Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. And when it comes to financial matters, you would be hard-pressed to find one person with a perfect track record.
Many people in debt blame themselves. Even if the circumstance preceding it was unavoidable, it was somehow their fault. If someone in your household loses their job, you are down one income. When an unexpected medical event sets you back thousands of dollars, what was your alternative? Even if you got caught up in impulse shopping, did you know any better about managing your finances?
For example, National Debt Relief graduate Angelic B described her journey this way. “My mother passed February the third, 2020. The world shut down March 13th, my husband became ill. I was diagnosed with cancer, and a lot of emotional things were happening that forced me to retire. When I retired, I had lots of bills and needed help.”
Angelic lost control over her finances, which is understandable since life happens. But it also strained the relationship with her husband and affected her mental health. Here is how she described her feelings. “I didn’t talk about how I felt with the debt. It was a feeling of shame because I didn’t have the money. I felt helpless. It was a feeling of depression because I couldn’t do the things I normally did.”
Unfortunately, money is a hush-hush topic for many Americans. So, unless your parents, a teacher, or someone else taught you about saving and budgeting, you are basically winging it. But when it comes to finances, it is what you don’t know that can hurt you. So, stop berating yourself. Instead, take a deep breath, and let’s focus on dealing with your debt and taking back control of your life.
Budget, budget, budget
There is a reason budgeting and debt go hand-in-hand because the former helps you avoid the latter. You might initially find this a daunting task, but as time goes on it can become a natural part of how you spend money.
The key to achieving financial health is having more money coming in than going out. Here is a brief rundown of how to budget your money:
- Determine how much money you are bringing in every month by adding up your paycheck, investments, Social Security, a side job, etc. Knowing what is coming in will help you determine how much money can go out.
- Make a list of where your money is currently going. In addition to essentials like rent, utilities, fuel, insurance, food, and medical bills, including your daily $5 latte, streaming services, dining out, and other non-essential expenses. You might be surprised as to how quickly the numbers add up.
- Do the math. Now subtract what is going out from your total income that is coming in. Whatever amount is left over can be put towards some non-essentials. But first, it is important to invest a bit toward an emergency account. Even if you can only afford $20 a month, the funds add up and can help you out of a financial jam like an unexpected leaky roof repair. This is also a proactive way to stay out of debt.
- Track your spending to ensure you stay within those guidelines. You will probably find this tedious at first, but it is a very important step. You might not realize that you are spending more than you thought, which means cutting back from the non-essentials. There are many free budgeting apps that can simplify managing your money.
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4 ways to alleviate your guilt
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could “undo” financial mistakes from the past? The next best thing is fixing your error and taking action to ensure it won’t happen again.
1. Stop beating yourself up
You probably don’t like when others judge you, so why is it okay to judge yourself? Finding yourself in debt often has nothing to do with willpower or being a spendthrift. If you were never taught strategies to spend your money wisely or the importance of saving, the only thing you lack is financial education.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers webinars on various financial topics. In addition, you can work with a Debt Management Counselor or a debt settlement company that can help you resolve your debt while teaching you how to spend wisely and save moving forward.
2. Learn from past mistakes
No matter why you landed in debt, make sure it is a lesson learned. After you pay off your debt, set yourself up for future financial success by creating that oh-so-important budget. Don’t charge more on your credit card than you can afford to pay off at the end of the month and commit to saving money. Take that frown and turn it upside down by replacing shame with a sense of pride and accomplishment that you overcame such a challenging situation.
3. Become a role model
Make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak. Pay it forward by helping others who are struggling with their finances. Share what you learned, including personal stories that inspired you to plow through when you wanted to throw in the towel. If you have children, you can mentor them on budgeting and saving from an early age. Set up a savings account in their name and deposit money they earn from chores or holiday and birthday gifts. Show them from time to time how their balance is growing. Not only will it help them gain financial knowledge for the real world, but it can also be a bonding experience for both of you.
4. Don’t let debt define you
You are your own worst enemy. For whatever reason, debt got the best of you. But since you are reading this, there is a good chance you are ready to take action. That is the most difficult step! How could you think of yourself as unworthy when you are taking on one of the most challenging issues you will probably ever encounter? You made a mistake, owned up to it and you are now fixing it. That makes you brave.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling conducted a poll asking participants to finish this sentence: “I’d be most embarrassed to admit my…” 37% of people said their credit card debt was the most embarrassing, followed by 30% admitting their credit score was a source of shame. Weight, which you might have thought would come in first, came in at a surprisingly low 12%.
Many graduates at National Debt Relief share their stories with pride. So, stop obsessing about what is and start focusing on what could be. Debt settlement could help you resolve your debt in as little as 24-48 months and get a fresh start to live your best life.
When Angelic was asked why she wanted to share her experience, she became animated. “I have a compassion for people and relieving them of burdens that they didn’t expect it to happen. My heart reaches out to all of those people who need that kind of help. I’ll tell my story to anyone that wants to. I have no shame whatsoever. National Debt Relief helped me save me so I can live my best life now.”