Feeling like you could have done a better job juggling finances before COVID-19? Same. I have learned a lot of lessons along the way, but one big lesson was commitment. As I mentioned in a previous post, my commitment to becoming debt free was off and on. The knowledge was in my brain, but I still misbehaved and did not take it seriously. Living comfortably and owing money seemed like a decent way to live. “Everyone has debt! It’s just a part of life.” Wrong.
So what mistakes did I make prior to COVID? A bunch! I am calling out a few that play into one another creating a continuous cycle of failure (or something like that). I am calling these mistakes because if I had committed to the journey sooner, I would currently be debt free.
1. BUDGETING SOMETIMES: Prior to COVID I had this bad habit of budgeting every now and then or budgeting when I had a big expense I was saving for. My dollars and cents went wherever they pleased and I lost control. When I did budget, I had to ensure that I was using the EveryDollar budgeting app in order to maintain 100% accountability of each dollar coming in. Not consistently giving dollars a place to be is a surefire way to lose money.
2. A GIVING SPIRIT: The giving spirit was abundant once COVID arrived. Giving, and the desire to give more than the typical 10%, was not the primary mistake. The mistake was giving more than I could. There is the typical giving that is budgeted, but during hardship there was a desire to give more to people in need. There were (still are) small businesses that no longer operated under normal conditions. I ordered a lot of food via delivery service so that I could support the small business and the food delivery people. Giving more than I could while under the bondage of debt was the mistake. Once I am debt free I can live and give like no one else.
3. “TREAT YO SELF” MENTALITY: Sometimes you have to treat yourself to a good time, am I right? I mean. . . yes, but no. “Treat yo self” within the budget. As stated in the first point, I budgeted when I “needed to” prior to COVID (i.e. rent, taking a trip, purchasing necessities for the car, etc.). In the moment it was always worth treating myself to a trip or an expensive purchase. A moment is not long term, however, it can have long-term effects. Say in this moment I have money saved for a new $600 TV. Looking long-term I am still $600 shy of paying off debt because I paid for something I didn’t need earlier (it was on one of those “sometimes budgets”). Chances are there’s an interest charge so in reality that $600 negligence turned into a $1,200 expense further down the road. What a waste! Time and time again I would give up momentary pleasure to ensure all debts are settled.
4. WASTING SUPPLEMENTAL INCOME: While working full-time I decided to get a part-time job to fill the extra time, keep up with the industry, and make extra money. The extra money was really good before we got furloughed. The money was so good I did my “sometimes budget” with it and did all kinds of stuff besides paying off debt. I’ll say it again. . . What a waste!
Looking back on my actions pre-COVID, I am disappointed in my lackadaisical approach to becoming debt free. Those who follow Dave Ramsey would say that I’ve been on the “Dave-ish” plan while utilizing the 7 Baby Steps approach to financial peace. Of course I do not claim to be a financial professional, but by following principles I’ve learned I am finding a way to win with money. Commitment, intentionality, budget, and behavior are what I know to be the most effective ways to becoming debt free.
Once COVID hit I had nowhere outside of work to be or many things to do. I had money coming in from the Marine Corps that needed budgeting and debt that needed to be eliminated. If I had been more serious about debt repayment prior to COVID then I would be debt free by now and stowing away cash for the next big thing. There’s no changing the past so we look to the future. Here’s to the next several, long months that will lead me to the end of my debt free journey.
Be strong. Love God. Love others.