The first step in a lot of recovery programs is to admit that you have a problem. I think the same concept can apply to admitting that we have trouble with our finances before being able to move forward. I’m not saying that you have to say, “This is all my fault.” I think we live in a society where it is very easy to go down into financial ruin, however, I also think that we have to acknowledge our own decisions and habits that might have contributed to how easy it is to get into an overwhelming amount of debt.
Let’s not necessarily say, “This is my fault.”
Instead let’s say, “I am in over my head in debt” or “I have not been keeping up with things” or “I am continuously living paycheck to paycheck.”
If we are able to admit that we are having trouble, then we can take the next step. Reflect.
Based on my personal experience, you know what doesn’t help? Saying things like:
- Life is unfair.
- I don’t understand why I’m not making ends meet.
- All I do is work, why isn’t it enough?
I used to say those things, and if anything they usually removed me from understanding what I could have done to get out of these giant holes that I was creating for myself. Saying those things also made me angry at the world because I felt like I had been given the short end of the stick when it came to money earned and money kept.
There should have been various points in my life where I should have changed. There were several things that should have served as wake up calls but didn’t. It didn’t matter how many times my credit cards or debit card got declined. It didn’t matter how many times I had to borrow money from my really close friends to make ends meet. It didn’t matter how many arguments I got into my mom because she couldn’t help me or I couldn’t keep up my end of our mortgage agreement. It didn’t matter how I was overworking myself. It didn’t matter how I once borrowed $5 from my younger sister, who has autism in order to buy milk because I didn’t dare tell my mom that I didn’t even have $5 in my bank account. At the time she was probably 14 years old.
It didn’t matter how many bills I got sent to collections. You know what I did with those collection letters? I just started shoving them, unopened, into plastic bags and then hiding those plastic bags. My logic was: out of sight, out of mind.
I kept hitting the snooze button.
Change and betterment cannot happen until you truly own up to your own contributions toward your financial hot mess (aside from again how easily our society sets us up for financial failure).
What were my final wake up calls? I was at risk of getting my car repossessed after falling behind on payments. Later, Capital One sued me. The risk of getting my car repossessed came a few months before my lawsuit, and in all honesty it helped me begin to make the first steps toward financial betterment.
I did not begin to make progress until I finally decided to own up to my own hot mess, and you know what the next step was? Asking for help.
I asked my car’s loan company for help. I finally was proactive and asked if there was any sort of arrangement we could set up because I realized without a car, HOW WOULD I GET TO WORK… which by default meant… HOW WOULD I EVEN MAKE MONEY. I should mention that the PACE bus is unreliable, and I also began to see a lot of the conveniences, such as a short commute by car that I took for granted by putting my blinders on to my financial hot mess. Was it easy? No. I was luckily working two jobs at the time, and a huge chunk of both jobs went toward catching up on my car. Aside from that I had to race to a Western Union for a few weeks to send payments before the weekly deadline, or else bye-bye car!
What did I learn from this entire process? I was able to do it.
The stakes became very high or some people say: shit got real. I’ll write more posts about other ways in that I finally asked for help after admitting I had a huge financial problem in the future, as I think it’s important to open up about how we can’t always do this alone.
If you take anything from this post, I hope it’s that in order to make progress with your money, you need to first talk about it with yourself, and then you’ll be able to reflect and ask for help. I didn’t consider taking a look at my spending habits until shit got too real. No one is going to magically solve your money issues. Only you can. Like with anything: you can’t solve it half-assed. You need to be all in. If you aren’t quite there yet, then that’s OK. Sometimes it takes time to get to a place where you can acknowledge you have a financial hot mess in your hands. IT TOOK ME YEARS TO BE READY TO MOVE FORWARD.
I was clearly a hot financial mess. I think a lot of us have been in similar situations. I’ve met other people who have shared with me what wake up call they chose to act on, and the consensus is that you can’t move forward until you decide to stop hitting the snooze button.
Other things to check out this week:
Many of you may be familiar with the cartoon of the dog that is sitting in a burning building and says, “This is fine”. It was so relatable to many of us who felt like everything around us was burning. The same artist who created that, KC Green, updated that illustration in 2016 to reflect why things are not actually fine. While this updated illustration can apply to anything, I took it to heart when it came to my financial hot mess. For anyone else out there who has found themselves caught up in a spiral of debt, this is an eye opener. I’d say it is even more relatable than the original version KC Green drew.