One thing I have decided is that I'm not going to worry about my debts as most of them are close to 7 yrs old. My medical debts are another story but I do have a plan which I will mention in a bit.
My first priority will be to make sure that my current living expenses are taken care of; included in that will be my student loan payment. Since bankruptcy will not remove a federally backed student loan, I am "stuck" with it.*
Next on my list will be to amass an emergency fund of some sort. Currently I have a small portfolio with Sharebuilders. The original idea behind these investments was just that. Al tho not easily assessable the money accumulated could be used if needed. As of now I'm going to continue (with my original plan) and with my current contribution of $20/mth with my initial goal of $550 saved/invested. After which I would/could sell off $500 of my holdings to either pay debt or put in a savings account (possibly ING). Since I am only half way toward my $550 goal I will continue to evaluate the best course of action. As I am continuously reading and learning, I am hoping to come up with the best choice for this money.**
As for my "other" debts. Disregarding my budget for the moment I am going to do nothing. I do not mean I am going to bury my head in the sand again, but until I get some type of cushion/emergency fund in place my thinking is --what good is paying off debt if I just end up back in debt due to some type of money issue. Is my thinking flawed? If I understand the gurus correctly that is the direction I need to go; build emergency fund first, tackle debts second.***
My budget--I believe I have finally produced a proper budget with both fixed and variable expenses included. After much reading I realized that my past budgets were not thorough enough. That, I believe may be part of my financial problems. It is with hopes that if this budget is accurate I will be able to make monthly payments on my debt(s).
Overall I am going to keep things simple--work as many hours as humanly possible without killing myself; make sure current living expenses taken care of; pay on student loan (continue to work with agency handling loan to try and get payment lowered); continue $20 contribution to Sharebuilders whilst looking for another options for and emergency fund; stick to budget using cash only for purchases; take care of the one debt that has other issues attached to it; re-evaluate bankruptcy decision.
*(Please note that in extreme financial situations a student loan may be discharged but it is very rare. Based on what I read, your income would have to be at or below the federal poverty level with other criteria also being met. The guidelines are very rigid as you would be asking the government to forgive their own debt.)
**I initially chose this route to start an emergency fund due to the fact that I can not save money. If I have any access to the funds they will be used. I would love to say that the money would be used wisely, but that is not always the case. I did consider and ING account at the time but I do not remember why I did not go that route. The Sharebuilders account seems to be working out OK and I am making some dividends.
***There is one debt that I do need to pay on during this process, but there are some other issues that will figure in to how I handle this. It is with hope that my new budget will allow the flexibility to handle this debt properly.