Paying off debt - continued

10 November 2010
I want to thank all those who took the time to add a comment yesterday. I am sure they will help the men and women who read them and find something that will fit their circumstance and make sense to them. It is a wonderful thing to get well intentioned advice from people who have been in the same situation, and it is enriching to offer that advice with an open heart.

This is an important topic and there are a few points I want to continue with today.

Anne made a good point that I want to comment on, she said:
When budgeting and cutting back, it is too easy for me to start feeling cold, hungry and destitute, before even beginning! But when I start looking at all that we already have: food in the cupboards, clothes in the closets, more "entertainment" items than anybody needs, a roof and walls to keep out the elements, plenty of blankets and comforters, I start feeling rich rather than deprived. Then I am able to be objective about what items are truly necessities, and spend or not spend accordingly.

Yesterday at my voluntary job I was asked by one of our clients to accompany him to the police station. He'd been bashed on the weekend and had to make a statement to the police. He wanted me with him when he did it. He was walking with the aid of crutches so we hopped in my car and drove up town. During the course of the statement, he said that he thought he'd lost his phone during the attack but someone had given it back to him later. He said that phone meant more to him than his wallet because it contained ALL his personal things. It held his photos, his address book and it was his only safety device. This man is homeless and having dealt with him for a few months I know his only possessions are a canvass bag he carries with him, a tent we gave him, some blankets and a swag, a small stove, plate, cup, knife and fork that he bought, and his clothes and hat. He comes to the neighbourhood centre most mornings to have a shower, he washes his clothes every second day in our washer. While we were waiting to be seen, I asked him if there was anything he needed. He said he wanted a new hat because his was ripped, but he added, "I don't need a new hat but I'd like one."

When I meet people like this it makes me feel shame for every time in my old life when I wanted something and complained like a seven year old when I couldn't have it.

A few people recommended Dave Ramsey and I want to echo that. I've written about him a couple of times but if you're struggling with debt, or even if you want to stay on track, reading his website will help, I'm sure. Dave is in the US. If you're in the UK, there is another helpful site called They offer sound advice and have a very helpful forum where you can ask questions or just read through hundreds of pages about people recovering from debt and how they did it. If you're in Australia, you can find no better place than Lisa's fabulous thread on the Down to earth forum. Every two months Lisa and her group set a financial goal for themselves and then work towards it. During the course of the past year, Lisa goal was to save $10,000 - she did it and tells how on the thread. Lisa will start a new thread doing the same thing in the new year, so if you can't, or don't want to, join now, what better time than the new year! Michelle just gave us this link for our New Zealand readers - living off the smell of an oily rag. I've checked it out and it looks like a real winner.

One of the readers sent an email about this yesterday and I want to share part of it with you. It's about budgeting and small children and it's great advice, thanks Lisa. Lisa says:

What I wanted to share is that it is so important not to scare the kids, but to make them part of the discussions even at this young age because then they feel they are making a difference and not just being denied all the time. This might help other families that might be wanting to shield their children from "ADULT" worries. To us it has helped enormously to share not the burden but the fun of finding other ways to live and to make it a choice for us all and not just something we are imposing on the kids from our poor choices earlier. There are still times when it is hard on them and they really want something, but now if I say I just don't have the money for that this week, they understand and don't have a melt down in the store. I try to also sacrifice something I true want so they can have something next week to make up. It will be a very small thing, but it is still a treat and they appreciate their treats so much more now. I give up a coffee I am really craving when I am out (a very rare thing these days for me to purchase) and I gain a lovely smile from my children when I can give them a lollie or a mango.

And finally I wanted to add something that a couple of readers mentioned - that it's easy to feel deprived when you're paying off debt, but you can choose to see it as something really positive. Sure it's nice to have a new dress, you might even think you deserve it, but you deserve to live deft-free and without worry more than you deserve a dress. You might be longing to give your children the game they really want but giving them a life without arguments over money and parents who are financially sound is much better for them.

There will never be a better time than now to decide that you're going to follow a different path and start to get serious about your debt. Another thing that worked for Hanno and I was to give each other pocket money so we felt we had our own money if we wanted to buy something. For us it is $10 a week, but it should be only what you can afford. Betweenbabies, that might work for you and your husband. That $10 can be saved up to buy something more expensive, or spent each week just to buy bits and pieces when we're out. It can mean the difference between success and failure for some people who have a problem when starting to save.

Again, if you have any sound advice about paying off debt or living frugally, please add it here. I'd like to hear from readers who might have been convinced they should start cutting back, drawing up a budget and paying off debt. Do you need any more information about getting started on that road? If so, let me know.

Thanks again everyone. You've shown me once again what a thoughtful and wonderful community of readers we have here.