Monday, July 18, 2011
Cut, Cap and Balance
I woke up this morning listening to the radio. All the talking heads going on and on about the debt ceiling and the government possibly shutting down. Now that is one heck of a thing to have to wake up to every morning. I live within my means (and trust me they aren't all that meaningful) and I pay my bills. I don't rack up debt that I have no way of paying back and I think the government should be able to do the same. I don't think they have a clue as how to cut, cap and balance the national budget. Wishful thinking after all these years of abuse and overspending. And yet they will tell us that we need to live within our means. The problem is that many Americans can't do it either.
It seems that these days there is no example with which to draw from. Our grandparent's knew the value of a dollar and did their best not to incur debt that couldn't be repaid in a timely fashion. But that was the old way. The new way seems to be to spend without regard as to how the hell you are going to be able to pay it back. Defaulting on loans isn't just for the government these days. Folks are loosing everything they have every day, and mostly because they didn't live within their means.
Most folks under a certain "age" grew up in families who owed debts that they were (and still are) struggling to get out from under. The "prosperity" of people in general from the late 80's and even today has people thinking that it is just a natural part of living. Talk about entitlements....
For many years now it seems that the "American Dream" has been about buying a big house, having a couple of new cars, getting that boat you always wanted, nice vacations a couple of times a year, the latest styles in clothing, the ski-doo's, the ATV's, the big screen TV, surround sound, and all the newest appliances. If you don't have the cash just put it on the credit card and pay the interest every month. Even the kids feel that they are "entitled" to an education, cars, clothes, iPhones,video games, music and hefty allowance.
We have taught it to our children and they in turn have taught it to theirs. Instant gratification has become a way of life and has been passed down to the next generation. Talk about entitlement! I could go on and on about this but what difference would it make? Unless folks realize that they are not entitled to the fancy trappings that they feel they can't live without, the trend will continue. That is until they find that they can no longer maintain that lifestyle. Or until the bank comes and takes their home, those credit cards are maxed out. and the collection agency hounds them until they can't breath anymore.
More and more people are waking up these days and realizing that they are in a debt hole so deep that it may take years to dig out of it. There are no more inheritances to be had these days because folks owe someone for everything they have. Leaving an inheritance is impossible. For some, the only way out of debt is death. It doesn't have to be that way.
I would imagine it's a terrible thing to wake up one day and realize that your way of life can't be sustained anymore. That your credit cards are maxed out and you just may be one the millions who have lost or will loose their jobs. The fear of losing their homes and everything they have accumulated is very real for many today. For some it is to late and they are finding themselves homeless and living in their cars. Of course the cars are on the repo list as well.
But people are waking up. Some are finally realizing that they need to somehow crawl out of the hole and start to change not only their debt load but the way they do their day to day living. I wish them lots and lots of luck because it most certainly isn't an easy thing to do. Waking up can be pretty painful when you first realize what you have done to yourself.
One of the first thing that will have to be done is to pay down the debts that have accumulated. A major change in lifestyle will have to happen as well. Living within your means isn't always easy. It takes a different mind set than the one you have had in the past.
So what can be done to change that mind-set? Well, I would say that the first thing would have to be knowing that things are going to have to change. That doing the same things over and over is insane and can't be sustained if you want to get out from under all that debt.
I am probably not the best person in the world to give advice as to how to do that. BUT even though I've never had credit cards I know that you have to stop just paying down the interest and stop incurring more debt on them. Pay them off. If you have to do that one card at a time then do it.
No more spending money on things that aren't necessary. That means that you don't need a new pair of shoes to go out to dinner next week. It means not going out to dinner at all and wearing one of the pairs of shoes already in your closet. Just an example, but I'm sure you understand what I mean. Start living "within your means". Look at your bills. Start paying them down. No one can do it all at once but little by little you CAN get them paid off. Get out of debt. Start working on it now. Stop eating out, start cooking at home. Actually, cooking from scratch isn't all that hard and takes no more time than opening up a box of Hamburger Helper. Its just cheaper and better for you. Do you eat lunch out most days? Start taking your lunch to work.
Stop going to Starbucks and invest in a coffee maker and a thermos. Make sure all your food comes from your own kitchen and not from some fast food joint. You would be totally amazed at how much money that alone will save you. These are only a few examples. I can think of a lot more.
Sit down and make a list of all the things you spend your money on every month. Make an accounting of where it all goes. Become responsible for your actions and your debts. What are some of the things you can cut out of your life? Cut them out! Use that money to pay down your debt. There are so many other things that you can do to live a more simplified life and get you out from under all that debt you have been "entitled" with. Take a look on the internet, there are thousands of articles on saving money and reducing your debt. You just have to ''want" to do it. It's not easy and it won't happen fast, but if you will just try I am positive that many of you can do it.
Cut, Cap and Balance your own way to financial independence. Stop the "entitlements" and own your personal freedom instead.
~~~~~~ Hey ... I'm Just Sayin' ... ~~~~~~~