Can you imagine how much money has slipped through your fingers over your entire adulthood? If you are like we are, and truthfully, like most people are, you probably feel that you have thrown away a lot of money over the years. We surely have! As newlyweds we spent our hard-earned dollars AND went into debt to acquire a lot of stupid things…too-expensive clothes, gadgets we didn’t need, and silly things that just looked like “fun” things to have.
I have even been guilty of spending too much at the drugstore on makeup, a new kind of expensive shampoo, and lotions and creams that promised the look of eternal youth! CAN YOU RELATE?? I can’t count the times I’ve had buyer’s remorse.
But finally, the light bulb came on. Once we sat down and tracked our spending, we were smacked in the face with a cold reality. We needed to get a grip. It was time to stop throwing our money away and to start knocking out our debt.
There was really only one thing to do; we sat down and came up with a plan to get our spending under control…OUR control. We were determined to control our money and not have our money control US!
TEN THINGS THAT CHANGED OUR FINANCIAL LIFE AND HELPED US GET OUR DEBT UNDER CONTROL:
1. We lived in an upscale neighborhood in an urban area, and one of the first things we did was to move to a smaller home.
In the suburbs. We immediately were able to save a lot of money on rent.
2. We carpooled to work with neighbors.
Right away, we saw our checking account benefit from the savings.
3. My husband changed jobs.
The old job wasn’t working for us, so he became self-employed in sales, which made a tremendous difference in our finances. It took a few years for him to make a name for himself, but his constant stream of conversation has finally paid off for him! Everyone had always joked about how much of a talker he was, and now we say that it was lucky that he could find a way to make a living from it!
4. We agreed to put a halt to impulse buying.
We each have agreed to be accountable to the other for our spending and pledged to discuss any large purchases before spending the money.
5. We came up with a budget ON PAPER.
We listed every single bill that we had to pay every month, and then we calculated exactly how much money we brought in each month. What a shocker that was! We could immediately see where all of our money should be going. This helped us to have a plan for every single dollar that came through our checking account.
6. We took a long, hard look at our debt.
The time for denial was over. We made a plan to attack our debt beginning with the lowest amount we owed. We used this printable to help keep track of it all. The system that we used was to pay off the smallest balances first while paying only the minimum payment on all the rest. When we finally paid off the balance that we were working on, we then added the amount of that payment to the next balance we were focused on. Soon, we could see great results.
7. We opened a savings account and then we paid ourselves FIRST.
That way, we were able to create an emergency fund for any unforeseen expenses. And believe me, we have had plenty of those! When we paid ourselves first, we always seemed to be able to come up with money to finish paying the bills, but when we paid the bills first, there was never any money to add to the savings account! Funny how that works!!
8. We looked for other ways to earn money.
I tutored in the evenings. We sold items on Ebay. We were constantly finding extra ways to add to our income.
9. We changed our MINDSET about money.
In the past we had not paid too much attention to our money. Now we were totally focused on our finances, how much was coming in, how much was going out, and where it was going. We were spending MINDFULLY, not MINDLESSLY, and that made a huge difference.
10. We put aside time each week to study our checking account and our budget, making sure that nothing got past us and that we were sticking to the plan.
We made a binder with our billpay worksheets which we filled out each month, religiously.
This was a whole new way of life for us and yes, it was certainly hard to commit to. But the old way was not working for us. We knew we needed to take control of our finances and that this would mean sacrifices in many other areas of life, but to get where we wanted to be, we HAD to make these changes. It made a tremendous difference in our financial life, which, in turn, positively affected all other areas of our lives! After months and months of sticking to the plan, we were able to diminish the amount of our debt considerably.
You can do this. You can “fix” whatever it is that is not working for you. Sometimes it feels like you are fighting the battle alone, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who are struggling with money, or with the lack of it, and with the weight of debt. It is a crushing, debilitating feeling.
Remember this: You must have a plan, you must commit to it, and you cannot give up. Stick to it and you will see improvement, a little bit at the time, and keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel.