Nine years ago, I found myself a scared pregnant mama with a toddler in tow. Not only was our debit card declined at the grocery store, but so was the credit card. Embarrassed, I tried to play it off, but let’s be real, everyone there knew that I didn’t have the money. Thankfully the kind gentleman behind me paid for our groceries, but I’ll be honest – I felt so ashamed that had he not done that, we’d not been able to have groceries for the week.
Now, maybe you’ve never had that kind of moment of embarrassment, but there’s a strange feeling in your gut right now reading my experience. Maybe you secretly know that your family isn’t doing well financially. Maybe you’re already starting to struggle to pay the bills on time.
If so, I want you to know that you’re not alone and that there is a way out. Sure, it’s not necessarily an “easy” way out but there is a way out.
If you missed it, this summer, I read through parts of my book, Getting Good with Money, live on Instagram. And in Chapter One, we tackled this very topic of “enough is enough.” You can watch the replay below.
The First Step
The first step to take when enough is enough is to start paying attention to your money. Go through and look at your previous transactions – what are you spending your money on? Is there a way to cut out any expenses? Do you need 12 streaming services? Can you bring your lunch instead of buying it?
Then you need to make a budget. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Just start with the money currently sitting in your checking account. Write that number down. Then look at your calendar and the due dates on the upcoming bills. Subtract out any bills that need to come out from that checking account number before the next payday. Then subtract out what you need for groceries and fuel/transportation costs. Next, look at what’s left. What can you do with it?
The $5 Secret
Let me let you in on a little secret. You don’t need hundreds or thousands of dollars to get ahead financially. Nope. You just need $5. Okay, the actual dollar amount doesn’t matter it’s the habit that counts. If you went through the above and have only $5 left after paying everything, plan to do something – anything with that $5 for your future self. Don’t spend it! Instead, put it in your Emergency Fund. Or apply it to your debt. Heck, invest it! No matter what you decide to do with it, just do something that helps your future self! You see the secret isn’t the amount of money it’s the habit of doing something proactive with small amounts every pay period.
If you build this habit, then over time, you’ll reap the amazing rewards of being way ahead financially than if you waited until you had hundreds of dollars extra.
This sounds great and all, but…
Let me guess. You’re reading this going, “yeah, I get it, but we have nothing extra left, and we spend so much on groceries already, and inflation is killing us!”. Oh, I feel you. Inflation is hitting my budget hard too. You’re not alone in this. We live on $52k a year as a family of five with two huge dogs. I understand how tough things can be in this post-pandemic world. However, let me stop you right here. I’d like to encourage you first to check yourself. Are you just making an excuse? Have you done the first step above that I listed, gone through your expenses, and made a budget?
If not – if all you’ve done is guess in your head those numbers but haven’t dug in and done the work, then I’m sorry, my friend, but you’re making an excuse. You’re lying to yourself by saying this won’t work for you because the truth is, you don’t know because you haven’t done the work yet.
Okay, now that that’s over…
It’s time to get real.
What’s your current biggest struggle with money? Is it never having enough money to last you from paycheck one to paycheck number two? Is it not having anything (or very little) in savings so when life smacks you in the face, you fall further into debt? Or is it having so much debt it’s stealing almost half or more of your paycheck every week?
I don’t say that to stress you. I ask these questions because you’ve got to get real with your money and what your current biggest struggle is. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, then you need to focus on keeping on your money every day. You need to batten down the hatches and stop spending money unnecessarily. You need to make a budget and then stick to it every week. Check-in with your money every day – just five minutes. Make this a habit before you try to tackle and other money goals.
If you need more savings, you need to open up that account and start an automatic withdrawal to that account (I highly recommend using an online bank like CIT bank – no fees, and they typically pay higher interest than brick-and-mortar banks). Work to build up your savings to a Starter Emergency Fund (of one month’s worth of living expenses), and then you can move on to another money goal.
If you need to pay off debt so you can have some breathing room in your budget, make a list of all of your debts right now. Order them from the smallest balance debt to the largest balance. Then ransack your house and sell off anything you don’t need. Seriously! It doesn’t matter if you only make $10 on that lamp that costs you $50. That lamp was ugly and taking up space; you spent that $50 years ago. It’s gone, but you just made $10 today, and that $10 will help you kill off that first debt on your list. Don’t overthink this. Just do it. You’ll be so happy you did.
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