This is a guest article from DB at DebtBeater. He writes what he is doing to get rid of his debt (which, is over $200,000 at the moment) on his blog. I think he is the only debt blogger that I know of that has six children! Wow! Stop by his site for a visit, or you can subscribe to his feed here.
So here’s the article from DB. I hope you enjoy it. It sure brought back some memories for me!
Imagine yourself doing something you enjoy. Spending time with family, taking a walk, bowling, sight-seeing, whatever you fancy. Oh yes, eating out…don’t forget that! Mmmmm. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Take a look around your neighborhood. How many people do you see that look like they’re just enjoying life with no stress? Do you even know if any of them have money problems or debt? Would any of them be prepared for a setback?
The truth is that we simply don’t know, but it appears most of them are doing just fine when in reality a lot of them are stressing over money issues. There’s lots of reasons for this stress. Setbacks, layoffs, and general Murphy’s law type stuff can happen, but don’t forget about the people who simply live a lifestyle that they can’t support too long. Eventually, those people are going to run out of money…or worse…they might just run out of credit because they DIDN’T STOP when they ran out of money.
Completely out of money and can’t borrow any more. Sounds pretty stupid doesn’t it? Well, I have to completely agree. Know what else? I was pretty stupid. Luckily, I was able to eventually turn things around some by increasing my income, but my family of 8 is still striving to get away from this scenario every day. So here I’m going to share some of the things to think about and do when you’re at that rock bottom point and desperately need to turn things around.
Here’s mother nature at work for you. Time for that animal instinct to kick in. You basically need food and shelter to survive. These things alone may not support you for long, but you can get by for awhile without much else.
Basically, you need to make sure nobody in the family goes without nutrition. Everyone should have something to eat every day, and you need a safe place to rest and stay safe from extreme weather.
I’d almost say that your ability to maintain income is an essential, because without it we’d have the equivalent of an apple tree full of apples that just got cut down. You might have apples for awhile, but eventually you’re going to run out unless you find another source.
Once we’ve got these things taken care of, we can get on with the rest of our solution.
Must Get Organized
Organization is the foundation to a successful plan, without it, you’re just winging it…and look where winging it got you in the first place. Let’s make a plan. Now.
Here’s a list of immediate things to do that should only take 5-20 minutes each depending on how unorganized you are. If it takes longer, well…you really needed to do this then. 🙂
- Mortgage & utilities – find these statements and make sure you’re current. Call the companies if you can’t find the bills.
- Find all bills & debts – you need to make sure you’re accounting for everything in a budget. Let’s find all the pieces first.
- Find all receipts – if you’re out of money right now, there’s likely something you bought that should be returned.
- Cash & change lying around – that’s right, it’s time to dig through your couch cushions and under your car’s seats. Even the piggy banks are gonna get IOU notes for now. You need every penny.
- Quick inventory – walk around your house with a notebook. make a list of all items as you see them that you could quickly sell to a consignment shop, pawn shop, or used book/music store. You may have to liquidate some of these things very quickly if necessary, you should have an idea how much you could sell on short notice.
Let me tell you, there’s simply nothing quite like going to your children’s piggy banks and taking all the money out in order to pay for food. Doing this just about made me tear up, and I’m pretty good at holding back. Sure, the money got put back eventually and they never knew it was gone…but there’s something about having to take money from your own kids that just makes you not able to swallow a big ol’ lump that’s stuck in your throat.
Best advice I can give on this one is that the deed is done and it’s time to chalk the experience up as a life lesson. Don’t ever let it happen again and simply try to appreciate the fact that some things must be learned the hard way in order for them to really sink in.
Ok, now that we’re organized, let’s take this organization and put it to work.
- Make sure food is covered going forward – got enough for a week or two? a month? You have to eat. Almost everything comes after that. Here’s a great post on how to feed yourself for $15 a week at Get Rich Slowly.
- Rent/mortgage money for the next month? – Most places allow for a late payment or two before taking action, but if you’re gonna be late on a mortgage make sure you’ve exhausted all money-scavenging efforts. You don’t want to end up on the street because you liked your DVD collection too much.
- Make a budget – one that incorporates every single dollar you have (and will have) applying it to necessities only. I have my budget completely open-book for anyone to use as an example. Need a haircut? Tough. If you’re taking money from your kids, you better be in survival mode only. For now, we’re just going to start with this month. Don’t worry about other months yet, just do THIS month right now.
- Start the job-hunt – you obviously need more money than you have right now. Perhaps it’s time to start looking for something on the side, or something short term to get you caught up. You can teach with Takelessons to help earn some extra income. If you lost your job to get into this mess, then you probably need to find a couple of them to get you going. You’ve GOT to make sure you have the income to provide necessities though, or things will get drastically worse in no time.
So, how’d the numbers turn out in your get-by-with-necessities-only budget? If you’re short, it’s time to get that inventory list you made and start trying to make ends meet by selling thing on it.
What’s the point of making a plan? Following it! Don’t underestimate the power of NOT following a plan. As soon as you get off the path just a little, you’ll easily justify not following it at all. It’s ok to change the plan a little, but you STILL NEED TO FOLLOW IT!
The impact on the rest of family may seem like you’re going to scar them for life. You know what? I found that to be a good thing. I want my kids to be involved and aware that when you struggle sometimes, you have to pick yourself up and maybe even take drastic measures to fix things. What you do for them and in front of them during a tough time will help them develop that sense of responsibility that much of the world seems to lack these days.
My kids love the game of Life. They actually play it quite a bit, so I easily related our rough situation to some of the mishaps that occur in that game as you’re on the road to becoming a millionaire. I made them realize that just because bad things happen doesn’t mean we can stop spinning the wheel. We have to keep going and make the best of it. The older kids got a little more info on how to avoid these kinds of setbacks by being more prepared with things like emergency funds and insurance.
The older kids are only middle school age, but you’d be surprised how much they learn and how fast they grasp concepts when it’s something that’s directly affecting them. Be sure to learn these types of lessons together to help them avoid future dilemmas.
I hope this helps anyone that hasn’t experienced such a dramatic event to realize that it’s no joy-ride. It’s a very scary place to be, and I don’t wish this to happen to anyone. Everyone has to learn things though, some with less stress than others. My wife and I are far closer because of it. Our children have been able to learn a little about life as we went through it. However, never again, so long as I can help it, will I set myself up to live through this scenario again because of stupidity.
Anyone else run out of money to the point where you had to take extreme measures? What type of issues did you have to deal with? How did you overcome them? I’d love to hear your stories as well. Learning from each other’s mistakes is far better than having to live them all ourselves.
Thanks again DB for guest posting!