In February 2015, a new chapter of my life began. I was engaged, happy, healthy, and confident in most of the areas of my life, except for one. Yep, you guessed it, my financial life. If you give an area of your life little or no intentional attention, it will get away from you and you may end up like me, in debt and I felt financially insecure with where I was.
For most of my life I have always had a corporate job and I love it. Having started in corporate Australia and then moving to the US in 2005, I have always had a steady paycheck and like the norm, that has been increasing. But not only did my salary increase, my expenses were on the increase too and I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I started to spend like crazy, had at least four credit cards maxed out and I started to get into debt, not just a little, ALOT.
I have literally been in debt in some shape or form since I was eighteen until last year. Yes! I too believed that your credit score was tied to your ability to manage money. I believed in a great lie but I don’t agree with that at all anymore. My credit score completely showed me how good I was at paying back “borrowed” money. I felt very deceived by my own stupidity. There was an insanity to it all. I would constantly open up another one with a lower interest rate to pay off the other, catch my drift? It was the downward spiral called living a life of hell, also known as “debt.”
When my husband and I bought a house, it was like a competition who had the highest credit score. Well, he did but I was a close second and it showed me that he was just a little bit better at paying down debt than I was. We both had credit scores in the high 700’s. We are awesome at paying back borrowed money! So the banks win this time!
The lie that I had believed in for so long had me sick and twisted, I whole heartedly believed it to be true and bought into it, I was seduced by it, rewards points, shopping, cash back, gas mileage, travel rewards, I mean, the list is endless. It had me hooked, are you hooked? Do you ever hear about anyone getting rich off travel rewards points? I have never heard of a millionaire stating that their rewards points made them rich and changed their life forever and they inspired them to become a better person. My rewards points were a constant battle and I ended up letting them expire and hardly ever used them, what a waste.
DON’T GET SUCKED IN BY AWESOME ADVERTISING
Advertising and marketing is so outstanding these days, that companies will pay a lot of money to make you believe you need credit and lots of it! Well, we did the unthinkable. We cut them all up and closed them. Yep! At first, it was a daunting task but now, I wouldn’t live any other way.
Cash IS king and can you believe it? You can literally use cash anywhere, anytime and you don’t have to pay interest on it to use it. We traveled Europe for three weeks with nothing but a debit card and cold hard cash. You beauty! What an adventure of a lifetime. And the best part was this; when we came home, we weren’t even in debt, we pre-funded and pre-saved our whole trip. It felt nothing short of AMAZING.
We actually paid for our trip before we left (what a concept), carried cash and our debit card and didn’t have any anxiety when we came home. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly; there is nothing worse than having that feeling after your expensive holiday to come home to sheer regret when your credit card bill comes and your stress levels are out of control because you didn’t budget, you couldn’t afford it and now you are dead broke.
The stats are in, over 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and 60% cannot cover $1000 of unexpected expenses and one out of four has no emergency savings. So that means, you are literally living your life just one paycheck away from a serious financial CRISIS. Are you part of these statistics? I certainly was and had been for as long as I can remember. Broke to me now means a lack of confidence, it is the inability to manage money maturely and it is completely a downright a rotten feeling. Do you want to be confident or insecure about money? The decision is yours and the decision to get out of debt is yours too? What will you decide?
But being broke is NO fun, it feels awful and it is no way to go through your life. When my Dave Ramsey facilitator Chris Peach told us that we needed an emergency fund, I cocked my head to the side and said, “but that is what my credit card is for.” “Oh, and Susie, it should be at least 6 months of living expenses.” I thought oh my goodness, get me out of this terrible budgeting class, this new lifestyle is going to get in the way of all of the things I have planned out to buy, you know all those things that get tucked away in my closet forever and ever collecting dust? I was in for a rude awakening.
My resistance was elevating and I was about to run away and escape it all. But I chose not to run away this time. I was determined to be mature, confident and start managing my money in a way that was an accurate reflection of me. I was confident in a lot of the other key areas of my life so of course I could get my act together and become successful in this area too. I was ready.
So with a little convincing, my husband and I decided, “well our money decisions have gotten us only this far, but let’s dive in head first and let’s do this thing!” Dave Ramsey has helped not thousands, but millions of people with their finances, so I trusted in that unquestionable fact and we took the plunge. It took a few weeks but we had our first $1000 saved. It felt great! But the real hard work started when we begun saving for our 6 months cash reserve also know as an emergency fund.
We started a monthly budget so we knew exactly where we were in the process and just started adjusting our lives. In the first few months, I thought what could I do that will get the E-fund a good solid boost. So I sold those shiny new goods that had tags still on them on Ebay for a fraction of the price I had paid and I made about $2000. Not bad for all the nonsense I had bought. Face creams, new clothes and bags, perfume, makeup, shoes, iPods, iPhones, you name it, I sold it. You can literally sell anything on Ebay. I highly recommend it. It is easy, user-friendly and a good platform to use if you want to make quick money.
THE FASTEST WAY TO CHANGE IS BEING PATIENT- THE IRONY
The next tasks take some patience, time and getting used to. The fastest way to change is by being patient, damn the irony. We get so accustomed to getting what we want and have become a society of instant gratification that it can be a very challenging adjustment. We have turned into spoiled brats getting what we want, when we want it and that means NOW!
You have to be flexible, conscious and have a sheer will to keep going amidst the craziness of it all. But it is all worth it in the end. Anyone that has done it, knows just how amazing it can be to have saved 6 months of expenses, there is a sense of security, confidence, and excitement that it can be done and it doesn’t take forever to do it. It just takes commitment and perseverance.
This has not been an easy process for us, but we wanted it more than anything More than that new TV, computer, more than new clothes, more than going out every night to dinner. To the exclusion of anything else, this has been one of our main objectives. And then there’s my beloved cat. He is 14 years old and he has cost us a small fortune in the last 6 months to the effect of about $2000 and the tally is still on the increase but it is a good feeling to know that you don’t have to eat ramen noodles because your cat needs eye surgery, expensive medicine, and prescription food.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET, CHANGE YOUR LIFE
Your bank account is a great example of change, and if you have done something you have never done before, it is reflected right there in the balance section. It is a great feeling isn’t it? Financial freedom to me had always been elusive. I had only ever known debt, credit and a lack of financial freedom. I was alway stuck and felt enslaved.
Habits can be difficult to break but the only thing that stands in your way of it is your mindset about it. Your spending patterns are just habits. And habits can be hard or easy to break, you are in charge of that and decide how hard or easy it is for you to change.
Some people quit smoking in one day and some take years to quit. Some people learn how to play tennis in a short amount of time and some may not a have a natural tendency for it. You may learn to drive just after a few lessons and I might need to have 20 lessons before I am considered a good driver. It’s human nature and it is different for everyone depending on our natural pre-disposition OR our ability to learn, overcome our past selves and our WILLINGNESS to change.
Bindi Irwin just won “Dancing with the Stars.” She had never danced in her life and she and her partner took first place. She was an expression of sheer will, guts, her ability to overcome her limitations and just sheer practice, practice, practice. It is up to you and it is based on the effort you put into it. But it is that huge percentage that you are up against. Can you take it on and WIN? You betcha you can!
We have just finished our emergency fund and we are no longer living just one pay check away from a severe financial EMERGENCY. My cat has everything he needs, and I can afford to take care of him. I don’t have many new clothes to fit into the closet because I donated and sold them all on Ebay. I don’t have any new makeup and I am the happiest I have ever been! Can you even believe it? Our lives have been truly simplified by consciously choosing to win with money. Confidence and money are inextricably linked.
You too can WIN with money, so when are you going to start?