Mo Money, Mo Problems
Anytime I think of money the song "Mo Money, Mo Problems" plays in my head. Both my brother and my current boss/mentor are HUGE Notorious BIG fans so I thought they'd appreciate the title of this post. No one likes talking about money but I think you'll find this post refreshingly honest (one of my core values).
I mentioned a post or two ago that I wanted to share my findings on the link between my debt and my weight. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time working on both throughout my life and they definitely have a strong relationship in my eyes. Now, you might not feel this way - perhaps you are a financial wizard and a fat kid or super skinny but swimming in debt. Alas, I was both a fat kid and a financial mess.
How did it start? I racked my brain to figure out when I first got myself into debt. I think it was my senior year of high school / freshman year of college. I worked part time at Newbury Comics, then at a CD duplication house, I wrote for a magazine - I hustled. So, I had my own money…..but I also had my first credit card (for emergencies only of course). Emergencies in my mind could be makeup at Sephora, dinners out with friends etc. I was living beyond my means at only age 19. I would pay the minimum payment and tell myself the next check I would pay it off. Well “the next check” was more like 15 years later. LOL.
Buying things always made me momentarily feel better about my sad state of physical affairs….I hated my body - which is so incredibly ironic given that the size I am now is about the size I was at age 18! I would buy myself presents to compensate for that self-loathing. Conversely, I would then see my credit card statements and get pissed at myself for spending ridiculous amounts of money on things I didn’t need, then I'd drown those sorrows with cupcakes. At my heaviest weight, I was also the most in debt I’ve ever been and completely in denial. I would justify the spending (5 credit cards, all with very close to maxed out balances) by saying I had a good job and made good money and could pay the balances off.
While that was true, I was spending 2-3X more than what I made some months and never actually paying the balances off. It was like a shell game inside my budget - move money from X to cover Y, lie to mom and dad when they ask and say it’s all under control, tell friends I was “saving up for my own place” when they inquired about when I’d buy a home. I was exhausted trying to keep it all straight and keep my head afloat. Really I had no plan; just a lot of stuff purchased on a whim and a lot of empty calories eaten in comfort.
What WAS my problem?! I am a smart girl - I’ve solved complex problems before - why couldn’t I simply stay in my own lane when it came to what I ate and what I spent?
I had to leave this post for a while and come back so I could reflect properly. My problem was I wasn’t making changes for myself; I was making them for someone else. Past attempts to get on a budget and quell my spending were to impress friends and keep up appearances. Past attempts to lose weight were to win the affections of an ex or friends that weren’t really friends. Never once did I tackle either problem because I wanted better for myself. It wasn't until September 2015 that I actually got on board with clean eating and exercise via SP.
By March of 2016, I realized I was ready to finally tackle my spending problem and eradicate my credit card debt once and for all. Like any good plan you need someone to keep you honest. Enter favorite work husband. He's a financial analyst by trade and someone I trusted implicitly, so asking for help was easy (well as easy as looking someone in the eyes and saying “I can't do this myself can you help?” could be). He took over holding my credit cards (if I don't have them I can't use them) and started holding me accountable to my budget. We had budget meetings weekly and in less than a year, we paid off 3/5 of my credit cards. My birthday gift to myself will be paying off a 4th card, one which I'm so excited to see a $0 balance on. My credit score has gone up 56 points since enlisting his help and I can't tell you the relief I feel knowing exactly where my money is going.
Now, similar to losing weight, the process of getting out of this much debt doesn't come without slip-ups. I've had total financial meltdowns and “why can't I just buy this!?” moments over the last few months. But just like with reaching a goal size I've had to learn to deal with whatever emotional trigger is causing me to seek solace via shopping and actually feel it. Feelings are a bitch. Who wants to confront why they feel badly when buying a cute cashmere sweater is so much easier?
By the end of 2017 I'm excited to say I'll have $0 in credit card debt and a huge nest egg I can use towards buying a house. I can't tell you how good it feels to know the hard work I've put in is actually showing. Sometimes I look at my little color coded Excel in awe. I'm ACTUALLY doing it! My advice to you, if you’re reading this and in a similar situation - get honest with yourself, find yourself an accountability partner and find a way to live within a plan. It’s not easy (anyone who tells you it is is lying) but the satisfaction of having your shit together outweighs the growing pains of learning to live within your means. :)