Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Taking Stock of the Future

Budget pig
It's important to develop a budget after bankruptcy. Getty Images

It is likely that your financial picture looks a lot different after your bankruptcy than it did before. Perhaps you were trying to pay down credit card debt and put a lot of resources into keeping credit card accounts as current as you could. Perhaps you struggled to make a car payment before the bankruptcy, but decided to give up that car during the bankruptcy case.

In any event, you may find that your budget looks a lot different after the case is over, and you will need to take stock.

At the very least, you need to set out a budget that reflects your wages and other resources like Social Security, unemployment, welfare, alimony, child support. You also need to determine your expenses, considering any debts that survive the bankruptcy case.

Gather Your Information

You already have lots of tools that will help you get a handle on where to go from here. First of all, you will recall that you were required to have a session with a financial counselor before you filed bankruptcy to determine if bankruptcy would help you or if you might consider some other options. Then after you filed bankruptcy before you were granted your discharge, you were required to take a financial management or debtor education course. In both of those sessions, you developed information about your income and your expenses, and learned about ways to budget, marshal resources, handle debt and secure your financial future.

If you filed a Chapter 7 case, much of that might be fresh in your mind, but if you filed a Chapter 13 case, you may have taken that financial management course early in your case. Now is a good time to review what you learned or retake the class.

Consumer Credit Counseling Services

Another great resource is your community's affiliate of Consumer Credit Counseling Services.

 This non-profit service of the National Foundation for Consumer Credit provides financial education and debt management services for little or no cost to consumers. Even if your community has no physical CCCS office, many offer services online or over the telephone. It could be that the pre-bankruptcy counseling and after-bankruptcy financial management courses you took were provided by CCCS.

Bankruptcy Income and Expense Schedules

Another resource will be the bankruptcy paperwork your attorney filed with your case. As you will remember, you provided a lot of personal and financial information to your attorney, who organize it and put it into schedules that were filed with the court. Two of those schedules are particularly helpful: Schedule I: Your Income and Schedule J: Your Expenses

Just like they indicate, these two schedules contain information on your income and your expenses as of the date you filed bankruptcy. They will not include your credit cards, medical bills, personal loans, and such that were expected to be discharged in the bankruptcy case. They may or may not include amounts that represent payments on debt that may not be discharged, like student loans and recent taxes.

Keep in mind that the information will be current as of the date you filed your case. A Chapter 7 case will be relatively recent and probably up-to-date, whereas a Chapter 13 case may be as much as five years old, although you may have provided updated information to your attorney to file along with modifications you requested to your Chapter 13 plan payments.

For more articles in the series, see

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Introduction

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Dealing WIth Emotions, Part 1

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Dealing With Emotions, Part 2

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Ongoing Obligations

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Taking Stock of the Future

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Getting New Credit

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Credit Reports