YOU MAY BE BROKE BECAUSE….

stress over debt

Stressing over bills? Is your paycheck already spent before payday? Are you running out of money before the end of the month? Can’t make ends meet even if you had two magnets? Are you robbing Peter to pay Paul? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?

Debt can be particularly frustrating, especially if you’re drowning in it with no one to throw you a life preserver. Even if you are able to tread water, at some point you’re going to get tired. I know, because I’ve been there. Yep. Back then you could call me the “B” word… BROKE. My secret. No one knew. Broke can take on many meanings, so for all practical purposes, let’s assume “broke” means not having enough money to cover your monthly obligations.

Have you ever stopped to ponder the reason(s) WHY you’re “broke?” If this is you, stop and think about it for a minute. What can you do differently to change your current situation? While you do that, let me list a few behaviors/attitudes contributing to your “brokeness.” Yes, I am aware “brokeness” is not a word, but it should be.

  1. You Don’t Budget: I love it when I hear people say, “Oh I’ve got it all up here” while gently tapping the side of their head. Unless you’re a mathematical genius, how could you possibly have all those numbers and figures inside your head? Yes, you may have a general idea of what comes in and what goes out, but just imagine if you were to transfer “what’s in your mind” onto paper. This way you can see clearly what’s coming in and most importantly where it’s going. After writing it down and seeing it in black and white, you’re easily able to identify “blindspots” you didn’t know existed.
  2. Instant gratification is your “modus operandi:” We live in a society of heavy consumption. We want more more more, and WE WANT IT NOW. It’s too easy to whip out a credit card and purchase the latest iPhone, flat screen plasma television, that expensive pair of heels or those Jordans that just came out yesterday knowing you don’t or won’t have the money to pay the bill in full when the credit card bill comes due. This is where Jesus (and discipline) should take the wheel. You have to be disciplined enough to “walk away” no matter how loud those items are calling your name. I love shopping at discount retailers (Marshalls, TJMaxx, Home Goods, DSW etc.) and when I decided to check myself into “financial rehab,” I literally had to alter my driving route so I wouldn’t pass the strip mall that housed these stores. Out of sight out of mind.
  3. Keeping Up With The Jones: When I look back now over my days of “Keeping Up With The Jonses” it was quite silly because I eventually realized, the Jonses were just as broke as I was. I’m not ashamed to say I went through my phase of believing driving a Mercedes Benz, carrying Gucci and Louis Vuitton handbags, having a closet full of  clothes and shoes and living in a big house complete with swimming pool when it was just me and my two dogs somehow made me feel “important.” At the time I felt having those “material things” somehow validated me. All it did was expose my weakness, and that weakness was a lack of self-esteem. Anyone who is secure within themselves doesn’t need materialistic things for validation. Let me be clear. I still have all of those things mentioned above (minus the Mercedes Benz,) but I realize those things do not define me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things, it’s simply nonsensical going deep into debt in order to obtain them.
  4. Financial Literacy Wasn’t Taught In The Home: My father was always good at saving money. He worked hard and sacrificed for his family. He taught me how to write checks and balance a checkbook when I was 11 years old, and even after I got a job at 15 and was buying my own school clothes/paying for school activities and such, he never stressed to me the importance of saving, yet he was a HUGE saver. I’m still puzzled by that. I’d like to think he was proud because I was being responsible. Not every one my age had a job. I didn’t need a job, I just wanted financial independence. Asking for $10 to hang out at the mall with friends turned into a two hour lecture about how money didn’t grow on trees, but I digress.  I also remember my Dad telling me, “If you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.” To some extent, I do agree with him now that I’m older and wiser. He also advised me not to get caught up in credit cards when I went off to college, however, he didn’t explain to me why. I wished he had. It would have saved me a ton of angst and grief. If financial literacy isn’t taught at an early age, it’s easy to fall into the “debt trap.”
  5. You Refuse To Take Responsibility For The Actions Stated Above: This is the most important of all the habits/attitudes/behaviors listed above. If you don’t acknowledge that your spending is out of control, that you don’t budget, that you mismanage your money, or that you seek validation by obtaining material possessions, you will forever remain in a state of “broke.”
Perhaps one or two of these habits apply. Perhaps all of them apply. Either way, you are in control of your financial destiny. It’s never too late to make changes. It took me until age 39 (when I married) to understand how important it was to build a financial future. Living the single life for so long allowed me the freedom (or so I thought) to be reckless with my spending because I only had myself to hold accountable. However I changed my financial mindset, even after divorcing. I adjusted my spending habits. I budgeted my money and I am now able to truly enjoy what I’ve accumulated over the years. So you see, I no longer need that Mercedes Benz for validation. I look better driving this “PAID FOR” Honda Coupe anyway.
~The Financial Hack 2015
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