Financial problems popped up, I'm in trouble!


Crazy for Cochins
10 Years
Apr 24, 2009
Tab, Indiana
Let me start off by saying I work hard, I am in retail and I work my butt off, and I feel like I am not appreciated even one little bit for my hard work. I am a professional photographer and I love working with children and making memories for families. I love it when a family likes me enough to come back over and over again and I get to see the children grow up. But the company I work for is really something else. First off, they won't let any of the studios employ more than one person full time. Ok, I can deal with only working part time. I like my job, and in this economy I'm not stupid enough to quit before having something else lined up first, but I'll be with this company for a full year this month and guess what? I don't get a raise. Let me go back to when I first started, when I first started it was about 2 weeks before the Illinois wages law changed and minimum wage went from $7.50 an hour to $7.75, and well, I was suppose to get a pay increase after my first 45 days. Well, my company decided that I was only going to move up to minimum wage! My studio manager tried to ask her manager several times to at least move me up to $8.00 an hour but she refused to budge. So I barely scraped by for a few months, and really considered quitting, before they incorporated a "spiff" program where if we sold a certain amount or higher to a customer, we would earn a percentage of that sale, like if I sold $59.99 to $79.98, I would earn $2.00. $79.99 to $99.98 I'd earn $3, and so on. Well, I work HARD for those spiffs, so hard that I was taking my meager $275 bi-weekly paychecks up to more than $400 before taxes (anywhere from $325 to $350 after taxes). I live for those spiffs because without them I couldn't afford anything. I moved from the Chicago area in April of last year because we couldn't afford to live there anymore. I couldn't find work after I got sick and then had a botched surgery in early 2007, and we were on a downward spiral. So I packed my mom, my two kids, and our zoo up and we left. We researched a lot of different places and I visited several different states trying to find a good, affordable place for us to live. We happened to find the house we have now on Craigslist, of all places, and on Easter of 2008 I packed up the family and we came down to see the house. It was big, it was out in the country, and we all agreed that, while it needed work, we loved it. Everyone would have their own room, the zoo would have space, and even thought it was big enough to swallow up our old house back North, it was infinitely cheaper than the old house. We lost the old house in a weird, freak foreclosure that I won't even try to explain right now, but it didn't reflect badly on us, but from years of struggling up there both my mom and I had bad credit and without a job I wasn't going to have anyone give me a loan to buy a house, so we felt that the best option was rent to own, and this house was available both as a rent to own, or as straight purchase. So we are renting to own. My mom retired in 2007 and her health has been taking a slow road South, so when I moved out this way I brought her with cause I want to keep an eye on her. Nervous Nelly that I am (I mean come on, she's the only mom I have!). I also knew that finding work would be so much easier if I had someone to watch my kids, and she was as eager as I was to get away from Chicago. And so we moved down to West Central Indiana on April 3rd of last year. Once we got unpacked some and learned our way around, I started applying for jobs. One of the first places I applied was to the photo studio I work for now, however the bigger boss came in and chose another girl over me, even though I had prior photography experience, and that girl flaked after 3 weeks, broke 2 $1,200 cameras, and decided to just stop coming in to work, so my current studio manager called me back and begged me to come in for a second interview. She had wanted me in the beginning and she was my main supporter when the bigger boss came in to do the final interview. But she liked me too, and I was hired, and so here I have been, working, supporting my family, trying to survive. The bills here are sooooooooooo much cheaper, but lately we've been having other problems. Like here I am at my one year mark on the 30th of this month, and I am not getting a raise. I almost cried when my studio manager told me that. Instead, the company has decided to make these "bonuses" that we have to work towards, in 4 12 weeks segments. If we don't keep our sales up, our sittings up, and follow all the rules, including doing all the paperwork right and keeping our labor down, we lose out on our chance at the bonus. So my studio manager Kathy and I worked furiously hard for 12 weeks long, without first being told that this bonus was replacing any chance of a raise, and amazingly we not only made the bonus, we made 100% of it. Yes, depending on how a studio does, we can win all or just some of the bonus. My studio, and one other in our district were the only ones to get a full 100% of the bonus. Oh I worked soooooo hard for it, and it finally showed up on the paycheck I got Friday. Know how much I earned? A whopping $52. I again nearly cried. So I am suppose to work hard for this company, NOT get raises, and only POSSIBLY get bonuses that should rightfully be mine every 12 WEEKS!
Needless to say, I am furious. I live 30 miles from Danville, and slowly the two cars we had were dying. First my Ford went. I had to drive up to Chicago in January of this year because my best friend died, and while I was driving up there my trans started to go. It finally bit the dust while I was there, and I had to find an emergency car while I was there, and well, in a rush I bought a lemon. It got me home, and it got me to and from work for all of a month before the radiator went. I don't know much about cars, but I know that tons of steam coming from under the hood has something to do with the radiator. And so I parked the car in front of the house and there it has sat since early March. My neighbor worked on my mom's station wagon and I've been taking in to work, but there are serious problems with it. She took it in July of '08 to the Ford dealer in Hoopeston to get some general work done. When she first bought the car in early '08 the front passenger window didn't work, and the rear driver's side window didn't work. So, instead of removing the dashboard and properly replacing the wiring, the guy decided to jerry rig some wires UNDER the dashboard and tie them into the fuse box. Well, she got to drive it all of a few weeks before something happened and the dash suddenly stopped working. It's a digital dash and suddenly she couldn't read the odometer, her speed, nothing. Then the car died completely. Well, it sat over the winter while we both relied on the Ford, and just one day before the new Nissan died, my neighbor who had been laid off and was bored came over and asked if he could look at the Mercury wagon and see if he could figure out why it wasn't running. He fixed it in one afternoon (turns out one of the battery posts was really loose), and the very next day I had no choice but to take the Mercury to work. Well, it's making noises now cause I know it needs a tune up, and then, just in time for this last check, right after I placed two bids on e-bay for eggs, I blew TWO TIRES. First one went, and I got a new tire, had someone help me put it on, and I thought with my tight budget I would be ok til my next paycheck. Then my mom needed a ride yesterday morning to the vet. So we got in the car, we went, and all was fine going, but on the way back, coming down the highway, another tire blew. And we were too far from the house for me to try and limp the car back without doing serious damage to the rim, so I had to call a tow truck.
I got towed no more than 8 miles but it cost $77. Can you say "Ouch!" Timing lucked out where my friend was coming down from Chicago yesterday afternoon and when he got to my house he took me and my flat tire to the WalMart in Danville and I paid another $92 for the tire to get replaced. So here I am, 2 days after payday, all I have left in my bank account is $72, and I am low on food in my house, and I still need gas in my car for the next two weeks, and the two bids I had made on e-bay? I am top bidder on both, and I can't get out of either one. Once those are over I'll be down another nearly $30. I am so depressed right now. I budget my paychecks pretty close so that my bank account isn't in the negative, and so that my lights don't get turned off, and had I not blown the two tires and needed the towing, I'd have enough money for gas, food, and any pet supplies I would need for the next two weeks. I don't know what to do. My first thought is to sell most of the eggs I win in the bid, cause I can't afford to keep them and incubate them, I just can't afford it. My only other option is to sell some of the new chicks I paid for with my last paycheck, and that arrived June 5th. Either option isn't going to really make me enough money to feed 4 people and keep gas in my car for the next two weeks. I CANNOT miss work this entire week because my boss is on vacation, and the only help we have will NOT work on a moment's notice, and my boss will be in Florida visiting her best friend, so if the car breaks down, or I run out of gas money, I may as well just consider myself out of a job, cause the bigger boss will fire me. Even though I was just offered a possible studio manager in training position. But get this, they want me to float between 3 studios, waiting for one of the current studio managers to quit (or more likely, get FIRED), and for only a $1.25 more an hour, WITHOUT travel pay reimbursement. They want me to travel between my current studio in Danville (30 miles, 30 minutes away, Champaign (60 miles, 60 minutes away, and Terre Haute Indiana (? miles, 1 1/2 hours away). I haven't said yes or no cause the stipulation is that I mandatory have to be willing to take one the studio manager position of whichever studio has an opening first. I couldn't handle 3 hours drive each day to Terre Haute, and I don't want to. I can't afford this company's insurance either, so we are without any. I'm not on public assistance. I really wanted to start my online schooling this year, get it going so I can get a better job and be able to better support my family. My mom's money only goes so far too, and her bank account is way up in Chicago, and they won't give her a bank card, so she can only write checks. She's found two places down here willing to take her checks, K-Mart and Food For Less. Whoopee! She bought me my chicken coop as my birthday present by writing me a check for the amount, and then I cashed it and paid the guy who built it in cash cause he wouldn't take a check. Can't say I blame him in today's society though. But she's strapped this month cause she's had expenses come up, and bills that had to get paid. I really don't know what to do. If anyone has taken the time to read this from beginning to end, and you have some advice, please, share it, before I lose my mind. I don't know what to do. I already suffer from depression, and I can't afford my meds, so this added stress is just getting to be too much. Please, if anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it.
I have advise, but you may not like it.

First look into food stamps, and possiable cash aid (you may have to have kids, I know in CA you do), and certainly the state's version of medicaid for low income families. Honestly you need the help and I'm sure taxes that support these programs is already taken from your pay as is.

Second, resell the ebay eggs, ask if they can hold off shipping for a week or so, try to sell them either craigslist or in the eggs for sale here, to try and get some money back.

Third you already know you need to find a second job, or a better job, get to looking, it doesn't sound like you're going to move on in your company (sometime's it's all about the DM's favorites and not at all about you).

If I read correctly and your mom is on SSD or SSI, they should be able to load her benifits on a debit card to her account (called an EBT card in CA).
I know, life has its way of throwing one thing after another at you, and at the worst possible time!!!! I wish I had some way to help you, cause I would, but I second the state assistance idea. Our kids are on medicaid, and although we don't qualify for food stamps free medical benefits are awesome! That might take a chunk out of your monthy spending.

If you're hard up for chicken food, consider free ranging during the day. The chickens will go into their coop on their own at night, just make sure you keep their water and supplemental food in the coop so they know it's home.

I'm so sorry you're going through this! Keep your chin up, and say a prayer...eventually the storm will blow over!!!

BTW, you should put some "enter" spaces in between paragraphs in your makes the reading a lot easier!!!
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Most of what you said is what I was figuring I would have to do anyway. I was on public aid in Illinois for awhile to help cause my little ones needed their doctor and we were on food stamps cause food was just too costly up there. But somehow, even though I contacted them repeatedly, they didn't cancel my food stamps til last November, and well, in need of food before they incorporated the spiff program, I used them. Wrong I know, but it was that or we didn't eat, and I was contacting Illinois, leaving messages, but getting no answer. I'm terrified that Indiana will contact Illinois, learn that I am still on one of those programs, and deny me. I started to try to apply to Indiana when I first moved out here, but I couldn't get a hold of my one daughter's ss number cause it was packed somewhere (still is, but we found it on a tax record too late), so they denied me based on lack of information. In Illinois they change your caseworkers faster than you can blink, and they NEVER pick up a phone. In order to actually do something I'd have to go all the way back up to my original office and get them to look me up and remove me. And even that would take awhile cause it's a long wait, and they constantly lose paperwork. Frustrating. My mom isn't on social security. She worked 28 years in a state run university making next to nothing, and now she is retired. Her poor health is just the bane of coming from our family, and the fact that she doesn't want to eat healthy enough. She is diabetic, though she doesn't need insulin yet, thank the good Lord, is arthritic, has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and has taken a few falls in the last year or two that have scared me. And in the last few months she thinks she suffered a mini stroke. So I watch her like a hawk. But she's not sick enough to be on social security. I think I'd have a better chance of getting on it than her with my health problems, though I've never tried. I always saw it as a cop out to go that route when I'm so young and I CAN work. Though I am limited in what I can safely do. I am a writer and photographer, and I do both rather well, but photography is where I make my living. I have been looking for other work, but around here the factories are laying people off, WalMart is even letting the higher paid people go and hiring in new ones at minimum wage (I overhear the management when they are outside on their smoke breaks. I don't smoke, but I sometimes sit out there at lunch) and a lot of places are closing down or downsizing. Work is limited, so that is why I am reluctant to leave my current job. The company and it's lame rules suck, but I love the kids and the photography, and if I had the money I would just go into business for myself. Heck, then people could include their animals in their pictures! (especially chickens!
) I wish I could afford a really good camera, a good printer, and props. I've won awards for my photography, online and at my old photography job years ago, before I was laid off from it. That would be a wonderful job. I could do weddings, birthdays, events, etc. I can dream, nothing wrong with that! My true dream is to get published as an author though. I already wrote two children's books, and I looked into self publishing, and well, that isn't going to happen. I don't have $20,000 in my pocket at any given time. So, for now it's work, dream, and eventually try to save. I am on the lookout though for a better job. I need first to find a better car. One that runs and has good, solid tires!!!!!
Oh, and I wanted to add, at almost the exact same time about two hours ago, I was outbid on both of my e-bay bids. I let loose one heck of a sigh of relief when I went to check on them and I saw that! Whew!!!!! So, as long as no one backs out of one of the bids, or anything like that, I am in the clear and I won't lose out on that money. Both bids went up and over $15 each, and that's without shipping! I'd be broke if either bidder backed out and I was stuck paying that! I think God is watching out for me. He is hearing my prayers, and I am keeping my faith strong. If God brings me to it, He will bring me through it. My faith never waivers.
Have you considered advertising on Craigs List as a free lance photographer? You can just charge for your time, and let the people take care of the photos. I know this goes against normal standards, but lots of folks have private parties and weddings and can't afford a professional but would love to pay for a person who just concentrates on getting pictures for them. It would be extra $$ for you and be something you love.
Sorry that you're having such tough times right now.
I also agree with the Social services idea. I think the Indiana office will be able to switch your records from Illinois for you; they are supposed to be better at coordinating services now (we hope). You should have at least your kids on Medicaid, some foodstamps, and childcare help (although with your mom living with you that would just increase your family income and negate any other help you might get).
Has Mom applied for disability? Doesn't cost anything to apply.

You could also post on craiglist or freecycle that you need tires - maybe someone has the size you need sitting in their garage.

Also its the wrong time of year, but you should apply for LEAP for help with your utility bills.

If you have decent photo equipment, maybe you can mae a deal with the local feed store or pet store (or animal shelter, library, park, etc) to have a "Pet Photo" day and share the proceeds with them. Especially if you give a percentage to charity you might get some free publicity from the local paper or something.

And please don't take this the wrong way, but you need to have at least a small savings acct built up before spending any extra money on things like hatching eggs unless of course there is a sure way to make a profit from them. You'll sleep better at night, really.

Best wishes
I'm so sorry you're going through a rough patch right now.

I agree with some of the other posts and would like to add a few additional:

- Its already been stated to apply for assistance (medical and utilities) for your children, yourself and your mom if you have not done so.

- As much as you may not want to do it, if you cannot afford the basics for your family (housing, food, utilities) it may be time to forgo some of your chickens for now - until you can afford them. Or make them work FOR you by selling eggs if you can. Every penny counts in this instance. I dont know how many birds you have but I have 6 and on average, they way I raise mine, they cost me about $25.00 a month roughly between food, bedding and goodies (until my garden comes in).

- Ask the landlord for a break in payments, if at all possible, until you can get back on your feet. But if he/she agrees - do NOT spend any of that money on anything frivoulous - put it in the bank.

Invest in AAA - a membership for 1 person for 1 year is less than $100 for the Mid-grade plan and they tow up to 100 miles. We have 3 people on our plan and they were running a special which only cost us $190.00 (regularly around $250.00). That one tow would have almost paid for your membership - and they would have assisted with that flat tire. Go online or call to sign up. ask for any discounts they may have available to you. This also saves you money on other things (they give discounts).

Angel Food Ministries is a place where you can get food and produce for a family of 4 for approximately $75.00 a week (meats, dairy, produce, fruits) or less depending on how much you eat. That is a HUGE deal!
I know alot of people use them (and there is no qualification) and say they have good food and either use them soley or supplement their grocery outtings by using them. Please look into where your local Angel Food Ministry is located. You can order online (make sure you catch the deadline in time) and you can order as many boxes as you'd like after the initial box order.

Barter - try to barter as much as you can, whatever you can. Do you know anyone that works on vehicles that may want professional pictures taken of their family/kids? Professional photo's are very expensive, so see if you can barter your services for theirs. You can also put an add on Craigslist to do just this type of thing - for anything you need/want. Need tires? Barter for new ones! Its the new way to pay for services

Medications - go to Walmart, KMart, or Giant Grocery Stores (if you have a Giant Foods in your area) or any other store where you can get prescription medications for $3.99 - $4.00 if you or anyone in your family are on them daily or when you/they become ill.

Bake from scratch! - It is MUCH CHEAPER than purchasing all ready made items. I purchased a 25 lb bag of bread flour ($6.00) 2 huge bricks of yeast ($4.50), a 10 lb bag of sugar($5.00), and with my chickens eggs (FREE)- I can make loaf upon loaf of bread and rolls, not to mention goodies for pennies on the dollar; and freeze them. Total cost for all of that - around $15.00. How many loaves of bread can I make? Well, 5 cups of flour will yeild me 2 loaves of bread or 36 dinner rolls or..24 cinnamon rolls - so...ALOT
1 loaf at the store (non-name brand) is $1.69 here - do the math on it, and thats just bread, not rolls or goodies!

Cook in big batches and freeze what you dont use! I do this all the time with spaghetti sauces, chili, soups, stocks, etc. That way I have quick healthy dinners already prepared and ready to go when I dont feel like cooking.

GROW A GARDEN! You dont need a huge plot of land to do so. You can do it in above ground plots or even in plant pots. If you cant grow a garden, then at least visit the farmers market (usually much cheaper than grocery store and better for you) - stock up and freeze what you dont use right away. Purchase in bulk and again, make sauces, jams, jellies, etc. Buy lots of green beans, corn, peas, etc (you can get 12 ears of corn for about $1.00 - 1.50 when they come in season) - blanch then freeze on a cookie sheet (if you dont know how to can) and then put them in a freezer bag or foodsaver them. They will stay good for a long time if you have a foodsaver and vacuum pack them; if you ziplock them, they'll stay good about 6-9 months if not vacuum packed. Who needs to pay for frozen veggies from the grocery store when you can do it yourself?

COUPONS!! Use them!

I could go on and on, but I'm sure others will chime in with some money saving tips and suggestions for you. Where there is a will, there is a way
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Do you belong to a church? I know my Mom's church has helped people in need in the past, even paid bills, gotten them food etc.
I do not belong to a particular church myself, but when I lost my job and was fighting for Unemployment, even though hubby works, it was tight. I contacted 2 local churches on different occassions and both helped us out.
Contact your utility companies too, they may have a program for helping you. Our electric company here gives referal for assistance and especially if you have children they will help out.

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