Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to save more money? Yeah. It ranks up there with
- Eat healthy
- Exercise more
- Improve life
It’s hard, though, isn’t it?
You know what? You’re not alone. When I started sharing about my bad credit experiences, I was overwhelmed with supportive and encouraging comments. So many of you were or are in the same boat, and didn’t know it.
We think we’re alone and headed for a comedy of errors like Gilligan’s Island.
But the truth is, while our individual situations are unique, we have the opportunity to throw life rafts to each other just with words of encouragement and “been there, done that” talk.
There’s a lot in life that can make us feel bad about ourselves. Keeping up with the Joneses is, in my opinion, one of the worst. Which Jones are we talking about? The one who’s a family friend or the one who lives on the other side of town, you know, the right side of the tracks?
When I have money troubles, everything else is amplified. I can’t buy medicine because I can’t afford the doctor visit in order to get the prescription. Or I feel guilty for munching at McDonald’s but in reality I was hungry and didn’t have time to get to the store on my lunch hour. The phone rings constantly, but it’s almost always “Call from Unavailable.”
It wears a person down, doesn’t it? And when you’re worn down, you can’t always see the solution, if there is one.
Recently, I made a self-discovery. I told myself, “I’m tired of worrying.” Sure, easier said than done, and yes I do still have those moments.
But I started smiling more and stressing less. I gave myself permission to not feel guilty over the occasional fast food. It was okay if I bought one song on iTunes for $1.29. But then I stop. Then I’ve reached my limit and treat myself to an emotional allowance rather than a financial one.
Spending time with friends, watching a favorite DVD or even just reading a good book is often all it takes to regenerate my broken spirit.
Money isn’t everything.
And then there was the realization of several truths.
- You are not alone. I know, I’ve hit on this before. But it’s worth hammering again and again. I am not alone. You are not alone. Believe it or not, people will understand when you say, “I just can’t go out this weekend.” It’s okay to say no to some extras. It’s also okay to say yes.
- Patience really is a virtue. Debt collectors are often willing to work around your payment schedule as long as you communicate with them. You can’t expect them to stop calling if you don’t explain your situation. For all they think, you’re a deadbeat. But you’re not. You hear me?
YOU ARE NOT A DEADBEAT.
- There are so many things to be thankful for. I have a roof over my head. I have transportation. I’ve never gone a day without food. If you’re reading this, you have internet access. Whether it’s a public library, school, or at home, that’s a blessing.
- Being frugal can allow for creativity. It can be simple home decor, clothing options, or cooking a meal. Saving pennies can mean celebrating the lean times. Sure, it’s corny like a country song, but trust me. It works. It’s what led me to write and publish The Unemployment Cookbook. That’s a sweet success in my book!
One of the first things you can do when the money situation gets you down, is tell yourself it’s okay. It’s okay to know it’s there, but it’s also okay to say “I won’t let my lack of money define me.” It’s okay to choose to breathe.
Have dialogue with yourself and your family. Ask the hard questions:
- Is this necessary, or a just a social “requirement”?
- Is there a cheaper alternative?
- If not, what else can we do to afford this?
Then it’s time to be honest with the creditors:
- Explain your situation and be honest about how you got there.
- Ask for repayment options. If you can’t pay their “minimum” do they have an extended payment plan?
- Can they give you a reduced pay-off balance?
- If you absolutely can’t pay, be honest. Don’t commit to a payment you can’t make. And don’t get angry at them about it. Those calls you’re getting? They’re just doing their job.
Then stop. Take another breath. And tell yourself, “It’s going to be okay.” Even if you don’t know how. Trust that it will work out. You can be strict without being overbearing. You can be in a financial struggle and still enjoy your day-to-day life.
It’s okay to drink of cup of hot (or sweet) tea. It’s okay to buy clothes at the thrift store and make them your own. It’s okay to walk somewhere, or buy a $0.99 box of mac-n-cheese instead of a $7.00 combo meal.
You have a choice. Even when the money situation isn’t getting any better, you have the choice to not let it define you.
Remember, it’s just a situation. It’s not a lifestyle.
Embrace the happy and you’ll see how rich you truly are.
And Frankly, My Dear . . . That’s all she wrote!