What a stressful word that millions of people struggle with everyday. Truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can talk about why our economy is so bad and put blame on everyone but ourselves for the mounting bills and why they can’t be paid. But the truth of the situation is that we control our destiny and finances. We have to hold ourselves accountable for living within our budget, no matter what it is.
One of my friends (let’s call her Betty) shared a situation with me that one of her friends (let’s call her Tracy) is in. Tracy struggles every month to come up with the money to pay her monthly bills. She makes a decent living yet is resorting to using food stamps to provide for her children. She works for tips as many young women do in an industry that is less than ideal. However, tending bar provides her with the ability to claim less than she makes in order to rely on government assistance.
Betty and I struggle daily, but we claim what we earn and don’t look for handouts. Recently Betty and Tracy had an argument that fueled emotions for both of the women. Betty said Tracy expected her to have sympathy for her situation. But as Betty and I talked, we could not wrap our brains around Tracy’s logic. From Betty’s point of view, Tracy could downgrade on the apartment, hold off on upgrading her cell phone for a couple of years (like Betty and I do) and keep her car after it’s paid for. We think this is why her bills are so high.
Tracy wants to find a different job that is more conducive to raising children. This would be a good start; however, she won’t downgrade her lifestyle. She says she won’t quit working at the bar until she finds a job that pays at least $100,000 a year but she doesn’t have a degree and is not currently pursuing one. Betty and I think it’s a little unreasonable.
Betty told me she tried to help put things into perspective and to suggest how Tracy could cut down on her bills. Betty spoke with her about paying a little bit extra on her car every month instead of shopping for a new $300 purse or buying expensive clothes for the kids. And actually Betty took her to one of our favorite thrift stores to show her the cute things she could find at inexpensive prices. But Tracy doesn’t like used clothing, she said the place stinks like someone’s old laundry (Betty and I have never noticed that).
Instead of cutting down and living within her means, Tracy resorts to buying food by using my (and your) hard earned dollar.
I don’t want this to sound like I am against people receiving assistance. I’ve written about my friend Joanie who was struggling to get off welfare and it can be a real battle. But once a person gets into the habit of saving money, little changes can make a difference. Eventually you will see a decline in your bills and your debt will grow smaller. Research different cell phone providers and pick one that offers you what you need at the lowest price. Simple things that take a little time can make the difference in whether you get out of debt or stay in debt.
The system is there to help those in need and if you find yourself cutting every corner and still needing help, that is exactly what the government is supposed to do – help those in need.
Getting out of debt requires a lifestyle change. Paying the minimum on your credit cards, buying the newest and greatest electronics and upgrading to a new car as soon as yours is paid off is not the way to plan for the future. Bringing a sack lunch, putting dinner in the crock pot, buying your food when it’s on sale, buying real food (not all convenience foods), using the savings plan through your utilities company, buying gently used clothing and doing your own nails (or just keep them clean and trimmed) can help you make leaps and bounds towards decreasing your debt. All of the extra money can go toward your loans, and once your debt is paid off you’ll be able to start saving money.