It’s so easy for me to sit here on the other side of the River of Debt Bridge and dispense advice as if it’s all easy peasy. I’m here today to tell you all, it ain’t. Not one bit is easy. In fact, digging our way out of debt, permanently, was the hardest work I’ve ever done.
Money trouble affects every area of your life. At times, I was stressed to the point of poor physical and (obviously) mental health. My marriage suffered. I hope my kids did not, but I can’t guarantee they didn’t take on some of the thick tension in our home during those years. There may be residuals for them that I won’t know until they have to learn their own money story.
I am not telling you all this so that you’re too scared to do anything about it. I’m telling you all this because I want to be completely transparent so that you know you’re not alone. I remember reading “how-to” stuff during my time in the trenches and it often was the worst thing I could have done because reading it all made me feel like a giant failure. The writers seemed to have it all figured out in their pretty simple houses, with their clean budgets and their handmade buttermilk biscuits and recycled hand towels because paper products cost too much money. They didn’t know what it was like to live in one of the most expensive places on Earth. They talked about budgets like lattes were all you needed to cut in order to pay the bills. Just their life overhead was so much less than mine, I thought they couldn’t know what it was like in my shoes. Either that or these pros were writing from such a place of abundance, clothed in designer everything, with perfect blowouts and sitting on the patio of their vacation homes where they led their teleconferences on “having it all” that it was hard for me to imagine they were ever in my shoes, no matter how much they tried to convince me.
I’m here to tell you I was wearing your shoes a very short time ago and I remember, in a visceral way, how they pinch. I remember the shortness of breath that comes when the gas gauge is on E and you have a car full of kids and an empty checking account until Friday. I remember what it’s like to sell the baby gear on Ebay before you’re ready to, so that you can afford to let your preschool kids play soccer or go to ballet. I can remember the shame I felt when I saw everyone else’s Facebook pictures of gloriously filled Christmas trees or exotic family vacations and I could give my kids neither.
Here is the thing about those uncomfortable shoes, I’m proof you can make it through the long hard winter of debt management with those shoes and come out the other side with the resources and know-how to buy yourself some shiny new ones. (My choice? Sky high Louboutins.)
There are no tips today, except to say keep your head up. You aren’t alone. You aren’t an idiot who deserves all you’ve gotten into. You are a good, smart person who is completely capable of turning your financial life around as long as you don’t mind hard work and an occasional heart flutter when the gas gauge hits E.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.