Dear Dave,

I think I made a big mistake when I bought my car. I’m having a hard time affording the $500 a month payments because I only make minimum wage at my job and work 35 hours a week. My boyfriend, who was supposed to help me pay for it, has moved out and left me. I owe $20,000 on the car, but I know it’s still worth about $19,000. What can I do?


Dear Rachel,

Sell the car! You went car crazy and bought a vehicle that was way out of your league.

Right now, your entire financial world is wrapped up in paying for this thing, and depending on a boyfriend to help make the payments was a mistake, too. When he left, so did the financial support.

At this point, all you need is enough credit to cover the hole that you dug. Go to your local bank or credit union and try to get a very small loan from them – about $3,000. If the car will sell for $19,000, then get it sold and use $1,000 to cover the difference. Then, take the remaining $2,000 and buy yourself a little junker. We’re not talking about anything cool – just basic, ugly transportation. Then, pick up a part-time job on the side and work like crazy for a few months to get that loan paid back as quickly as possible.

I’ve got a feeling this was a painful lesson for you, but there’s a good side to it all. If you do something stupid and determine never to do it again, it means you’ve learned a lesson that will last you for the rest of your life.


Social Security calls her twice for being overpaid

Dear Dave,

My husband and I adopted our two grandchildren a few years ago. Since that time, we’ve been called into the Social Security office every year about them being overpaid by this department. No one has ever explained to us why or how this is happening. We want to be fair, but we feel something is wrong here. What would you do?


Dear Kitty,

You’re not wrong for wanting to know the details of this matter. Anytime someone says you owe them money, you deserve to know why.

If it happens again I’d demand to speak with a supervisor. If you don’t get a good answer from this person, then go straight to your congressman and explain the situation. Make a case for your representative by documenting every conversation and every correspondence with the Social Security department.

In the meantime, don’t take “no” for an answer and don’t send them any money. Just make yourself a big, nasty thorn in their side until you understand what’s going on and that it’s all fair and accurate.


How do you make a budget with an irregular income?

Dear Dave,

My husband is in the military, and he has a regular income. I work, but my income is based on sales and is different every month. How can we make a budget that works when we don’t know how much is coming in each month?


Dear Tabitha,

Start with the income that you know is predictable. In this case, begin setting up your written monthly budget based on what your husband makes. Then, you need to determine your absolute minimum income for a given month.

Once this is in place, you can prioritize the remaining expenses, savings and investing based on your income instead of seeing it all slip away because you didn’t have a plan.


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