I have avoided opening mail for years. I knew that most likely it would be a letter saying that I owed money to so and so and it was this many months overdue it was. Letters from creditors that yet another account had gone to collections just taunting my credit score to drop even lower. Money was an emotional thing for me. I grew up seeing both my parents struggle with money, never feeling comfortable or being able to meet their financial dreams. Being in debt and not paying my bills made me feel like a bad person. I didn’t want to end up like my parents. What was wrong with me? How did my financial situation get to be how it is? There were many reasons. There were times where I took on a debt I shouldn’t have. There were times I simply didn’t have enough money to pay bills and eat food. There were times when I did have enough money to pay bills and eat food, but knew there would be a time soon enough where I wouldn’t have enough money so I “lived it up” while I had the chance. I was immature and my priorities weren’t in the right place. I didn’t trust myself. I felt my financial situation was so hopeless and I didn’t have enough control to make it any better. Getting through college and being in a long term relationship was enough for me to handle that, emotionally, I couldn’t really focus on being financially responsible. I was trying so hard to create a good life and could only handle so much. I was fragile back then. Couldn’t really see too far into the future. There were so many times I tried to sit down, organize all my paperwork and debt. I would get so easily frustrated, feel hopeless, and two days letter the unopened mail would start piling up again. My phone would ring at least a few times a day, receiving calls from various creditors. I was in denial, thinking it would somehow magically improve without me changing a thing. One day I’d just make more money and everything would work out. For years and years, throughout college and the first 5 years after, I lived like this.
Slowly, however, I started to take control. I knew I didn’t want to live like that forever, and money and I started to work on our relationship. I got my student loan accounts under control, this was about a year and 1/2 long process. I started being better about not accepting more debt. I said no to some very cute pairs of shoes and delicious take-out meals to reduce my cost of living. I got more consistent paying our monthly bills. I even started saving (gasp).
This past week I decided that money and I had a good enough relationship that I could tackle the paperwork pile, organize my debt (how much do I really owe!), and get a system that will allow me to stay on top of it. I open and sorted paperwork for hours. I labeled, filed, and shredded. I noticed some of the mail I was opening was debt I had already paid off so that was quite encouraging. Four debt accounts actually were already paid off! It felt so freeing to be able to look at my financial situation honestly and feel hopeful about it, not just hopeful but confident that it is totally doable to improve. I felt much better about myself, proud of what I had worked hard to grow into. It feels good to have things in order, it feels less emotionally chaotic. I am mature enough to understand that paying down debt now and living more frugally now will benefit us later. I know I have the power and trust myself more and more each month to make the right decisions. Of course things haven’t been perfect and I’ve made a few mistakes, but I can easily forgive my slips and move on. I focus and trying harder the next month, seeing that I am continually making progress. I can now see the longevity of life and how today’s choices will impact me in the future (I’ve read that a million times on posters, but I guess I had to live a little to really understand the meaning and impact). My two largest financial dreams is to pay off all debt, yes even student loans which will probably be in 40 years, and to buy a house for my family. I have some regrets knowing that if I was smarter when I was younger, these two goals would be more in reach than they are today, but I have hope for the future and am trying to do my best each day to be proactive, make good choices, and think about the big picture.