Saturday, March 04, 2006

Recovering from your mistakes

We only get one life. That's why it is so frustrating when you've made mistakes with the life that you were given. No one is perfect; we are all bound to make mistakes sooner or later. But sometimes it seems that the mistake of getting into debt is costing me too much of my life. The effects of debt have had repercussions on my life for years and will continue to cause repercussions for many years to come.

In ways, getting into that much debt (in May 2004 I had over $30,000 of debt) is one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I know it sounds crazy but I truly think that it had to come to such a dramatic climax to help me understand how important it is to save money for the future. Who knows when I would have realized the need to start saving for a house, retirement, etc. without it coming to that point.

Then again, I'm frustrated that all of this effort and sacrifice is being made just to pay off obligations; obligations that have left me with no real assets (except for my car, which doesn't really count because it is always depreciating). Wouldn't it be great if that $30,000 that I started off with could have been saved as part of a down payment for a house or the seed money for my own business?

Enough of that negativity! Gosh, talking about debt can be depressing sometimes. The most important thing to take away from this is what we can learn from our mistakes and how we can make up for the time it has cost us to repair those mistakes. Let’s face it. Anyone in debt like me has more of a disadvantage than someone who was smart with his or her money to begin with. So how can we make up for lost time? Here are some of the tips that I have come up with to take control of our financial futures:

1) Have a master plan.

The plan should not only include how and when you get out of debt but also what you are going to do after you get out of debt. This could include saving for a house, a business, emergencies, retirement, or all of the above.

2) Educate yourself.

Read tons of books (from the library). Read lots of blogs (especially mine!). Keep up with the news. Take a class on something that interests you. Getting educated not only helps you make more informed decisions but it will also keep you motivated to do the right thing. Besides, if you are constantly engaged in ways to better yourself, you will be less likely to be at the mall spending money.

3) Network with like-minded individuals.

People with similar goals will keep you on track and will hold you accountable for your actions. Not only that, but you can exchange ideas and assist each other in accomplishing your goals. I recommend that if you are also struggling to get out of debt to join the No Credit Needed Network. NCN has recently gotten himself out of debt and has started the network to encourage others to do the same. Imagine, a whole network of people cheering you on to attain your goal.

4) Always look for ways to learn a new skill or improve on your skills.

Having a large skill set will help increase your income earning potential. Whether it is by taking a class or by engaging in a hobby that helps you practice a skill (like blogging) you will be glad you did it. You never know when an opportunity to practice that skill might present itself.

5) Think big.

Most people laugh when I tell them that I want to buy a chateau (stop giggling!). It sounds so big, so unattainable but that is precisely the point. I probably could never have kept up my motivation to get out of debt if the end goal was to only get out of debt. Boring, right? There have been many times when I wanted to rebel and go on a wild shopping spree but then looked at pictures of chateaux and realized that my dream would be that much further away if I did. Dreams have to be big in order to keep inspiring us.

Debt can be the biggest blessing in disguise if we learn from it and vow to improve our finances. If you aren’t in debt, learn from my mistake and don’t do it!

Remember: “Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit.” ~ Conrad Hilton

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FMF said...

Yes, it's a hard lesson to learn but:

1. You'll never let it happen again (good thing it happened early in your life)

2. You can help others to avoid debt by telling them your story.

anna said...

Thank you for this post!

John OMM said...

I know from personal experience that it can be discouraging to be saddled with the debt from bad choices, but you should take comfort in the fact that you've decided to change things now instead of a few years down the road when the debt would have been bigger and the amount of time to rectify the problem and build your retirement fund would have been smaller.

You're on the right track, so more power to you!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I needed to hear it.

I love the idea of setting your dreams high.

What a great post!

Thank you. Oh, and see if there is a harp teacher near you. It will keep your mind off money, because you have to come home and practice all the time.

Debt Hater said...

That's exactly what happened to me. When I sat down and saw how much debt I was in, that's when all the switches started flipping and all the lights came on. I know what I did wrong, I won't do it again and I feel much more hopeful that I can have all the things I want. I feel you, I'm with you and I'm excited!

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you for figuring this out at such a young age. I like to listen to Dave Ramsey's podcasts (just the free hour). Search for it on iTunes. While I am in much better shape than a lot of callers (no debt except my mortgage), it is a nice reinforcement mentally to know that you are winning. You go girl!!!

Debt Consolidation said...

Everyone makes mistakes & a lot of people get in debt - the main thing is that you are doing something about it.

Well done!