In my case, it took about a year for my credit cards to enter collections and I made as much use of that time as possible taking every available job I could find and working as many hours as I could stay awake.
Above all else, my greatest temptation was to spend the extra money that I was now saving by not paying my credit cards. That impulse had to be squashed. The only way to save is to believe that there actually is a future ahead that will make today’s sacrifices matters.
A lot of more fortunate people like to point to the spending habits of the poor as the reason why they are doomed to remain in poverty. They’ll snidely remark that “if those people can afford tattoos, cigarettes and cell phones then there’s no reason why they deserve food stamps.”
Those kinds of remarks show that person does not understand that the root problem of people who buy a big-screen TV when they have no money at all in savings isn’t that they are greedy or stupid, it’s that they have no hope for their future. A few hundred dollars in tattoos or televisions makes me happy right now and since now is all I’m guaranteed then there’s no sense saving. In this economy the price of a television isn’t enough money to make real changes in my life but it can make me forget about everything else for a few minutes.
In all of this process of preparing to eliminate my debts, hopelessness was my greatest enemy. There were moments when I was at my last budgeted dollar and my kids were sick, my cupboards were empty, and my car started making a funny noise. At those moments spending a little of that third paycheck money on “fun” seemed like a great idea to make myself feel better. I constantly had to order myself to stop sniveling and be strong.
Repeat after me: “There is a better day ahead and you will find it. There is a better day ahead and you will find it.”
One of the best ways I found to help this cash-strapped malaise was to find pastimes that actually added value to my life. I perfected my banana bread recipe. I learned how to change spark plugs. I got a library card. My focus became enjoying the value in things I already had around me instead of only being happy with something new.
I worked as hard as I could. I saved as much as I could in a separate bank account that I made a personal rule not to touch.
In a later post I’ll put up some details of the resources I used along the way to help me avoid fees, save money, and generally feel better about life.
Once a person stops paying the clock starts ticking and they’ll need to have as much cash as possible for what comes next.