I have recently completed paying down three of my obligations. My credit card, car payment, and a loan on an AC unit we needed badly but could not afford. I did not use a debt restructuring agency this time or take a equity line or other loan. It was cutting back, doing without, working a second job, and paying close attention to the budget.
Just a little background about me. I have experienced four separate unemployment periods in my 12 years in the IT business. Twice I was so close to foreclosure I could smell it. We even went 120 days one time. I still have no retirement savings and I am currently working on my emergency fund.
Back when we were unemployed banks were not so eager to “work” with you on your mortgage. You simply paid or they repossed the property. And a single payment would not make your problem go away. Remember, this was less than 15 years ago, not the 1940s. During many of these periods my salary would fall to a quarter of it previous level. Unemployment paid about a 15% of what my previous salary was.
I have read this blog each day for a couple of years. I found this place as I was unemployed again and needed to read the stories and suggestions of others. I decided I would take responsibility for my decisions and correct my ways in order to pay my way out of the problems I have experienced. I was commited to living the Jimmy Carter life style.
Our former president was never a great leader in my mind. However, researching the stories here, reading the bible, and reading about the way in which Mr. Carter urged our country to face the issues presented in the late 70 made me think differently about my approach to my position. Simply living within my means was the entire change needed.
I surmized that when I spent less than I earned I was able to meet my obligations, pay down my late accounts, and eventually retire some of my debts as I have reported here today. Your reading this thinking “Wow, this is the secret. He is going to show me how I can make the turn.” I am, but in the next few paragraphs you may decide its not for you so be prepared.
I want you to know I am not judging you and I decided to take the 25 minutes to write tis because I cared about you and the “slavery” that your debt has you in. I see some of your stories and wonder if your reading the post from others who have been sucessful or just venting. I wonder do you really think your position is due to poor decisions or are you certain somehow a creul trick has been played upon you.
I know things are not going well in the economy. I saw gasoline that was 5.25 a gallon the other night and it had been 3.39 the day before. More and more of us will be going through “hard times”. The outcome will be determined by your decisions today and the lifestyles you choose for the future.
My choices are not easy as I had mentioned. My little car is 2002 Cavalier and has body damage in the front. But she cranks and takes me to work each day and returns me home each night. As I drive 55mph and the SUVs flypast me I can see the looks on the other drivers faces. I imagine the thoughts are along the lines of: “The beat up junker! He should get a nicer car then he could go 80 like me.” I see the disapproval the judgmental glares. I could not afford to drive 70 mph. I save 5 dollars a day as you see I drive 180 miles round trip so that I can work a wonderful job.
I watch my coworkers go out to lunch and have lavish dinners in the evening before they return to complain about being “stuck” at work. I on the other hand plan and prepare for home made meal of left overs. Some people wonder how I can be happy eatting outmeal or grits each morning. They are above oatmeal or grits, they instead need the BK or McDs whatever is on sale. I quietly eat my homemade breakfasts, lunches, and dinners knowing that they are within my means.
Even though I have been in the IT business for 12 plus years, I have never owned a cellphone with a plan. I do have a cell phone but its for emergencies, real emergencies, and the occasional moment when I or my Wife want support in our struggle and it is a prepaid clunker too. I hear so many people talk about how the cell phone bill is killing them. I wonder, what is so important they have to talk about that they need those. I think that they probably just want them so they could “look” inportant.
Likewise, I hear of outrageous cable bills. I too have cable and as you might imagine some of the best connectivity because it is how I do my business. I just don’t understand why a factory worker (not picking on you specifically) needs the fastest cable connection or all of those premium channels. In fact if you were working a second job you would not be home to watch that TV.
You see I think when you file bankruptcy you are shirking your responsibilities. When you settle out a debt you a side steping the full commitment. You did get the full enjoyment from the things you bought on those cards did you not? Why should hard working people who choose to live with in their means be foced to shoulder the burdens of your decisions, weather right or wrong? If you are unable to meet your obligations because you have physical incapacities why do you believe you earned the cable or cell phones, for example?
I am not saying you are bad. I am no better than you. I have come around to a point where living within my means is my focus. Be it frugality or self denial it is unfair for me to live at a level where I canot maintain my position should something occur. I am saying that you should think about your actions before you make the decision. You should review how you are living your life and ask your self the question, “Is this the right thing to do? Will I be able to meet all of my obligations and still pay for this if something happens?”. I only ask that you do not ask me to shoulder your burdens unless you are doing all that you can do for your self first.