Like a boa constrictor slowly wrapping itself around my neck, I have become enveloped by the thing that so many of us have accepted as our life-long companion, personal debt. In the wake of recent personal loss, the added stresses of consumer debt can truly be a further bane in one’s existence. Why is it so easy to throw caution to the wind, to put off until tomorrow what we should be dealing with today? And how can you stop beating yourself up over these mistakes?
I knew when I changed jobs that this was going to happen. I tried to put a more positive spin on it, the less money I had, the less that I had to keep up with. However, as we all often do, a change in income doesn’t always equal a change in our spending habits. We somehow convince ourselves that things will be just fine, that we don’t have to change the way we live or the things we purchase. And they are all just things, right? I know exactly where all of my money goes. I’m very meticulous in budgeting and ensuring that bills are paid. But I have fallen into the trap that so many of us do, I’m an emotional spender. When things get hard a bit of retail therapy or dining out is what gets me through a few moments of despair.
As I have gotten older I’ve become more aware of this issue. But it’s never been enough of a thorn for me to do anything about it until now. In the past 10 months I have changed jobs, sold my house, lost my grandmother and have been looking at life as if it were through a rearview mirror. It’s only natural to try and find some relief. And even though it may not seem like much for you and your spouse to relax by having a date night, sometimes the very thing that relaxes us can also cause additional stress.
Life is a series of growing pains. Each decision impacting your life in ways that go beyond what we may immediately know. We have to exercise more discipline and discretion in our actions. And like exercise, it can often times be very painful. Sure, it can be fun to imagine hitting the lottery, but we can’t allow ourselves to lose track of reality. Through the personal debt that I’ve amassed I have come to realize that I often seek comfort from spending money what I don’t really have. Inevitably, tomorrow’s bills becomes today’s woes. Thus, the extent of my despair is mirrored in the thousands of dollars that I now owe.
Unhealthy as it is, we all have our vices. Actually, I’m sure we all have multiple vices. We often unknowingly trade one for another. If we cut back on one, we overindulge in another. Life is hard. It’s always going to be hard. However, we can’t allow the stress of that to so consume us that all rhyme and reason go out the window. You didn’t get in debt in a day, thus, it’s going to take some time to get out of it. There are a number of tools and resources available to assist you in handling this and any other issue you have to address.
I’m learning that depriving myself of instant gratification will likely mean I’ll be able to not only reap a bigger reward, it will also help me in discovering the things that are truly important in life. The only person to force me into debt was myself and I can’t expect that someone other than myself will get me out of if. It will likely take me a great deal longer to get out of debt than I did to get in it, but at the end of the day, there will be peace of mind in knowing that I took control of a situation in my life that was getting out of hand and that I am a better person for having done so.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 10/8/14 issue of The Union-Recorder.