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Guidelines for allowable expenses w/budget?

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  • Guidelines for allowable expenses w/budget?

    I have been looking through the forum without much luck to find some pointer to guidelines for what is acceptable on a Chapter 13 budget.

    I am guessing it likely varies to some degree depending on the trustees... but are there any general guidelines?

    For example - I am a single dad of two school age children trying to maintain a home and a career... up until a few months ago, I had a maid service that came in twice a month to help clean bathrooms and floors... not a luxury service, exactly, and very reasonable rates.

    When things started turning south a few months back - I cut everything out - some of the childcare that I need, cable TV, the maid service and probably other things.

    Now - when I think about trying to make this work for the long haul (five years)... I really want a plan that I can live within... are there any guidelines about what types of expenses are allowable on a budget?

    And as importantly - if I am wanting to have these types of things, have I shot myself in the foot by canceling everything, as the trustees may go back and look at the past 6 months or something?

    And - if I start the service back up again, should I be paying by check so it is easily reviewable by the trustees?

    Sorry for the flurry of questions... I am a few weeks out from working with an attorney and trying to figure out what to do.

  • #2
    The trustee just simply would not allow you to have a maid service as a expense, unless it was medically neccessary, like if you had back problems, etc., etc.

    In my district, regardless of what the IRS expenses show, the trustees have their own set of guidelines for individual expenses that they consider "reasonable".

    Anything beyond that, they will ask for some type of documentation to justify the excess.

    I would start by calling your local bankruptcy court, and ask them for the names of the Ch.13 trustees.

    Then google those names with the words trustee and Chapter 13. See if they have a website, and if they have a expense guideline form.

    If that doesnt help, make sure you hire an attorney that knows the trustee's preferences, and has been doing BK's for years.

    Child care is allowable, and believe it or not, some trustees will allow you to have Cable TV as an expense.

    When your attorney does your schedules, he can put different expenses on the forms, and by the time the trustee asks for child care receipts, weeks would have passed by and you should be able to provide them at that time.

    So if you want to start up the expenses you cut out, go for it. Just not the maid service.

    You dont need to have 6 months of receipts, but then again, some trustees could be anal.

    The 6 month look back is primarily set aside for determing your monthly income.
    As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


    • #3
      Have you started interviewing attorneys? Definitely work up an abbreviated list of the questions you asked here to ask them.

      Living pre-BK gives you a different view of what the local standards are, and having an attorney that is familiar with the trustee and area standards are make a world of difference. There were things I thought would NEVER fly with our trustee ($250 a month cell phone expense), yet it flew. It flew because the attorney knew what was acceptable and what wasn't.

      The attorney may also be able to reasonably adjust your budget to reflect the local norms. A well crafted budget/plan is most important.

      Also, what you may have given up or put off pre-BK may well be in the budget after you file. I've seen people finally being able to go the dentist because the plan had healthcare budgeted in.
      Filed 07/07, $120k unsecured debt
      Plan: $400 (includes cram down) 60 months
      Brilliant attorney, decent trustee, awesome plan


      • #4
        Thanks - Appreciate the replies

        Thank you for the replies... very helpful.

        I wasn't sure about the housecleaning service. Have similar questions, for example, about lawn care (not mowing, but weed control, & dethatching) and driveway blacktopping and the like. Amazing when you stop and see where all your money goes when you own a home.

        Not everyone is good at everything - some folk change their own oil, some don't. You know? I could cut my own hair, but that wouldn't be such a good idea either

        I do have an attorney in mind - 50% of their practice is bankruptcy, so I am guessing they know the local process and trustees pretty well.

        And the comment about the dentist appointments is right on. I have cut back for a while now on everything - my son needs new glasses, for example, and I have just been putting off other basics (like dental appts) out of denial or anxiety or whatever.

        The debt load I am carrying is a house of cards... even at this moment, I am basically up to date, but the first account that gets behind will be like a domino effect. That is why I have been trying to prepare as best as I can.

        Really looking for a sustainable way to live.


        • #5
          CH 13 tends to put things back into perspective. For awhile, many filers have been paying down CC and other debt while neglecting other life expenses.

          Have you seen what is listed on a plan budget? I was surprised to see that we had budget category of "household maintenance".

          A good attorney will plug in the maximum in each category and usually that will create breathing room (ie. you may not *need* the entire food budget, so the extra can be diverted elsewhere).

          When I did an informal budget before seeing our attorney, I had our "disposable income/trustee payment" figured out at $2000 a month. As you can see from my signature it turned out to be significantly less.

          Please do yourself a favor and talk to several attorneys, even if you like the first one you talk to.
          Filed 07/07, $120k unsecured debt
          Plan: $400 (includes cram down) 60 months
          Brilliant attorney, decent trustee, awesome plan


          • #6
            To help you maximize your allowable expenses, try using this neat online calculator, most of these expenses are totally allowable to a certain extent.



            Originally posted by zenbit View Post
            Have similar questions, for example, about lawn care (not mowing, but weed control, & dethatching) and driveway blacktopping and the like.

            This can be covered under the home maintenance expense category, to give you an idea, my trustee allows $100 per month to go towards this, that is considered reasonable.
            As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


            • #7
              Originally posted by zenbit View Post
              really looking for a sustainable way to live.
              This is where budgeting for YOUR life comes in. Once you know how much your plan will be, your fixed monthly expenses (housing, utilities, insurance, etc), then you can divvy up the rest in a way that suits your lifestyle, keeping in mind that you will need to try to save what you can for any bigger expenses:

              I am not comfortable unless we have at least 2 months rent and 2 months trustee payments set aside (and fortunately we do).

              We take our car in for maintenance every 3 months, without fail. It's an older car and we want to keep an eye on it. We have registration fees due in September, it may be only April, but I am reserving a little bit each pay period so that it will be painless to pay come September.

              We rent, so our *big* household emergencies would be the fridge and microwave. I set aside a little bit each paycheck to cover the replacement of either of those.

              My savings for the holidays start in Aug/Sept, again, a little bit each pay period.
              Filed 07/07, $120k unsecured debt
              Plan: $400 (includes cram down) 60 months
              Brilliant attorney, decent trustee, awesome plan


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