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Kehler Counseling Blog

8 Ways to Survive Financially Lean Times

This is a share that I have been living through.   I know the anxiety, pressure and shame of not having 'enough'.   I know the frustration of having to say 'no' to almost everything.   I know the way to make bad decisions about money.  I know how quickly the best of budgets can be blindsided by external forces that magnify a stressful situation into a dark hole of hopelessness.  
I also know the satisfaction of getting yet another debt paid, feeling proud of handling the insecurities related to financial management and being compassionate about those who struggle daily to simply survive.   

I'm not going to lecture.  That's why I'm going to share this as an "I" share.    

These are the things I have learned going through 'lean' years.  

1- You will get all kinds of advice that may have no understanding of your life, lifestyle, income, challenges or personality.    Ignore what doesn't work for YOU. 
     I am more introverted by nature.  I am not a 'hustler'.  I may have great ideas about business concepts, how to start and run a business, have real experience of retail, property management, financial strategies, and adding 'side' businesses to the bottom line BUT I hate the experience of feeling like I'm exploiting a situation.  I don't want to be a motivational speaker in front of large groups, I don't want to be in 'business thinking' 24/7 - always looking for the next revenue producer.   I could easily (?) write and hustle a book, seminars, run multiple groups (get a dozen at a time instead of 1), sell CD's, create APPS, add Video counseling, the list is endless.   Some probably question and openly ask me why I don't.   I would rather have less, have more time for BALANCE, than work and worry 24/7 about the next program, venue, and churning more money - that has to be accounted for and managed.   I used to work 24/7 - in my married life - I was an self-employed  & employee for 6 years worked full time outside of managing finances of 4 separate businesses- and could never do 'enough' to keep ends meeting.  What the advice givers don't account for is the spouse who never saves, spends as soon as its in an account, perceives credit as a blank check, and an economy where the  price of oil/gas, insurances or the ability of banks to lend can be a vacuum on anything that's left.    If you're self employed getting advice or a lecture from someone who never lived it can be an 'eye rolling' experience.    This year my challenge was non-stop bad weather in my region of the country.  Thanks to the severe costs of missing work, damaged vehicles, and risking lives on icy roads - and my state insisting on keeping everyone safe by closing down roads to all but emergency vehicles - my business evaporated.   Then add the fact that everyone else was impacted - so many weren't getting full paychecks, forced to allocate more of their budgets to watching their kids home from school and then the Flu hit . . . 

So you trooper though.   
But STAY true to yourself.    I found that I found reading was my favorite 'free' activity.  I used the 'down' time to get loaded up with all my Continuing Education credits  - so I felt PRODUCTIVE even though revenue was tight. 

2-Complete a "TIDYING" -Marie Kondo process in your home and office.   It doesn't sound like it has anything to do with finances - but for me it had a tremendous impact.    Please read though my other Blog entries under the heading of Tidying/ Kondo Style for more details.    This was one of the most influential process driven activities I can say really helped me to stay on track financially.    It took 5+ months but as I went through it - my shopping for EVERYTHING - changed dramatically.   I had already been forced into the 'need vs. want' for most things - but adding the question of 'joy' or ' now life' helped manage those impulsive buys and 'its a bargain' as well.   Having an environment that you feel truly satisfied being in and time to do what you really want to do is a great foundation.   Many think that buying all kinds of organizational boxes, totes, shelving, racks or furniture will 'help' - if you follow the Kondo process you will discover that you won't need them!    The less clutter also means less cleaning.  Your shopping changes dramatically because you understand that less is more sanity.    Check out this link for another resource to inspire: https://www.diypassion.com/2015/09/06/decluttering-with-konmari-a-journey-to-sparkingjoy/

3-TURN OFF THE PHONE RINGER.   There is no law that you have to answer every phone call from collections, credit cards, auto loan, student loans servicing companies.  STAY IN TOUCH - you can call them - and they will work with you - be polite and honest.   But if the sound of the phone stresses you out - let the calls go to Voice mail and handle them under your OWN control.    I do almost ALL of my bill paying through my bank or the creditors' websites so I don't have to talk to a human.    I will share that many credit card companies have all kinds of ways to pay to 'catch up' - you can pay multiple times a month if your income is unpredictable and try not to pay by phone or Western Union (they can try to demand it) - if you can pay more directly through your bank or their website.    I'm not advocating avoiding - I'm advocating managing how you manage paying what is due under YOUR control.   Pay car insurances and utilities FIRST - but for other times - pay up credit cards to be able to use them to pay other debts.   

4- USE CASH OR DEBIT FIRST.   Tell yourself if you're using a credit card - you can't afford it.  Period.   Learn to delay, do without, substitute or deny yourself instead of using a credit card.   Leave them home.   Make it a challenge to NOT use your credit cards at all.   The longer you don't while still making payments - the faster your debt will decrease.   If you're charging more each month than you are paying -along with accumulating interest - you aren't being financially intelligent.     Learn to delay and do without.   Its not life threatening.  

5- SHOP WITH A LIST.  PLAN MEALS - I learned to get satisfaction from walking into a major box store, shop online and/or grocery store by leaving with ONLY the item on my list and nothing more.   Sure there were things that I 'forgot' but I also didn't fall prey to the impulse bargain, seasonal decoration, added food item or newest 'saw it on TV' - that would be shoved into a closet, cabinet or drawer somewhere - with the attitude of I 'might need it' someday.   Same for 'bargains.' 

6-FIGURE OUT WHY YOU HAVE TROUBLE WITH 'NOT ENOUGH' INCLUDING SAVINGS.  I learned that I get so responsible that I pay before the money is safely in the bank, pay off more than I had to, pay the wrong things first and fear debt collections more than having a savings account - that would help me ride through tough times.    I had a great credit score and nothing in savings.  When tough times hit I could've borrowed on credit but with unpredictable revenue I didn't want to risk debt I couldn't manage and would have to pay insane interest on.   
Ask yourself:

  • WHY did you overspend?     What is your weakness?  What items do you focus on and rationalize purchasing?  What budget category do you overdo on and what categories do you neglect?  
  • Did you plan properly?   Did you consider the hidden costs?  Many 'forget' the cost of insuring, storing, maintaining, registering and repairing.  For me its having back up during bad weather months so I'm ready for 'the worst'.   
  • What does money mean to you?  Are you spending it for reasons that don't line up with that?   Does having money mean security? independence? freedom? responsibility? pressure?  anxiety?   Are you spending and saving in a way that reflects that?
  • What is your earliest "Money Memory"?   Did that memory shape your attitude about money?  How did your parents manage their money?  Does that shape your current savings and spending patterns?    Do you try to follow their guidance or flee from what they did 'wrong'? 
  • Are you ready for basic emergencies?  Can your job be derailed, downsized, eliminated?  Do you own a home that requires appliances, roofing, repairs or remodeling?  Do you or your loved ones have significant medical issues that require regular visits, testing,procedures or treatments?  Do you live in a region of the country vulnerable to natural disasters?  
  • Do you have dependents who may need extra medical, education, athletic, recreational supports that come up seasonally or occasionally?    Travel expenses to family if they have a medical emergency?

7- AVOID SHOPPING FOR FUN - FIND A DIFFERENT WAY TO SPEND TIME 'OFF'.   When you have or had 'plenty' you may have spent lots of time enjoying searching for the 'best' at Malls, Antique Stores, Flea Markets, Auction houses, Yard Sales, Outlet malls or online  - it may have been a 'sport' in your life.   If your life is 'lean' right now - FIND OTHER WAYS TO SPEND YOUR TIME.   There are hundreds of 'free' alternatives including reading, videos, movies online, gaming, sports with friends, outdoor trails, fishing, swimming, camping, fire ring chats, watching wildlife and birds, chatting with loved ones, volunteering, reading and researching, touring, car rides, attending free community and church activities, scenic locations, Sunday dinners with family and friends. . . are just a start.   You probably have projects you have put off - go through the list and start with those that cost the least.  You can transform a room by just doing a 'super clean', tidying and rearranging furniture - that can be very visually satisfying.  
8- ALLOCATE SOME MONEY FOR RECREATION AND FUN.  This is where I went wrong - I didn't apportion money for going out!  So I had to say 'no' to too much.   Then I isolated too much.  Set aside an allowance for periodic events with family and friends.   Know what seasonal events you want to attend and set aside money to attend them.  Set aside money for the most fun fundraisers.  Have a 'fun fund' for those 'guys only' or 'girls nights' or movie nights.  They don't have to be expensive - there's tricks for that too - but don't leave yourself so short that life is all about 'bills' and 'debt' and not having fun with people who really do get you through the tougher times.   Distraction can be very therapeutic!    

    Stay focused on doing the best each day - reward yourself with each bill paid, each debt paid off, shift your funds to what gives you more security, satisfaction and joy.   Edit your life and spending so that you're feeling more enjoyment than hopelessness!  

A professional counselor can help evaluate what is authentic to you, what is in the way of why you're not managing successfully and help encourage and support your efforts.  

Contact me today!    Email: karenkehler@ptd.net  

Karen L Kehler MA  

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