I often find myself falling victim to the negative discourse floating around about what people should and should not have when they’re working to overcome debt. Though I understand it, it also bothers me a great deal.
But let’s take a step back and set the scene. I read lots of blogs and social media posts about people’s personal financial journeys. I love reading the wins as it is great to virtually celebrate their progress and congratulate them for reaching their goals! But there are still many who struggle to master their finances and regain control of their lives. For those grappling to overcome debt, I see lots of shameful feelings about their past behavior and experiences. They’re drowning in guilt because they are in the situation in the first place. They are blaming themselves for making ill-informed or sometimes even uninformed choices that caused them to fall down.
But it’s so easy to forget that it happens to the best of us.
Once people realize that there is a better way to handle their finances, people search for information and advice to help them start climbing out of debt. The advice is pretty simple: don’t spend more than you earn, avoid adding to your debt and reduce expenses where possible to increase payments toward your debt. Nothing wrong with that, it makes sense. You should pay back the money you owe because it’s the right thing to do.
So people begin their debt payoff journey and it’s all gravy until they get burned out. All of their efforts are focused on reducing expenses to bone and depriving themselves from the joys of life because they’re convinced that it’s the right thing to do. Some will turn off their heat in the winter, avoid going out with friends to get ice cream, buy poor quality food and spend hours clipping coupons (not gonna lie, I’ve done it and it’s pretty fun ^_^) because that’s what they have been told is right.
But, that isn’t right for everyone.
The hard thing about blanket advice is that it’s easy to forget that you have to do what’s best for you. Not what’s working for your favorite Youtubers or what you saw on Facebook with a bunch of likes, what really works best for you. If you don’t think buying low-quality food to save money now is worth the potential long term cost to your health, then you should deviate. And you shouldn’t feel bad about it! It breaks my heart when I hear people say that they don’t deserve to have nutritious food, comfortable clothing, or a little bit of fun here & there. I so often see people feel bad for taking a break from the extreme deprivation to be a person and enjoy life. Throughout my financial journey, I always left money aside to go out to lunch and movie with my Grandma and go get sushi with my friends.
Truth is, I don’t know how long I will be blessed with these people in my life.
So if I decide to spend $10 to go have an adventure and make some memories, I’m not going to let someone convince me that it was wrong to do so. Spending time with loved ones and making memories is never a bad choice, at least for me!
I feel that everyone (okay, except maybe axe murderers & kidnappers…) deserves to live a full life with the means they have, to the extent they wish. It is my vision that we all have choices in life when it comes to our finances. We have choices of where we live, what kind of food we eat, lots of options for healthcare, and how often we spend time with loved ones not if we spend time with them at all.
Of course, there are limits to this. It all comes down to staying within your means and making financial decisions that align with your core values and goals. For me, spending time doing activities with loved ones is incredibly important me. I don’t have to go on a weeklong trip to Hawaii to do that especially if I really can’t afford to. But I can go catch a matinee and have treat my grandma to breakfast.
What I’m not saying: if you choose to go balls-to-the-wall with your debt repayment strategy that you are ridiculous and people should not sacrifice at any level to meet their financial goals. (That kind of dedication to achieving your goals is admirable. It takes an incredible amount of discipline and focus to do that, good for you!)
What I am saying: extreme deprivation is not for everyone and we shouldn’t shame those who choose to seek more harmony in achieving their financial goals. We need to be honest with ourselves about what our needs are to live a life we enjoy, and resist the pressures to impose beliefs that don’t align with our values on ourselves.
Before you go: I’m curious, are you someone who can do the hardcore deprivation lifestyle to reach your goals or are you more of the harmonious type where you can cut back but still enjoy the journey?
Comment below and let me know!