit throughout the year and then cash in whatever I can around Christmas to ease those costs. Here are a few of the ones that I’ve used in the past (all links are referrals):

Online Surveys
This method can be helpful, but you’ve got to be willing to go through some mind numbing work. I’ve used several different websites for this.

  • Pinecone Research
    This is my favorite survey/product testing site. Once you’re a member, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you qualify for whatever survey you take. They send you a survey, you take it, you earn 300 points (equivalent to $3). You’ll normally get about 2-6 surveys per month, so it’s not a huge amount, but there’s no minimum withdrawal amount, so you can cash out any time!
  • Opinion Outpost
    I’ve had a lot of success with this one as well, but you do have to worry about not qualifying for surveys. There are almost always surveys available, but you’ll probably be disqualified from at least half of the ones you click on. Still, it’s possible to make about $10 per week if you really go for it, which can get you over $500 per year. Not too bad, especially when you only need $10 to cash out.
  • Swagbucks
    I really dislike this one. It claims that you can make a ton of money on surveys, but I’ve never had much luck. They mostly want you to use the offers section, so you can sign up for services and memberships that you probably don’t want (warning, some of them are really hard to get out of!). Otherwise, you’re making tiny, piddling amounts of points. Not worth it.
  • Inbox Dollars
    See above. Totally not worth the time.

Grocery Apps
These can be really great, but make sure to double up these deals with your store’s weekly sales, for maximum savings!

  • SavingStar
    I’ve had the most success with this one. I’m pretty sure the cash out minimum is only $5.00, so you don’t have to spend forever racking up enough money. You can also access this on the Internet, so you don’t have to rely on your cell phone.
  • Ibotta
    This one’s pretty good, too. It’s really simple, but I don’t remember it all the time, and most of the brands listed are out of my budget. You have to have $20 to cash out, which can take a while to get. The only issue I’ve had is being able to use it on my devices. As a Windows Phone owner, I can’t get this app, and you can’t use it online. I have to use my husband’s phone to get these deals. It does work on iPhone, iPad, and Android phones (but not Kindle tablets).
  • Checkout51
    This one is basically the same as Ibotta, but it seems to have more niche brands. I’ve not heard of some of the ones that I’ve seen, so it’s a little hard for me to earn money with it. I haven’t been able to cash out yet.

There are a few other methods, like using Ebates or other such sites to earn cash back when you’re shopping online, but I didn’t include that, because it often encourages you to spend more than you ordinarily would just to get more cash back.

After figuring out that our finances were going to be tight, I checked my various accounts on these sites to see if I could cash out anything. It turned out that I had over $90 across these sites that I could cash out without even knowing it! As rough of a time as we’re going through right now, every penny counts, so that was a nice surprise!

Have you ever tried any sites like this? Are there any that you would recommend that I left out?

Efficient Housekeeping

Since it’s just the two of us, I’ve found that I tend to be a little more lax about keeping up with chores than I want to be when I have kids. Now that we’re truly in the mindset to have children, I want to begin living life the way we will when we do have them. Although I don’t intend to work once we have kids (right now I work full time), I’m trying to improve my homemaking with a busy schedule.

This means my main goal is efficiency. I have to get the most out of my time.

efficienthousekeeping

Determine your priorities.

I know we all want a clean house that looks like it would fit on the cover of a magazine, but let’s face it; that’s unnecessary. Unless you’ve got the time to really clean up and have your family trained to constantly pick up after themselves, that ideal is just going to stress you out.

Before you get started with any cleaning, you need to prioritize and make a plan. What does your family need most to live happy, healthy lives?

In my book, that’s food on the table, clean clothes, and to live someplace that isn’t hazardous.

eh1

Don’t worry about perfection.

Ideally, you’d be able to feed your family healthy, 100% nourishing meals. In the real world, when you’ve just finished a full day of work, it can be difficult to handle much more than a Hamburger Helper or crock pot meal. Anything you make at home is better than fast food, though, so don’t get too hung up on the specifics.

In our house, every Wednesday is pizza night. After trying multiple different recipes for homemade pizza, I decided that it was more efficient for my household if we just stick with buying regular Digiorno pizzas. It’s not as healthy, but it saves me time and it tastes better, so it’s worth it to me.

eh2

Research things that will make life easier for you.

Are there chores that you find yourself dreading every week? Whether it’s laundry, or dishes, or cleaning the bathroom, it’s pretty normal for everyone to have one thing that they just don’t want to do.

For me, that thing is doing the dishes. We have a dishwasher in our apartment, but we don’t use it (I get into the reasoning behind that here). Instead, I wash all of our dishes by hand every week. After a few days, the pile gets big and scary. Every time I started my task, I felt overwhelmed by everything from there not being enough counter space to dry everything, to the plates being too heavy.

After a few months of struggling through the chore, I started looking up tips on how to deal with dishes in a small apartment. As dumb as it sounds, I needed to research the best way to wash dishes. Isn’t it crazy how difficult something becomes once you get used to a machine doing it automatically? Anyway, after going through those tips (I’ll post about those later, I promise!), I finally stopped feeling stressed when I did the dishes. In fact, once I get started, I almost enjoy doing it! You know, until you touch that random bit of food in the water. Blech!

The point is, if something seems to be a huge struggle for you, ask what other people are doing to get past the problem. Everyone has to deal with basic chores. Between the 300 million people in America alone, I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone with an idea that works for you.

eh4

Stick with what works.

Once you’ve found a method that works for an extended period of time, stop looking!

For instance, I’ve tried a lot of different methods of paying my bills and I always end up writing everything down in a notebook. Being able to hold the physical list of what I need to do feels more real and urgent to me than receiving another notification on my phone. I still use Mint to track my spending and so that I can see all of my account balances on one page, but I know that the bill pay service is not something that will work for me.

But my methods shouldn’t be anything more than an alternate idea for you. Don’t pay any attention to what the latest trends on Pinterest or Instagram are. If you try it and you find that it doesn’t work for you, then it’s not efficient and it’s not worth your time.

What do you think? Do you have any tips for running an efficient household?

Surviving Rock Bottom

So, today’s post is not something I’m happy to write about. Unfortunately for us, my husband and I are going through a really difficult time right now. Within the last few days, we’ve discovered that one of my bank card numbers was stolen and the account was subsequently emptied within 24 hours. Then, we went to get our taxes done, and discovered that we owe an entire month’s worth of bills to the government.

It’s an incredibly frustrating situation. For the entire time that we’ve been together, we’ve lived paycheck to paycheck. We save what we can here and there, but it’s not something we can do consistently. I’m sure a lot of you who’ve graduated college in the past ten years or so have an idea of what it’s like. One time I found an article that said you’re supposed to only use 50% of your paycheck to pay bills and I laughed out loud. What an absurd number when you’ve got over $100,000 in student loan debt (I’m keeping that goal in mind once our loans are paid off, but for now it’s not something we can manage).

Anyway, after going through the ordeal we’ve just been through, I’ve come up with a few steps to surviving this incredibly stressful situation.

rockbottom

1. Process your Emotions

Before you try to figure it out, give yourself enough time to fully process your emotions about the situation. If you need to cry, or vent, or be completely silent, do so. DO NOT try to make any decisions when you’re hysterical and stressed out. Let your mind run through the possible options while you’re doing something else. Remind yourself of what’s important. You can always earn more money. Even though this may feel like your life is falling apart, you can bounce back. Think about all of the things you still have.

*Remember, if you are going through this situation with a significant other, that they will have their own way of dealing with the situation, too. Don’t yell at them if they need to vent and you need silence. How you deal with stressful situations together is a very important part of a relationship, and your relationship should come first.

rb4

2. Question the Debt

If you owe, is there any way you can fight or lower the amount owed? Can you request a payment plan?

If your employer didn’t take enough taxes out, try using this IRS Withholding Calculator to find out what they should take out. If it’s different from what you’re paying, then you should print out the final page and take it in to your employer and ask them to change the amount.

If your money had been stolen, call your bank immediately and ask what the necessary steps are to getting your money back. Also, change all of your passwords, especially if you use the same one for everything (which I was guilty of prior to this instance).

rb1.jpg

3. Check your Money

Take a hard look at your financial situation. Is there any wiggle room? Do you have money saved up for something that can be put off? Can you fit a second job into your schedule to help get money together quickly? Are you willing to? Is there anything you’ve been considering selling in order to get a little more money? Now might be the time to do that. Most people who get their paychecks biweekly will normally have two months out of the year where they’ll get an extra paycheck. If you happen to be in the month that this occurs for you, do some checking to see if you can use that money.

rb2.jpg

4. Swallow your Pride

Once you’ve exhausted all of your options that you can handle on your own, consider outside help. Not everyone has access to family members who would be able to spare any money, but it is a possibility for some. In a situation like this, don’t let your pride get in the way of protecting your family. If you can find someone to lend you some money, do so.

Have you ever had to deal with something like this? What other tips do you have for someone going through this situation? Let me know in the comments below!