Why Baby Steps Work in Financial Recovery
Okay, don’t let the Financial Therapist label intimidate you…I’ve certainly done my time screwing up with money.
To be totally honest, I abdicated the decision making for a long time. I figured I didn’t have the head for that – and handed most of my big, money-related decisions to the man in my life. He was strong, opinionated and entrepreneurial and, damn it, he sounded like he knew what he was talking about.
So I abdicated.
Some people were shocked when they found this out. I turned over my decisions even though I’m perceived as pretty fearless among my circle of friends, even though I’m a community leader, even though I was a total entrepreneur at heart – duking it out as a screenwriter and indie filmmaker in Hollywood. A marriage, a child and a divorce later, I found myself in a financial free fall. I hadn’t been holding the reigns. No one had been holding the reigns. So I looked to credit to be my backup. It seemed like a fine plan at the time.
Until…the day I was buying supplies for my son at a big fat baby supply store when I spotted this huge purple frog. It was so cute! I knew my son would absolutely love that frog. It was big enough to sit in. It was cuddly and would look great in his room in the reading corner. Sure it was a little expensive but damn it, I needed that purple frog. That frog would encourage him to read, right? When I got to the cash register I pulled out a credit card – and it was maxed out. So I pulled out a second one – maxed out. I began to sweat – how would I pay for this perfect reading stuffed animal chair??? I pulled out a third credit card knowing it too was maxed out and suddenly it all became incredibly ridiculous. I was stressing over how I was going to pay for this huge purple frog.
I put down the frog and went home.
The next morning I decided to review my bills, to really look at what I owed. Now don’t get me wrong. When I looked at that big pile of financial ick, I became a little frozen for a moment. I thought I had to do this huge makeover – and, of course, I felt I would have to make huge changes overnight. This thought kept me frozen for a week until I realized that frozen wasn’t getting me anywhere.
So I decided to do one thing. Just one thing. I decided I would no longer live using credit cards to supplement my life. I could live a perfectly fine life without huge purple frogs.
Over the next few months I took another small step and decided (gulp) I would get credit counseling. I would open up to another human being about my financial state. It wasn’t easy. But by looking at it all square in the face and then going slowly – one step at a time – I realized I was building up my confidence. I was slowly gaining experience and financial knowledge. And, though it hurt a bit, I was also growing into myself as the person who most definitely needed to hold the reigns.
So if you find yourself in a pile of financial ick, remember that you do not need to change everything right now. In fact, all you need to do is start here: When you go to the store, avoid the large purple frogs.