Starting Over

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It seems I’ve talked a lot about that on this here blog but here I am, yet again, with a report of having to start over.

Life became a bit more than I could handle and I found myself having to make what felt like dire decisions to just get to the next day. In a period of five weeks:

  • Broke my foot (this cost me over $600 out of pocket);
  • Lost my apartment (cost me over $2,300);
  • Finagled a last minute move that was crazy expensive (cost me over $200); and
  • Spent over what I would have normally spent to get to work ($30 a day or $150 a week).

I was making $14 an hour and I thought that spending money I didn’t have to spend was the worst of it. For a while, it was. Then I took a trip to Hawaii (that had been paid for the year before) and lost my personal identification and bank cards. Oh joy! That was surely going to be the worst of it?

Not. At. All.

It seemed as though collectors and creditors knew I was in dire straits and called for every single dollar they’ve ever leant me to be paid back. By this point, I was living with my Mom and had to enlist her help in this. The final verdict? She wouldn’t be able to help me.

And this is where I find myself today – steeped in embarrassment at my financial state and wondering IF it ever actually gets better for the poor folks who were born poor?

It might not but after some deep soul searching, I’ve recommitted to the idea of starting over, really starting over, so that I can eventually own my name. My debt has become a noose around my neck and while I know that money doesn’t buy happiness, it would certainly allow me to afford the scissors to cut myself loose.

We shall see!

Your Financial Problems and Your Personal Priorities

On my personal blog, Miss C. Jayne, I shared how I was impacted by the sermon during my church’s annual Women’s Day. You can read the entire post, but i wanted to share what my revelations has shown me about my personal connection to money.

Yesterday, our speaker shared a lesson and entitled it, “Why me?” Many times, it is in our human nature to ask this question when we find ourselves in uncomfortable positions. I decided to pay extra attention since I found myself asking that question almost daily in a tear-filled fit (these mini-breakdowns have not been pretty, but then a mini-breakdown is never pretty). While speaking, she shared something that stuck out to me: “The trials (in our lives) reveal our trust (in God).*” When she said this, a thought immediately flashed in my mind:

The problems we create in our lives reveal our priorities.

When this thought hit, I found myself in a strange place of calm and understanding. It literally felt like everything was muted. I thought back to my largest frustration – money and the bill collectors on my phone. I thought about my inability to apply to PhD programs, something I’ve wanted to do since 2008, because I owe money on my student accounts at my former universities. I even thought about the current state of my bank account (takes deep breath) and the fact that I owe $1,089 to even get my balance to a cool $0. I thought about every single student loan that I owe on and I felt nothing.

For a moment, I wondered if I had made my transition to the spiritual world in church but I was quickly brought back to my senses when I was elbowed by another person in my pew (lol).

I didn’t die (thank goodness) and I felt a strange sense – clarity. Not peace but clarity. My heart still races when I think about the debt I have at 27 years old but since yesterday, none of that has been embarrassing or daunting. I realized that my priorities have been misaligned and I made decisions in haste with serious consequences. I had a small “Had I known then what I know now” moment. I simply took that moment to remind myself, “But I didn’t know and that’s okay.”

With this clarity, I’m moving forward and making the necessary changes to course correct. After all, that’s why I’m here sharing my story and journey with you all. I hope that you learn from my missteps or that you get some encouragement about your own financial situation.

If you’re still living, it’s never too late to align your actions with your priorities to move towards living the life you want.

*Words in parenthesis are my own and added for context.

Removing Your Financially Emotional Baggage

In our society, money is usually tied to an emotion. If you are wealthy, it is tied to good emotions. If you are not wealthy, it is usually tied to bad emotions. If your feelings of money are tied to not-so-good emotions, this can be damaging to your self-esteem. If you have more negative ties to money, then I would put my money on the fact (not really) that you have tons of emotional baggage.

This post is to help you get past that so without further ado, I present “Three Ways to Work Past Your Financially Emotional Baggage”. Enjoy!

Three Ways to Work Past Your Financially Emotional Baggage

1. Pack light.

If it doesn’t have anything to do with you, don’t pick it up – especially if “picking it up” will mean damaging consequences later on. In a past life, my inability to pack light meant I would have to figure out how to make my extra limited dollars stretch to make sure I was “okay” after helping someone else out. Think of the times that your generosity meant that you covered a loved one’s bill or tab because they promise to pay you back and they don’t. In these instances, you should pack light by doing this on a more limited basis.

2. Make “No.” Your Friend

No is a powerful word and assists you in packing light. This tiny word has the ability to stop people in their tracks, yet a lot of us who have money problems have issues with using it. The reason we need to get over our hang ups about being seen as the “bxtch” or the “Scrooge” has more to do with our mental well-being than the damaging financial impact. If you ever think, “I can’t say no to this! I love this person too much!” just remember how “unloved” you feel when they don’t pay you back. Say no.

3. Be honest!

Honesty is the best policy and for good reason. To really get clear about why you behave the way you do when it comes to money, you have to be honest about why you spend the money. That means getting honest about how you feel when you spend the money AND they type of solution you are looking for when you do it. Looking back on my less-than-honest moments, I now understand money was my crutch to feel better and signal that I could buy nice things when I wanted. Honestly recognizing the way I’m feeling in a moment leads to me only spending money when I feel absolutely great when my mind is clear.

That’s it! Three (not so) simple steps to removing emotional baggage when it comes to your finances. Remember that working on a new mindset takes time, so you shouldn’t get too down on yourself if you slip up and act upon a deeply embedded impulse (habit).

What are some ways you find yourself lessening your emotional baggage?

I’d Have to Fire My Chief Financial Officer…If It Were Me

“Pretend for a minute that you started a company called YOU, Inc., and it’s your job to manage every cent that passes through the company. If you managed money for YOU, Inc., the same way you manage money for you now, would you fire you?”

Yes. I would.

That quote above was the introduction to a Daily Bible Plan that I decided would be worth my while to read. It’s called “Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs” and it is a 10-day reading plan that uses the Book of Proverbs to provide a biblical and practical foundation for financial peace. The description alone was pretty cool so I decided to add it to my daily reading. However, I was NOT ready for a mirror to be held up to my face so quickly. After I got over my comical “How dare he start this way?” initial reaction, I was really able to focus on why I decided to start this Bible Plan to begin with. Like many of my peers, I’m broke and I don’t want to be.

By all accounts, I’m “successful” and I’ve made it but the reality is that I haven’t. I’m a “degreed” Black woman with a “good” job that provides me some benefits outside of a paycheck. I pay my bills on time and I dress nicely. I’m the picture of “getting it together” and this comforts the people around me because I’m relatively young (only 26 years old).

The reality is that I live paycheck to paycheck. This realization was something like a gut-check. It became very evident when I found myself needing to take six weeks off from work to heal from a surgery. With only enough Paid Time Off for 13 days (less that one month’s salary), I quickly realized I had to stop all of my automatic withdrawals for bill payments.

In simple terms, I had to go two months without paying all of my bills on time and I had no money to live on (no savings…at all). That’s not having it together…at all. What was most embarrassing was the realization that I took all of these steps forward in paying down debt and cleaning up my credit only to end up in a spot where I was afraid to once again answer my phone.

That “Financial Wake-Up Call” puts me in the same boat of roughly 40% Americans who also feel they are living paycheck and/or barely treading water when it comes to their finances. In a study conducted by Allstate Financial, more than four in 10 (41 percent) are living paycheck-to-paycheck while another 8 percent say they don’t earn enough each month to pay for essentials. The three points that struck me the most were:

  • Only 46 percent of those in households making $50,000 per year or less have a retirement plan in place (compared to 89 percent of those in $75,000 or more per year income households)
  • Of the households making $50,000 or less annually, just a quarter say they have money left over at the end of the month
  • One-third of college graduates (32 percent) say they’re living “paycheck to paycheck,” compared to nearly half (48 percent) of non-graduates.

And at the end of the day, I hope to become one of those people who can share the steps I took in getting on solid financial ground with others. Perhaps, what separates me from my peers is that I am beginning to understand that thoughts really are the foundation of the lives we make for ourselves. Just think of the phrase “Thoughts Become Things” and then look at the evidence of this in your life. It’s there. But I want my thoughts to create more than just prosperity for myself.

With that, I invite you on this journey of my thoughts and the new habits I build as  I create wealth my way and define my financial future!