Debt problems are rarely just a financial problem. Many factors contribute to how we manage (or mismanage) our money: emotions, circumstances, outside pressures, conflict with spouses/family, the weather…
Our family’s issues have mainly been over self-control and our mindset about money. Like typical Americans, we want what we want, when we want it, and feel like we “deserve” to get it. Consequence: debt.
Example: It’s been a hard week. It’s Friday night. Everyone’s tired. I haven’t planned well, so we don’t have anything “easy” to eat. (And if you don’t have anything “easy” in the house, then you can say, “There’s nothing to eat!”) Of course, the kids quickly clamor for pizza, and since that sounds good to us, too, we order it…$45 later we realize that was a dumb idea, but evidently they don’t take half-eaten pizza back when you change your mind. As you can see, we don’t wonder why we have debt problems – we KNOW.
Our first paradigm shift occurred when we began budgeting. We do a new budget every month based on that month’s income, and stick to it. (The “stick to it” is the hard part for me. I’m a planner – I like to sit down with the spreadsheet and put all the money where it goes. But I don’t like to actually FOLLOW it…)
This was our first lesson in accountability.
A budget didn’t magically fix our debt problems, though. We didn’t ADD TO our current debt, but we weren’t getting out of it, either. Every month we would reevaluate our budget and think about cutting things. Every line item came with an excuse, though – “It’s only $8, that’s not going to make a difference.” “But we NEED cable – what will the kids do without SpongeBob?” Imagine an excuse, and we thought of it.
As things got harder and harder, our budget got tighter and tighter. We began to realize that our excuses were only doing one thing: keeping us from getting out of the mess our debt problems were creating. That’s the reason for sharing all of this publicly – I’m still tempted to buy shoes, or stop at McDonald’s on the way home, or a hundred other things, but I know my friends would have something to say about it.
I’ve gone from “It’s only a few dollars” to “No one’s spending ANYTHING!” in a matter of weeks. Just ask my husband – he’ll tell you. I’m a spending Nazi. But here’s the reason: THIS IS NOT FUN! And the less we spend now, the sooner we will get out of this mess!
I’ve set a goal. We might not reach it, it will be pretty intense, but here’s what I hope:
To accomplish this we WILL need help from our friends. No, I’m not asking for money (though, if you’re offering…) All we’re asking for is support. Encouragement. Accountability. Sometimes, advice. (Sometimes!) But mostly just accountability. Because we need it. We all need it. Your problems might not be debt problems, but we all have things we’re fighting in our lives that are bigger than us.
So what about you? What goals in your life do you need support and accountability from your friends to accomplish? What friends do you go to?