Overcoming Bad Credit: Communication is Key.

At the beginning of the month, I posted about my experience with bad credit. I expected mixed results but the response was overwhelmingly favorable, and many of you thanked me for my transparency.

Truth be told, I didn’t share everything. Let’s face it: finances are a really private matter. I mean, it’s not like any of us are going to put our bank books on public display, right?

Open Wallet

Open Wallet

And why would you? Your life dynamics are just as personal as your wallet. Are you hearing me?

Every situation is different.

So why do the credit companies treat us all the same?

The reasons for my bad credit aren’t the same as yours or your mailman’s brother’s cousin’s dog’s groomer. That’s okay. Neither are the solutions.

Let’s recap, shall we?

  • I am not a credit expert. I am not, have never been, and have no plans to be: A professional debt collector, credit counselor, financial adviser, or life coach.
  • I have experienced unemployment, car accidents, medical bills, single parenting, and poverty.
  • I did not crawl into a corner and stay there. Okay. Yes. I did crawl in. It was ugly. But I didn’t ~ repeat, I did not ~ stay there.

I am slowly and surely finding my way out of my debt and bad credit situation, and as vulnerable as that makes me feel, I’m here to share [parts of] my story with you.

Today’s theme is Communicate.

Use your words, people!

Use your words, people!

That’s it. Use your words, people! But here’s the thing: Are you putting emphasis on the right word? If I say, “Use your words, people!” what do you hear? Me telling you just to talk. But if I say, “Use your words, people!” it changes, doesn’t it? Now it’s about you and your words. About expressing your situation.

This gem of advice was given to me a few years ago but it wasn’t until this year that I realized the power behind it. And it happened by mistake. Or grand design. I’m not sure which.

One particular evening I was ignoring the many Caller Unknown phone calls. In a moment of silence, I reached to make a call of my own, but as things happen, I picked up a call just as it came in. You know the feeling. Do you hang up? Stay quiet so they hang up? What? What? WHAT??

Being the conscientious authentic tired person that I was, I took the call. It was one of my credit card companies. I know. I’m late. Again. Still. My favorite part (not!) is when they ask, “What is the reason for the delinquency?” I really want to rant. Rave. Rebel. Instead, on this call, I politely said, “You know, you asked me that last month and the answer hasn’t changed. I simply don’t make enough money any more.”

So you know what they did? They laughed. They turned me over to a debt collector. They offered to work with me on an income-based payment plan.

Tired Girl say what??

That WAS easy!

That WAS easy!

We took a few minutes to review some information. How much do I make? How big is my family? And then, those magic words: We can work with you.

I was so excited, I answered the next call. And the next. Soon, I had arrangements made for several bills. You know what? The phone stopped ringing as much. The nasty-grams slowed down. And the bills are getting paid.

No, it’s not easy. And it’s not simple. I have to make sure I’m on top of my budget and there are times when I can’t make even the minimal payment so I get to swallow my pride, pick up the phone, and ask for more help. But I do it, because it’s worth it.

I don’t want to default or file bankruptcy. I want to pay my own debts. And when I own up to my financial mess, when I let others know the what’s and why’s and how’s of my situation, they’re more willing to work with me.

These posts started the day after I took another call to try to reduce a bill. In my mind, I had created a monster of debt, and I was ashamed and certain that I should just do a George Bailey and jump off the nearest bridge. Instead, I talked to the woman on the other end of the phone.

In the end, I was in tears.

I explained my situation, again. But this was a new company. This debt was transferred to a new collections department. How humiliating.

Except it wasn’t. Because she spoke to me like I was human, an individual. Not like a number or statistic or deadbeat. She valued me.

We all have value.

We all have value.

And then she said something I’ll not forget.

“You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. But I’ve been in your situation. I have. And I’m going to tell you, hang in there. Okay? It gets better. It does. I promise you. It gets better.”

And that’s why I cried. Because I allowed myself the vulnerability of showing my human-ness to a stranger, and she gave it back to me.

There was no condemnation, no threats, no hardlining. Just a person, talking to a person, working things out.

So I’m here to tell you

It gets better. It does. I promise you. It gets better.

Here’s a few simple tips to help you recover your finances:

  • Answer the phone.
  • Talk to people.
  • Be honest about your situation, what you can (and can’t) afford.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • Try. Try again.
  • If the person isn’t willing to work with you, talk to a supervisor. It won’t always help, but most of the time, it will.
  • Follow up. If you make a promise to pay, pay. If you say you’ll call back, call back. They like it when you’re truthful.

What else can I tell you? You have value. I believe in you. And you know what?

It gets better. It does. I promise you. It gets better.

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And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote!

Firsts in Fiction Podcast

So y’all know I hang with Aaron Gansky and associates, right? I mean, who could forget when Aaron, Beckie and I flew out to Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference a few months ago? [Read: And They Say Getting There is Half the Fun . . . ]

The Three Writing Amigos. . . and a Photobombing Flight Attendant

The Three Writing Amigos. . . and a Photobombing Flight Attendant

Long before the trip, I started running Aaron’s social media in exchange for his writing mentoring. Not a bad trade, eh? It has the added bonus of hanging with his family at least once a month when we play Magic The Gathering and eat food.

And, well, I am a social person. I know, I know . . . you’re shocked by this admission. What can I say? Not everyone is, however. Which makes me a great fit for Aaron’s social media ninja.

How To Do Social Media For People Who Are Antisocial

How To Do Social Media For People Who Are Antisocial

Yup. That’s a thing I’m working on. It was going to be a blog post. Then it evolved into a presentation. It’s been translated into workshops and now it’s growing up into it’s very own book. I’m so proud of my antisocial baby!

Ah, but back to the task at hand. Working for Aaron has its perks. Like pizza. Did I mention the pizza?

The Biltmore Pizza, Asheville Brewing Co.

The Biltmore Pizza, Asheville Brewing Co.

So here’s how it all ties in together. I’m earning my way back to next year’s BRMCWC and more Biltmore pizza on my plate. See what I did there? Yeah, Naomi and Aaron are always mentioning how much I have on my plate, and how a great portion of it is his social media. But if it gets me more pizza, I’m so ready for more plates. Fine bone china, blue pattern, if you please.

I’ll take on as many plates as I can manage, if it means I’m being well fed. And let’s face it: Being well fed includes food for the body, the soul, and the creative part as well, yes?

So let me introduce you to Aaron’s Firsts in Fiction weekly podcast. Every Tuesday at 6:30 PM PST, we gather ’round the computer monitor and tell tales. Okay, sort of. We do meet at 6:30. Aaron and his dad, Al Gansky, interview guests on a live video feed while I facilitate the chat room. We cover all fiction-related topics from writing to editing to promoting to contests to favorite endings to overcoming writer’s block to . . . you get the picture.

I’m sort of a chatty cathy and I guess they picked up on that, because last month they made me official PRODUCER of the podcast. So not much has changed in what I do, just how I do it. Now I’m privy to early behind-the-scenes discussions. I get to video-meet our guests and do my ninja magic on air.

If you’ve seen the podcast recently (and by recently, I mean the last three weeks), you’ve also seen me looking at my phone a lot. No, I’m not bored. I’m tweeting. Sharing. Linking. Liking. Getting whatever visibility I can for the #podcast.

And then it dawned on me. DUH. I did. I literally said, “DUH.” To no one but the cats, but that’s another story and I’m sure Lizzie Cat will tell you all about when her computer privileges are restored. So anyway, I said DUH and figured, why not let my own peeps in on the fun?

All you have to do is follow Firsts in Fiction on GooglePlus and join the chat each Tuesday.

Which happens to be today. Huh. That worked out favorably, didn’t it?

Oh, and tonight’s guests? Bill Myers and Angela Hunt. Two of Al’s three writing partners for The Harbingers series. [Check out Al’s newest part, The Fog, at Amazon.]

So if you’re interested in writing, are a fan of the Harbingers, or just like to hang out, you know where to find us. I’d love to meet you in the chat room. Let’s put some more pizza on that plate, okay?

And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote!