It’s time to wake up

Last week I wrote about how some of my problems with money have been eerily similar to common signs of drug addiction. This week I’m writing to share how the 1st of the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous helped my wife and I wake up and start getting real with our money.

We admitted we were powerless over spending—that our lives had become unmanageable.

Just so you know, my nature is to fight against defeat, to keep trying, to simply push through it, to dig deep and apply my willpower. It wasn’t easy for me to admit that I was powerless over something, and when I discovered that my willpower wasn’t enough to overcome my money troubles, it hurt. It hurt real bad. But my ego had taken blows before, like when I felt like money was tight, or when I knew we couldn’t afford something, and especially when I had to tell my wife we didn’t have enough money in the bank for her to get groceries. But all those blows (and many more like them) always seemed like they were less painful than actually admitting that I had a problem with spending.

Step One: Powerless over spending

But one day something changed, it came, I finally decided that I’D HAD IT! I was sick of spending money and having nothing to show for it. I was sick of fighting about money, and I was sick of feeling inadequate as a provider. I’d had enough of all that! Finally, the fear of continuing down my current path, and where that would land me, was greater than my fear of admitting that I was powerless against spending, and that my life had become unmanageable.

And now as I look back, I’ve realized that not only was I addicted to spending (and borrowing so I could spend), but I was also allergic to it! Yeah, that’s right, I said I’m allergic to spending. Let me explain: I was constantly exposing myself to an allergic reaction that was destructive. My self-confidence was deteriorating: “Am I a good enough provider?” My marriage was deteriorating: “I’m sick of being so stressed out and fighting about money! Is it always going to be like this?” My future was deteriorating: “$900/month for the car, $600/month for student loans, $1000/month for the mortgage, $200/month for the furnace…there’s nothing left to save!”

Are you there yet? Have you HAD IT? Have you discovered your allergy to spending and borrowing?

Getting there

They say that most people have to hit rock bottom before they’ll be willing to make the necessary changes to conquer an addiction. Have you hit that bottom yet? How much lower will you go before you’ll decide you’ve had it?

Admitting there’s a problem is the first step to making a change. Some people get there by hitting the bottom—I did. Others are wise enough to shake off their slumber, to wake up from their zombie walk of spending, and consider for a moment what they’re really doing with their money. So if you haven’t had your “I’ve had it!” moment yet, but you want to have it—it’s time to wake up!

Waking up

Wake up and feel the consequence of every dollar you spend for a month. Wake up and do the math on those student loans—they’re costing you too much. Wake up and see how much you’re really paying for that furnace—it’s not $200/month for a few years, it’s $7,200! Wake up and recognize that the [insert your vice here] every day isn’t $3, it’s $1,095 this year. Wake up and realize that if you have debt, and you’re spending money on anything else, you’re essentially borrowing money to pay for those things—even that measly chocolate bar. Wake up and realize that some of the unnecessary contention in your home is because of your money problems. Wake up and realize that it doesn’t have to be like this. Wake up and say: “I’VE HAD IT!”

Maybe you don’t have a problem

But maybe you don’t have a problem with spending. A few years ago I didn’t have a problem—I had “good debt”, I was “investing” in my education, and I “needed” a brand new car for reliability.

If you don’t have a problem, then to you I say: carry on. Do your spending in a controlled fashion. But if you ever find yourself thinking “maybe that Conor guy was on to something…” please stop, seize that moment, and send me a message letting me know that you’ve finally HAD IT!

-Conor

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