In My Bankruptcy Feelings

Recently a friend of mine reached out to me regarding the possibility that they may file for bankruptcy.  When I started this blog, I definitely wanted to be used as resource for anyone who needed financial guidance and/or just to talk out their finances. So, when this friend reached out, it made me feel like this blog is accomplishing the effect I wanted it to have… this idea that we can just openly talk about our financial worries and any money matters with each other without feeling like we can’t or shouldn’t.

I listened to my friend talk about their reasoning for possibly considering filing for bankruptcy, and it made me reflect on my own bankruptcy adventure.

It took me months of weighing the pros and cons of bankruptcy before finally deciding that it was the right move for me. It wasn’t an easy decision, but ultimately the amount of debt I had from terribly managed spending habits was collapsing onto my very being. I felt suffocated and unable to find my grounding. The thing about bankruptcy, is that it’s not just something you decide on a whim. It’s a carefully thought out decision, and I think there’s still this incorrect idea in our society that people who file for bankruptcy are 1) failures and 2) looking for an easy way out.

I certainly felt that this is what others might think about me once they found out that I was going to file for bankruptcy, and look at me now! I have an entire website where the premise is my bankruptcy, and I shout it out at audiences when I do stand up! My bankruptcy is not a secret because I want to normalize it. Filing for bankruptcy is a normal thing, and we shouldn’t look down on people who decide to do so. Because guess what, folks!

It’s not an easy way out. It comes with after effects, or what you’d call consequences. When I finally decided to file for bankruptcy, it was me becoming fully cognizant of my situation and also of the work I had to put in after my discharge. 

For me, my decision was worth it even if every now and then I am faced with hurdles because my bankruptcy is on my credit report and will be on there for nine more years!

I remember the first few times that I saw my therapist after my bankruptcy was discharged, and how she even noticed the difference in my attitude and mood. I felt relief. A huge source of anxiety and stress had been lifted from my shoulders because I recognized what was best for me and my life.

So to my friend, and to whoever else is or has contemplated filing for bankruptcy:

  • Do your research. Reach out to people who you know might have done this before. (HIIIIIIIII, I’M AVAILABLE TO TALK WITH YA’LL!!!!!!!!)
  • Research lawyers who are reputable.
  • Weigh the pros & cons (which I’ll make a post about in the future)
  • Think about what you will have to do/how your life will be post-bankruptcy. You have to have a plan in place so that you can learn better financial habits.
  • But most of all, TRUST YOURSELF.
  • AND DISMISS THE BAD ENERGY FROM PEOPLE WHO MAY LOOK DOWN ON YOU FOR DOING SO.

Filing for bankruptcy is a normal thing to do. I could get into my rant about capitalism, but I won’t. Just know that you are not alone in facing this possibility, and that it’s OK.

Depression Made Me Buy It: How To Hold Yourself Financially Accountable Even During Emotionally Trying Times

Today I want to talk about depression and how it can affect your finances. For those new to Breaking the Piggy Bank, let me quickly catch you up. I began this website after having hit several financial mishaps that eventually led to me making the decision to file for bankruptcy. The goal is to make money issues less taboo, and to provide a platform for those of us learning to stand on our own financial ground.

What contributed heavily to my financial misadventures? Lack of self-control, a desire for instant gratification, poor money management skills, terrible priorities, an inability to say no to choices that would strain me financially, and (drumroll) my depression. Whether you have clinical depression or not, we all struggle with times when spending money makes you feel better. However, that sort of thinking is not conducive to long-term money goals.

It is one thing to buy yourself a greasy meal as comfort or the videogame that you think is going to help you feel better versus drowning your depression in $100 worth of shots… and boy have I been there! If you have found yourself in a similar situation before, then you should know that there are things you can do to control your depression from taking a toll on your financial goals.

Depression is a lifelong struggle. While it is not constant, there are times in life when it will creep back in and put a hold on a lot of your life including your finances. You may begin to question why working toward that long-term financial goal is worth it. During these times it may be best to remember how you first felt when you began to work on the money goal. Did you feel relief, a sense of accomplishment or pride? Those feelings were genuine and are only gone temporarily. Of course, the length of time that “temporarily” is can vary, but regardless if you persevere even during the bouts of depression or sad moments in life, you’ll come out far better financially.

So, what are specific actions we can take to protect our finances when depression creeps in again or when life is too tough and spending money seems like the easiest thing to do?

  1. Plan ahead: Set up a separate account, whether checking or savings, that you will not have regular access to spend money from. It doesn’t have to have a huge sum of money in it, but ideally during every paycheck or every other paycheck, you want to send some money that way. If you are working toward a specific long-term financial goal, then have this account be where you are setting that money aside. For example, if you like to go camping during the summer and want to have money set aside for that, send it to an external account rather than keeping it in your main account. Not having that money as easily accessible can help make sure that even during a depressive episode, money toward that goal is not affected. I like to use online banks because it makes transferring money back into my main account a hassle to do, even if it is just waiting around a few extra days. That extra step and delayed instant gratification goes a long way when you feel depressed. In my case, I usually end up thinking, “Why bother it won’t make me feel good right now.” My main bank account is with Simple, and my external account is with American Express (yes, they have savings accounts options and have no physical bank branch… so I can’t take money out as easily.)
  2. Allow yourself to spend some money: I’ve allowed myself to spend money on Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream when I feel like hiding from society. Find something small that you’re all right with spending money as a small pick-me-up. Try to avoid large purchases by writing out on paper why you think you want to make that large purchase. This extra step can help clarify in your brain why it seems necessary in the moment. Return to this thought the next day to see if you still feel the same way. Impulse purchases seem like a good idea in the moment when you first think about them, and depression can certainly make them seem alluring. Adding an extra step and returning to it, can help you stray away from money decisions you will later regret.
  3. Evaluate, Reflect & Re-plan: If you end up sabotaging your finances momentarily, it’s OK. Everything we do serves as a moment to review, reflect and then learn from. In doing so, you will be able to figure out a plan for a future instance where you may lean toward not caring about your money goals. Take me for example, I had to take a hard look at the mistakes I made in my past, many of these during years when my depression had taken a hold of my finances. The outcome has only been positive.
  4. Take a break from the finances: Look, it’s no surprise that focusing too much on your finances when you aren’t in the right mind and space for it can result in feelings of despair and/or anxiety. It can make everything that much more overwhelming. It’s OK to take a break from crunching numbers and figuring out how to pay for long-term goals. Sometimes, you will need that space. For instance, I recently became a little too obsessed over how to pay for braces while also going through a rough mental patch. The result? I became more overwhelmed than needed and felt like just giving up on all of my financial goals (not just saving for the braces). I felt a lot better once I took a break from my spreadsheet to focus on other things that would help me mentally. Do the same when you need to. Just be sure to not ignore it completely. Make time to go back to your spreadsheet/notebook/bank app when you are in a calm state.

These are just a few things that might help you avoid falling into the trap that I often slid right into. This trap is known as the “my depression made me buy it”. As always, stay strong. You are in charge of your behavior that leads to your financial wellbeing, and I believe in all of you.

What are some of your strategies for taking care of your finances even when things in life get emotionally rough? Comment below or shoot the Pig an anonymous message with your thoughts.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

It’s that time of the year again, folks! My vehicle plates expire this month, so it’s time to pay the whopping $101 to the state of Illinois to renew them! And you know what? That’s OK because I’ve been preparing for this expense since December!

Today’s post is going to tackle those annual expenses that we have each year, but somehow they still take us by surprise. You know which ones I’m talking about…

These are the bills that we only have maybe once a year, but every year they are around the same time, and somehow every year you might get that dreaded feeling, that “oh shit, I forgot about that bill” feeling, that “ugh, why” feeling, that “oops, over drafted cause I forgot that was set for an automatic payment” feeling.

I used to get caught off guard with these annual expenses. Then I realized that it didn’t make sense that I kept acting surprised with these types of bills because they happened every single year. Yet, in a way, it kind of did make sense. It’s easier to remember the bills you may on a monthly basis compared to the bills you only see once a year.

As the title suggest: out of sight, out of mind.

I thought to myself: How can I prepare myself for these “unexpected” bills, which are very much expected.

A huge part of my growth in the aftermath of my mishandling of money is in learning how to be financially proactive rather than reactive. As I discussed in last week’s post, I am barely learning how to proactively save money. I don’t have an adequate savings amount where if shit hits the fan, I can have a safe little bubble for a while. However, I’ve learned to be proactive in small ways.

When it comes to tackling these annual bills, the key is to actually think about them. I’m not saying constantly think about them each and every week, but what can help is making time to sit down during the year and making a list of what annual bills are due in which month. It honestly will only take less than 20 minutes to just make a list of them!

What do you do with that list once you make it? Put it somewhere you will look at it.

OR HEY WITH ALL OF OUR FANCY SMARTPHONE TECHNOLOGY, input it into your calendar and set a reminder for the month before it is due. This can eliminate the whole SURPRISE factor that really shouldn’t be a surprise.

But hey Angelica, I have my annual gym membership fee set for an automatic payment so I don’t actually have to think about it. It’s covered!

Gotcha. You’re right. The bill will be paid, but will you be prepared for that week or month if you didn’t remember your available balance might be lower than expected?

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can also plan to set aside money ahead of time for said annual bill, so that it isn’t a one time financial hit. Thereby, you might be under lesser money constraints when that bill goes through.

For instance, my plate renewal is $101 and is due every March. If I didn’t want to take the hit of $101 in my paycheck for March, I can decide to set aside an amount each month toward that $101. So, if my plate renewal is every year, then I can set aside $8.42 a month to have that cost covered come March.

$8.42? That’s less than I pay for Netflix a month! So, in short, it’s doable.

So, inquiring minds want to know… what are your annual bills that you have on your plate? How are you preparing for them?

I have plate renewal and gym membership fee in March.

Then I have a busy annual bill month in June with:

  • Annual vet visit
  • City sticker renewal
  • Pet tags renewal
  • Costco membership renewal

This is what it taking into account these annual expenses for June look like on my end:

Screenshot (6)_LI

Again, spreadsheets are my go to tool. Find what works best for you to be proactive. 


Come back next week for the ASK THE PIG feature where I’ll answer the questions you’ve submitted. There’s still time to anonymously ASK THE PIG a question you have! Click the link and hit submit!

Treat Yourself!

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… but plan for it ahead of time.

Look, I’m not a financial adviser. I haven’t written books of money from the perspective of a millionaire that pulled herself from her bootstraps. I haven’t helped thousands get their financial shit together through sold out speaking engagements, and I most certainly have not been booked by daytime TV in any capacity. I’m only talking from experience, and as with even expert opinions, you should take what I say with a grain of salt and decide for yourself what is best for you.

I get it. I want that. I want it now. I got to have it. Impulsive purchases give us a high of sorts. For me, it happened to be a coping mechanism to deal with my depression where buying more clothes felt like a good idea at the time, even though my closet was already overflowing with clothes I never even wore! Seriously, my mom and friends are notorious for telling me I always wear the same three items of clothing despite everything I have. Kind of like Charlie Brown, though nobody ever berates him about it. 

So, is treating yourself bad? No, but learning how much to treat yourself can be challenging.

Let’s go back in time. I grew up low income. My mother was a single parent working minimum paying jobs while trying to raise my sister and I. Going to the store was more about window shopping than actually buying things. Oh, you want McDonald’s? Sorry, no money for that. It was all about the essentials, and while my mom was certainly thrifty and resourceful, guess what happened when I started working while in college?

I went in the opposite direction of being thrifty and started buying anything I wanted (while still paying my half of the rent). I had absolutely no filter because as naive as it sounds, eighteen year old Angelica thought she was suddenly rich on her own minimum wage!

The majority of my checks working at some mall teen store went directly back into that store because of the enticing employee discount. I kept upgrading my computers and phones, as if I actually had the means for it. At this time, I still paid everything on time and had great credit until a few years later when treating myself finally caught up to me.

I hit the kind of wall that you hit when you’ve had one too many drinks.

After hitting this metaphorical wall, I then went into the other direction with the mentality of: I HAVE TO BUCKLE DOWN. Can’t spend money on that, or that or this, no more spending money.

Yet, that also was not the best solution for me. Having the mentality of “can’t spend money on that” just made me feel more guilty and horrible about myself and what direction I was headed toward. What was a girl to do?

PRIORITIZE.

It’s been a year since I have been practicing a solid budget, and I still get to treat myself. The difference? I have an annual budget on Excel (we’ll discuss this in more detail in later posts) where I am able to view at a glance each month, determine necessary expenses (bills, groceries, utilities) and then figure out how much money is left over that I can spend on other things I want. This way I can treat myself to coloring my hair or going to a concert or taking a trip.

I’ve even set dates that I know for certain that I want to treat myself on, and actually save money ahead of time for that Treat Yourself Day that I picked. If you know that next month you want to go out on the town, then save for that night this month! Obviously, this should be different from a normal savings routine. It’s better to be proactive than borrow money from your actual savings account for a Treat Yourself Day.

It’s OK to treat yourself, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Why is it that money has a tendency to make us feel guilty? Guilt doesn’t make for the best relationship, and something I learned from reading plenty of self help books this past year is that in general we have to learn to have a much more positive relationship with money.

So, treat yourself responsibly. Plan ahead or prioritize current expenses in order to feel less guilty about it, and also to maintain control over how, when and with what you treat yourself.

 

 

Do you remember your first piggy bank?

Mine was Mexican. He was born and raised in Mexico before deciding that he would have a better future by pursuing the American Dream. He was large, bright red, and had flowers tattooed all over his ceramic body. Unfortunately, things did not end well for him.

After following me, the little pigtail-ed girl that fed him every now and then to the U.S., he met a rather abrupt end.

The weapon: a hammer. The motive: I wanted money right then and there.

Do you remember the first time you broke a piggy bank?

You can’t un-break a piggy bank. You can certainly try to glue it back together or wrap it up in band-aids. The action, though remains in the past. The action cannot be taken back.

Sure, modern piggy banks come with little round, plastic covers on their bellies so you can get slide your money out without resorting to murder. These aren’t real piggy banks. These fake pigs are the equivalent of a checking account: a tool where you can keep spending your money right as you deposit it.

Do you remember when you first paid the bare minimum amount on your credit card? Or when you missed a payment? Or when you didn’t finish paying off your balance before the zero percent interest period expired? Or when you transferred a balance to another card? Or when you avoided answering your phone? Or when you began hording a massive GLAD bag of unopened bills deep inside your tiny closet?

I broke all those figurative piggy banks. The problem was that because they weren’t real piggy banks, they never made any noise. I never had to immediately clean up the pieces. I silently continued to keep making more bad decisions.

The weapon: impulsiveness. The motive: I wanted money right then and there.

WAIT UP ANGELICA, what the HEY is this blog about?

Spoiler alert: I filed for bankruptcy SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO!

I’ve learned a lot from my horrible financial decisions. In the year in took me to come up with the money to retain my bankruptcy lawyer, I also learned how to develop a healthy relationship with money and have been able to maintain a decent budget. There’s still more I am learning, but I want to be able to share what I’ve learned and also continue on this financial wellness journey with you.

In short: Whatever your financial situation right now (and maybe you never even went close to bankruptcy) there’s a lot of us in the same boat, trying to take our piggy banks back to safety.

Let’s stop simply bitching about money and start being proactive. Let’s also stop treating money like it’s this big and scary monster, and learn how to think of it as a positive thing.

&

Let’s stop feeling like we can’t talk about money.