By Lisa Newburger, LISW-S
MONEY. Whether you make a lot or a little, there never seems to be enough. You know you want more of it — lots more of it. I can’t blame you; don’t we all? But how many of us really want to take a look at our money problems? We’d rather complain that we don’t have enough money. That complaining ... how’s that working for you? Does it help? Maybe it works for you, but not for me.
Ask yourself these questions. How are you going to pay your bills this month? How are you going to support your child(ren)? How will you be able to fill up the gas tank? More importantly, how are you ever going to move out of your mother’s house? Are these the questions you have? What are you going to do about it?
You need to get back to basics. First, give up the plastic. Credit cards should be put away or cut up. If you can’t afford to pay off the balances each month, you need to stop using them. Keep one credit card for emergencies, but the No. 1 thing you need to STOP doing is spending.
You’re thinking — I don’t understand, explain it. You’re having trouble paying your bills. But how has your bar tab been doing? I know that a bar tab is controversial to address in a professional magazine, but my point is for you to take a look at where you’re spending your money. This isn’t like a weight loss journal where you know you’re going to lie and cheat. (I know this from personal experience.) This is basic economics. Money comes in, money goes out.
Second, write down every day what you spend your money on and how much you spend. Keep that record with you at all times. You need to look at where your money is going. This is a biggie. Reality is looking you right in the eye, and you have to fess up. Are you wasting your paycheck? Are you putting aside the money you need for bills, or do you borrow if you’re short a pay period? It’s time to grow up and stand on your own two feet. You have no choice.
Third, make a list of all your expenses and create a budget. Look at the costs that are non-negotiable — car payments, rent, groceries, utilities, and such. You can shave some costs with groceries by buying generic brands and using coupons. Being frugal isn’t a bad thing. I’m not a financial planner or expert in this area. What I am is a mother who knows that we aren’t teaching our kids how to financially take care of themselves. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Ouch! That’s harsh, but it’s the truth. How are you going to dig yourself out of a hole when you’re paying 22% interest? What’s going to happen if you get sick or lose your job at the dental practice? You have to take a serious look at what’s going on in your life. If you need to earn more money, what are you willing to do? Take on more hours at work? Go to school? Work a second job?
Fourth, find ways to have fun without expensive costs. Maybe it’s time to get rid of the cable. What about the fancy telephone? What about packing your lunch instead of spending the money to eat out? Do you have any idea what you can do that doesn’t cost money? What about spending time with people? Invite people over to play cards. No, not poker. Well, if you have to play poker, use dry beans or Cheerios as chips. That might sound lame, but you’ll get used to it.
You need to change how you think about money. Having fun doesn’t equal having money. And I’m not an idiot. I know money makes life easier, and you can do more things when you have money. But money doesn’t necessarily make people happy. Connecting with friends and families can make people happy. Going to the beach doesn’t cost anything (if you live nearby). Find out what free events are available in your community. Get involved with your religious institution. Start reading. Play Frisbee or volleyball. Once again, there is no charge for these activities.
Finally, you need to start saving money. I don’t care if it is $1 per paycheck. You have to find a way to change what you’re doing. I’m not talking about starting a vacation fund at this point. You need to have savings. What’s going to happen if your car needs repairs or you have a medical expense? Living paycheck to paycheck is like a house of cards. Eventually, it will all fall down. Don’t let this happen to you. With this economy, anything can happen. Dental practices can close. Patients might not be able to pay for dental care. You don’t know what can happen. So, my harsh words are — grow up. You need to start preparing for your future, your financial future. What are you waiting for?
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, a.k.a. Diana Directive, provides humorous ways to deal with difficult topics. Check out Diana’s webpage at www.discussdirectives.com.
By Lisa Newburger, LISW-S