In 1991, my husband’s working car was repossessed. I was shocked. My oldest was barely three years old and I was pregnant with our second child.
I was ignorant of where we stood financially. My husband’s cheques were bouncing all over the place.
The next day, two stern looking men in grey suits stopped by looking for my husband. They told me they were from Revenue Canada. It scared the crap out of me that I had nightmares for weeks.
As bad as it was, it woke me up from my financial bliss (so I thought) and began my financial fitness journey.
I TOOK 3 DRASTIC STEPS:
1. I took over our family’s finances and put our household into financial dictatorship. I took away the cheques and gave my husband his weekly allowance. My male friends and brothers made fun of him, but luckily, he didn’t care. If he played poker with my brother and lost then, you guessed it, my brother would buy him lunch.
2. I vowed to learn as much as I can about finances. I took financial courses, including tax preparation and read a dozen financial books to educate myself. I am actually a certified Financial Adviser but I haven’t renewed my licenses in years.
3. I called all creditors to negotiate. After reading the first book on finance, I called all our creditors and told them that unfortunately, we are about to declare bankruptcy; however, I was prepared to negotiate and make financial arrangements. I also told them I sold all our belongings and have a little bit of money to pay off ALL our creditors (don’t do this unless you have a plan). I learned this: creditors would rather receive a little than nothing at all in the event one declares bankruptcy. I was able to eliminate 70% off of our debts and pay only the remaining 30%.
Note: Government agencies do not normally negotiate but they can work out a payment plan with you.
3 POWERFUL LESSONS:
You can’t control anything if you lack knowledge. Even if you have the desire to do something about anything, you will fail if you don’t have the know-how. And don’t ask your friends for advice unless they are educated on the subject.
If you have the knowledge but lack responsibility, you cannot make any changes in anything. You must take full ownership and responsibility for it. Face the problem head on and don’t blame it on anyone or anything else.
You cannot control anything if you don’t have the knowledge and responsibility. The way to increase control is to also increase your knowledge and responsibility. These 3 things work together to take you to the top.
If you are in a dire situation right now and you want to take full responsibility and take control of your financial situation. Then let me share my 10 steps with you.
FINANCIAL FITNESS IN 10 EASY STEPS
1. Stop the bleeding
Put your credit card in the freezer. No joke. Do it. Stop making new purchases until you have your finances under control. Make it a mantra: if you can live without it, then you don’t need it. Assign yourself danger because you are in danger and you are about to fall over a cliff if you don’t discipline yourself.
2. Assess the damage and write a plan of attack
Make a list of last month’s expenditures and eliminate needless purchases or things you can do without.
You MUST KNOW where you stand; know how much your monthly income is and your monthly expenses. If your expense is higher than your income, then you can deal with it in two ways: lower your expenses or increase your income or both. It’s really elementary but you have to work with the figures, not just have the idea in your head.
3. Set your debt-free target date
It’s not enough to write “pay off debts” on your goals. Unrealistic goals can be discouraging, so set some realistic goal targets and break them down month by month into doable targets, such as pay off $2000 this month.
4. Trim some fats
Take a look at your last month’s expenditures and figure out which of these can be lowered or eliminated; such as your smartphone usage plan. Trust me, I’ve been there and you can do it. I’ve cut off TV Cable and we don’t miss it. We also don’t have a house phone, since we each have cell phones and they are basic plans. This might be hard for some people to do but an extra $40 a month towards your debt reduction can free you from the shackles faster.
Start printing coupons online before going grocery shopping. Buy only what you can eat and eat everything in your pantry or fridge before buying more food.
5. Pay off the highest interest debts – not the loudest
Face the music and call your creditors to negotiate a payment plan. One thing I found out: creditors (especially credit card companies) would rather get some money from you instead of nothing, if you file for bankruptcy.
You can also negotiate a lower interest rate in most cases. Most credit card companies offer “balance transfer” with a lower rate around Jan. or Feb., BUT don’t do it unless you follow this program and actually pay off the balance. If you don’t, they bite you hard with stiff penalties if you miss payments; so read the fine print.
6. Change your mindset and habits
DON’T SPEND MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE. CREDIT is not free money. Make these your mantra to recite over and over. It’s really a state of mind. Don’t spend your paycheck before you receive it. If you are expecting some money, don’t spend it before it actually arrives. Adopt the right frame of mind for money – you have no right to spend money you don’t have, especially if you owe people money. It’s immoral. I know it’s kind of overboard, but once you admit the truthfulness of this concept, then you will free yourself from your free-spending habits.
7. Stay away from temptations
Don’t use the mall as a form of entertainment. If you are a mom, take your kid(s) to the library instead. Starbucks & Macdonald are getting richer while you are getting poorer. The designers who design these fabulously irresistible clothing are very very rich, thanks to you! Think about who you are enriching every time you buy more stuff.
8. Sell your excess and use it to pay some of your debts
Look around your household and personal belongings and sell what you don’t need on craigslist, Kijiji or eBay. It’s actually liberating to get rid of stuff. It will also open your eyes to the amount of excess and unreasonable purchases you’ve made. It’s very therapeutic and powerful, to say the least.
9. Figure out an extra source of income
While making more money is not always the solution (because we tend to spend more), it should be part of your strategy to be financially fit. But extra income will only work if you do the other steps above.
10. Review and assess your progress monthly, then reward yourself no matter how small
If you made progress, reward yourself and your partner (if you have one). It’s important you reward yourself even if it’s small. It helps in motivating you to keep going. This might also be the time to think about setting some money aside for rainy days.
Force savings is best.
Set up with your bank to automatically deduct a certain amount from your account and into a savings or investment account.
Lastly, empower yourself by increasing your knowledge on taking control of your financial future and live the life free from financial stress.
Dream to be free!
If this post helped you in any way, or if you have questions, I want to hear them. Please leave me a comment:)