Why? Why? Why?
We all have those does days when that seems to be the only question that we ask ourselves, and maybe others too. A month has passed now since we have started this journey and what impresses upon me the most is how hard this really truly is. This effort to get out of debt is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
It was pretty easy to get to this point. Simply use the cards a little here and there but only make minimum payments and the balance accumulates. There were periods of a little self-control where the cards were thrown in the ice box and a little extra money was put toward the balances. Especially lately I have been reminding myself that it took us almost 14 years to get to this point, so getting out of it is not going to happen overnight. But I swear on the uncooked ham tonight that we will be getting out of it a heck of a lot faster than 14 years.
Still, I sit here wondering why is this still so hard? I realize that if this was truly super easy, nobody would be in debt including our own nation. Is there any way I can alleviate or even conquer this feeling of being crushed by the debt boulder?
So, what are some of the ways that can help you overcome these feelings and give hope that it won’t always be like this? Yes, I have a few…otherwise this post would be kind of pointless.
Having someone to be there for you. I am fortunate to truly be standing hand in hand with Jack while we stand at the bottom and look up the debt-mountain. We shared the lows and highs of these past four weeks. We were both there when we returned my after-Christmas sales splurges which were a bit sad but we reminded each other of our common goal. We later reveled in surprise when a Craigslist buyer insisted on paying more for an item because she saw the original in the store and knew the retail price. Anybody can be there for you but you have to let them be. The hardest part may be seeking someone out to be your debt-buddy. But I have been amazed at how quickly social media, especially twitter, allows you to connect with like-minded individuals.
Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and attempt to understand why. This is tough as no one likes to stand in front of the three-way mirrors of honesty. Why do I feel as if this is so hard? Why do I feel as if I am not going to succeed and will just splat splendidly in front of the entire blogging community too? The reason is this – there are many behaviors of this first month that reminds me of another personal struggle. This feels too close to the battle of the physical bulge. I didn’t used to be fat. In fact, I was 90 pounds until freshman year of college. It was so easy to get to this point, just simply eat more the calories I truly needed. I haven’t been successful on a diet yet. So why will I be successful here?
Much like the diet rotations, it has also the overwhelming feeling of failure that comes with realizing that you have put yourself, your family, and anyone linked to you in this corner. We all wish we were not here, did not make the mistakes of the past, did not spend the money we spent, but that is not reality. We must recognize our past mistakes, not repeat them and definitely stop reliving them as our failures.
Place the time required to get out of debt within a frame a reference. When I made this suggestion to a friend, the light bulb went off over my head and smacked me hard too for a good measure. She was moaning about how it was going to take them at least 4 years to get completely out of debt. In response, I pointed out that 4 years is not really that long as their son will not yet even be in kindergarten at that point. I need to take my own advice.
Pretend your goals are like lego pieces and celebrate each one. Tonight I watched our son use lego’s to eventually build a large complex structure. Being “debt-free” is the whole pirate ship complete with flags waving. What if each lego had a name? Perhaps one can be “Week 3 Coupons” and another can be “Avoided Vending Machine” and another “Sold knitted scarf.” Each little lego serves an important role in shaping the pirate ship. Celebrate the importance of each one as they are strong and mighty on their own. And if you are a parent, you will no doubt be reminded of the strength of one little lego when you step on one with your bare foot.
Create a visual of achieving your goals. There are a million and one ways to do this. What is the most important point is you only do this for yourself in a way that makes you happy? When you read the point above about the legos, how did you imagine it? Did you want to buy a box and actually label them? Did you want to draw them out? Did you see each lego and their label in a list on a spreadsheet? Do this now!! Take your first goal and make your imagined lego come true. For me I plan to ‘borrow’ a few lego’s from our son and label them. I plan to carry one little lego with me until the goal is reached or an accomplishment happens. Then it will be replaced with a new one. Overtime I will no doubt begin to see the lego’s make the bigger picture take shape right in front of my very own eyes.
And in addition to the above, let’s not forget to……
Celebrate each success. We made it one month. Yeah!!! Bring on the cheerleaders, pitchers of beer, and cake glowing with candles.
- The debt is down by $3,000 because we paid a little extra on the cards, but mostly because we stopped using them!!
- Came in under budget on groceries by almost $50 J
- Our savings account went from $24 to $124 due to one sale on Craigslist
Those are the physical, measurable achievements that we can put down on a piece of paper. On the opposite side of the spectrum, something that is not as measurable, but just as material, is that Jack and Diane worked together this month on all expenses. We each knew how much money was in the account, how many days were left until payday, and focused on the goal of just making it. Together, we were able to accomplish that fact. That won’t show-up on the tally sheet at the end of the month, but is significant nonetheless.
Overtime will this journey to becoming debt-free get any easier? Most likely not. But when there is a moment when I too want to shout “why is this so hard?!!” – I will grab my closest debt-buddy to celebrate this financial diet, remind myself this is not forever, and build more lego racecars with our son.
One month down, a bunch more to go.
How did you get through your first month? What tricks did you use to keep going? Do you celebrate milestones, and what are they?