by Colette Carlson
If so, the truth is you need to go on a diet. A money diet. Now I realize that four-letter word can make the best of us run toward the nearest mall to stock up, just like starting a diet can send you on a Farewell to Food tour. But here’s why you must. Only when you face the truth of your finances will you be able to free yourself from making choices that no longer serve you.
If you’re feeling financially strapped these days, you’re not alone. Not only is our country drowning in debt – to the tune of $16 trillion – but personal debt is on the rise, too. With the quickly approaching holiday gift-giving season, now’s the time to make plans to avoid adding to your debt burden.
“But Colette,” I can hear you saying, “it feels so good to give gifts.” I get it. I’m not saying to eliminate the gift-giving. Rather, I’m suggesting you employ a technique I learned when I decided to shed that extra 50 pounds. It feels so good to be free of that burden. That’s the sense of freedom I want you to experience come January, when, for perhaps the first time in years, you’re not overwhelmed by a mountain of credit card bills.
“If You Bite It, Write It”
Writing down every single thing that goes into your mouth is a weight-loss technique that keeps you both aware and accountable. It helps you determine your eating triggers and makes you realize how many extra items are ending up in your mouth as you prepare dinner or munch on the couch during a movie. So a financial planning variation would be, “If You Buy It, Write It.” Just like all those little nibbles, sips and tastes can add up on the scale, your budget can bloat from all those little purchases that pop up during the day. Coffee on the way to work, a treat for your kids and friends after a game, or a pair of sale shoes you can’t live without. But you can. Look over your financial diary and determine what you really don’t need. Plus, if you know you have to whip out that diary before the credit card, you might think twice.
Identify your Why. When I decided to lose the weight, I wrote down all the reasons why this was important to me. Ask yourself, “How would my life be better if I didn’t have debt?” Brainstorm every possible answer and post in a visible place. Perhaps tuck a copy in your wallet or near your computer if you purchase on-line.
Get honest. Standing in my truth, I realized that I was reaching for food to protect myself from getting in the game, being vulnerable in relationships and taking healthy risks. Why are you over-spending? Is it to look more important, reward yourself for doing too much or an inability to say no to yourself or others?
Speak Your Truth. When your friends ask you to dine out, tell the truth. “As much as I’d love to join you, I’m choosing to not spend money eating out. How about you come over, bring a nosh and I’ll get the wine?” If your child wants the latest whatever, say, “I’m choosing not to spend money on items that we only want, but don’t really need. ” My daughters have always had jeans, but not necessarily ones with a hip label. These choices have allowed me to also pay those college tuition bills a few weeks back.
Is this easy? No. Being truthful with yourself about your financial picture can be challenging. But you’re already paying a huge price when you spend more than you can afford. Make a decision to be mindful with your money to eliminate unnecessary stress and regret when the bills come due.
What techniques have you found that have allowed you to rein in debt? Let me know in the comments below.