Money: Our greatest source of freedom and security as a young adult. There is no greater feeling than having control of your finances with your honey pot of savings, a solid budget and your retirement contributions at their max each year.
But let’s get real, money is complicated. Our relationship with money is more often than not anxiety-ridden, messy and stressful, much like our relationship status. You start to feel like everyone around you is financially empowered and secure with their new house, car or constant travel. Meanwhile, you are struggling to get your sh** together making minimum payments to your student loans, credit cards and having pennies to spare before your next paycheck.
It’s honestly exhausting and draining to your self-esteem, especially when you take a step back and take a look on how you got to such a bad relationship with your finances. I find myself overwhelmed and ashamed to admit that I am not in a stellar financial position. Whether that be the large amount of student loans I took to earn my master’s degree, to living beyond my means or to not having that rainy day fund available when my dog got super sick. There is no perfect answer as to why I feel like such a personal failure when it comes to money. I can still pay all my bills each month, I have food on the table and electricity, and have a bed to sleep in each night. So why do I feel this crushing weight of guilt and regret for all these decisions I have made and how do I learn to overcome them?
MONEY IS SUBJECTIVE
Personal finance at its most basic level is a set of numbers. It’s important to recognize that these numbers are neither inherently good or bad, whether it’s cash, savings, debt, investments, etc.. $20 to a college student is going to feel like way more money than $20 to an established thirty-something. Everyone has different opinions and mindsets about money and there is no one-size-fits-all for personal finance.
For example, my sister wanted the least amount of student debt possible and chose to attend community college her first two years to eliminate that expense. On the other hand, I wanted to attend Texas A&M for all four years and knew my only option was to take out loans each year. This decision is neither good or bad, but rather a different set of priorities and opinions for each individual in regards to debt.
It’s important to understand that the amount of money we have either in cash or debt does not define who we are and is not a good measure of success in the grand scheme of things. But if you just can’t seem to shake the regret you are feeling, maybe you have made a couple of bad decisions along the way.
LEARN FROM MISTAKES
It’s important to recognize the bad habits and decisions that have landed you in an uncomfortable place with money. At the time, funding a vacation with a travel credit card was a great idea until you didn’t set up more than the minimum monthly payment within your budget each month before the no-interest period was up. Applying for a store credit card just to get access to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale two weeks early and purchasing many items you thought you needed, but didn’t set aside any cash to pay that bill when it came due a month a later. Not to mention, the average student in the Class of 2016 has over $37,000 in student loan debt making student loan debt the second highest consumer debt category, behind only mortgage debt. Small, irresponsible decisions like these can compound over time until all your debt and bad decisions are staring you right in the face.
You have to recognize you are only human and humans make mistakes. And honestly, how else do you learn from a habitual problem like credit card debt? It’s important to recognize that you have made some financial missteps and should forgive yourself for what has already been done. There is nothing you can do to change the balances you owe, the interest you have accrued, and the minimum payments you have had to meet.
You can, however, always change your attitude about debt and how to approach it. So maybe you aren’t a numbers person and always spend on the fly each month hoping for the best every time you open your banking app. But you don’t have to be. Take this opportunity to make a budget. Reduce recurring expenses by eliminating cable or some subscriptions you don’t really benefit from. Allow yourself a treat yo-self coffee once a month instead of twice a week. The good money decisions will start to compound just like the bad decisions and you will start to see a light at the end of that tunnel. It’s never too late.
READY, SET, ACTION
Regret is a funny thing. It can weigh you down to where you lose all motivation and hope or it can inspire you and give you determination to tackle your problems. Whatever it may be, it’s time to take action. Money doesn’t buy happiness but having a little more cushion will ease your anxiety and boost your confidence. Taking care of your finances is an important part of taking care of yourself. So let’s do it.
If you are feeling inspired and motivated to make a change, it’s time to take ownership of your finances and start making progress towards a debt-free future. You have to set goals and stick to it. You have to make efforts to pay more than the minimum payment due and always look for ways to reduce monthly spending like meal prepping. Avoid falling into the same pitfalls that got you into the situation you are in now. Maybe unfollow bloggers that make you feel like you need to shop the latest sale, or leave your credit cards at home each time you head to the mall. Every little bit helps. You’ll see.
It’s easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” and “I shouldn’t have done this” when it comes to finances. The guilt and regret you feel is perfectly normal, but you shouldn’t let it define who are you. How you overcome it is more important.
Your ability to become a successful employee, dependable friend or loving spouse is not determined by the arbitrary numbers from personal finance or debt. Happiness is not dependent on money, but the rewiring our ideas and relationship with money can help you be happier. No matter your income or debt, money can be used to give you the ability to take care of yourself in the best way, which in turn will help you take care of others.
It is more important to understand your financial position, maintain a budget and pay your bills on time each month, but be kind to yourself. Your mistakes and decisions make you human and every crisis comes with opportunity to learn and grow into a better you. So, love yourself for all the mistakes you’ve made, the progress you’ve had and the growth that continues.
Everyone has gone through financial stress. What have you done to overcome it? We’d love to hear! Comment below.