This is a long post, and I apologize in advance. I’ve been trying to write this for some time as I begin a series for you all on how to take control of your finances and achieve your dreams. I’ve read blogs of people who talk about finances but have never felt the fear and pressure of debt collectors and repo men. Or the guilt when years later those choices are still haunting you and making your life difficult. I don’t know about you, but I want advice from someone who is REAL and has been in my shoes. Feel free to share your stories and sign up for more information on the free webinar series I’ll be offering starting next month.
Have you ever been so broke your utilities were shut off? Your vehicle was repo’d? You had no idea how you were going to pay your rent or put food on the table for your kids?
I have. In fact, I still feel sick to my stomach just remembering the fear I felt during that time of our life.
I’m sure some of you reading this know first hand how the squirmy knot of fear feels in belly every time you check the mail or hear your phone ring. Or even the faint (or not so) wave of nausea when you see that pile of unopened mail you’ve been avoiding.
Guess what? It doesn’t have to be this way! But I have to tell you: there is no magic spell, or miracle equation, or get rich quick scheme that is going to fix this for you overnight. Sorry, but you’re going to have to put some elbow grease into this!
You see, money is tied directly into your emotions, so it’s really hard to view it objectively. You love buying things for your kids and desperately want a beautiful home. Your husband adores his cable sports packages and craves the newest game/car/tech gadget. It’s hard to separate those desires from the sensible part of you that says they are impeding you from reaching your financial goals.
Eventually though, you get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Your financial woes beat you to the ground. You reach that moment and decide that there has to be a better way to live.
For me, that moment came when I was hiding with a screaming newborn in our hallway. I was hoping that the repo man who was ringing the doorbell over and over and banging and beating on our front door and yelling obscenities so loud that the neighbors were taking notice, wouldn’t wake my toddler. We were losing my SUV, unable to renew our lease, and behind on every other bill we had. Our credit was trashed, we’d already borrowed money from both of our families, we couldn’t afford daycare for me to go back to work, and according to the state, we made too much to qualify for any sort of assistance.
I cried myself to sleep most nights and was so depressed that I didn’t even bother with housework and just barely had the energy to keep the kids alive until my husband got home from work. To this day, I have no idea what (or how) our family ate or how my husband managed to keep us going.
So on that miserable day, I decided I’d had enough. I borrowed a book from a friend: Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. I read it cover to cover in less than 36 hours. Man, this stuff made sense! I then went out and bought another of the man’s books called Total Money Makeover. It was great and laid out an easy step-by-step plan that anyone should have been able to follow.
We spent the next two years or so spinning our wheels trying to follow the baby steps of this plan without feeling like we were getting anywhere. It was a relief to know what we should be doing, but it wasn’t so easy to actually do it. More than once I felt frustrated, like we had wasted all of that time, but some kind souls pointed out that while we weren’t where we hoped to be, we had learned some very important lessons:
- Debt is bad.
- Four walls FIRST.
- Don’t lend what you don’t have.
- The importance of downsizing and living within your means.
- How to meal plan!
It was over that third year that the pieces really started to fall into place. My husband worked hard to move from the food industry he’d been stuck in for years to a job that has turned into a well-loved career. We found out we were expecting twins! I left my job to stay home. We made the tough decision to move in with family.
Not everything was perfect though: we still lacked discipline. We were no longer behind on everything, but we were still living paycheck to paycheck with no savings or debt paid off. It took a lot of reflection to find the issue at the heart of this. Aside from the lack of discipline, we were lacking motivation. I was a regular on Dave Ramsey’s MyTMMO Forums and I was witnessing all sorts of people becoming debt free and turning into success stories, but instead of motivating me, it was a source of frustration (and even some bitterness). This was especially true as we moved into our own home once again, 3 hours away from family.
The thing was, after we covered our four-walls, there wasn’t much left. All of our debt was (is) in collections so the typical snowball method just didn’t work for us. Paying off debt didn’t free up any money in our monthly budget, so what was the point? I thought. And it didn’t help that the tiny bit leftover or made on the side was constantly eaten away by unexpected expenses. It was beyond frustrating to be caught up, but still not see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was an endless cycle and we couldn’t even keep a small emergency fund, let alone start tackling any of those collection accounts.
Then came the day my husband came home and told me he was likely close to losing his job. That jolting fear I hadn’t felt in a year came back all at once. What were we going to do?! He couldn’t just leave and find a new job or we’d be on the hook for $7k+ in relocation costs. We agonized for weeks before deciding to bite the bullet and start applying anyway. Lucky for us, the idea to apply for a transfer within the company offered us the best of both worlds. And it worked out!
While we knew the move would be great for his career and our family in general, we were now faced with less than a month to move our family of six (plus two cats) 950 miles. And with no savings, no hope of getting our deposit back, and completely trashed credit, we knew that finding housing would be a huge leap of faith.
I wish I had a happy ending for you, but we’re still in the middle of Crazy. We spent close to two weeks in a hotel in Michigan before returning to Missouri to wait for a move in date for our new home. We still have a couple weeks to go. And for the record, I do not suggest a 12 hour drive alone with four small children. Just imagine the logistics of of a potty break with 15 month old twins, a 3 year old and a 5 year old.
Crazy aside, we’re happy with the choice we made and the direction our family is headed. We’re on a mission to get our financial life back together over the next two years and you’re welcome to follow along and learn how to take control of your finances to achieve your dreams!
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