How in the world did I get here?

By glblguy

You Are Here

Ever ask yourself: “How in the world did I get here?”  If your current situation isn’t a good one, generally there is a huge emphasis on the word “here”. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked myself this same question over the past 4-5 years. Fortunately a few of the times have been positive, like when I stand out on our front-deck and see our beautiful mountain view or when I look at my work queue for my blog consulting business that is now booked out 4-weeks. For the most part though, the last 3 years or so have seen that question in a less positive light and particularly with my personal finances.

How in the world did I get here?

I was asking that same exact question in November of 2006: Due to some personal events in my life, I was facing a job loss. For some in the technology field like me, no big deal right? My problem though was that my finances were a mess:

  • I was living paycheck to paycheck. We literally were spending each and every paycheck before the next one came. I remember for the last few days prior to receiving my next paycheck literally having no money in our accounts and frequently over drafting. I remember even buying life basics using our already way too full credit cards.
  • I had more than 60,000 dollars in debt, not including our mortgage. This was a combination of car loans, a camper loan, and 3 or 4 different credit cards. We were just barely able to pay the minimum payments on the credit cards. Heck, I remember a few times even using one credit card to pay on another! Can you say stupid?
  • We owned a home, but it badly needed some fairly major repairs. Due to how tight our finances were we couldn’t make them. We literally slowly watched the wooden chimney surround on our house rot away and fall off into the yard along with various other issues.

The only silver lining in our dark financial cloud was that I had been contributing 6% of my monthly salary into a 401k program since the first day I started my professional career. We did have some long term savings.

What a mess right? Have you seen the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still? We rented it from Netflix one evening. It’s not a great movie, but it did have one very interesting observation about people: “It’s only on the brink that people find the will to change. Only at the precipice do we evolve. This is our moment.

Was I on the brink? Oh yeah. Did I change? Absolutely.

Finding the will to change

At some point everyone “living in the land of stupid” (as Dave Ramsey likes to say), reaches the precipice. I was there, and here’s what I did to change:

I read

Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you are the very first person to ever be in a particular situation. I can almost guarantee you that regardless of your situation, somebody, somewhere is going through your situation (or worse) AND someone in the past has survived your situation. The best way to get out of your situation and change is to look at the positive actions done by others. Fortunately for me I found Dave Ramsey’s book: The Total Money Makeover while at Costco one evening. I also found Get Rick Slowly and The Simple Dollar which opened up the world of personal finance blogs to me.

One thing I learned pretty quick is that just based on the number of debt reduction blogs on internet, I wasn’t alone. I was not the only one facing repayment of  large amount of debt. They say misery loves company. I believe that’s very true, but for me it wasn’t so I could complain and wallow in self pity, knowing that I wasn’t alone gave me hope. When facing 60,000+ in debt, one thing you really need is hope.

I also dove deep in scripture. The Bible is literally full of money advice. If you aren’t sure where to start, read to book of Solomon. Solomon was the first personal finance blogger and was given wisdom far beyond that or normal man.

I stopped what wasn’t working

Based on the things I was learning from reading, I stopped doing all of the stupid things right away. We immediately stopped eating out, we cut up our credit cards and  with the exception of buying things we absolutely needed to live, we stopped spending.

When you’re headed down a road to destruction, the first thing you have to do is stop. While that seems like an easy thing to do, it’s not. Easy or not, stopping is critical.

Another important aspect of stopping is facing the reality that you are the reason your finances are mess. Oh sure, blaming everyone else is easy, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Go stand in front of a mirror, look at yourself and literally say out loud “You are the reason you’re here“.

Let’s just take a quick example. Many people today are losing their jobs. Their fault? In some cases yes, but for the most part no. Job losses as a result of corporate cut-backs are just a reality of the recession. So losing your job in this situation isn’t your fault BUT is not having your finances in order to sustain such a loss your fault? Absolutely. I don’t care who you are or how important you are to your job, you can lose your job. As a result, each of us needs to take the necessary steps to shore up our finances in case just such an event occurs.

I took action

Once I stopped and realized that I was indeed responsible for my own financial situation, I took action. I didn’t hesitate, I didn’t dwell, I didn’t roll in self pity crying out “poor me”. I immediately picked something I could do to start down the road to financial control and did it. That first step literally cost me nothing but a little time. What did I do? I created a budget.

Here are the initial steps we took to get our finances under control:

  1. Cut up our credit cards and vowed to live on cash in our checking account only.
  2. Created a budget
  3. Created a financial planThink about it: if you want to head down a new path you better darn sure know where you’re heading.
  4. Sold everything we had that we didn’t need and used that money to pay on our debt
  5. Created an emergency fund
  6. Created a debt snowball

Given I had lost my job, I also aggressively started looking for other employment. This event also taught me to never, ever rely on just one source of income. While not the initial reason I started blogging, blogging coupled with my blog consulting work has provided  that backup income. While it doesn’t earn me near as much as my full-time job does, my side income would pay the mortgage AND put food on the table. That is very comforting. Investors diversify their investments, shouldn’t be diversify our income?

How in the world did you get where you are?

Are you currently in a bad situation in your life asking: “How in the world did I get here?”  If so, while it’s certainly important to understand how you got where you are, don’t dwell. Remember also: Only at the precipice do we evolve. You aren’t the first person to be where you are, and you can change. Changing may not be easy, and the path to getting where you need to be might be hard, but it will be worth it.

Figure out what your first action is and take it. Don’t think too much, don’t look to far ahead as if you look at things as a whole it may be too overwhelming. Just figure out the first step and take. Then the next step and take it. After all, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Start your journey towards making your personal finances better. I did and it is one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.

Photo by: 0ccam


9 Responses (including trackbacks) to “How in the world did I get here?”

  1. micki Says:

    how do you figure out the next step…been at the precipice for some time now, can’t see the next step…God has not been shining the light at all where the next step is. i had let go of a job that was killing me, and this year things are really bad, so that my quarterlies are not getting paid…this is not a good thing…we haven’t been eating out, shopping has just been essentials..we are seriously in deep doo-doo if any thing happens to the car (i need it for work – i deliver papers…)

    i am trying to find another route or something that will keep our heads above water but it isn’t working well…its a rough economy.

    anyway, i am really enjoying this blog, thanks for writing it…

  2. Gina Says:

    Good post Gibble guy.

    micki, you have come to the right place/blog. I/we know how overwhelming your financial situation can be; most of us have been were you are. Take the time to write things down on paper and use this blog to help you gather the tools to get control of your money. Knowledge is power. You say ‘we haven’t been eating out’ – that is a first step in the right direction. A lot of us are Dave Ramsey fans – his website has good info too: http://www.daveramsey.com.

    I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  3. glblguy Says:

    Micki, I’d strongly suggest you read through my series “getting control of your finances” The series details the step by step process I went through to get my finances under control. The first thing you need to do is budget. This will put caps on your spending and make you aware of where your money is going (money leaks). Next thing is to plug the leaks by eliminating them or capping them using budgeting. Once you have this in place, begin setting aside an “emergency fund”. This is a $1000.00 or so fund that you will use for emergencies ONLY. This will cover things like your car going out so you aren’t crippled when/if it occurs. Savings to your emergency fund should be part of budget and made automatically each day/week/month whichever you choose. Put as much as you can to this fund to build it as quickly as possible.

    Once the emergency fund is in place, you can then begin tackling any debt you have. The series addresses this too.

    It also sounds like you have an income crisis and need to maybe beef up the income a little so you can get some emergency savings in place a little faster. Look for part-time opportunities anywhere: Pizza delivery, paper delivery, fast order cook, grocery stores, etc. I’d also strongly advise you to look at your hobbies and talents and think through how you could monetize those. My wife is very artistic and when we needed some extra cash a long time ago, should would paint, draw, and make decorative items for peoples homes. We would sell these on the weekends at the local flea market. You could also do well with items like this on eBay and Etsy.com.

    Focus on your strengths and the things you’re good at, then find people willing to buy your items or services. eBay is a great place to start. You can sell pretty much anything on eBay, the trick is finding a niche.

    Speaking of selling things, that’s another area you can look at. When we decided to get control of our finances, we had a HUGE garage sale. We sold old clothes, DVDs, junk in the garage, old toys, etc, etc. Made almost $700.00 all said and done just from selling all the stuff we had accumulated over the years that we didn’t really need anymore. That was a nice deposit into the emergency fund.

    Even in a recession, there are people willing to spend money. The trick is finding them and selling or marketing to them. For example: my Empty Cabin Media business. I love developing websites, am reasonable good at it, and have blogging experience from starting Gather Little by Little. I thought it would be fun to help others do the same so I started Empty Cabin Media. Some months later, I’m hiring people to help me and frankly have more work than I can handle. Yes more work than I can handle, even in a recession. Like I said, there are opportunities, you just have to seek them out.

    Keep us posted on how you’re doing, and feel free to bounce any ideas off of me (or my readers here on GLBL). As for you thanking me for writing…I think it’s the other way around: Thanks for reading!!

  4. Nicki at Domestic Cents Says:

    Thanks so much for this post. It has been slow-going for us getting out of our financial mess but we’re going and looking back I can see progress. Thankfully there is a lot of great support and encouragement out there for people like me :)

  5. Melissa Says:

    Oh yes we’ve definitely asked the question…a rhetorical question though. lol We knew what we did and we just kept doing it until we hit the proverbial “rock bottom”. Why does it always take hitting the wall at 100 mph before we wake up? You can almost picture Satan sitting in the passenger seat egging you on to keep the pedal to the floor. While he keeps goating you on though, we ultimately make the choice to keep flooring it or finally put the car in park and tell our passenger to hit the curb. The ride’s over.

    We ended our ride six months ago. Put every credit card we had through the shredder one month before Christmas. It was the best Christmas ever. We told people we weren’t exchanging gifts that year. For some that went over like a lead balloon. For others you could see the relief on their faces. (made us think some others were still flooring it in their own race) Ultimately we didn’t care what anyone thought. The freedom we felt was amazing. Freedom in the midst of $55K of debt.

    We’ve really been struggling (like many are) to get beyond the debt. We’ve had my job loss and three paycuts in DH’s job. We just keep adjusting the budget though and selling off more things. I’ve gone back to selling on ebay and looking into blogging as a side source too. You do what you have to do.

    Ultimately what we’re finding is what we thought was important isn’t anymore. So although a constant source of struggle we’re growing in many more ways. Our marriage is becoming stronger and our children are learning valuable life lessons too. God is using this for good. So we choose to focus on that.

    So I wanted to say thank you for a great post. (sorry my comment is so long…I can be long winded lol) I always find little nuggets of wisdom on your blog to help us keep plugging through. We’ll get to the other side. I pray the same for everyone else too. :)

    Blessings,
    Melissa

  6. debtkid Says:

    Fantastic post.

    For me, I got to where I am now (on my way out of debt) because I hit rock bottom. The whole, “the only place to go from here is up” phrase, totally me in January of 2007.

    I think God often uses our mistakes and stumbles to shape us. To have a better understanding of what others go through, sometimes it helps to have gone through similar situations ourselves.

    I know for me, if a friend of family member ever deals with debt, or losing a house, or has a family member with mental health issues….I know I’ll be able to at least empathize with that person, rather than just sympathize.

    ~debtkid

  7. Kristia Says:

    Larry, I am so there. Thanks for sharing this article. I needed it.

  8. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad.com Says:

    We have all had that moment of “What am I doing?” The big difference is some people do something about it and others don’t.

    The funny thing is the changes can have big results fast. My view is to look for fast, small successes. They lead to bigger, massive successes.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences . . .

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