Am I the only one who has cried tears of regret thinking about our debt, or laid awake at night thinking “How are we ever going to get out of this mess?” Buhler?
There was a period of two years where we were turning the Titanic away from the iceberg. We were trying to live on our own with no financial aid, pay for the final hours of my master’s degree in cash, and prioritize that baby we had to feed. I could eat ramen all day long but YALL! Turns out babies shouldn’t live on a diet of processed stuff!
So what was the problem? In our first post-debtmageddon jobs, we weren’t making very much. After mandatory retirement contributions, I made about $15/hour, and my husband couldn’t find a job in his field. Luckily he was able to find not two, but THREE jobs – Starbucks in the morning, Apple in the daytime, and Melting Pot at night. (Sidebar: you tipping fully and/or well could mean the difference in someone’s light bill. Ask me how I know.) In the first calendar year we earned $32 grand – and each month we had those minimums. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars of minimums. The anxiety was through the roof.
Looking back, there were a few things we know that made a huge difference.
- God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
So much good stuff wrapped up in there. I used to beg God to go back in time and give me half a brain so I wouldn’t be so dumb and make those colossal financial mistakes. I’d agonize over the thousands and thousands of dollars we’d ponied up each year in interest (P.S. we were capped at how much interest we could deduct – I have to look up the new law’s tax implications. Ever paid $16K in interest in a year and found out later you could only deduct $2500? #facepalm #taketothestreets #letshaveacoup). I had to let go of the past and forgive myself. There was no going back. I had to accept it. Then I had to figure out what we could change – and that’s in the budget. When it comes to winning with money and getting out of debt, there are only two things you can do: 1. Lower your expenses and 2. Raise your income. Guess what – raising your income is limitless. You can only lower your expenses so much. We started aggressively looking for better jobs. And when we got them – both of us within a year – we could see progress.
2. Lean in to your community. If you don’t have one, find one. If there’s not one to be found, make one.
Guess how much I could pay for a babysitter on date nights? What was the amount I could spend on kid clothes? How much did we have to buy a new car or pay for an Uber when we only had one car? Zip, Zero, Zilch. We had no margin for these things. But we could babysit. I could share my kids’ outgrown clothes and cloth diapers and shoes and toys. I could ferry friends’ kids around. In short, I gave what I could, and my friends – my tribe – gave to us where they could. And it wasn’t because of reciprocity, it is because we love each other. Serving each other is how we can show that love and support. And let me just say – you need a community of people who believe in you. Who will root you on and encourage you to hang in there for the long haul. Who you can be honest with and say this debt thing is depressing. Or getting current on my home is scary. Or having to pay to fix that old beater car again is frustrating. Your tribe is so important.
3. Focus on what you can achieve. Don’t waste precious resources worrying about what you can’t.
Some months we made no progress on our debt. We had medical bills, or needed to save for taxes, or we just fell off the wagon and spent our disposable income on that – disposables. Don’t focus on those shortcomings. Make your focus success
The keys to winning with money are: pay for your four walls first (food, clothing, shelter/utilities, transportation), get current on your bills, save $1000 for emergencies, pay off all your debts, save 3-6 month’s expenses, save for retirement, save for college, pay off your home early, IN THAT ORDER. Don’t worry about Visa if you’re behind on the mortgage! This is a bad plan.
If you’re in the trenches of getting caught up, some of the non-money wins that will help you make progress in your financial world include getting all your accounts online, setting up everything you can on autopay/auto bill, and making a plan (your budget!).
Prayer works. Pray. Pray and then pray some more.
5., 6., 7., 8., 9., +
Some friends swear by essential oils, going outside, exercising, eating right, reading a book, decluttering, journaling, admitting that you can’t do it all, and focusing on how far you’ve come. Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and debt is not forever. This too shall pass!
What’s on your list? A nice margarita? Playing with the dogs? A hearty dinner? I am all ears!
P.S. We have come so close to our debt payoff goal for this month and I can’t wait to share it. Soon!
Stay intense my Gazelles but kill that anxiety!