August 4th, 2011
Community Karma: Brandiann Bounces Back
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**This summer, we’re excited to present “Community Karma,”a weekly series featuring people just like you sharing their financial stories, personal money tips, how they over overcame hardships, and more!**
How do you bounce back from a foreclosure and bankruptcy?
That’s what we asked Brandiann Portillo, a 27-year-old stay at home mom. She’s come a long way, and shared her story with Credit Karma.
From Akron, Ohio, Brandiann was married for the first time at 18, straight out of high school. She became a homeowner soon thereafter and took out student loans to help pay for college and her living expenses, including her mortgage payments.
“People should not live on their student loans,” Brandiann says. She didn’t know at the time that she was paying back one debt by getting into more debt—debt that can’t be discharged with a bankruptcy.
When her first marriage ended, she was stuck with the house payments. Her home went into foreclosure and, in 2007, she was forced to declare bankruptcy.
Humility & Lessons Learned
Brandiann moved into an apartment, got a roommate, and started to befriend the Spanish-speaking population in her town. From her new friends, she learned an important money lesson.
“The Hispanic population all lives within their means,” she says. And so she started doing the same, chipping away at her debt in the process.
Brandiann was able to save up enough during a two-year period to pay $12,000 cash for a foreclosed house. After $4,000 in upgrades and renovations, she called her new place “home.”
Brandiann married a seasonal construction worker, and she and her husband just had their first child together this year. Brandiann’s husband works only when weather permits, and there’s a third mouth to feed, so they find creative ways to save on their expenses:
- They pay the lowest internet rate possible, and convinced the cable company to give them a discount.
- The family gets along fine with inexpensive cell phone plans, without data.
- When something breaks in the Portillo household, they figure out how to fix it themselves instead of calling a handyman. Brandiann Googles instructions and then translated for her Spanish-speaking husband.
- Brandiann uses an Entertainment Book to get discounts to shops and restaurants, and the Portillos often dine out with friends and split the bill.
- The family recently splurged on an iPad, but instead of putting it on a credit card, they used their tax return for the purchase.
When it comes down to it, the bills the Portillos have each month total to approximately $500, and Brandiann likes it that way. “I would feel so anxious if I had, say, $1,500 in bills each month. What if something happens?”
“I hope to never have a mortgage payment.”
Brandiann knows better than most that something can happen, because it happened to her. But she’s not dwelling on that now. In fact, she’s been planning on selling her home and buying a new foreclosed property. Using Zillow.com, she follows bank-owned houses and watches the asking prices drop.
“Nobody is richer than I am,” Brandiann says. “People have more debt when they have more money.”
She knows first-hand what it takes to bounce back. The key? Brandiann advises to “be a little humble, and live within your means.”
How have you bounced back financially?
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