(A special “Thank You” to Shannon at The Heavy Purse for organizing this blog carnival for Financial Literacy Awareness Month. Check out her post and see how other personal finance bloggers got financially real.)
Up until seven years ago I lived with the delusion that I had no money problems. Everything seemed fine to me. We were paying bills on time, building our credit score and saving/investing money along the way.
What more do you need than that, right?
The truth however didn’t match reality. I was an over-spender…a chronic over-spender. Every month we were spending more than we made. (Well, it probably wasn’t every month but it sure seemed that way.)
Like so many others who live on credit and spend, spend, spend, I was content to keep walking that path. That was until I had an encounter I’ll never forget.
The five-minute encounter changed my life.
And the truth is you will need a dramatic encounter in some form if you are going to get financially real. I had one and so did the others you see in the “We Are Financially Real” image. We all reached a moment where we understood there was a better way to handle money.
Here’s what drove me to that realization.
Change Starts With Insight and Belief
You can’t change your habits unless you first see an issue. And even if you see the issue it will be difficult to move forward unless you believe change is possible.
Around 2008 I started to see the issue my wife and I were having with our spending patterns. However I wasn’t committed to change. I thought our finances would eventually just work out as we advanced our careers and made more money.
That’s where I was still two years later as I sat at my desk reading the Bible. Our finances had been on my mind for some time and I had been studying the book of Proverbs to record all the verses about money I could find. I had already seen many verses in my reading but that night this one came across my path:
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”- Proverbs 22:7
I’d heard that verse before but this night it stood out to me for some reason. It’s as if the verse was shouting out to me from the pages of the book.
“Hey, if you keep going the way you are going this is what it’s going to be like! Do you want to be financially subservient to others forever?”
I sat there for the next five minutes thinking about what this verse was saying.
Did I really want to continue a lifestyle where I relied on the credit of others to support myself?
Was I content to stay in debt and accept that it was the only way to manage life?
Was I being a good steward of all my resources?
In those moments I realized several things:
a) I didn’t want to be poor or even come close to it. A life of overspending could lead me in that direction.
b) I didn’t like the idea of being out of control.
c) I didn’t like someone else (the rich or the lender) being in charge of my financial destiny.
Mostly though I didn’t like my laissez-faire attitude about money.
I was being lazy.
It was just the spiritual insight I needed to kick-start my process of change.
It wasn’t hard for me to take that insight and turn it into belief that I could pull it off. We were not in extreme debt, had good salaries and had a financial buffer with our investments. So any of the barriers that hinder others were not present for my wife and I.
The challenge for me would be in having the discipline to implement the necessary changes to succeed. Could I do it?
At the time I wasn’t sure. As I found out that’s where the rubber meets the road.
Change Happens From Practice Powered by Conviction
My mind was made up in five minutes that night that we were going to change. My pain threshold had been reached.
Change was certain.
I was sick and tired of living the way we were.
But belief wasn’t enough alone. I had to act.
Once I began to act on my insight and belief that we could change I became more committed to it. We took steps to change our financial lives including cutting up our credit cards, starting and following a budget and reducing all non-essential spending.
I even had an experience while shopping for shoes that I believe altered my spending patterns forever. It was my “drawing-the-line-in-the-sand” moment.
Funny thing about commitment though is that we have lapses. Commitment involves our emotions, mind and will working in conjunction with one another. Usually once our will is involved we are more likely to follow through on a commitment.
But sometimes wills are fragile. They can be broken by the toughest of circumstances.
So what kept us going during the tough times of our transition to a new way of handling money?
It all goes back to the five minutes I spend thinking that night.
You see, I just didn’t have some insight that night and act on it. I had been spiritually convicted about a damaging behavior I was inflicting on my family. You may think that odd – that God would speak to me about money. I know it happened and it was personal.
Conviction is step beyond belief or commitment. In essence a conviction says, “I am ready to die for my commitment.” When you have a conviction, that thing you believed now has become a passion in your life.
You eat it, sleep it and you live it…every single day.
You are ready and willing to go to extreme lengths and sacrifice at great personal cost.
I don’t know where that conviction will come for you. Mine was spiritual in nature, coming from God speaking to me as I read the Bible. You’ll have to find your own way to reach such levels of passion.
But you will have to go that deep in order to pull this money thing off.
Start getting financially real today.
Turn your insight into belief.
Let belief well up into conviction.
Discipline yourself to change.
And your financial life will never be the same.
Questions: What moment led you to get financially real? What was the hardest part of turning your financial life around?