My name is Andrea, and I have a confession: I have a phobia of public restrooms. The photo above was taken outside a mall bathroom a few years ago. I’m sad to say I didn’t heed the warning – I won’t describe the horrors I witnessed beyond that door, but I will tell you that it only took about 3 seconds to realize my mistake. I’ve barely set foot in a public restroom since.
Two weeks ago, I encountered a dilemma. I had just dropped off my cousin in Nashville, where he left for basic training for the National Guard. I guzzled a large sweet tea from McDonald’s on the drive down, and by the time I got back on the interstate, I was ready to pee in my pants. Did I risk stopping at a restaurant? Or did I drive nearly 100 miles home and pray I didn’t hit any potholes? As I wrestled with the options, I realized that using a public restroom (like many other random concepts) is a lot like getting out of debt.
Who would choose a public restroom over their own bathroom at home? No one! Similarly, some people would rather be stabbed in the arm than balance a checkbook or create a budget. Much easier to stay in the familiar realm of ignoring where your money goes, right?
Sometimes, though, paying attention to your finances can be a major source of relief. If you’re desperate enough, you’ll ignore the ick factor and just get it over with as quickly as possible. That’s the best way to do it – put your feelings aside, do what has to be done, and feel better about life once it’s over.
You Have to Give Up Some Privacy
Ever used a public bathroom where the crack between stalls was wide enough to stick your hand through? Or wash your hands to the tune of someone else’s explosive diarrhea? I can’t even think about men who have to use urinals! When you use the restroom in public, you’re….well, in public. And no matter how much you don’t want to, you could end up sharing more than a hand dryer with other people. It’s embarrassing.
If you’re trying to get out of debt, you probably don’t want the whole world to know your financial situation. Yet people find out, whether you tell them or not. When you turn down a dinner invitation because “we’re on a budget,” you’re admitting you have debt. When you pay an overdraft fee to your bank, the employees know you’re not doing a great job managing your money. And if you’re like me at the height of my spending addiction, your family and friends might see your name in the newspaper under Bankruptcies.
It’s Easier When You Don’t Go Alone
Guys always joke about women going to the restroom in groups. They debate what we’re doing in there, picturing us having in-depth conversations about hair, makeup, and our relationships. Allow me to take away some of the mystery: We take our friends to the restroom so we don’t have to go in there by ourselves. That way, if it’s a terrible experience, we can laugh about it instead of freaking out and drowning ourselves in hand sanitizer.
Getting out of debt is the same way. If you have friends who can validate what you’re going through, it’s much easier to deal with the unpleasant aspects. That’s why I started blogging – it’s easier to avoid overspending when I know other people are working toward the same goals. Also, I know my friends and readers will help me stay motivated if I start thinking I can’t do it.
It Takes Forever
One of the downsides of women going to the restroom in groups is having to wait in line. I always crack up watching a bunch of women pretend they aren’t doing the pee pee dance in a mall or restaurant. Some of them get tired of waiting and stomp away, presumably to pee in the bushes outside. Others tap their feet or roll their eyes. But none of it gets them into a stall any faster.
It’s SO much easier to get into debt than to get out of it. When you owe money to a bunch of people and places, you may feel like they’re all standing expectantly in line, tapping their feet. And it may seem like you’re doing nothing but waiting – waiting to get paid, waiting for your next credit card statement, waiting for wealthy Aunt Joan to pass away and leave you enough money to get out of this mess. Just like using a public restroom, though, no amount of sighing or wiggling will get you to the front of the line – time to learn the virtue of patience.
You Have to Make Conscious Choices
Everyone has limits. There is a certain level of disgusting that most of us can tolerate in a public restroom before we run out screaming. The minute you walk in, you’re evaluating – how bad is the stench? Have the floors even been cleaned recently? Do I really need to go to the bathroom badly enough to tolerate this? Is there soap in the dispenser? Everything may look fine, then you walk into the stall and see an unflushed toilet. Your reaction depends on your level of need (and your gag reflex).
Getting out of debt also involves choices. You have to decide how much money you can dedicate to debt payoff each month. How much you’re willing to sacrifice to reach your goals. What system works best for your situation. And you will constantly reevaluate those decisions to make sure they still make sense. Something unexpected may happen that causes your priorities to change, and you have to be prepared for that. Every single purchase you make is a choice; not just a choice for the item you buy, but a choice against other things you could have bought. The amount of change you’re willing to make depends on you.
So, How YOU Doin’?
Are you freaked out by the thought of doing something about your debt? Or have you decided it’s time to take control of your finances once and for all? When it comes to debt, it’s time to “pee or get off the pot,” as my son’s grandmother is fond of saying.
Like using a public restroom, getting your finances in order is usually something you do when you don’t have another alternative. Sometimes, though, even the worst experiences can help us appreciate the good ones – whether that’s the comfort of your bathroom at home, or an escape from a disgusting, smelly mound. Of debt, that is.
(For the record, I fought the urge as long as I could on that trip home from Nashville, but I finally stopped about halfway home. Which goes to show that you can avoid unpleasant situations for awhile, but there comes a point where you have to get over it and take action. I would like to thank the convenience store off I-24 for providing a restroom experience that didn’t give me nightmares.)