Your Money Monday | Banishing the Monsters in the Closet

Welcome to Your Money Monday, a series of posts in which I talk frankly and honestly about the subject of money because I firmly believe that EVERYONE (except for maybe the Jeff Bezoses of the world) has money stuff that they worry about.

And without a doubt, the one thing that makes these worries — no matter what they are — worse for of us is shame.

Shame is what happens when we look around and think: We’re the only one struggling with this issue. We’re the only ones who can’t figure this stuff out.

As if the money stress itself wasn’t bad enough, now we’re thinking we’re alone in it.

Except, guess what? That’s 100% not true. I guarantee it.

By being open with you guys over the years about some of my own money struggles, I’ve become somewhat of a safe space for others to share their money struggles. It’s been my honor to hear from many readers over the years who are struggling.

While I don’t always have the perfect answer for them, I can offer a promise to each person who emails me and that is this: You are not alone. You are not the only one.

Your Money Monday is my attempt to light a match in the dark room of money stress. Only this room isn’t darkened by an absence of light, but rather by a curtain of shame. And the moment we talk about this stuff, we start to raise that curtain and dissipate the shame.

Without disclosing any identifying information, I want to share with you (with my clients’ permission) a brief story from a couple whom I worked with over Zoom a couple of months ago.

They came to me because they were really struggling with what the wife had called “over-spending”.

I reassured them that this is quite typical. “Lots of people have leaks in their budgets, you’re not alone.”

“No, Mara. Not leaks. Leaks are little and annoying,” my client corrected me. “We don’t have leaks. We have floods.”

She went on to explain that they owed so much money, but she didn’t even know how much. When we tried to make a list of how much they owed — and to whom, they both kind of shut down (also very typical).

“It’s like we have monsters hiding in our closet,” the husband told me.

Oh, how I remember that throat-crushing feeling.

It’s horrifying. You’re doing everything you can to keep all the balls in the air, I recalled: But then a bill comes in the mail that sends you into a tail spin.

If you can’t relate to this monsters-in-the-closet feeling, then I am so, so happy for you. It’s awful.

But if you are struggling, drowning under what feels like a flood of debt and financial disorganization, let me share with you the advice I gave them.

This is what my husband and I did when were in this same spot — and it was, simply, life-altering. (And also a little ugly.)

We made a complete list of every dollar we owed, and to whom we owed it.

It took a while (the better part of two afternoons) to get it all onto paper. But once we had faced it, and had a very long list, with too many zeros on it, believe it or not, we actually felt better. It’s really true what they say: Knowing is half the battle.

If you want to banish those monsters, the best thing to do is shine the spotlight on them.

Gather up every single bill you can find. Credit card bills, student loans statements, personal loan statements, medical bills, store charge accounts, and any bills you’re behind on.

Pile it all up on the kitchen table, pour yourself a piping hot mug of tea, and dig in.

I went old school when I did this: pen and paper. That made it more real for me. But if you’d rather do it on your computer or phone, that’s fine, too.

Open each bill, write down the name of each debtor (Visa Card, Electric Company, etc.) and the total balance due. If a bill has a minimum payment option, make a note of that, too.

Do this over and over again, until you have emptied every envelope.

Now take a deep breath and grab your calculator. It’s time to tally it all up.

Working your way thru that tally to pay off all your debt will take time, sacrifice (I know it’s not a fun word), and commitment. But from this moment forward, you are in control. And there are no more monsters in your closet.

Got a YMM question? Want to chat about money? I’m here! Comment or shoot me an email!

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