Gamblin Crunch Months

Part One : The sob story

This is where I explain the situation, and no matter how I try to tell it, it's going to sound like a country song. We even lost our truck (actually, a Corolla). If you want to skip down to Part Two: The hook, I won't blame you. In fact, it's pretty cool. You should check it out.

This story starts more than a year ago, but let's tune in to last July. My ex and I had split the real estate down the middle, which left me with a crappy house in Towson that I'd gladly get rid of if I could. Since I don't live there, I've been renting it out for several years. Usually, that's been working out fine, but this last batch of college students disappeared with half of the rent unpaid. (You could say, "Brand! Why did you let them go that long without paying?" and I would answer, "Because I'm a pushover.") During the time that they weren't paying the rent, I was having to cover it when I paid the mortgage. Effectively, I was making two house payments at the same time. A mortgage is usually the single biggest monthly expense that people have, and I had two of them.

When the renters left, we had to make repairs. At one point, it rained, and there was a leak. I had it repaired, but they left the water sitting in the basement for a couple of months. So, when they moved out, there was stagnant water damage in the house. I brought someone in to look at water damage, and he found out that there were cracks in the foundation. Apparently, those cracks had been there since I bought the place. So, to repair the kids messes and the foundation, and the walls (water damage), and all new carpet, we spent around $20,000. This, after making two house payments every month for almost six months.

Of course, the repairs didn't happen overnight. Things had to be fixed in a certain order, and the contractors moved at the speed of "meh". So, we are now looking at another 8 months of making two house payments, and this after the 20k. As you can guess, we're using credit to pay it off.

Back to last July. Our landlord decided not to renew our contract. We had about 90 days to find a new place. We agreed to move as much stuff as we could into temporary storage, and rent a small two-bedroom apartment. The idea was that we would only stay in the apartment for a year, which would give Allie time to find a really nice place to stay.

And she did. Wow. She found an amazing house. A WWII-era huge house, with a garage bigger than our apartment. It was a foreclosure, and needed a lot of work, but that meant we would just get a special kind of mortgage that included the repair expense in the principal. However, in order to do this, we had to put together $16,000 for the down payment. (Remember, we had been making two house payments per month for around 9 months, and we had $20,000 in repairs to the other house). We tapped all possible sources and got loans to pull the money together. The contractors started working on the house in November.

In January, the bank started asking for the mortgage. Note: The new house wasn't nearly ready to move into. I pointed out to the bank that it was kinda unfair to demand a mortgage payment when I couldn't even inhabit the house, but they had their rules. So now, I'm making three house payments per month, along with the $16,000 down payment hit, and the $20,000 repair bill. Now I'm a good saver, and I make good money, but no matter how hard you prepare, it's still brown trouser time.

As some of you know, my wife has PTSD, which stems from abusive parents. Recently, as she found a really good doctor, she started dealing with it, and getting serious help. So, the things she had been repressing most of her life came bubbling up, displaying as seizures that cause nerve pain, age regression, and a powerful depression. We're doing all we can to support her, but in the context of this story, I'll point out that the medical bills have become really expensive. You do NOT want to know what Lyrica costs for a 30-day supply.

Anyway, after the lack of payment from the renters, the repairs on the old house, the months of two house payments (now three, because we can't move out of the apartment, and we still have to pay for the vacant old house and the vacant new house), the down payment, and the medical bills, we were pretty much maxed on credit. I have a 797 credit rating because I never let a payment go unpaid, but we've maxed out all our cards, and all of our savings, and the friends and family that we tapped for loans. At least it couldn't get any worse, right?

Then we were in a collision about a month ago. Slippery ice, the car in front of me spun out and stopped at a 45-degree angle in the street. Before I could stop, we slid into them. Everyone was okay, and the cops said no one was at fault (probably because another car ran into him while he was examining the scene). Nonetheless, my insurance company said we were at fault, and that's when I found out that I wasn't carrying collision insurance (fixed that now, for all the good it will do). The car was totalled, so we're down to using only one car. That was just as well, because my wife can't drive anyway while she's having seizures. Still, we're making payments on two cars, when we only have one.

But surely that's the end of it, right? It couldn't get any worse, right?

You know there's more. My mother (who lives on a fixed income and is struggling herself) sent us $10,000 because she knew how bad the situation had become. That shot in the arm would buy us at least 1.5 months of triple-house payments, so it would give us time to get our feet under us. But in the last week or so, the money just... went away. I tried to figure out where it went, what we had spent it on, what had happened, but I couldn't track it down. I'm a good saver, and I'm brutal with a budget, but I couldn't find this.

Today, my wife got a call saying that her debit card had been cloned. An identity thief took as much as they could (the card can be used as debit, which needs a PIN, or credit, which only needs a scrawl for a signature).

So, we're in some serious trouble. Now, you guys probably know that we don't wear our problems on our sleeves. Allie will talk about the seizures, but she does that as a way of saying that it's something she accepts, and she won't let it embarrass her, or make her feel bad about herself. We'll give opinions, talk about politics and entertainment and cat photos, but never about money. We play it pretty close to the chest, so there's a good chance that none of you know any of this. But this is too serious, and we have to do something to avoid actual bankruptcy. I make good money, and we save well, but I don't know how we're going to make it through the next few months.

Here's the good news. We're going to get new renters in the next few months, so that will drop our house payments to two. Also, the new house will be finished in a month or so, which will mean we can move in, and our house payments goes down to one. In that situation, we can start paying down the debt very quickly. We're on the cusp of fixing this problem, we just have to survive for a couple more months.

I've asked for $6,000, which is enough to make all three house payments for one month. Just having that much breathing room will help us get to the point where we can stay afloat for that month, and build up enough savings to pay for the next three-payment month.

Part Two : The Hook

Here's the thing. Since we only need the money now, and in a few months we'll be able to pay it down with interest, I wanted to do something nice to thank the people who donated. I think it would be difficult to pay everyone back individually, so here's what I'll do. When you leave a donation, put the name of your favorite charity in the comments. Once we get to the point where we are solvent again, I will send the amount you donated to that charity, and I will add half to it. So, for every ten dollars you give us money to get through these crunch months, I will donate fifteen dollars to your favorite charity. I'll post updates saying how much is went to each one, as they are paid.

So your donation doesn't just help us stay out of bankruptcy court, it also helps save the whales, or sick children, or AIDS victims, or battered women. We both get to do something great.

Part Three : The tl;dr wrap-up

So, we need just a month or so of house payments to keep on our feet. Your donations can help us do that. And once we get down to one house payment per month, I'll start donating 1.5 times the amount you gave to me. Win-Win!
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Organizer

Brand Gamblin 
Organizer
Odenton, MD

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