I know how it happens. I didn’t quite pay all of the counseling bill. The accountant’s bill for 2019 taxes still sits on the desk a few weeks after receipt. The roof repair bill sat for awhile before I paid him too. The student loan bill has been around longer than my bedspread. Two credit card bills are hanging around like old boyfriends from three years ago. The attorney bill has been lurking for four long years with their steadfast monthly invoices pointing out that I often only pay $75 a month on it.
The stack of unpaid and undone is getting higher. And now that I work at home, I see it. I notice it. I notice that I am not living up to my contracts with others. The results are two-fold: 1) I have become unreliable financially to myself. And 2) The people I hired to help me out are not being compensated. The result is I feel like a tired teenager on the couch “I can’t do anything but lay here and obsess about the screen in front of my face”.
Even when I leave the bills underneath old mail, I still remember them. They eat a way into my consciousness. I am home with them now since I don’t report to the office. Like having to live with a bad roommate watching Netflix all day, the darn unpaid bills just sit in the corner. They never leave and go out of the house. Couldn’t they at least find other friends to visit for a day or a week?!
I am making such small payments on the attorney bill it is depressing to see the invoices. I hate to open them up. (Note: I am grateful for his services, I needed them. And I am so grateful that here have been no new charges in 3 years, and he isn’t charging me interest). The bill hangs on… the progress is so slow. Another visual – those old bills are like bats in a cave. The dollars I owe others are accumulating over time, building up to an entire population that clings to the mud walls of my brain*, stealing precious space that could be used for other ideas.
I am a big fan of spending plans (which is my nice name for a budget). I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course 15 years ago, have listened to his CDs (yes, it was a long time ago!), and his podcast, read his books over the years. Finally, 15 years later, I am no longer using credit cards at all. I have had lots of expenses with single-handedly raising and educating two kids (No $ help from their Dad). They are now both graduated form college. I did help them with tuition, but they got a lot of scholarship money to pay their own living expenses. But I still have debt.
Snowballs– I realized that is what I need. Lots of snowballs to fling those bats out of my cave brain with its limited space. Remember the feeling of a perfectly packed and rounded snowball thrown at just the right velocity to hit its mark? You had rounded it over and over in your hands, forming it just right, packing it hard.
- I saw that the attorney bill (4.5 years old) was finally within striking distance. I took money from the Christmas savings account, from the grocery envelope, from the car repair savings account, and cut back on payments to a credit card. I paid it off! Wow- what a jolt of good feelings. I had packed and packed that snowball until it was a good one!
- I realized I could use HSA funds for the counselor and paid him off. Another jolt of terrific feeling opened up- a zinger snowball!
- I I told my roommates (aka daughter and boyfriend) that I could buy only oatmeal and eggs for groceries this month and if they wanted something else, they need to buy it. Then I bit the bullet and paid the accountant to square up my standing with him after a good lecture to myself about paying people for services rendered. That low-lob snowball at the bat that was threatening to roost in the cave felt good too.
I am all squared away with people I owe now. It feels great. I still owe institutions, so I decided to pay $10 minimum per day towards credit card debt. It is the same as $140 every two weeks, but it feels different because I make headway daily. It is a mini-jolt of good feelings towards debt-free living. And every day it reminds me not to slip up and debt (no new bats get to roost!). And I am really pelting the smallest bills 1st to make fast headway that builds up steam.
I am in need of a way to feel in control of my destiny, and not feel so beholden to my job, The Man, Mr. Chase Bank, and the Institution of Consumerism. I am taking this working from home time to focus very hard on my priorities. Paying down and off debt is allowing me more space to think of possibilities and plans for the future. This is a re-grouping time, to think over our real priorities for our lives, needs vs. wants, the time cost of our commitments, goals for our families, our passions.
Our new life is already upon us. There is no “getting back to normal” anymore. It is time to empower ourselves, be financially accountable to ourselves, our service providers, and our institutional (aka credit card) debt. It is time to do all we can to wipe that out and give ourselves permission to re-prioritize our time and efforts in our new world.
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
- Choose to pay down $10 a day in debt at the smallest bill to make the most headway and not use credit for anything.
- Review Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps again and again.
- Allow ourselves space to re-think our priorities.
*I am a biologist and I love bats. They belong in the wild caves though, not my brain.