Recession-Proof: Step 9
We are finally on step nine of our 10-step plan for creating a Recession-Proof marriage and household. For those joining us for the first time, with the exception of a few posts here and there, we’ve been focusing on finances for the past couple weeks. I recognize that financial strain is the number one cause of arguments and divorce right now and those who may have joined the club as “Happy Wives” even just a year ago could now be feeling the pinch in their relationship.
And although nearly all of the writings on this blog focus on the life of a happy wife, during this poor economy I thought it necessary to address a challenge many of my fellow wives are facing. For this reason, I began this series of writings. If you haven’t had a chance to go through the archives, I encourage you to go back and review Step One, Steps Two and Three, Step Four, Step Five, Step Six, Step Seven and Step Eight. For your ease, I’ve included a brief synopsis of each step below. But I definitely recommend taking the time to go back and read each step individually.
STEP ONE: Stop comparing yourself to others and learn to be content (or even better, happy) with exactly what you have in this moment. As Rick Warren said and I love repeating, “If the grass is greener on the other side, that’s because your neighbor has a higher water bill!”
STEP TWO: Team up with your partner in life, your spouse, and pray for wisdom. This is different from the prayers you may have prayed until now. You’re not asking Him to magically make your debt disappear or magically increase your income. You’re asking Him for the wisdom to allow you to do it yourself. No one knows your financial future better than Him so that is the life source you want to stay connected to throughout this process and beyond.
STEP THREE: Strip down your image. There is no doubt that a part of the instruction God will give you will require great sacrifice and that means you will need to be okay with whatever anyone else may think of you. Don’t allow your fear of what others may think keep you straddled with the burden of debt. It’s just not worth it.
STEP FOUR: The 10/90 Rule. Many financial experts will tell you about the 80/10/10 rule and it is what Keith and I follow. But I learned early in my adult life that the 80/10/10 was a goal but for those desiring to financial freedom, the 10/90 rule is a requirement. It is what I used 15 years ago to turn my financial situation around and I’ve never met a person for whom it did not work.
STEP FIVE: Allowance isn’t just for kids. You’ve probably discovered, like most people I know, that budgets are similar to New Year’s Resolutions: everyone makes them but few actually follow them (at least beyond the first month or two). Budgets are usually blown but allowances are not.
STEP SIX: Redefine the American Dream. This step begins the process of helping you pay off your debt and learn to live below your means. Keeping up with the Joneses, Kardashians, Steins or anyone else is a recipe for failure. Defining the American Dream for yourself is the key to success.
STEP SEVEN: Let stuff go. Using the analogy of “how to catch a monkey” we’re reminded how our refusal to let some things go could cause us to remain in debt and not live the financially free life we were meant to enjoy. And like the monkey, who is caught because of his refusal to let go of a booby-trapped treat, our decision to “let go” can change one’s life.
STEP EIGHT: Workin’ 9-to-5 is a movie and an award-winning song, not the way to obtain financial freedom. Get creative in coming up with ways to bring more income into your household. Think outside the box and you’ll get to “recession-proof” much faster than you may think.
And today we’re adding:
STEP NINE: Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your financial situation. Be patient and diligent as you begin this road to financial freedom. Your reward will far outweigh your sacrifice.
Finances are such a tricky topic because many would simply prefer to ignore any financial difficulties until they can no longer be ignored. I remember having a business partner years ago who would leave his bills unopened. There was something about not opening the bills that allowed him to pretend they weren’t there. It reminds me of an I Love Lucy episode I adore.
I can’t remember the episode exactly but I remember for some reason Lucy was in charge of paying the bills. She gets so behind in her payments and finds them all to be overwhelming so she comes up with a simple solution. She puts all the bills on one of those things that goes in the center of the table and spins around (for the purpose of moving food around the table) and spins it really fast. Whichever bills remained on the “spinning thing” was the ones she would pay.
It’s classic Lucy and certainly makes for a hilarious episode. But unfortunately, that’s how a lot of us handle debt. We pretend it is not there until we can no longer ignore it. By that time, there’s a mounting pile of bills that need to be paid. And even if you make all the minimum payments, it seems to never decrease. That’s one of the reason people get discouraged when they begin a mission to pay down/off all their debt.
I won’t attempt to give you a step-by-step plan to paying off your debt here because this blog series would go on for another two weeks and it’s unnecessary. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover or his similar book based on Biblical principle, Financial Peace. Keith and I followed the plan in Total Money Makeover (making a few tweaks here and there as made most sense) so that’s the one we always recommend to friends.
You can also find websites online with free advice on paying off your debt and giving you step-by-step plans to do so. As to not make the mistake of endorsing the wrong ones, I’d suggest you Google “how to pay off debt” and then find the one that makes the most sense for you and your family. Once you’ve found the right plan, just begin. Beginning is 40% of the battle. The other 60% is having the patience to see it through until the end.
When Keith and I began paying off our debt, we were extremely strict. We’d eat like college students on a minimal weekly budget (canned tuna and chicken, anyone?) but we could do that because we were squarely focused on paying off our debt. We remained focused the entire time.
A couple days ago, when I was walking along the marina early in the morning, I began thinking about something the instructors in my yoga videos always say right before we begin a balancing pose, “Find a focus point, it helps with balance.” Anyone who does yoga knows that if you begin a balancing pose and do not have – and maintain – a consistent focus point, you will topple right over. Alternatively, if you find a focus point and keep your eyes focused, you won’t fall.
The same is the case with dancers. Have you ever watched a child spin around in excitement several times and then start stumbling everywhere because they’ve lost their balance? What about you? Do you remember the last time you spun around in circles and how dizzy you got after turning only a couple times? But then a dancer can spin dozens of times in a row, without a break in between, and will never get dizzy. Do you know why?
Dancers fix their gaze on a single location or thing with every spin. If you videotaped a dancer and then watched the tape in slow motion, you will notice their head turns well before the rest of their body. They do not take their eyes of off whatever they have made their focal point (except for a fraction of a second). This technique is called “spotting.”
Most people have been in debt long before they even realized that’s what it was called. Meaning, we have grown so accustomed to using credit that until the recession began, many of us didn’t even realize we were going so far into debt. Keith and I were certainly that way. But once we determined as a family we were going to climb out of that financial hole, we did so with all our effort and might and remained patient with the process.
There’s an old saying, “By the inch it’s a cinch, by the mile it’s a trial.” Take this step-by-step. Determine that you’re going to change your mindset about image recognizing that what matters most is the peace in your home, not what others might think about how much you have or what you just bought.
One of the things I truly believed helped Keith and me is we told everyone close to us that we were beginning this journey. We let them know in advance not to expect expensive presents anymore and for us to be extremely frugal when we went out with them. So many watching our excitement as we began paying off our debt decided to join us and they too began the journey to financial freedom. Sharing what we were doing with others also made it much easier for us to stay the course. It was almost like we had accountability partners without actually having them.
Determine the right plan for paying off your debt and simply begin. And then continue. And continue some more. One of the other things Keith and I did was we gave ourselves a “reward” for every major debt we paid off. A few days away was usually the reward we chose but maybe it’ll be going to your favorite (yet pricy) restaurant or for those who love to shop, purchasing something you’ve wanted but have delayed it for months. It can feel discouraging to work 60-70 hours a week and then come home and eat like a broke teenager. So that’s why we gave ourselves gifts with every milestone. Just do what’s right for your family. What’s important is that you stay the course.
It won’t happen overnight but your road to financial freedom is just as much a part of the journey as the destination itself. Make the most of it as a family and don’t lose focus. Next up: the tenth and final step.
Until Monday…make it a great weekend!
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