It is that time of year.  We are all making resolutions to be fitter, lose weight, save more money, be happier, the works.

We are all making promises to ourselves.  This is great.  It’s wonderful when people resolve to improve themselves.  Better yet, this is the only time of year that we seek a plan.  EVEN BETTER.  Without a plan a goal is just an idea.  If you don’t have a plan for how to get there, it is going to be difficult if not impossible.

So I’m here to help with your financial goals.  You want to get out of debt, save more money, maybe get solvent in such a serious way that you can afford a new splurge.  Awesome!  But how do you do it?  Where do you start?

I say you start from the beginning, a very good place to start.  So I present to you the New Year, New Financial You blog series!  I am going to post articles throughout the month of January on how to start cleaning up your finances,  how to set a goal, stay on budget, save, deal with obstacles and knowing when you get to splurge and when to walk away.  These are incredibly valuable skills that will take time, discipline and patience to develop — just like your weight loss and fitness resolution.

Even better, I am going to do them along with you to show you how to make them work!  As it turns out, bankruptcy attorneys have budgets too!  I will share savings tools, web and mobile applications I love and hate and programs I use in my home to stay on task and on budget.  I will share what works, what doesn’t, and how to adjust things to make them work based on my own experience in using these tools.

We will talk a lot about timing because, to be perfectly honest, I feel that timing is everything, particularly for pre and post bankruptcy clients.  For example, certain savings tools are great post bankruptcy when your goal is to save but not so great prior to a bankruptcy when the goal is different.

Currently the plan for the articles will go as follows:

Assessing the Status Quo

Setting Your Goal

Budgets, Budgets, Budgets

Tools for Saving

Dealing with Financial Obstacles

When to Spend for Fun!

Requests for additional topics are welcome, diversions from this subject will happen!  I am more often than not inspired by what I hear in the courtroom, from colleagues, from clients, and things I see in social media.

So here we go.  New Year, New You, Happier Savings Balance.

Happy New Year!!!!


Bankruptcy can be tough.  But it can also teach hard lessons.  Like how a budget an emergency savings is mission critical.

Maybe you had those and your bankruptcy had nothing to do with them.  You had a budget and your emergency savings wasn’t enough for an extended job loss.  Stuff happens.  That is why we are here.  You can skip this post and come back for the next one.

But for those of you who do need some help;


First – Know when you need to ask for help.  If you have no clue even where to start or what to do, call a professional!!!!  I promise you that you won’t regret the fee for getting set up with one of these folks if you have no clue where to start.

LearnVest offers an inexpensive 1 on 1 with a certified financial planner that will help you rebuild following a bankruptcy case.  A good accountant or a local financial planner is an option too but they can be cashy.  My experience is millenials (I am one so I can say it) prefer LearnVest, everyone else seems to prefer brick or mortar.  Do what works for you.

So let’s say you don’t think you need help.  Ok.  Here is my budgeting set up.

1.  Establish how much money you net each month.

2.  Establish your monthly bills.

3.  Establish your non-monthly bills.  These are things like car repairs, taxes, veterinary bills, etc.  I am perpetually forgetting that I have to pay flood insurance annually.  I was really proud of myself for having remembered and budgeted that this year.  Ask my husband, I won’t shut up about it.

4. Figure out what you are ACTUALLY spending on everything else.

This is a big one.  I am bolding this because it is sooooo big.  You must do this.  You must get out your bank statement and your credit card statement and see what you actually spend. is great for this if you want the computer to do the work for you.  This is not a skippable step.  If you do not do this part or do it and are NOT honest about it your budget will fail.  Big time.

Nobody knows how much they spend at Dunkin each month.  I repeat nobody.  I only just found out.  I am a little upset with myself about it.  I, of all people, should know better.

The easiest way to cut back on unnecessary expenses is to know where it is going.

So you have aggregated all this information.  What now?

Start an emergency savings account and a non-monthly savings account.  You can do them at your current bank or establish a high yield savings account.  Either is fine.  I like distance between me and my savings because I have no will power so I use a high yield online account that I have to really work to take money out of.  Whole days of delay.  It works for me.  Forces me to question what I am doing.

Ok so let’s look at your numbers.

Remember there is no magic number for how much you should save.  I have heard it all.  You should save 10%, 15%, 7% and it goes on and on and on and on. Do what works for you.  If that is 2%, do 2%, just do it.  The only rule I care about is the six month rule.  You should have six months of net salary set aside as an emergency fund.   This may feel like a lot.  I know it does. So bite it off a little at a time. Think of it as first, I am going to save one month, then two, than three.  Slowly but surely you will get there.  Treat this like a monthly fixed bill.  When you establish how much to put in, set an automatic deduction and forget about it.

Do the same thing with non-monthly.  Take that non-monthly number from above, divide by 12 and set the automatic deduction.

Bills – Pay them.  See if you can make cuts or decreases.  I know a lot of people cutting the cord with cable.  I have thought about it.  I have a toddler, so TV isn’t a thing that happens in our house.  When my contract is up, we are bailing out on cable.  It is an easy cut to make in our house.  I am sure there is an easy cut in your house.  Find it, cut it.

So now you are left with the leftover funds.  This is the money you are allowed to spend on groceries, etc.  Not a lot left for Dunkin runs right?  Here is the thing.  I love an iced coffee and a donut as much as anyone and I see nothing wrong with getting it once a week, but that five times a week you are doing (don’t pretend you aren’t)…that amounts to 64 bucks a month.  That’s right.  65 DOLLARS.  Multiply that by 12 and you are spending $775.00 a year on coffee.  My friends…that is a half of a Caribbean vacation.  And that is JUST your Dunkin habit.  I am betting there is a WHOLE VACATION in your misc spending that you could be cashing in?   (Also, how good is that swimsuit going to look when you have skipped the donuts and fast food for a whole year?)

Do you want to go to the Bahamas or eat another donut? 

I vote for the beach.  I printed a picture of a palm tree and taped above my computer today while I drank the last iced coffee I will have for a full week.


Interested in how we can help you get on the other side of a tough financial situation?  Give us a call at 732-302-9600 or fill out our online consultation form and we will call you!

I spend a lot of time on here writing about after a bankruptcy case.  I have been asked why?  Why does a person whose job is the actual mechanics of filing a bankruptcy case spend so much time talking about what happens when she is done?

Because my clients care about what happens when it is done.

For a Chapter 7 bankruptcy client that actual time spent prior to the case and inside the case is  short in the grand scheme of life, but the time after, that is the REST OF THEIR LIFE.  What happens after a case matters.

The answer to how does life work after a bankruptcy case is not an easy one.  It really depends on what you want to do and how you want to handle it.

I have clients that never want to see credit for the rest of their natural lives and others that cannot rebuild their credit fast enough.  The advice I give you before, during, and after your bankruptcy case is tailored to you and your goals specifically.   If you are a person that never wants to see credit again, I am going to talk to you about the importance of budgets, emergency funds, saving for non-monthly expenses, and the strategy behind a debt free lifestyle.  If you are a person that cannot wait to rebuild your credit we are going to talk about secured cards, car loans, and interest rates getting better with time and patience (and probably about savings too….I push that pretty hard with you guys after a bankruptcy case).

There is a life after a bankruptcy case and we will talk about how to move forward with it as part of your whole bankruptcy case.
Because it matters to you.


Interested in how my office can help you file a bankruptcy case?  Give us a call at 732-302-9600 or fill out our online consultation form and we will call you!

So your bankruptcy case has been over for a few years.  You did the hard work.  You saved and followed a budget and rebuilt your credit with a car loan and responsible credit card usage.

Good for you!

Now it is time.  The big leap.  Time to buy a home.

I know a lot of people out there that think buying a home after a bankruptcy case is an impossible task.  I promise, it isn’t.  It can and has been done.  MANY MANY TIMES.

The best part, I am here to help!

A lot of our clients call looking for documents and information on buying or refinancing a home.  We are happy to help out with giving you stuff that you may have misplaced but here are a few pointers for being ready without a call to my office.

1.  Keep a copy of your discharge somewhere safe.  YOU WILL NEED THIS.  Under no circumstances will you refinance or get a new mortgage without this document.  Put it somewhere it won’t get lost or destroyed.

2.  Keep the copies of your schedules that were provided to you when you did your credit counseling.  They will include the list of all debts and JUDGMENTS that were discharged.  Many times, the title company will come back wanting to know what the deal is with a judgment that flew under the radar and never got removed from the county record.  This schedule will clear it up quickly.  If you need a copy of a certificate of service showing notice let us know and we will get it to you.  In rare cases, we may need to do a motion in state court to remove it.  Call us or have your real estate attorney call us if this issue comes up so we can move quickly.

3.  Do not be afraid to call us if something seems off or funny.  If I have one more client call me and tell me they can’t get a mortgage refinanced because they never reaffirmed their original mortgage my head may explode.  The mortgage companies are trotting this one out a lot these days.  Let me be clear.  If you have made your payments they have a payment history and can clear you on that.  There is and never will be a need for you to reaffirm that mortgage.  On top of that, judges in New Jersey are EXTREMELY hesitant to sign reaffirmations of mortgages.    This is excuse no. 802 for a mortgage company to deny you for no apparent reason and is mostly commonly seen in refinancing applications.  CALL ME.  I will write a letter or talk to the person that needs talked to about this and help you clear it up.

This goes for anything that seems off yo you.  If it seems related to your bankruptcy case just call us.  We are happy to address questions and issues that your case may bring up in a later real estate closing.


Happy closing!  If you need us call us! We can get out documents or refer you to a good real estate attorney.


Concerned about your financial situation and owning a home someday?  Give us a call at 732-302-9600 or fill out our online consultation for me and we will call you!

So you have sat down and figured out what the status of your financial existence is.  GREAT!  Now we know where you are starting but where are you going?  Every point A needs to have a point B.

So step 2:  Set a Goal

What is your goal?  What are you working towards?

I like small goals first in a first timer situation.  This goal should be two things:  1)Specific; and 2) Shorter in Time Frame.

An Example:

Goal 1 – I want to save a million dollars for retirement in 30 years.  BAD FIRST GOAL

Goal 2 – I want to save at least $25.00 per paycheck for retirement for the next three months.  GREAT FIRST GOAL.

Your goal doesn’t have to be something as major as saving for retirement.  My personal favorite is to stay on budget for two weeks.  Just two weeks.  You will be shocked at how difficult this goal can be for a first timer.  This goal does two things, doesn’t set you up for failure and gives you a good idea of any nasty habits you may have that need broken.  Which will segway you into  my other favorite goal is kicking a habit.  Give yourself two weeks to either kick a habit or come up with a suitable substitution/accommodation.

A great example from my own existence.  When I did my two week budget challenge (and during the bank account review),  I realized I spend too much at Starbucks. So I look for a solution that still lets me have my fancy caffeine fix. I downloaded the app on my phone, loaded a gift card with 20 bucks and said to myself, this is how much I am allowed to spend at Starbucks for the two week period.  When I run out I am cut off.  I will not feed the beast.  Lo and Behold, I was out after a week because I was still going too much (and buying cookies…bad for the budget and the waistline…ugh…).  So a new plan on the second two week round, I bought a private stash of fun K Cups, stashed in my desk (10 bucks on amazon about once a month) and cut my budget for Starbucks back to 15 bucks.  Tried again in the next two weeks and STAYED ON BUDGET.  These little tweeks needed to make your goal can only be made if you are giving yourself a small goal that is short in duration to start out with.

Once you have achieved a smaller goal, build on that progress.  If your goal was to stay on budget two weeks, maybe next time make it three weeks, than a month, than three months.  Before you know it what was once a goal will just be something you do instinctively.

On setting more than one goal:

If you can handle it do it, if you are still working on your first goal and struggling DON’T.

If you want to manage multiple goals, I like goals that work to achieve the same end.  So let’s say you are like me and you need to drop a few pounds and do a better job of staying on budget.  This works together nicely.  I put myself on a more liberal grocery budget and a very strict eating out budget.  This will help me curb that spending we all do on fast food which is good for my waistline and my wallet.  These goals are ultimately working to the same end.  This makes it twice as nice when you achieve the goal (plus think of all the money you will save for new jeans!)

Which leads me to my next topic for next time:  Creating and Following A Budget!


Think you need bankruptcy advice to get to your goal.  Give us a call at 732-302-9600 or fill out

our online consultation form and we will call you!




It is that time again, the time when we all sit down with the accountant or the nice girl at the local tax prep place and figure it if we owe the government or if the government owes us.

Let’s start with my basic tax time rule:


I don’t like tax refunds.  A tax refund means you gave the government an interest free loan.  I am thrilled when my accountant comes back to me and says “You owe $300.00.”  That means that I got my math almost spot on.  I figured out, somehow, exactly how much I needed to give the IRS and gave them only that amount.  If you don’t owe, that money you are getting back, be it $500.00 or $5,000.00 was sitting in the government’s coffers earning interest for them and NOT YOU.  Why?  BECAUSE A TAX REFUND IS NOT A SAVINGS ACCOUNT!  Uncle Sam isn’t going to pay you interest.  Not going to happen.

So now is the time to ask your CPA if you should walk into HR and adjust those exemptions.  Me, I am a fan of taking your exemptions.  They are yours!  You are entitled to a little more money in your paycheck.  I am not saying walk into HR and take 17 exemptions (unless you have 17 kids…in which case you should also have a reality show).  Go into HR and tell the payroll person, I am married with two kids and adjust your W-4 to Married with three exemptions instead of single with zero.  It can make a real difference in your budget and you may find you have money leftover to save thanks to keeping your own money now instead of a $5,000 refund in April.

The best part, you may STILL get a refund, though slightly lower, depending on your circumstances.  In New Jersey we have such high property taxes, that when combined with our mortgage interest, sales tax, charitable contributions, medicals and kids, even the guy with 17 exemptions might still have a shot at a refund (seriously what would the property taxes be on a house that fits 17 kids in New Jersey…yikes…)

So have the chat with your accountant about whether adjusting your exemptions is right for you because TAX REFUNDS ARE NOT SAVINGS ACCOUNTS….which leads to my next point…

Some of my clients tell me, “But I am not a good saver” or “If I had it I would spend it”.  Ok.  So find a way to not do that.  My personal favorite is to make saving money super convenient, an automatic deduction into a savings account ON PAYDAY, HR can do this or you can set it up through most banks.    Don’t even act like you have it.  Do your budget, now is a great time to update that budget, and figure out how much you can afford to save with your new-found exemption status, and pay yourself first.  If you are person that thinks if you have it you will spend it, have this automatically put into a credit union savings account two counties away from you and don’t request a debit card for the account.  If getting at your savings means crossing two counties during business hours, I promise you will think twice before you make the trip.

But this is not the only thing you should be discussing at your tax appointment.  Here is the list of some of the questions you should discuss with the accountant to save you money at tax time:

1.  Do I qualify for an Health Savings Account?  How much can I put in?  What are the rules?  Would this be better for my health expenses than itemizing my medicals?  (Sarah learned this one the hard way….)

2.  Do I qualify to deduct money I have put into a traditional IRA or should I be saving in a Roth IRA?  (And the hard way on this one too…SIGH….)

3.  I am married now.  Does it make sense for me to file separately or jointly?  Is one better than the other?  What are the rules?

4.  If I take money from my 401k will I be penalized?  How much?  What is the difference between a withdrawal and a loan?

5.  How will Obamacare affect my tax bill?  (Make sure to have details of your current health plan at the ready for this one.)

6.  I am paying a real estate tax lien in my bankruptcy case, will that affect my tax return – (SHORT ANSWER- YES!  Long answer is here.)

This is the short list.  This list could go on and on and on.  Things like whether to let an ex-spouse claim a child or whose name should go on the mortgage interest statement can all make big changes in your tax return and how much tax you owe every year.

Remember, this is the time of year to really evaluate your financial house and discuss it with a professional.  If that professional says your financial house is falling apart maybe it is time to come see us.

If you would like to discuss how bankruptcy may assist you in getting your financial house back on track give us a call at 732-302-9600 or fill out our online consultation form and we will be happy to help you!

If you take affirmative steps to rebuild your credit, your credit score will improve even though a reported bankruptcy, foreclosure or late payments remain on your credit report. Remember, a credit report is simply reporting history – it’s like a history book about you!

You must take some steps to rebuilt your credit. It will not simply get better unless you make an effort to rebuild it. The finance companies and banks get higher interest and make more profit as long as your score is low because you have to pay a higher interest rate.

You must give the credit reporting agencies, Trans Union, Equifax, Experian, etc., new, good information to place on your credit report so the new, better information, is there to judge your creditworthiness by. If the bad credit items simply fall off of your credit report and you do not replace those items with new information, you will simply have “NO CREDIT,” which is as bad or worse than bad credit. If you do not replace the information on your credit report, your credit score will remain low even though some of the bad credit blemishes on your credit report have fallen off after seven to ten years.

Get rid of your debt. Take a look at your overall financial picture. Can you pay your expenses going forward? If you cannot and you continue to make late payments to your creditors, your credit score will remain low or even drop. Sometimes getting rid of all of your debt by declaring bankruptcy is a wise first step because you will have obtained a fresh financial start and will be virtually “debt free” after your bankruptcy case. Removing your debt burden may make it easier to make timely payments on those living expenses you must pay each month.

As stated above, replace your credit information. The credit reporting bureaus give more weight to the most recent information. If your recent credit information is poor, late payments, foreclosure, etc., then your credit score will remain low. But as your new, better, credit activity begins to be reported as you reestablish your credit, mortgage paid on time, credit cards paid on time, etc., your credit score will start to improve despite your earlier poor credit history.

Catch 22 – you need credit to obtain credit, but you don’t need a lot of credit. In other words, even small lines of credit can start you on your path to rebuilding your credit and improving your credit score. You do not need large limit lines of credit to improve your credit score. Using even small amounts of credit and paying the creditors back right on time can result in significant improvements in your credit score. Sometimes this starts with a “secured” credit card.

Look at your credit report, really study it. It has been reported that almost half of the credit card companies incorrectly list your credit limits. This incorrect reporting can lower your credit score. A huge number of people have readily apparent errors on their credit reports. Fixing the errors is not difficult, but can be a bit tedious and time consuming, but significant errors should be corrected to boost your credit score.

As your credit score increases, you will become entitled to lower interest rates. Banks are not in a hurry to see your credit score increase as it means that they will have to take less profit from you on any loans they make to you. So, you must be proactive and make the effort to improve your credit score. Do not try to trick the credit bureaus with the many “credit repair” scams that exist. Those scams are seeking to take YOUR money. Some of these scams will temporarily remove bad credit information from your credit report. However, if the information is accurate, the bad credit information will return to your credit report eventually. Your credit report is a history book, no one can change history and remove accurate but negative information from your credit report – it’s illegal to do that.

So your bankruptcy case is over and you really don’t want to ever see me again.  (Don’t worry, I don’t take it personally.)  The best way to get your finances in order is to sit down and figure out your income and expenses, prepare a budget, and stick to it.

Your budget should include automated savings to a personal savings account and a retirement account and well regulated spending. ( offers great low cost options for those of you who do not have retirement through work!  Mention that Sarah Crouch referred you and we both get a bonus…just kidding…but really mention it. 🙂

You can do this on a spreadsheet, on a piece of paper, or on the computer.

Now for those of you who are very tech savvy there is a plethora of good money management choices for your smartphone available out there.

Mint. is on the computer and on your phone.  You plug in your accounts and it tells you when bills are due, how much you are spending on what, and whether you are on track to meet your goals.  It is a great overall app that will help even the worst budgeter figure out what they are doing right and wrong in their financial life.  It has an Iphone and android app or a website you can work with.  I recommend setting it up on the website as set-up on the app looks possible but might be a bit unwieldy.

Big Pro:  IT IS FREE!  This is a perfect way for you to get started.

Recommended for: Chapter 7 clients starting to get back on their feet!  Chapter 13 clients in a bankruptcy case trying to maintain a budget.


LearnVest takes everything a step further.  It pairs you with a financial planner that helps you get on the right track for the goal of your choice, be that a budget, a five year plan, or a long term goal.  This means that LearnVest costs some money but if you have spent some time on Mint and your financial house is in order it is probably money well spent for the professional assistance that you will get as you move on from your bankruptcy.

It has a top notch website and an Iphone app….and did we mention they give you a financial planner.

Big Pro: You can start investing with assistance from a pro for a very very reasonable price.

Recommended for:  Chapter 13 clients…you haven’t had that Trustee payment in your budget for awhile so you should be budgeted around it already, why not talk to a professional (it is only 20 bucks a month!) about how to make sure that money is spent right after your bankruptcy case!


Level is perfect for me.  I have a Mint account that I love and use frequently and I should have a LearnVest account (I know, I know,  I am working on it, I promise), but the account I started in the last week and am most fond of is my Level account.  This app basically tells you how much is going out, how much is coming in and how much you are allowed to spend that day and that week.  It is grand.  I just get my phone out, pull up the screen, and it tells me if I can afford to eat dinner out that night.  This will work well in conjunction with mint or Learnvest to keep you on track.

Pros:  FREE!!!!!

Recommended for: The tech savvy during and after ANY chapter of bankruptcy.  It is only on the Iphone and is clearly designed for people 35 and under.  Setup was a bit cumbersome but once I spent the time on it I found the app to be well worth it.  If you can deal with the tech this app is great for EVERYONE.  Seriously.  I haven’t eaten out all week because of it but that is a good thing.


So there you have it.  Technology can be used to keep your budget on track so you never have to come see Bruce and I again.  If you need us we will be here because stuff happens, sadly the Iphone cannot stop you from becoming ill or losing your job, but hopefully with your new-found insight because of your bankruptcy and your new budget it won’t be anytime soon.

Good luck!

I know, I know.  You are up to your eyeballs in math and receipts right now and the last thing you want to do is spend yet more time with those receipts but I have to make the following suggestion/assertion:

Now is the PERFECT time to update your budget.

Please hold the groans and just hear me out here.  You have all the documents you need to do this in front of you.  They are organized into neat piles and you have annual numbers to use.  This is going to be easy!  All the work is done, you just have to divide by twelve and you are all set!

Ok so maybe it isn’t quite that easy and I know that budgets are hard to make an even harder to live so I have tried to make your lives a little easier by writing this article about creating a perfect and realistic budget.  Check out the article, gather you documents and check update the budget off of your to do list today.

Interested in how our experienced bankruptcy attorneys can help you with your financial woes?  Give our office a call at 732-302-9600 or fill out our online consultation form and we will call you!


I am inevitably asked this question either during the initial bankruptcy consultation or immediately after the hearing:

“What do I do now?  How do I rebuild my credit?”

My response is that each person handles the rebuild after a bankruptcy case a different way.  Some of my clients don’t want to see a credit card again for the rest of their natural life, others want to get a credit card right away and have to be reminded that they have to wait for their case to be over.

The most important thing to remember about rebuilding after a bankruptcy case is that there is more to it than just going out and rebuilding your credit.  You need to rebuild a financial existence that includes emergency savings, retirement savings, careful budgeting to avoid getting into the same financial situation that caused your bankruptcy case.

I know, this is easier said than done, but we are here to help.  New Jersey Bankruptcy attorney, Bruce C. Truesdale recently wrote this article on how to rebuild your financial house after a bankruptcy, not just your credit.

Remember, if you ever have questions you should feel free to call your bankruptcy attorney and ask questions about how to rebuild.  We are happy to help you before and after your case.

Interested in how a bankruptcy case may help you get a fresh start on your financial future.  Give us a call at 732-302-9600 or fill out our online consultation and we will call you!