The Beginning – December 31st

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Blog Post #1 December 31, 2019

As I look back on my 30 years as an attorney representing debtors in bankruptcy and how the process seems to have become more cruel and punitive rather than the purported fresh start of the early days.

In 1846 the Supreme court of the United States issued an opinion what had the following quote “bankruptcy is for the honest but unfortunate debtor”.  This seems to be extremely paternalistic but is still the go to position of most of the Judiciary. Judges sit in judgment of debtors every day of the year who may think they can empathize with the debtors because they came from humble beginnings.  However, living on a budget imposed from the outside is much different from being temporarily poor. It also imposes an element of moralism that ignores the reality of how money is created in the country and how fundamentally our economy works now which is much different that it was in 1846.

In planning for the 2020 Western District Bench Bar conference, I thought it would be a good experiment to try to live on a Chapter 13 budget that I thought would get past the Chapter 13 Trustee.  I asked the judge who is the co-chair of the event to subject himself and his family to the same budget and they agreed. I will be chronicling my journey starting January 1, 2020. Judge Gargotta is a runner and I am a wannabe runner, so we are starting the year off with a 5K run called Commitment day run. 

Since I knew this was happening I have been becoming much more aware of my spending.  I used to dabble in couponing but haven’t in a long time. I watched a show on couponing the other day just to see if it was a possibility to supplement my income.  A woman bought $800 of groceries for $10 or so. The main takeaway from the show was she spends 20 hours a week researching and clipping coupons. I do not have an extra 20 hours a week for couponing.  I had my manicured dip nails removed.  I asked a friend who had filed for Chapter 13 in the 90’s and lived to tell the tale if he had any suggestions he said set a budget and live on it, eat a lot of Ramen noodles, and hope your income goes up. Plus liquor is a treat so it goes first, eating out is no more than once a month, no movies, no cable.  This does not sound like a world I want to be a part of and definitely not for 5 years. I think the rule about eating out is a little different now. Most people do not cook every meal at home. Also on some jobs it is impossible to pack a lunch and let’s face it eating a sandwich everyday for lunch gets old quickly.

What do I think I will learn from this experience?

I think the time it takes to stick to a budget will be an eye opener.  I am lucky that I do not have small children so there will not be the worry of illness or injury for them.  My husband works for the state of Texas so we have excellent health insurance so our risk of health related problems is limited. I hope to find a better understanding of what my clients are going through and how I can better help them.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Sheila Rambeck

    I’m also a bankruptcy attorney and I look forward to your continuing journey!

  • Sarah Little

    Can you share the budget you are working off of? I love this.

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