To qualify for Chapter 13 relief, the debtor must have a regular source of income and sufficient disposable income to make payments under the plan.
One of the debtor’s most important responsibilities during the bankruptcy case is to make plan payments on time. This requires careful planning and management of the debtor’s budget by the bankruptcy trustee for the bankruptcy petition.
Take note that you may be granted an automatic stay when you file for a Chapter 13 form of bankruptcy, and your creditors must stop all collection attempts against you.
It also gives you time to catch up on past-due payments without the threat of having your assets seized, or your credit report and credit score used against you.
Here are the steps to creating a budget for your Chapter 13 situation:
Determine Your Income
The first step is determining your financial situation and calculating your monthly income. This includes all sources of income, such as wages, salaries, tips, commissions, child support, and alimony. Including all income before deducting taxes is beneficial.
During the meeting of creditors, the Chapter 13 trustee, and your attorney, you will provide the trustee with proof of claim for your debts, regular income, and expenses. The trustee will use this information to create a monthly budget for your bankruptcy repayment plan.
Know Which Debts To Pay Off
Chapter 13 bankruptcy gives you a chance to pay off some of your outstanding debts over time, but it’s essential to know which types of debts to include in your repayment plan:
Some debts have priority over others and must be paid in full before you pay anything to unsecured creditors. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you determine this type of debt and provide reliable legal advice.
These priority debts include:
- Child support and alimony: You must pay arrears in full, but you can make current monthly payments through the plan.
- Wages, salaries, and commissions: Up to $10,950 of any unpaid wages, salaries, or commissions earned within 180 days of filing get priority. This includes vacation pay, sick leave pay, and severance pay.
- Certain taxes: Taxes owed to federal, state, and local governments have priority over other debts. This includes income taxes, Social Security taxes, and property taxes.
- Certain fines and penalties: Certain fines and penalties owed to government agencies have priority over other debts. This includes parking tickets and traffic violations.
- Certain deposits: Certain utility company deposits have priority over other debts. This includes water, gas, and electricity deposits.
The most common type of secured debt is a mortgage. If you cannot make regular payments, the lender can foreclose on your home and sell it to pay off your debt during bankruptcy. Other secured debts include a car loan and lines of credit secured by savings accounts or other assets.
You may be able to “strip off” a second mortgage or home equity loan in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This means you may no longer owe the debt after your Chapter 13 case is over. As such, you pay the debt through your Chapter 13 plan, and the lender may no longer have a lien on your home. Asking your bankruptcy lawyer if this is possible can be beneficial.
Unsecured debts not backed by collateral include debt from credit cards, medical bills, or student loans. In most cases, the debtor can include all their unsecured debts in the Chapter 13 repayment plan.
Determine How Much You Can Pay
The next step is to examine your finances, including the last couple of years’ tax returns. This way, you can get an idea of your average monthly income. If you have had any significant changes in your life, like a job loss or gain, you’ll also want to consider that.
A means test can also help calculate your disposable income, which is necessary for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. According to the Bankruptcy Code, you might need a means test that calculates whether your median income is low enough to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If not, you may still be able to file for Chapter 13.
A Chapter 13 budget determines how much you can pay monthly toward your debts. This way, you and your lawyer can put together a repayment plan so that the bankruptcy will gain court approval.
Be Realistic About Your Living Costs
The next step is determining how much you must live on each month. This can help you know how much money you have left to put toward your creditors each month.
You can do this by listing the items you spend money on monthly and estimating how much each costs. As much as possible, it’s wise to be realistic about your living expenses. It may help to track your spending for a few months to get an accurate idea of what you spend each month.
These are the everyday expenses you can consider:
Your electric, water, and gas bills are your most significant regular expenses after your rent or mortgage payments. You can’t do much about how much you pay for these essentials, but you can try to conserve energy to lower costs.
If you have a car, you may want to factor in the costs of maintaining it. This includes gas, oil changes, and repairs. To save, you can get by with fewer trips if you live close to work or can carpool with someone.
Grocery bills are one of the most challenging expenses to predict accurately. You may be able to get by on $50 per week for groceries when you are single, but that same $50 may not cover a family of four.
When creating your bankruptcy budget, start with a realistic estimate of your weekly grocery bill. If you consistently spend more than anticipated, consider looking for ways to cut costs, such as eating out less often or buying in bulk.
Think About Contingencies
Set aside funds for unexpected expenses, like if you need to make a large purchase during your repayment period or if your disposable income changes.
Additionally, here are emergencies you can save up for:
If you have any medical expenses not covered by insurance, you must factor these into your budget. This can include things like prescriptions, co-pays, or therapies.
You never know when your car might break down or you might need to travel unexpectedly for work, so having a little buffer in your budget for these emergencies is important. This way, you can avoid entering new debt when something unexpected arises.
Take note of your trustee fees, filing fees, and any other legal expenses you may have. You can negotiate a fee payment plan with your attorney or look for one offering a free consultation.
Consider Automatic Payments
One way to ensure your budget is successful is to consider using automatic payments for your necessary expenses. This could include car payments, mortgage or rent, and utilities. This can ensure that these bills are always paid on time to avoid getting a high-interest rate and can give you a better chance of adhering to your budget.
Automatic payments can be set up online or by contacting your service providers. Once you have set up these automatic payments, you will want to keep track of them in your budget so that you can spend your time in other areas.
Try To Look for Additional Sources of Income
If you can, try to increase your income by looking for a better-paying job or additional part-time work. This can help you make payments and get out of credit card debt more quickly.
Here are five ideas to consider:
Dropshipping is an efficient business model where you sell products without keeping stocks or inventory. When a store owner receives an order from a customer, they contact the supplier, who will ship the products directly to the customer’s doorstep.
Selling digital products online is a great way to generate extra income. You can create products, such as ebooks, online courses, or audio files, and sell them on various platforms.
As a teacher, you can find many opportunities to offer your services to others. You can provide one-on-one tutoring sessions, small group classes, or larger seminars. You can find work as a teaching assistant in a local school district or even teach online courses.
You can also sell advertising space to generate additional revenue if you have an existing blog or website. Google Adsense is among bloggers’ and website owners’ most popular advertising networks.
Another way to generate extra income is through affiliate marketing. This involves promoting products or services on your website or blog and earning a commission on any sales you generate. Affiliate marketing can be a great way to make money passively, and it can also be a great way to supplement your current income.
Remember that if you cannot make your Chapter 13 plan payments, you may be able to get a hardship discharge. This means that the court can stop the court order, you no longer owe any money to your creditors, and you can have a fresh start.
Final Thoughts On Living On A Chapter 13 Budget
In conclusion, living on a Chapter 13 budget can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. By creating a budget, tracking expenses, and prioritizing spending, you can live within your means and work towards financial stability.
It’s important to remember that living on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice everything you enjoy. There are ways to have fun and enjoy life while still being frugal. Additionally, seeking professional financial advice can help you better manage your finances and make informed decisions.
You can successfully live on a Chapter 13 budget and improve your financial situation with perseverance and dedication.