Better Budgeting: How Did I Get In This Mess?

How Did I Get In This Mess?

Budget Stretcher (featured column)
by Terry Rigg 

It isn't until we took a good hard look at how we got ourselves in debt, that we were able to start working on a way out. This isn't for the purpose of placing blame, but is necessary to determine what changes needed to be made and to prevent it from happening again.

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When I was younger and having all kinds of money problems, I ask myself this question a thousand times. It seemed like one day we were doing fine financially and the next we owed everybody. How can it happen so quick?

This is a problem that a lot of people are experiencing today. It can be one of the most helpless and frustrating situations most of us can find ourselves in. To make matters worse, it seems the harder we try to get a handle on our finances the deeper in debt we become.

There isn't an answer that covers everybody, naturally, but I believe that in most cases we simply weren't paying close enough attention to the details of our finances. We figure that an extra payment here or there won't make a difference, until it's too late.

I know for myself and most of the people I have counseled over the years, that it wasn't until we took a good hard look at how we got ourselves in debt, that we were able to start working on a way out. This isn't for the purpose of placing blame, but is necessary to determine what changes needed to be made and to prevent it from happening again.

I have found that very few people, including myself, have ever been taught even the basics of proper money management, either at home or at school. This hit home when I had to teach all three of my kids how to fill out and maintain a checkbook, after they graduated from high school. I assumed that they would learn this in school. I realize now that I should have been more aware of what they were not learning and accepted the responsibility of teaching them the fundamentals of handling their money myself. That was my job.

If you are just starting out in the workforce or going to college, it is time for you to learn that you have to work at managing your money, every day. It is essential that you learn as much as you can about setting up a budget and using every expense cutting method you can think of. Even if you are making good money you need to know exactly what you have coming in and what you have going out. There are a lot of people making $70,000 or more a year that are having money problems.

There usually isn't just one thing that causes us to accumulate debt. It can be anything from buying more house than we can afford to running our credit card balances to the hilt. It almost always happens a step at a time.

Let me give you an example: You buy a house with payments that are more than you wanted to pay, but it is exactly what you were looking for, so you decide you can cut back in other areas. Now you've used all of your cash for the down payment on the house, but you still need furniture. It's time to break out the credit cards. You don't realize just how much the furniture, curtains, pictures, rugs, etc. will cost. Now your credit cards are reaching their limit Then the electric bill comes in and it is double what you were expecting. This can all happen within just a couple of months.

The above example may not fit your situation, however, chances are no one purchase caused the problem. This is why it is absolutely necessary to pay close attention to your finances and plan every purchase. The only way to know if you can afford something is to have a budget in place.

For most people, there are too many expenses for the average individual or family to keep track of in their head. You have to take whatever time you need to put this information down on paper after considering all of your possible expenses. You can do this on a piece of notebook paper or find a simple budget form. Whichever way you choose, make sure that you review it before you make any purchases.

As I stated before, it is necessary to know what events led to your money problems so that you will know what actions to avoid in the future. This will be vitally important on the road to your financial recovery.

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Copyright © 2001 by Terry Rigg. All rights reserved.

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