There comes a time in recovery when the ugly monster of money and finances rears its very ugly head. Most of us have never been good at balancing checkbooks, maintaining a budget, or otherwise paying attention to our money. Throw in alcohol and drugs and you have the perfect storm.
The “wreckage of our past” is more than just lost jobs or broken relationships. A lot of the wreckage has to do with the bottom line dollar sign.
This is not an easy thing to face – most of us have a deep seated fear, shame, guilt or denial around the money.
But until we actually face this aspect of our life, our recovery will be fraught with problems. Bills being paid late, causing fees to be assessed, and our credit score dipping into the red zone.
This used to be me. Decades ago I had to face the horrors of my financial wreckage. It was my most difficult 4th step – ever! But face it I did – and eventually began to repair my credit, pay down debt, and put money into a savings account.
Here are some very simple steps to get your finances under control. I call it “Operation Zero” – as in zero out the debt, and engage in the process with military precision. This method takes about a year, but at the end of it, I can almost guarantee you that you will have full control of your financial reality.
If enlightenment begins with awareness – use this system to become aware of your monetary status, and then just “seeing” reality as it is without attaching emotion to it can be enormously helpful.
ONE – ASSESS YOUR DEBT
Not an easy step to take – but just pull out a pad and a pencil and start writing down the numbers. These are the big numbers hanging over your head – not the monthly living items.
- Student Loans
- Credit Cards (yes ALL of them!)
- Child Support
- Car Payments
- Health Insurance
TWO – EXAMINE ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS AND THE BLEEDERS
Take a look at ALL the monthly bills.
- How much are you spending on the phone?
- What about TV?
Years ago I was broke. I was an “older” student and had little resources to fall back on. I had to learn that unless something was vitally, absolutely necessary for my life, I didn’t need it.
Here is a list of bleeders that can suck money out of your life faster than the blink of an eye:
- Starbucks/Peets Coffee/etc.
- Breakfast, Lunches or Dinners out
- Emotional spending (clothing, electronics, shoes, ties, etc.)
- Movies, Events, Activities
- Cosmetics, Household products, and “Have to Have’s”
If you start calculating how much money you spend on drive through breakfast every day, versus taking an extra ten minutes to make your own breakfast, it adds up. Big time. Lunches out every day can rack up over $100 a week.
I can guarantee you that you will find “bleeders” in all these areas of your life. You may be paying for more data than you actually use. You may use Netflix and never watch TV, but pay more for the TV. You may be running your heat or AC 24/7 without thinking about the cost.
Cancel accounts that do not serve you and bring your awareness to where and how you are throwing your money out the window.
THREE – DECIDE WHAT YOU CAN CUT
You might have 20 credit cards for various stores, rewards, etc. Systematically zero out every single account. Save three major cards – A Visa, MasterCard, a Discover. Everything else is unnecessary.
Having enormous credit card debt will require a consolidation specialist. Having manageable balances like $500 or even $1,000 is workable. Unless of course you have 20 credit cards all with balances over $1,000. (See the resources for consolidation options.)
FOUR – MAKE THE CHANGES
Here are some simple steps to make changes, save yourself a lot of money, and be successful in “Operation Zero“:
- Do your food shopping on Saturday or Sunday. Carve out three hours for yourself. Lay everything on the counter and begin to wash, cut and place the food in either zip-lock bags or Tupperware (glass containers are better).
- Baby Carrots, Celery Sticks, Apple Slices
- Portion out Salads for individual meals
- Prepare all your fruit in a advance, seal it in containers, lasts a week.
- Make your sandwiches, wraps, etc without any mayonnaise or condiments; they will save for a week.
- Cook up rice, pasta, and any other grains to place in Tupperware or Glass containers. These can be microwaved at work or at home for dinner.
- Reduce the amount of money you spend on chips, snacks, etc. Use raw vegetables, nuts and fruits instead. You’ll save a bundle, and it’s healthier too!
There is a lot of emotion involved in facing our worst fears about money. The best way to work through those emotions is …… breathe. Breathing through the fear, anger, shame, guilt, will make the needed space to zero out accounts that don’t serve you, cut the bleeders, and re-calibrate how you use your dollars.
Change comes around slowly. But small change adds up to dollars. Our household saved over $3,500 in dimes, quarters and nickels put in a 5 gallon water container. That was a sweet vacation!
My mantra for spending these days is: “Do I want it, or do I need it?” If the former the answer is “no” – and the latter is taken under consideration for 24 hours.
“Operation Zero” restored my credit to the high 700’s, cut out wasteful spending, put money in my savings account, and taught me how to simplify my life. It might just simplify yours.
Consumer Debt Information https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0150-coping-debt
Suze Orman Resource Center http://www.suzeorman.com/resource-center/managing-debt/