What has the Connex Savings Challenge done for me so far? Seven months ago I thought, “Wow, 10 grand to help with student loans, taxes and a credit card. Sure, I’m in.” Now, I feel like every dollar decision today uncovers some past financial misstep. OUCH! The past comes into clear focus. “Oh yeah, I did put that on my Visa!” “Why did I put that on my Visa?” “What? I can’t defer my student loans forever?”
Though not intended by the marketing department at Connex Credit Union, who thought of the Saving Challenge, I am sure this challenge has actually been several months of deep psycho-therapy for me. I have been faced to look at the following realizations:
1. Skipping a tax year payment really is a very big deal, and no, it is not easy playing catch-up.
2. Taking out loans for $50,000 (for an unfinished education) with interest, of course, did not mean anything to me 10 years ago.
3. Still having to pay off a credit card at a 15% interest rate for purchases from four, five, six years ago (and sadly, looking back, I can’t recall what I even bought.) Let’s not forget my trip to Mexico in 2006. Ole!
4. Thinking the only way out is to take itty, bitty, tiny, teeny steps, one dollar at a time. The road ahead seems so very long.
5. Knowing I will never ever spend more than what I have is my foundation of faith. It is my financial sobriety.
My fellow bloggers, I don’t see how one could continue getting themselves in deeper debt after looking at the truth of today. What you spend today adds up— err, rather subtracts from your future financial goals. The truth is a pair of shoes does put you in debt. A latte does rob your retirement account. A bargain vacation, even the best deal ever, sets you back for YEARS. (Mucho pesos mi amigos!)
Now, I could go on about my childhood and how poor little Susie learned these careless behaviors or didn’t learn the right behaviors, but that will not change a thing: I am in a hole. I am deep and I don’t want to be here. Truthfully, I have been in denial that I am here. The first step was admitting I am in need of help and I want help. This is hard. This does bite. The truth stinks but ignoring it is not the way out.
I have a long way to go, no doubt, and every little step I’ve made, no matter how small or long ago, is toward progress. I have savings, money allocated to debt that I could not find in my budget last winter and pride that I am creating positive changes. I am excited to plan for the future and am no longer afraid of my debt. I feel a sense of security that things will be okay.
My advice to you non-challenge participants is to:
2. Write down EVERYTHING including the bills, coffee, gas, the dollar you gave to the homeless guy and even the money you put into saving (which IS a “bill” or debit from your income that you have to budget for.)
3. Before you spend another dime, look at where you spent the last one.
4. Ask yourself if it is a need or want?
5. Is there an interest charge for what I am about to buy?
6. Talk to someone at Connex to help.
7. Ask someone you trust, who is wise with dollars, how they do it.
8. Be curious.
9. You have to DO something to make changes, not just wish that things would be different or tomorrow you will do something, or think your story or things for you are different and these steps won’t apply. I thought the same way.
I was hemorrhaging my hard earned dollars to the past. I had to stop the bleeding to heal, for my future. Good luck.
Was it difficult for you to realize your spending behaviors before committing to a new saving goal?
This is an entry from the 2009 Connex Savings Challenge Blog, a place where you can keep up with the Savings Challenge families and they can share great financial tips, ways they are saving and budgeting and much more! For more blog entries and information on the Connex Savings Challenge, visit http://www.connexcu.org.