My dear sweet sister is a dedicated mom, sister, and auntie who has a career as a nurse at Children’s Hospital. She’s also 14-years clean from drugs and alcohol.
I am amazed when I talk with her and listen to some of the steps and challenges she takes to continue to live a substance-free life.
Ironically, much of what she’s shared with me about being drug-free relates heavily to being financially free. Just like being drug free, it’s easy to stay free for a while, but how does a person stay that way?
Making financial changes are a lot the same way. It’s easy to save money for a while, to slow down on the lattes and mimosas, salon visits and stay-cations, handbags and hair-dos. But old habits die hard, and those weekly Target runs are hard to stop. I know.
Here are a few lessons my sister has taught me along the way:
1. Don’t Make a Reservation to FailMy sister would often say that some people are “making a reservation to fail.” Drug users often make excuses to get high.
“Life is tough and I can’t take it.”
“I need an escape.”
“They did me wrong.”
“I was abused as a child.”
“I can’t get over the hurt.”
Excuses produce failure. They are nothing more than a reason to fail. An excuse is worse than a lie, because an excuse is a lie that you are guarding. When we make unnecessary purchases, we’re often justify it by telling ourselves that we deserve it.
“Everybody else has one. Why them and not me?
“I will pay it off with my next check.”
“I will start saving next month.”
“I work too hard not to have what I want.”
“My children will have more than me.”
Excuses are not reasons to buy. Remember, if you keep thinking about an item, you are more likely to buy it. So, don’t even think about. Don’t make a reservation to fail. Don’t think about those things you know you can’t afford or shouldn’t have.
If you have made a dedicated commitment to save X number of dollars per month, then you can’t go to the store to look. Perhaps you can’t go on vacation this year. Maybe you should go shopping in your own closet. I don’t care if the item is on sale, once you commit to stop buying your word to yourself is “No.” Keep your promise to yourself.
Stuff ain’t chasing you, you are chasing stuff.
2. If You Don’t Touch It, It Won’t Touch YouMy sister would also say to me, “If you don’t touch it, it won’t touch you.” Drugs don’t come to your house, knock on the door, and say “Hey go get some money, let’s go get high.” Nope -- you’ve gotta go to the drugs. You have got to make a decision.
Shopping and wasteful spending is like that drug.
That $60.000 car, didn’t call you up. That Chanel purse, didn’t jump on your arm. The fact that you maxed out your credit card on eating out didn’t chase you down. An iPhone 10 didn’t make you buy it. You did it; you made a choice to make the purchase. So, don’t touch it and I promise it won’t touch you. Stay away. Leave it alone, and it will leave you alone.
3. One is Too Many and a Thousand is Never EnoughIf a person thinks just one more hit will be OK, they are wrong. Not even one hit is acceptable.
Your desire for STUFF is no different. We don’t have 1 pair of shoes, we have hundreds. And event with our hundreds of shoes, we can still go into a store, walk over to the shoe department and claim that we need those shoes.
We don’t need them. We want them.
We never have enough. Until we come to terms with enough is enough, one more will never be enough.
I asked my sister why she uses the term RECOVERING drug user. She said, “because you never graduate. You will always be in recovery. There is no end.” You can never go back to what you used to do, so the journey will continue forever.
I have never heard one of these new credit clean-up companies say that they will fix your thinking. You can get your credit fixed every other year, but if you don’t change your thinking about money, about your resources, about living beneath your means on a continual basis, you will never be free. You will never be in total recovery.
Change your mind, and your money will follow.
Everybody wants it now, and everybody needs it yesterday -- instant results.
Well, cleaning your credit is never a quick fix. I know, I know -- your cousin’s best friend told you that they can clean your credit in a quick month for a few hundred dollars -- no problem.
Don’t believe the hype.
But not to worry - although there’s no magic formula for a credit quick-fix, there are a few things that you can do to you see big changes, fast.
Here are a few tips:
1. Pull your credit score and your credit report know and get familiar with what you’ve got to deal with. A good credit score is considered to be over 720. I know what you’re thinking; “I already know my credit score is damaged and I’m afraid to see it.” But the only way to get better is to know where you’re starting. Knowing your credit score is like stepping on the scale after not working out for a while -- it’s a little frightening at first, but comforting to know what you’re dealing with.
You might feel a long ways away from 720 right now, but with a little bit of mindfulness, consistency and care, your score can get there.
We recommend using www.annualcreditreport.com for the best results.
2. If you have credit cards, ALWAYS pay on time. Thirty-five percent of your score depends on you paying on-time. Did you know that being 30 days late can show a decrease in your score by up to 90 points? That’s a big deal!
3. Never go over 30% of your available credit. If you have a Visa with a line of credit of $1000.00, you should never use over $300.00.
Although you have the ability to use the entire line, don’t do it! When you use over 30% of your availability, it your credit score is reduced. Note: your utilization is based on the average of all your credit cards.
4. Your score increases when you have a variety of open credit. Lenders typically like to see that you've used a variety of accounts responsibly. For example, my credit score was 820 when I left corporate America to start this ministry. After I paying off my car, my credit cards, and school loans, my credit score dropped 40 points. I called, asked why, and they said because I no longer have a variety of debt.
If you are still in the mid 700’s don’t worry about having a variety. Have at least 2 major credit cards. This will also boost your credit. Remember to build credit, you need to have credit. If you have trouble getting a credit card, go get a secured card. Check out this website to see some of the best secured credit card options.
#5. If you are just beginning to build your credit, see if you can become an authorized user on a family member's credit card. If you have mom, dad, sister, brother, or know someone who has excellent credit on a credit card, you can become an authorized user and their excellent credit will then be reflective on your credit score.
The good news? You will not be responsible for their debt
Bad News? If they become past due on the credit card, that past due reporting will also be reflective on your credit report and score.
You can do it -- you can build your credit! Focus, be determined, and build your score!
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