Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The beginning of the end

A couple of weeks ago someone posted a comment which had some personal stuff in it relating to the posters health, and financial situation. It appeared to be written on the spur of the moment, I saw a lot of emotion in the words. I wondered if she might have second thoughts about posting it after she had time to think about it, so I removed it and asked the poster to email me so I could personally reply to her. She hasn't come back to me. I don't want her to think I am ignoring her, so I will address some of the issues here, no need to identify her, as some of her issues affect a great many other people as well. I can answer in general terms.

The poster admits to making mistakes in the past regarding her spending, and is currently trying to put things right. She has a DMP (Debt Management Plan) in place which will run for the next six years. All this is worrying her and having an effect on her health, resulting in a lot of stress. She asks for my advice, I'll post my thoughts here, but they could apply to anyone in this situation.

For a start, your health is more important than any money worries you may have. You can't die of over spending, but if you worry about your debt you can get so stressed out that it affects all parts of your body. The saying a healthy mind is a healthy body, and a healthy body is a healthy mind, is very true, they are all connected. You can literally worry yourself to death. So looking after your health and well being is of the utmost importance. Take a step back, take a deep breath. Anyone can make a few mistakes, if you learn from it you can try and put things right.

Money problems are not going to go away overnight, unless you win the lottery and the chances of that happening are virtually nil. There is no quick fix here, a slow recovery is on the cards, but as long as you are taking steps in the right direction there is no reason why you cannot look to a rosy future.

What is money anyway?  We all need some, to pay for the things we need. Everyone's needs are different. I need a place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat. My car is bordering on the needs/wants. I could manage without it but I wouldn't want to give it up right now. Other things are wants. I don't need to have cats, I don't need broadband, but I will keep them along with the car because I can afford to pay for them.

I have given up the pet insurance policy that I had for Bugsy, and now I make sure I have enough money in my account to cover for any treatment. He is 17 years old, and any problems he gets from now on are likely to be age related. I don't believe in putting an old cat through lots of stress and discomfort at the vet just to get a few more weeks. I am not insuring any more cats, I will keep money in my account so it's there if it is needed. Things to be considered on whether to insure or not. Do you live on a main or busy road? What is the possibility of the cat being run over? Does it roam or is it confined to a garden? Does it mix with other cats? Does it stay out at night? How old is it? If you know where it came from did it come from healthy stock? I live in a no through road, only the people who live here, and visitors, pass my house. My cats stay mainly in my garden and sometimes visit neighbouring gardens. I get them in at night. They ocassionally meet other cats. I hope they don't need to go to the vet, but if they do I can pay for it. Any insurance is about risk, do you want to cover that risk yourself or do you want to pay and pass it on.

I'll say something about impulsive spending, which is the reason why a lot of people have got themselves into debt in the first place. Spending is like a drug, you can become addicted to it, and then totally dependant on it. If you are low on self esteem a quick fix would be to go out and treat yourself. You feel good for a while but later the reality hits you when the bills start coming in. That lovely dress is still hanging in the wardrobe with it's labels still attached, and you are once again fed up.

Low self esteem is due to something else not being right in your life, and you need to face up to that before you can tackle the compulsive spending disorder. I had very low self esteem when I was a teenager, and through my twenties. I had, and still have, BDD, I perceive myself as being ugly, I hate my face. I spent all my money on trying to make myself look normal, like any other girl of my age. I needed the dresses, the makeup, the hairstyles, to prop me up because I felt so worthless. Luckily I knew when to stop spending, because my mother taught us that we could only buy what we could afford to pay for. Thank you mother, you were my saviour. 

I can easily see how anyone can find themselves out of control with their spending, money can and will control your life if you let it. Just like all the other help groups available for other addictions I think there should be one to tackle out of control spending.

You might need to make some changes in your life, put the wrong things right, mend the parts which are broken, or if something is broken beyond repair scrap it altogether and move on. Only you know what is not working and only you know what you have to do. Once you've tackled the reasons for your impulsive spending you can start to think about taking control of your money, rather than money controlling you.

So, say everything is hunkydory, you have made the changes and everything is sailing along just fine, apart from the spending which is still lurking in the background. You've still got to get that debt down. First off, make a spending diary, write down every single penny coming into, and out of the house. Keeping track is the key. Cut up the credit cards that you don't need, and that should be all of them except one. You must write to the companys to tell them that you are closing your account. Close store cards and never set foot in their shops again. If you don't trust yourself not to spend on the one remaining card, put it in an old margarine tub, fill it with water, and freeze it. By the time it has defrosted you will have forgotten what it was you wanted to buy.

Only spend cash. Withdraw just enough cash out of the bank weekly for your day to day living. When it's gone it's gone. If you think you might be tempted to spend while you are out, don't take any money with you. I used to be forever popping into our village shop to buy a magazine, a bar of chocolate, a bag of crisps, a bottle of wine. All that has stopped, I hardly go in at all, I don't have any money in my pockets when I am out and about in the village.

Just to sum up, think about running your home like a business. The money in and money out has to balance. To borrow is to spend someone elses money, it is not free and you will have to pay extra in interest. Why do you want to give someone else your hard earned money? OK so you might get an interest free period on a new credit card, but you make sure you jolly well pay it all off by the time that period ends, if not you are heading for trouble. I have one credit card, I ocassionally use it, mainly for convenience. I pay it off in full every month. I have no idea what my limit is or what my interest rate is, I don't care.

To everyone who is worrying about money troubles, I want you to look in the mirror when you get out of bed tomorrow morning and every morning, and promise yourself that this is the beginning of the end. The beginning because you are taking control, and the end of worrying about it.

When I was beginning my career as a lorry driver, people were nasty to me, they made me cry, they put me down, they said I shouldn't be taking the job off a man. I felt like giving up, but something in me said no, just get on with it. Every morning felt like a brand new start, what had happened the day before had gone, pushed to the back of my mind, gone forever never to be revisited. Hey, I stuck with it, and so must you. Good luck.      


  1. I agree that spending can give you a strange addicition. I was never really a spend-a-holic but even now when I save so much I get a little thrill over even buying diesel! Weird!!

    I would like to tell that person to stop worrying. They are on the right track by getting their spending sorted and their debt is being repaid. That's more than most people ever manage! Congratulations! Being in debt sucks but getting out of it is an amazing acheivement, and afterwards you will feel like the king/queen of the world! :)

  2. I hope the poster who left that comment is reading because this is such a great post, thank you.

  3. Great post, I agree that health is more important. Debt is a terrible burden, my son had a problem in the past but it was sorted 5 years ago. I think if the poster gives themselves a treat or two every week, things won't seem so bad. By treats I mean taking a walk in the park or on the beach. Feed the ducks, visit the library, have a picnic. If they have a digital camera, take some pictures, try to improve their technique. Motivation is a problem when you feel down but a strong sense of purpose can take you to all sorts of new hobbies. I hope the person reads your post and takes heart.

  4. found my way here via a mutual blogfriend.. what a sensible post!
    I too live on a modest income. I budget for everything from my wages , and I do not have a credit card. If i need something it has to wait until i have saved up for it, but the upside of that is the wonderful sense of achievement when i do finally get there! Thats something you dont get with the instant gratification of a credit card!! the knowledge that you worked for something... :-)
    Unlike you I would say my cats are necessary for my happiness lol, but I do not run a car. I dont have pet insurance, instead i set up a separate bank account ( one with no cashpoint card to avoid temptation!) A small sum goes directly there on each payday, and that is my 'pet fund' so that i have the means to pay vets bills if and when necessary.

    Leanne x

  5. What an excellent post, Ilona! You really hit a fundamental point that so many people never think about, because most of us are so accustomed to life in a cash-based economy:

    What IS money, really? And what is it NOT?
    What CAN do? And what can it NEVER do, no matter how much one has?

    I sincerely hope the person who left the original comment will see it and will let you know.

  6. Fantastic post Ilona - thank you, and I hope everyone can take something from this. x

  7. Wow!!! Wow!!! Wow!!!! What an excellent post!!! Everyone can use that kind of advice and even people that are basically "frugal" most of the time (like me!!) need a reminder like this. Thanks so much :) I find I "slip" every once in a while and have to reel myself back in. I think the concept of money and how it should be spent should begin at home when the kids are young enough to understand what money is for. There's not too many parents that teach their children the basics of spending. We live in an age where credit cards are too easy to get and use. My son found out the hard way years ago when he got his first good paying job. He took his credit card and racked up over $5000 in debt in no time. He learned that it wasn't so easy to pay that back.

  8. A brilliant response to your commenter, I hope that she (or he) reads this and it helps.

    We all make mistakes, but we all also have the chance to put them right and as long as we do our best, we shouldn't stress over it.

    Sue xx

  9. What a great post, i hope the person who reads your post knows that they are not on they own. Very nicely worded! I'm in the same situation i have personal debt due to a change in my finances and dodgy employees that i ended up using credit cards to pay for basic things such as rent, food ,childcare, bill etc. Luckily i was able to talk to the banks and negotiate freezing interest while i paid enough money off the card to get within my limit. Its is hard to get into the frame of mind of not using credit / cash cards but it does get easier.

  10. If more people in the world ran their home like a business then the world would not be in such the crappy situation it is. You are absolutely right.

  11. A very good post and I do hope that the original person who contacted you has been able to read your wise words. I too have a separate account for vet bills and I don`t insure the cats and dogs. I`m much more careful about my spending since I retired .Shopping never was a hobby and it certainly isn`t now!

  12. Thank you for a wonderful post. I am sure it will help a lot of people. You are a star!

  13. Hit the nail on the head as usual.. thanks again its nice to know we are not alone in this world of consumer/consuming madness!
    I liked the bit about how we fell about ourselves..many many people summer from low self esteem.. and I bet you anything its an awful lot to do with the spending sprees we women go on.

    Vicky x

  14. Cheers to you Ilona...I hope the original commenter is reading this post...getting yourself out of debt/spending only cash takes some work but it's worth it...worry accomplishes nothing...I too made plenty of financial mistakes in the past that I'm still paying for...but I enjoy each day and do what I can to set things right...thanks to your wonderful blog full of ideas and inspiration...

  15. Well said Ilona! Brilliant post - nothing else to comment on - you covered it all xx

  16. What a wonderful post! I could see a lot of myself in what you have written, particularly about the dress with the tags still on :( Sorry those people were unkind to you, something similar happened to me and I've never really gotten over it. Maybe today is the day to put it behind me :)

  17. I so enjoy your blog. We are the same age and I have learned the same lessons you have in life. This posting is the holy grail. There is no other way. This is the only road. Then you will learn that your life has become so much better. You will smile more and sleep better if you take all this advice to heart. Rummage around in all your own cupboards for something to do or make. Check your boxes and bookshelves for something to read. Sit in the sun and dream. Then go in and clean your house. Thank you for all the fun trips you take on a dime. I love the photos and dream of visiting England one day.

  18. It is too bad your poster was not given the chance to say her piece. She might have needed a community to hear her and offer support, the kind you get.

  19. Nice post and good advice, Ilona. Also, like you, anyone who is able should walk like you do, Best therapy in the world for stress reduction and getting control of things (no medication needed)

  20. You speak from the heart and with such good sense. I too have a problem with how I view my body so appreciated your struggles. Hope Rocky is doing well x Molly x

  21. I never regret spending money on my cards for the nice life I had.
    One day I woke up and did not like what I owed.
    I had overdraft of a nearly $200 000 ,I sold one house and paid that.(that money I spend in 5 years it does not take long)
    Then credit cards nearly $60 000 and the interest/so far only $8 000 is left.

    I work for my self so each month I would pay my credit cards first,then live with the rest.
    I do not regret and money problems never make me sick.
    But I did pay for the best education before and
    love what I do.
    Ilona your blog was the first I found and love every moment visiting here.

  22. Hi Ilona What wise words I hope your emailer heeds them. You just have to get on and get yourself out of the mess. But what a great feeling when you have met your goal at the end. Not everything is instant and it will take time but go for it !!! Stand back and take time to have a good look at the situation not everything is as bad as you think. Kind regards Jean

  23. A superb post.

    Everyone should read this .... I really have nothing to add but I endorse the spending diary (I still have mine from 1977!) the paying by cash so it feels real.

    And ... if you can't afford it, don't buy it.


  24. Im so sorry I posted that post to you I was a having a terrible panicky day. I didnt mean to upset you, I was going to email you, but Im no good with email address and end up typing them in wrong.
    I do suffer with terrible anxiety but Im getting it under control with cbt and help.
    I beat self up sometimes and think I should be doing this and that better and that leads to me feeling terrrible about self.
    I think your a wonderful person Iona and I love your blog, your attittude to life is amazing. Your so kind to. Thank you for your comments and your kindness.
    Keep up the fantastic blog its great.

  25. I'm in debt. It's getting paid gradually. I am an idiot. I don't worry about money though. I can't see the point in worrying about something I haven't got.
    I think you look lovely.

  26. Oh Victoria, thank you for coming back to read. Do not apologise for posting that first comment. I realised you were struggling a bit, you write with emotion and that is no bad thing. Best to come face to face with it rather than bottle it up. Do not beat yourself up, you are going in the right direction. The only thing you should be doing right now is looking after your health. Take care and keep in touch.

    I do despair the way the world is going, consumerism like a snowball rolling down a hill gathering momentom and getting bigger by the minute. There's no stopping it. Everywhere you go people shove things in your face, shouting BUY ME. Well I just shout back, STUFF IT WHERE THE SUN DON'T SHINE. I DON'T NEED IT, I DON'T WANT IT. It's no wonder people make the wrong choices when they are bombarded by this crap. The financial institutions, money lenders, and banks fall over themselves to dole out the dosh, then screw everyone when people fall on hard times. Some of the blame has to fall on them.

    Thank you DUYH. XXX

  27. I'm a lurker but wanted to answer this one too. I too am on a debt management plan and have health conditions that are made worse by stress (one is psoriasis so everyone knows when I'm not right as I am scratching like mad). I have just taken a major paycut so even though I think I have been frugal I have to find some more cuts. I have always been a Mum who when my child is hinting she wants something I have said that's nice and moved on, I have learn to do this to myself. I go back if I really want it but now only buy what I need. I am no means an expert and am hopefully starting a free maths course to look at budgeting as I have a serious food shopping problem, some of which to my shame goes in the bin. I have done CBT last year and stick with it as it is an excellent tool. I read all I can on the net about being frugal and gain as many ideas I can to make things easier.

    Things do get better. Try and do all you can to keep you happy, simple things keep me going. I got a free cake voucher though the post today so I got it and the family and me had a pot of tea and a slice of cake. I hate spending money and despair when I have to. I like getting the free things, I feel like I've won, much better than getting the dreaded bills.

    Keep well, keep smiling and don't beat yourself up. And I must admit I enjoy having a go at the debt collectors when they try and make you pay when they know full well you are on DMP and have agreements, try it it will give you some satisfaction.

  28. Thank you Emm, your story is an inspiration to anyone struggling with debt. I hope you have many more cakes in your life.

    1. I wish you had a 'like' button such as Facebook has. Haha
      I liked this comment, and the post that caused all these comments.


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