Around Christmas, a friend of mine said something to the beat of, “People never change. They stay between the same two extremes on the same scale their whole lives.”
I don’t tend to argue with people. It’s not a big deal. But she was stating that like it was a fact, when in truth it’s just her opinion. And I can think of no better example than myself. Since I like to talk about money over here, I’ll stick to that, but I can apply this to many other areas of my life as well.
Change doesn’t “just happen.” You can’t fall into change. You can’t just fall out of debt. It’s intentional. It’s a lot of purposeful steps over time.
For me, the seed of change was planted about 18 months before I started digging myself out of debt (for the cough second or fourth time). I still remember how I felt when I wrote out my budget by hand one night and really looked at my bills. What I saw was that my credit card minimum payments were over $500 a month. I was out of control. And I really felt the weight of it that night, for probably the first time in my life.
It still took 18 months for me to hit rock bottom, but when I did, I looked up to see that a little seedling of change had grown into a tree – a tree with branches that I could use to haul my stupid ass out of debt.
Stupid happens. It becomes a problem when it KEEPS happening. Some people are lucky enough to never have to suffer under a pile of debt – for the rest of us, thank God people can change.
Given my track record of reckless irresponsibility, when I finally decided that a bag of money was probably not actually going to fall out of the sky (haha), I turned to Dave Ramsey and Learnvest and my mother for help.
Clearly, I had a problem. I needed help, perhaps a push. Most of all, I needed the right knowledge and tools in my corner so that it would NEVER happen again. Because I couldn’t keep getting in debt and paying it off. The problem was just getting worse and worse – due to my bad habits, but also due to the credit companies giving me higher and higher limits for being such a “good customer.” Those are definitely not the kinds of companies you want to be a good customer to!
Nope. I had to change how I handled my money or the cycle would never end.
Scars run deep, people. I’ve been debt-free for almost two years, and I still feel like I spend too much money sometimes. And I probably do. But I’m not charging things and carrying a balance. I don’t spend money I don’t have. I don’t have 7 credit cards anymore. I don’t have a line of credit. I don’t do personal loans or car loans or any kind of financing outside of my mortgage anyway. I stick to my budget. It can’t happen again.
I still feel the shadow of that stress sometimes. But that’s good. Because those times when I think about it, not only do I laugh now, it’s a reminder. And a fist bump. Because I scooped my way out of a giant hole as fast as I could. I deserve a pat on the back. 🙂
The reason people keep falling in and out of debt is because they don’t change their perspective, and they don’t change their behavior. They need to stop looking at their credit cards and car loans in terms of minimum payments. And they need to stop spending money they don’t have. Period. I’m sure no one in my family thought they’d see the day (though I’m sure they hoped) that I would care about my finances. And you know what, I like being in control of my money. I love how not stressful it is. 🙂