We’re going to start with a bold point here — if you’re in debt right now, there should be no secrets about it. We want to run and hide when life gets tough. We want to forget about all of the things that we’ve done. But the truth is that no amount of running, no amount of hiding, no amount of blame shifting is going to change a single fact. If you’re in debt, you made choices that out you there. Not having a savings account tends to make debt more inevitable. Sure, there are things that are out of our control. However, it’s better to focus on the things that you can control. Did you buy a candy bar yesterday? That could have gone into your savings account. It doesn’t seem like much, but it certainly adds up. This means that you really have to make sure that you’re always thinking about exactly what needs to be done to get you out of debt.
Is it a mindset problem? In other words, do you really believe that you can get out of debt? Generally speaking, we like to hide from things when we feel that we’re helpless. Your family deserves your honesty, so make sure to open up about how you’re feeling. You might find that they’re feeling the same way. People can really tell when you’re faced with a big challenge. Your entire body language is different. If you’ve been closing yourself off from other people because you feel your debts are shameful…don’t. There are plenty of people that want to help you succeed. You can actually work out a lot of options with a credit counselor who would be more than happy to give you more specific information based on the unique details of your case. You have a new future waiting for you, if you are willing to receive it.
Right now, you need to look at your budget. When I first looked at my budget, I was shocked — I didn’t realize we were spending so much money on optional things. Sure, it’s nice to have candy bars, soda pop, and fast food — but those little purchases add up. You might not think about it when you plunk the bit of change on the counter for a Coca-Cola, but it really does add up very quickly.
Keeping your eyes focused on your budget is very important. It can really get away from you. You might think that the few purchases you have don’t add up to much, but you might really be surprised. It’s better to make sure that you can focus on this than end up losing again and again over time.
You want to start saving as soon as possible. A lot of guides tell you that it’s okay to wait until you’re out of debt. The debt is going to be there. You need to make sure that you have some sort of safety net that you can honestly trust. You need to make sure that you have some sort of extra cushion in case things really don’t go your way. That’s something that you can trust in. That’s something that will make your life better. That’s something that you will be able to cling to when there’s bumps in the road.
What about getting new tires? Oil changes? What about when something breaks around the house? You need to make sure that you have short term emergency savings. In fact, I would venture that it’s actually more important to have these savings when you are still in debt, because the shocking affects of these emergencies are much worse when you don’t have a lot of money to spare. When you don’t have cash on hand, you have to scramble to make ends meet, which ends up giving you blows to your self esteem. It’s better to think about how to protect yourself for the long term. A lot of people struggle with this. They are purely short term thinkers, and it tends to get them in trouble. You’re better than that, so make sure that you watch your budget accordingly.
Could the type of friends you’re hanging out with really get in the way of your finances? It can be that way if they aren’t really supportive of your decisions. When people are jealous, they tend to try to pull you down. If they’re in debt and haven’t figured out how to get out of it, they might feel that it’s better to tell you what to do than to actually do anything for themselves. They might not want to see you reach your goals because then they have to figure out their own lives. I know that sounds funny, but people really are like that.
What you ultimately have to do, at the end of the day, is figure out what works for you. Being honest about your finance with your entire family is hard. I’m not saying it’s not hard. When I first had to open up about struggling with money, I felt like crying. My family was looking at me funny. They wanted to know how I, the person with all of the answers, could make so many financial mistakes. They were critical at first, and then they realized that I really was trying to do what I felt was best. I put things on credit cards to try to keep everyone from knowing just how bad things had gotten. If I had come clean before now, we wouldn’t be in such a mess. Thankfully, time truly heals everything — even credit. Even if you’re not out of debt today, you can be out of debt somewhere down the line. It’s not going to be an overnight thing, you know? You’re going to have to really want it — as badly as you want to breathe!