I have a habit of writing really long comments that are blog posts of their own. I was doing that now on a friend’s blog and figured I’d just write about it here because it’s a good fit for my blog.
I have blogged on and off for many years and made many blog friends with many interests. Eventually this included personal finance friends as well and it is to one of these friends I was responding. Maybe you don’t have to deal with these kinds of problems, but maybe you do and if you do this is for you too just in case maybe it helps you too.
For years, I have read a lot about personal finance. I have read the blogs, the books, the articles. I know about snowballs vs. avalanches. I know about emergency funds. I know about the mint and the karma. I know lots of things I really wish I didn’t know.
The one thing that I have done that has helped me the most? I stopped obsessing over it.
Basically I stopped looking at and caring about the major numbers. The only balance I care about is my checking account. I don’t care about how much I owe to credit cards or student loans. I don’t care about my credit score. I don’t care about how much I owe or how much I’m worth compared to the average Jane. I just.don’t.care.
This doesn’t mean I go hog-wild and rack everything up. I already know not to do that. The few credit cards I have either got put in a different part of my wallet (the one for emergencies), got discarded (store cards), or got converted into Debit cards (I love you, Target).
I have a list of the bills that need to get paid and their amounts (the credit card line is padded above minimums) and then the rest of the money is for everything else– food, clothes, gifts, etc.
I know that I don’t have that much left over so I keep purchases down to a minimum. I check my checking account often to get an idea of what I can and can’t spend. And that seems to work just fine.
Sometimes things unexpectedly happen and they need to be paid for. I do what I can with my checking and if I need to, I use my credit card.
At this point in my life, my emergency credit card is just a part of my life. It won’t be for long but it is for now. And I decided to not feel bad that it is. It just is.
The biggest part of this was the acceptance of who I am and who I am not.
In the personal finance world, the stories that get the spotlight are the debt-free ones and not once has any of those stories echoed my experience. I am not them and I refuse to compare myself to them.
When you have been doing this for as long as I have and for as long as my friend has, you can let go. And that’s my advice to her and to you if you are in this situation. You know what to do. Trust yourself a little bit and let it go. Erase the counters. Stop analyzing the balances. Let go of the expense tracking. You are not a newbie. I think debt and money in general is a lot like a wound.
You want a wound to heal? Leave it alone!! The same with your money. You want it to grow and to get to work? Stop messing with it.
Stop evaluating it and re-evaluating it and changing your mind and changing your mind back again. You know what you need to do so keep doing it. Don’t check in every few days, check in every few months.
Seriously, it’s the best advice I have.
We all have this beautiful mental energy and we waste it on worrying and stressing about things that do best when you don’t worry and stress about them.
You are going to make it. You are going to make it and I am going to make it because we are aware and we are knowledgeable. We know we have the problems and we know how to fix them and we are doing what we can. Are we doing the best that we can? Maybe and maybe not. Maybe this doesn’t deserve our best effort and that is ok when you give yourself permission to make it ok. Maybe there are way more important things in your life that deserve your best effort and that deserve your mental energy and that is fine, that is great honestly.
Because seriously, seriously, do you want to look back at this time in your life and be reminded me of how much stress, anxiety, and fear there was because of something as fleeting as finances? Reality check: you do not need to be debt-free with an emergency fund and healthy retirement savings to be less stressed. You need to choose to be less stressed and those things come. Or they don’t. And that’s good and fine too.
When emergencies happen, and they always happen, stressing about how on earth you are going to pay for something fixes absolutely nothing. Often, it makes things so much worse. What fixes things is fixing things. Whether that means credit cards, going without, a combination of things, or something entirely else does not matter. Resolving it and moving on does.
When your life ends, the most important questions are not going to be:
- What is your credit score?
- How much money do you have in savings?
- Do you even IRA?
I mean, I guess some people might have those questions but I know that money is literally the absolute last thing I want to reflect on as my life comes to a close. And I am pretty sure, my friend, that the same applies to you.
You have children and I have children and you have people you love and I do too and I know that I want to reflect on them and the beautiful moments we had together. I want to think about their smell and their voice and the way they felt in my arms. I want to reflect on their laughter.
So let it go my friend. You deserve so much better than the pain you inflict on yourself with all this mess. You really do and so do those wonderful people you love so very much.