You may have heard lately there is some concern about the state of the economy. In fact the crashing waves of fear have spread globally thanks in part to a hyperactive media which seeks to turn everything into a potential armageddon when, in fact, it could have been little more than a case of the hiccups. No matter what the financial guru’s predict, no matter what the outcome, you can choose not to participate!
There can be a silver lining to this rainstorm if it serves to wake us up to our need for better handling of our personal finances. For far too long, out of control borrowing, and spending beyond our means has left many of us living not just paycheck to paycheck, but in deficit spending. By this I mean running out of cash before the next pay check and using credit cards or pay day loans to get by.
You can get back on better financial footing and even prosper. As a four person family living on one very average income in one of the more expensive areas of the country we’ve managed to get completely out of debt, put money aside for emergencies and have cash on hand for Christmas.
Less than an hour after typing the above paragraph my teenage daughter called and said “uh, mom? I’m afraid there’s been a little accident.” She was driving my car, swerved to get around a dump truck stopped in the middle of the road and side-swiped a mail box. Not a big accident, but it will cost us a couple of hundred dollars to repair our side view mirror. In the past it would have caused a minor uproar in our budget, especially coming just before the holiday season. Because we’ve been working for a couple of years now to get our money in order, our response was “okay love, as long as no one was hurt, everything will be fine.” We can just write a check for the repairs and get on with our life.
You can do this, too! It is possible. There was a time in our life when the ringing of the phone invariably meant a collector was calling. It is a horrid way to live and one we were determined to change. It is hard. It takes a willingness to live differently. It may subject you to ridicule by friends and family. But, it is worth it. We’ve gained peace of mind, better relationships, reduced stress and financial security.
There are whole websites and books full of money saving tips. You’ve probably seen more than a few. While most all of them can help, there is one thing that you must have to succeed: a change of attitude. Anyone who is willing to give up some things they thought were necessities and is willing to make changes in how money is handled can get debt free and enjoy all the other benefits that come with financial security.
Changing our Attitudes
There are a lot of tips and tricks to handling money, as I said. But the number one secret to successful finances is this: We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing and expect different results! Attitude change is necessary. Some of the changes that will help are: getting on a budget, cutting up the credit cards, and resolving to get out and stay out, of debt. But the most important change of all is to make money our tool, not our master. If we don’t plan exactly how each dollar will be spent, the unrelenting ads will make up our minds for us. It is so easy to be lulled into thinking: I need that…. bit of jewelry, new shoes, electronic gizmo just because it has been promoted from everywhere.
One of the steps I found very helpful was a very simple one – toss out all sales catalogs before they even get into the house. We are fed a steady diet of marketing. “Buy me! buy me” shout the slick glossy mailings. We’ve all heard how sneaky advertising is, working on our subconscious to make us think if we buy this or that product we’ll be healthier, sexier, more popular or prosperous. We know we’re being manipulated but we underestimate the impact.
I was in a bead store yesterday when a customer, wearing one of those bracelets of collectible beads from the jewelry store, came up to the counter. She commented that the beads in the store display were identical to the ones on her bracelet but were 1/4th the price. She paid $25 at the jewelry store for a bead the bead store sold for $6. Her comment? “I only buy the real thing”. Beads are beads, no matter where you buy them, but the designer brand from the jewelry store has been marketed as classy, elegant, sophisticated. The customer was not buying a beautiful bracelet, she was buying self esteem. Unfortunately self esteem goes down the toilet when the bill collectors are calling because the payments on the credit card are overdue. Fancy label bracelets won’t help much then.
Attitude change is a lot easier if we insulate ourselves from things that don’t support our new life. Throwing away the mail order catalogs is a good start. Staying out of the mall is an excellent step. Reading books by Crown Financial, Ron Blue or Dave Ramsey is positive, helpful input. Sticking around the people who encourage frivolous purchases or who value a materialist lifestyle will undermine any efforts to control the cash flow. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, the great motivational speaker, was right when he said “who you are five years from now will be determined by the books you read and the people you associate with” Change the input and you can change your life!
If we make a choice to change our future, stop acting like a victim of circumstance, and take charge of how we spend our money by making deliberate, mature decisions on how to use this tool, we can climb out of the debt hole.