No one starts off in life wanting to worry about money. In fact, most of us dream of achieving wonderful things, including the ability to buy what we want, when we want it. It’s only after a series of disappointments — some call them hard knocks — that we come to the realization that money only goes so far. If we fail to learn the lessons of budgeting and saving, we’re destined to keep running into financial problems. This can lead to many a sleepless night, accompanied by worry and depression about finances. Finding a path from what I’ll call financial illiteracy to being more financially savvy may not be easy, yet it is doable.
I know. I’ve been down this path and can firmly attest to the more secure and confident future at the other end of the journey. Here, I’ll share some of my experiences in the hope that they may be helpful to others struggling with financial woes.
Learn how to budget.
Making ends meet is a difficult lesson to learn and takes a lot of practice to feel comfortable stretching available household funds to cover necessities. Finding any leftover money to pay for non-essential items, gifts, entertainment, travel, personal services such as a much-needed massage or music or dance lessons for the kids can seem improbable. Here’s where learning how to set and stick to a budget comes in handy. In fact, without a budget, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of relying on credit cards to not only get you through the lean times, but also to give in to temptation to buy something you know you can’t afford.
When you first start using a budget, it seems punitive and disagreeable. That’s likely because you’ve never cultivated the discipline to live within your means. In my case, trying to raise my children after a divorce meant sacrificing many nice-to-have things just to keep food on the table, the rent and utilities paid, gas for the car, doctor’s visits and medications and more. There was never enough money. The worst part was that I never balanced a checkbook. I just wrote the checks with a vague idea of what was left in the account. Looking back now, I see how ridiculously naïve that was. Several bounced checks and tacked-on fees later, I faced reality with a sober understanding of the necessity for accurate financial accounting of what comes in and what goes out. Talk about feeling depressed and worried. I couldn’t sleep at night because of my financial incompetence.
My recommendation is to get help from someone you know and trust who can teach budgeting fundamentals. Online help is also available. Don’t overlook budgeting. It’s crucial for getting out of the pit of financial insolvency and making progress toward financial acumen and financial literacy.