In an emergency room, patients are treated based upon the urgency of their need for care.
If you are reading this and you are living pay-check to paycheck, and/or you have past due bills, or are just trying to stay on top of all the debt you have accumulated, you have a debt emergency.
The very first step for anyone in your circumstances will be to “triage your debt”. What do I mean by “triaging” your debt? It is this – Before you can dive in and begin working a system of overall debt repayment and savings, you have to first start with vital matters.
Are you behind on your rent/mortgage? Utilities? Your car payment? These are your necessities. Take a look at them first. Make a list and address each one of the following in order:
Food and Shelter
Your primary needs are food and shelter, then critical utilities (cable and internet are not critical- unless you work from home and cannot work without internet). Before you can even begin to start paying down your debt, you must get these items current. If you lose your shelter and cannot provide sustenance for you or your family, the least of your worries will be making sure your AMEX credit card gets paid. Talk to your landlord, will they forgive late fees, will they let you pay your rent a week late so you can get caught up on your utilities. Will they break the rent into two payments so that you have more to go around for each paycheck? Be honest with them – be creative. As my grandma used to say, “closed mouths, don’t get fed!” You won’t know, unless you ask.
House-hacking. One idea is to “house-hack.” Can you temporarily rent out a room in your home. Or can you rent a room/rooms in someone else’s home. Housing costs are most often our biggest expense and if you are able to change this one thing, it may be enough to give you the relief you need to get all the other areas under control. It may be humbling. It may be inconvenient. You maybe sacrificing your privacy. Remember this is temporary and sometimes, we must do the hard things.
After food and shelter, are utilities. If you are behind, call each one of them and work out a schedule of repayment AND STICK TO IT. Often, the dread of calling can be debilitating – I totally understand. But, I promise, you will feel better once you have a plan. I also know (from experience) that in the vast majority of instances, if you simply explain your situation – a lot of the time they will be able to help you. Besides, you also don’t want to find yourself in a situation where they get turned off and you have to pay reconnection fees. This will only compound the problem.
Next is transportation. Can you negotiate with your lender to perhaps postpone a month’s payment so that you reflect as current and then possibly use the freed-up expense to get caught up on your shelter needs? Will they forgive late fees? What else can you do? Perhaps you temporarily use public transportation or some other means of transportation and forego a vehicle all together? Be creative here.
Perhaps you need to sell your car and purchase one outright to get rid of your car payment? Maybe you car share. Remember, this is an emergency and you need to do what you can to stop the bleeding.
All Other Debt
The last priority is to bring current all debt.
But, before you begin focusing on your debt there are other steps that you will need to take, including assessing your income vs. outgo, total over-all debt situation and creating a budget. For now, focus only on triage – assessing in order of urgency and treating the most critical of issues before moving on. This is not to say that your overall debt situation is not important or that it is not an emergency. It is – debt freedom is an emergency. However, as with the emergency room, for now it can wait until critical needs are stabilized.
In an emergency room, the doctors and nurses work quickly, they work with purpose, they assess, treat and move on to the next patient. You will do the same with each necessary expense that is past due. Doctors and nurses also do not pretend that a situation is not as bad as it seems – to do so would cost lives. You have to triage your debt with an open and honest heart. Truly determine where you are with your necessary expenses. “Treat” each debt emergency as if your life depended on it, because in reality – it does. How can you be the parent – wife – husband – employee – friend – you are meant to be if you are consumed with worry about where you will live or how will be get your next meal – you simply can’t. And I am here to help you do that. I care about your well-being and I want to see you succeed financially.
In the next several series of posts, we will be addressing the financial fundamentals so that you can achieve financial independence and begin saving. But for now, first things first. Be brave. You can do this!
Love and Prosperity,