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To plead here for some advice

(42 Posts)
lilcherrypie Mon 04-Jul-11 15:42:43

I am a regular but want to ask for anonymous help - I can't talk about this to anyone IRL and am getting to the point where I just can't see an end in sight. I am normally a happy, easy going person who believes things will work out, things happen for a reason but my optimism is fast disappearing and I am cried out every day with the stress of this.
Please if you recognise me from the details below don't out me as I am trying to protect my immediate family from it since there's nothing they can do:

DH has been self employed for 12 years. We've had good years and bad but normally he makes good money -£50k per year (although some years lots less than this) which we've been careful with as we know there will be bad years to get through. We live in an expensive part of the country but a modest house so mortgage is c£1300 per month and the rest is bills and a few savings (am just illustrating that despite good money we are not rich or awash in savings – our outgoings are very high because of housing costs).
I don't work as the children are very young and we have no free childcare option - no grandparents locally and we don't qualify for any help with childcare costs because of DH’s salary and childcare is astronomical because of where we live so I cannot earn enough to pay it if school holidays are included (which it would have to be)

The past 7 months (since after Christmas) his company has gone downhill fast – far worse than it’s ever been before and he’s lost a 3 major contracts because of the recession and he's worked hard to try to get together other smaller contracts but not very successfully again because other companies are in trouble so other people are suffering too and cutting back. He has barely drawn a salary and we've lived off our savings but this time there is no end in sight. Just this week he’s lost another client who has gone bust. He has applied to other companies to become an employee again but he is 'old' in his industry and nobody is recruiting much anyway so he’s not had much response. Not even an interview.

In about 6 weeks time we will have no money. We've put the house on the market but nobody is buying not even if we reduce the price to less than we need for it. We have been living off next to nothing to make our savings go as far as possible. DH and I skip meals everyday because we cannot afford food for us - only the children - it really is that bad.

So what do we do? I am looking for work thinking maybe he could stay at home if I can get a job but I haven’t been offered any interviews and have been out of work for a few years now with the kids so might not be every employers first choice. Do we declare ourselves bankrupt? Do we ask about benefits? We don’t have debts as such (just mortgage) but what do you do when bills arrive for September and you simply cannot pay?. Will they throw us out of our house? Is there any help we can get?

I know in the great scheme of things where people have horrible illnesses to cope with or bereavements and ‘real’ problems, this isn’t the end of the world but I am terrified as I just don’t know what happens to people in our circumstances and it is so much worse having children in all of this as I look at them and think about the fact that their whole lives are probably about to be uprooted and I feel so guilty for doing this to them. I was even looking up this morning if the bankruptcy courts would sell their Wii in the auction and how I would explain that to them. That is literally one of the only things of value we have (plus 2 TVs and 2 kids pushbikes – no jewellery or anything else of any worth so I am guessing they would take it). I just want to fall into a big hole and for it all to be over to be honest.....

craftynclothy Mon 04-Jul-11 15:49:32

Could you look for a job that was mainly nights/evenings/weekends so you don't need too much in the way of childcare? Make sure you don't sell yourself short - raising children gives you lots of skills employers are looking for (time management, organisation, communication)

Perhaps also your dh could look for jobs in other areas - surely running his own business he has lots of transferable skills?

Fingers crossed something turns up soon. Dh was almost made redundant a couple of years ago and I was a SAHM with a young baby and toddler and we have no family near by for free childcare and it all looked a bit bleak. Then a new role came up and one of the interviews he's gone to was successful (he ended up better off). I really hope that things turn round for you too.

WhoAteMySnickers Mon 04-Jul-11 15:51:05

I think you need to get some proper advice from the CAB, they'll be able to tell you what you are entitled to in terms of benefits, etc, and how to handle the situation. Please don't put your head in the sand, as much as I'm sure you want to.

IWantWine Mon 04-Jul-11 15:55:14

I am sorry if I am way off the mark here, but.... what qualifications do you have to have, or what standards do you have to meet to be a child minder? Could you do that?

IWantWine Mon 04-Jul-11 15:57:34

I am in dire straights here at home myself, financially, for a totally different reason. I managed to get a job as a carer and as I work locally to where I live I can do my calls on foot. If you could do that, it may be possible to get weekend and evening calls when your DH can be home to look after your DC.

Xiaoxiong Mon 04-Jul-11 15:59:43

On top of the good advice you'll get from others here, I'd say keep looking for work. This jumped out at me in your OP: I haven’t been offered any interviews and have been out of work for a few years now with the kids so might not be every employers first choice.

Make sure you don't give up, keep at it, apply for everything that comes up that could be even vaguely related and make sure you're in it for the long haul. It's tough out there and I have heard of people sending out hundreds of applications, getting one interview but getting that job. My SIL just went through job applications for primary school teaching - it took her a year of applying to EVERYTHING that came up and she only got 2 interviews out of dozens of applications but after one of those interviews she was offered the job.

It takes time and effort to get every application out there, proofread and tailored to the position but it only takes one of those applications to work out, it's 99% perspiration - you'll get there smile

Selks Mon 04-Jul-11 16:00:55

Before you make any decision about selling the house, go and see a debt adviser (a good one - through somewhere like CAB if possible; beware of companies posing as debt advice but wanting to sell products). Make this an absolute priority, and do it before you reach the end of your savings.
It may be that you can negotiate with the mortgage company to go 'interest only' or have a payment gap for a few months. There is a good chance that you'll be able to keep the house one way or another - don't be hasty in selling up.

GreenEyesandHam Mon 04-Jul-11 16:04:06

I'm sure you'll get lots of good, solid practical advise (of which I have none really) but just wanted to wish you luck. It must be a very worrying time.

RevoltingPeasant Mon 04-Jul-11 16:06:04

Hey, firstly, it is a 'real problem' - having food and shelter for your DCs is a mega priority, so don't feel like you shouldn't ask for help!!

One thing occurs: if you are in a desirable part of the country housing-wise, can you rent your house out and rent somewhere smaller for you lot?

Hardly an expert on this, but I understand that with the recent economic turmoil, lots more people are looking to rent as they are on short-term contracts, don't have equity for a mortgage etc. Have you explored this option?

You can find somewhere to rent quite quickly: I recently had to relocated in the South and found a place within 48 hours - my DSis1, in London, the same - so the rental market moves quite fast. Bet if your place is in a commuter belt you could rent it out.

RevoltingPeasant Mon 04-Jul-11 16:08:45

The other thing is, make a list of what expenses you absolutely, absolutely have to pay out each month. Then see if your getting a minimum-wage job at nights or similar would even come close to meeting them.

I am an academic, in a field where it takes simply ages to get a job because it's so competitive. Recently, I had a contract about to run out and just didn't know if I would get another one. I figured out that between DP's savings and my working 6 long night-shifts in a bar, I could, if necessary, save us from getting into debt.

A grim prospect, certainly, but it made me feel better to know that I could support myself if I really needed to this way.

aliceliddell Mon 04-Jul-11 16:11:21

Go to the CAB. Your building soc might let you take a break on the mortgage. You should be eligible for some benefits, not sure what. You need some practical advice. Don't panic, there are loads of people in your position. With the right advice you will make it through. Do it ASAP, you'll feel so much better once you have a plan.

feckwit Mon 04-Jul-11 16:11:28

If he has lost so many contracts and your salary is drastically down then you must be eligible for tax credits surely? You MUST apply for them as that would really help, that and child benefit. Nobody should be having to skip meals...

oohjarWhatsit Mon 04-Jul-11 16:11:51

you poor thing, what a nightmare sad

lilcherrypie Mon 04-Jul-11 16:49:28

Thank you everyone. And thank you for being kind about it. I feel almost guilty for worrying about these things when I know we have our health and we're almost lucky that this is the first time ever we've been in really bad trouble when so many people have struggled with numerous redundancies and other things. I also feel quite ashamed that we're in this state.

Selling the house - the logic was that if DH loses his company then we are no longer tied to this expensive bit of the country. We can buy or rent the same type of house somewhere else more cheaply although we won’t actually have an income at all but we would be freer to look for work. I hadn't thought to tell the mortgage company in advance though of the problems. I sort of assumed we'd start missing payments and they'd repossess us - not being pessimistic just I don't see how we can avoid it if we stay. Over £1000 a month is too much to find even without bills.

Employment - DH's is very specific and is suffering in the recession so there aren't really many jobs about. He's applied to much lower level ones in the same industry but has missed out on those and no other ones have come up. Me - I have a degree but my work experience is low level admin. I have applied to similar jobs as the one I had before the kids (office role and in retail sector doing admin) but am up against candidates with current experience and haven't been interviewed. I have asked for feedback and been told this. I’ve applied for two cleaning jobs and shop floor work as well and didn’t get asked to those either. One wanted 2 years experience but I applied anyway and was turned down for not having the 2 years experience! I know I could do the job but they won’t see me. My CV is good with as much positive spin on skills as possible (I have done I.T courses to stay up to date for example).
I asked somebody who child minds about their work and she is struggling a little but there is nothing to stop me doing this except the initial outlay for equipment and toys and the fact we might have to move quickly. My kids are little so I have some stuff but I would need to make some aspects of our house safe (according to my friend) and we literally cannot afford weekly food shops right now let alone safety glass and other things.

Tax Credits – We’ve never applied before because some years DH earns £50k and some years £20k but it averages out to about £39 - £42k. Therefore we’d constantly have had to register a change of circumstance with them and run the risk of being overpaid which seems scarily common. We are now at the stage though where we will ring up and ask to apply as our income is literally zero. We get family allowance but that is all. I wasn’t sure if the CAB dealt with this or the benefits people direct but it looks like I need to book into see the CAB

Some days I am all go-getting and plough around for as many job adverts as I can find, scour the supermarkets for cheap food at the end of the day, ring up and negotiate deals on the gas and leccy prices but other days I just feel like it’s all..... well just pissing in the wind frankly and want to hide away from it all. Saving a few quid on the basics isn’t going to save our house if we cannot earn a salary and we just cannot seem to pull ourselves out of this. For months I’ve been thinking something must turn up but it hasn’t. And I am so focused on the mess that I am short with DH who is understandably very depressed that the company that he worked so hard on is going and our children are starting to notice things (no Birthday present lists this year, no holiday not even the cheap ones we used to do and constantly being told no to everything including just buying a cake at the bakers). If you asked me seriously where we will be in a year’s time I couldn’t tell you. I am honestly terrified as to how bad things might get.

dickiedavisthunderthighs Mon 04-Jul-11 16:54:43

You mention that you have family but they don't live locally. Can you ask an understanding P or PIL if they can give you a bridging loan to keep you afloat for a couple of months whilst you're looking for a job?

oohjarWhatsit Mon 04-Jul-11 16:56:45

how about temping/agency work?

get in quick though because the uni/college people will all be looking soon as well sad

YellowDinosaur Mon 04-Jul-11 17:00:47

Please don't feel silly for asking for help about this. Honestly, being in your situation would absolutely terrify me. While you do have your health, a serious health problem is about the only thing for me that would be worse than worrying about losing your childrens home and worrying about how you are even going to feed them. Giving you a big un-mumsnet hug xxx

I have no personal advice I can give but I would second getting some proper practical advice from CAB. I would also ask why you can't tell anyone irl? Obviously I don't know your circumstances re family / friends but fastforward 20 years and imagine your dcs in this situation not feeling about to tell you. I am sure you would be horrified. Its not about telling people because you are tapping them up for money, its about asking for support from those who love and care for you who you would want to be able to support in the reverse situation.

Good luck xxx

dreamingbohemian Mon 04-Jul-11 17:05:08

I wish I could offer more advice, the only thing I can give is a bit of reassurance with Tax Credits -- I know a lot of people have had bad experiences, but we found them very easy to deal with, even though (for various reasons) in the last year our income varied hugely. We would just call up and explain the new circumstances, they would send us a new benefits letter, it was all pretty simple, so don't let the fear of bureaucracy scare you off. Just be sure to read the letters carefully.

Otherwise I second the advice to rent out your home, is that possible?

lilcherrypie Mon 04-Jul-11 17:55:24

Yellow - the reason we haven't told anyone is that no one of our family would be in any position to help us financially and I know it would keep them awake at night with worry even though there's nothing they can do about it. They can’t even offer practical help like free childcare as they are too far (again another thought about how moving might possibly help)
And also pride. I know this sounds a stupid thing to consider but I seriously don't know if our marriage is going to survive this just because DH is so depressed at what has happened to his company. He was really proud of it and worked so hard at it and his whole life really revolved around and he just will not tell anyone how bad it is. He'll have conversations with other people and everyone of course is saying how hard things are (because they are tough for everyone even if it's just worrying about how much petrol costs now to get to work) and he will downplay things a bit because but at home he might cry or shout that everything he's worked for has failed and that he's let us all down and I am really worried if I push things with him to try and resolve things, I could tip him over the edge.
It's like the job hunting.....so far I haven't applied to fulltime jobs for myself (all of DH’s applications have been fulltime jobs) almost because I am pretending that he will still have a job in 3 months and my income is just supplementary to make up the gap. If I apply for fulltime things he will see it as my lack of confidence in him turning around his business even though in another breath he will admit that it is beyond saving and then he will be angry and depressed and to be honest I haven’t the stomach for the fight and I don;t want to drive him to feel even worse.
It feels like drowning – we are treading water and every day we survive for one more day but there’s no ending in sight and it would be almost easier just to give up now and sink and let the worse happen because maybe the worst case scenario won’t be as bad as living under the threat of it day after day. And I am even scared to talk to my GP about quite how low I feel as I am worried having anything on my record that would make me even less employable than I seem to be right now.

M0naLisa Mon 04-Jul-11 18:01:48

i woulod get signed on, dont know about housing benefit for mortgage but im sure you can still apply for housing allowance c/tax allowance. Ring tax credits.

Terraviva Mon 04-Jul-11 18:16:40

Oh love, what an awful awful time for you and your family. Don't be scared about talking to your GP. Employers don't have access to your medical records so it won't impact your job search at all. Feeling down (a massive understatement I know) is completely normal reaction to an incredibly stressful situation.

Have a look at www.moneysavingexpert.com It has loads of great practical tips and tools for stretching your money.

Check here to see what benefits you're entitled too Checker

Terraviva Mon 04-Jul-11 18:17:34

That last link didn't work - again

Terraviva Mon 04-Jul-11 18:18:25

And again!!
www.direct.gov.uk/en/diol1/doitonline/doitonlinebycategory/dg_172666

Terraviva Mon 04-Jul-11 18:36:19

Talk to your bank / building society about the problems you're having. See if you can take a repayment holiday for a couple of months, or switch to just paying off the interest for a few months.

I'm not surprised it's putting your relationship under such strain. Your poor DH, this must be hitting him so hard and as you know you just have to keep reassuring him that he isn't a failure. Can you explain that you're applying to both part-time and full-time work because there are so few jobs out there, you want to cover all your bases? The process of finding a job takes time, and you might as well start the ball rolling now - not because you don't believe he's going to turn it round, but because the country is in a serious recession... something like that anyway?!

Best of luck - I know it's hard keeping your chin up when it feels like all is crumbling around you. If you and your DH keep working together as a team you'll get through it though. Keep letting him know how proud of him you are, because his pride is hurting so much. It's understandable, but it will cause more damage if he keeps letting it get in the way - ie, by not wanting you to look for full-time work. Hope I'm not talking out of turn and giving unwanted relationship advice when you're after more practical suggestions... It's just that I can just imagine how hard it must be if he's keeping a brave face in public, and letting that mask slip at home. It's not fair on you to be baring the brunt of all his frustrations, if he then won't let you contribute to finding a solution.

I know it's not the 'done' thing on MN, but have a {{{{{HUG}}}}} from me smile

Allinabinbag Mon 04-Jul-11 18:49:56

I think you need to get as much help as possible of a practical sort to see you through.

I would contact the mortgate company immediately and ask if there is a possibility of a mortgate holiday of a few months, or if you can drop to interest only for a short time. If you don't get work, I think you can get some interest payments for mortgages, however I think this is harder than getting housing benefit so I would seek advice from government benefits advisors and the CAB (I would not just go to the CAB, it can take ages to get an advisor, you sound a very together if desperate lady so start calling these people yourself)

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTaxAndBenefits/index.htm

I would also get child tax credits, on such a low income, you should be getting quite a bit. I think it's time for you to take control of this, I can understand your husband is really sinking, but you will feel a hell of a lot better if you can come up with a plan to survive this. YOu will get quite a lot of benefits, not a lot in terms of money, but enough for you to eat, there's no reason to be like this.

It can be very very hard to cope with this as a couple, and your husband sounds angry and frustrated and perhaps depressed about the fact he worked so hard and did so well and now has nothing. But try to focus on getting practical help and working out a plan together, that's the best way of helping your marriage survive.

You will be ok, children do adapt, mine had to move suddenly due to difficult financial circumstances but it was fine, and I now sleep a hell of a lot better at night than when paying a huge mortgage and watching us sinking. Hope it goes ok for you.

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