How are you going to manage your financial goals?
It's taken a long time to get here, but my first order of financial business is to chill the heck out. As a friend has recently and lovingly reminded me, I overthink things—a lot. I have spent so much mental energy on worrying about how long it will take to get out of debt. With this gentle reminder, I recognize it's time to cool it. This obsessing about exactly when I will be debt free is unproductive. If I could monetize the worry, I might be on to something, but even then, I know it's not worth it. So now finally I am taking a deep breath, paying down what I can whilst living life to the fullest.
Before I stopped overthinking my financial situation, I was tangled up in knots about having debt in the first place. This guilt doesn't make sense when I consider the big picture. I sat down with a financial representative to review the retirement account I contribute to through work a few weeks ago. He held space as I tearfully gave an overview of the last few years. I was there to make sure that I was doing the most with my retirement account and to course correct if I wasn't. What I learned in that session was that I was on the right track from a financial professional's perspective. He told me it took courage to simply make the appointment. He reminded me that looking at the numbers rather than living in denial was brave. He commended me for my behaviors that were moving me forward out of a difficult time.
I am clear about my goals: I want to be free of credit card debt. I want to continue to transform my yard season by season into a beautiful space that nurtures and nourishes me, my family, and anyone who sets foot on my property. I want to return to regular travel.
Being a minimalist helps. I have purged a lot of the extraneous things I don't need in my home, and am happy with the cleared spaces. I don't feel an impulse to refill those spaces, so when I go to a store, I'm able to pick up only the necessities. When I am interested in something, I talk myself out of the purchase by remembering that those few dollars will be better used toward my main goals. I also remember that my home is not a display case and whatever has piqued my attention will not look the same in my house. I walk away not feeling deprived but really clear about my goals. And that feels good every time.
I have had so much success breaking down big tasks into smaller, easier chores. I'm going to apply the same strategy with my finances. I only have five summers with my daughter before she graduates from high school. I want to have a few more trips in our memory bank before her life as a young adult begins. Waiting to be completely out of debt will be cutting the timeline too close, so I have committed to taking her to one of my travel destinations next summer. The goal is to pay cash for the trip, so I don't add more debt to the total. I'm withdrawing cash each pay day from now until the trip, and have committed my tax return to the trip fund. I've come around to the idea that living my life beside my debt instead of against it will be more fulfilling than completely putting my life on hold until those balances are zero.
I really am making good progress. I always pay far more than the minimum payment. I am done with taking a punitive approach to this debt. I did not spend my way unwisely into this situation. Life happened. Over and over. Car repairs, other repairs, and honoring a commitment that meant sometimes there was more month than money.
In so many facets of life I have noticed the rhythms and cycles that come and go. My finances are no different. Some seasons are abundant. Others are lean. What I've learned is that my creativity and resourcefulness surge in the meager times. I have stayed afloat, never foreclosed in these bumpy times. That is something significant to celebrate. And my retirement continues to do well. Having the long view firmly in mind helps.
I am not in financial ruin like my critical inner voice would like to insist. I am simply in a season and the sooner I relax, the sooner it will pass.