The first step in getting out of debt is to assess your situation. Over the years, working with hundreds of bankruptcy clients, I have seen over and over what I call the “Ostrich Syndrome”. The enormity a clients debt situation is so hard to face they instead ignore it. And I will be perfectly candid here, when I say “they” I include my husband and I in this category. As we struggled over the years, we put our heads in the sand several times. What we can both tell you is that ignoring your circumstances does not make this situation any better. You too might be an Ostrich if:
- Instead of opening your bills each month you stuff them in a drawer telling yourself you will get to them later.
- You fail to answer all calls because you fear it is a bill collector
- You do not check your bank account balance – afraid it is a negative balance
- You do not balance your checkbook
- You do not know how much you are in debt because you have not looked at your credit balances
- You have not checked your credit report
- You do not answer your door because you are afraid you are being served for a lawsuit
Does any of the above sound familiar to you? Do not be ashamed or afraid. Face the truth head on. Much like an alcoholic or any other addict must do, you must admit where you are and how you got to where you are so that you can begin the process of healing. You cannot skip this step because interest does not stop accruing, balances do not go down, bill collectors do not magically disappear, lawsuits do not get dismissed, negative balances do not turn into positive ones. You cannot get financially healthy until you first know how bad things really are.
Adulting is hard. But it does get easier. Especially when you have help and know that you are not alone.
Let’s get started…
Assessing where you are:
- I suggest getting out a pen and paper, or if you are a spreadsheet-type person, like me, start a spreadsheet. More accurately, you may need to create more than one. At a minimum, create a list of every single monthly expense you have.
- You need to know the present balance, the regular monthly payment, past due amounts, if any, and due dates.
- Do the same thing for each debt you have. ALL OF THEM. Credit cards, loans, loans from mom. Collection accounts. Everything.
You can combine the two lists, or keep them separate, whatever helps you feel organized and presents to you a clear picture of what you currently owe and what you owe going forward.
Determine what you have:
- What is your net monthly income coming in?
- When does it come in?
- If you have irregular incomes, go back to the past 3-6 months and chart each month’s average – or see if you can determine a baseline of the minimum you know you will receive. Anything extra will be extra.
- Do you have any savings?
- Do you have any items that you can sell?
- How much extra cash can you come up with to kick-start things?
- Can you hold a garage sale?
- Can you work overtime?
- Uber? Lyft? Amazon Flex?
- Do you have a side business you can supplement your income?
It’s time to really get creative. If your child was sick and you had to pay for a medical procedure in cash (without committing a crime people!) how much money could you come up with? Think of things in these terms and see what you can do!
Now that you know what you owe…OUCH, I know that hurt…and know what you have, the next step will be to create your plan. Your Budget. Get amped up. Get excited. You no longer have your head in the sand. Be proud. That was hard and you are still here. You are about to kick some #ss and take names! It’s time to attack.
Next week we will discuss your strategy for getting out of debt, stay tuned.
Love and Prosperity,