Hello, my name is BGIM and I am a recovering spend-a-holic. There I said it and I mean that in all honesty. Over the years in this space I have shared a bit about my financial stresses and the reality is that more than half of those stresses were due to my lack of control and planning. Sure, we got hit in the economic downturn when I was let go from my shitty teaching gig and the Man Unit lost several large clients. But the reality is had I bothered to plan ahead for the rainy days we probably could have weathered the financial storms a lot better.
It’s taken a lot of internal work for me to get to the place where I can truly own my bad choices and say this openly without a bit of shame but it hasn’t always been easy and lately I am learning that frankly there are many people out there happy to shame us when we own our shit.
The truth is having grown up in a family where my folks did many things well, the one thing they did not do well was impart any meaningful guidance when it came to money. The result is I entered adulthood carrying a shitload of baggage around money and when I finally started having money in any substantial quantities, I used that money to make up for what was lacking in my childhood. The result was closets full of clothes, most never worn and money squandered on dumb shit. It also meant I was never comfortable admitting that I needed to live within my means and in my late 20’s and early 30’s I made emotionally sound but financially irresponsible choices with money.
However the past few years have been a journey as we struggled to get out of debt and when we finally decided to go the Donald Trump route and get a second chance, I went in knowing that I could never ever go back to my old ways. It’s one of the reasons that when I finally got a credit card this year after several years of living on a cash only basis, I was probably as nervous as I imagine a recovering alcoholic is the first time they enter a situation where alcohol is present after giving up alcohol.
Yet this year thus far as I have held my own, slowly rebuilding my credit, realizing that a credit card does not mean free money, it’s a loan that must be repaid ASAP. The result is I am making wiser choices and feeling pretty good with myself.
Though I am realizing in this process that there are many well-meaning people out there looking to sabotage recovering spend-a-holics like myself, and it really is not cool. For starters we live in a culture where it seems there is almost a certain amount of shame in admitting you have to live within a budget. Whether it is the “friend” telling you surely you can afford that meal out or people trying to sell you on shit you don’t need. Too many times though, it feels so bad to admit our limitations when it comes to money that we don’t do it, so we go out and spend money we don’t have, knowing that is a very bad idea.
In my case in the past several months I have had several situations where I was intentional about my financial limitations and made to feel like shit. In one instance, it was a much desired retreat where I was told I could make a payment plan yet in the end the plan I proposed was not enough. I was told that I needed a larger upfront payment and while I toyed with the idea of putting it on a credit card I made the decision not to go but not before I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. The person meant well but they didn’t know my financial situation and telling me I could make something happen if I want it enough is not helpful at all, in fact it feels like a snow job.
I was upset that I couldn’t go but with a large old house, a kid in college and the main breadwinner being a full-time freelancer, in our family, large extras must be saved for in advance or something that can be paid over time. It is our reality and for the most part I have no shame about it because we have what we need and occasionally we even get what we want. I see people daily in my work who don’t have what they need including food more times than not and seeing that keeps me from indulging in my own private pity party.
Now, I wouldn’t have thought anything of the retreat situation until a couple of months ago, when we realized that we would not be able to make our yearly pledge to our church. We are members of a church that requires you to pledge in advance how much cash you will be giving and this year shit happened. So we informed the proper folks that our pledge would need to be adjusted downward and I have to say the feeling I got was so funny after that exchange that I haven’t been back to church. To be honest it left a real salty taste in my mouth.
Look, I am a pastor’s daughter and I head a faith based agency, I know all too well about the budget issues but making folks feel bad when they can’t make their pledge is far from being Christ like. In fact I would expect that my church family would understand the most, but sadly too many churches are just social clubs, but that is a whole other post.
My point is that too many times people are made to feel less than if they can’t do X,Y and Z financially and that ought not to be. I can only imagine how many people this holiday season are spending money they don’t have on people, they can’t bear to be upfront with because of the shame factor.
It’s only taken most of my adult life to get to the root of my money woes and trust me debt and scarcity is far worse than being honest and intentional about money. Money is an energy that can be good or bad or sometimes neutral, and once I learned that, it changed my life. I admit it is always momentarily awkward being upfront about my financial limitations but being in the closet is not an option. On the other hand, if someone tells you they can’t afford the dinner, the trip, the retreat or whatever, please respect that and don’t make a person feel less than because they must live within their means. It’s not cool.