Last week I had a conversation with a coworker (I’ll call her Beatrice) about quitting my job and how I’ll survive with no guaranteed income. Now, I’ve known this girl for years – we got our undergraduate degrees together – and I never realized what an idiot she was until this conversation. Here’s how it went:
Beatrice: I’d love to put in my notice like you did, but I don’t think we could make it on my husband’s income alone. We spend way too much money.
Me: I used to be the same way. One day I got tired of it, so I printed out our bank statements, got some highlighters, and figured out where all the money was going. That was the only way to change things.
Beatrice: Yeah, that’s probably a good idea, but I’m not going to do that because I don’t want to know how bad it is.
Don’t get me wrong – I spent more than my share of time avoiding my financial truth. If denial was edible, I could have lived off mine for three decades. But that was dumb and only made things worse.
As for Beatrice, I always thought she was smarter than me. She and her husband have a nice home, nice vehicles, and nice clothing. Nothing extravagant; they just take good care of what they have. I never would have guessed that their spending was out of control or that they would flat out refuse to find the root of the problem.
I remember being scared to check my bank balance or open the bills that came in the mail. I know what it’s like to have those inner freak outs when swiping a debit card, praying your transaction will go through. But once I became aware I was doing those things, I took steps to fix it.
I can’t imagine just casually saying to someone, “My finances are a mess and I don’t care enough to do something about it.”
Remember my cousin? The one who bought the big, expensive truck? I’ll call him Dave.
I ate lunch with Dave awhile back. As we were eating, he asked me, “Is there some type of company that will pay all my bills for me? My work hours are so chaotic I can never remember to pay bills on time, and I keep getting all these fees for overdrawing my bank account.”
I’m like, “Dude, set up online bill pay through your bank. I’ll help you get started. Or better yet, switch to PNC Virtual Wallet and you’ll always know how much you can spend without affecting your bills.”
What he actually responded: “That all sounds too hard. Never mind.”
What I heard: “No thanks. I’d rather give half my paycheck to the bank than spend 30 minutes fixing the problem.”
Don’t Be Stupid
Maybe you’re reading this and finding some common ground with Beatrice or Dave. You may have no clue where your money goes, and you may be afraid to find out. I’m telling you right now – that is NOT going to fix anything.
Don’t spend your life floating along, hoping things will turn out okay, when you can TAKE CONTROL and MAKE things turn out okay. You do have a choice in the matter.
You can’t magically change your income, education level, or experience. You can’t wake up one morning and decide you are tired of being a restaurant server, so you’ll just be a lawyer today instead. But the one thing you CAN change is the way you spend money.
But I Don’t Want To!
If your financial situation doesn’t bother you enough to make you want to do something about it, maybe things aren’t so bad. Or maybe you’re paralyzed by the thought of facing your financial truth. It’s important to know which of those statements are true for you – are you swimming or drowning? You can’t have it both ways.
If you aren’t ready to take action, nothing I say will change your mind. Your money has to be important enough (or messed up enough) that it drives you insane and keeps you awake at night. Ever hear the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? It’s not enough to just say, “Oh yeah, I should probably do something about that.” Until you acknowledge that something in your current system is completely broken and MUST be repaired, you aren’t ready to change.
Are you seriously unwilling to make financial changes? Or do you need help knowing where to begin?