Houston, We Have a Problem!

Back to the Basics Financial Series, Part I

If you watched the film, Apollo 13, you would be familiar with the quote “Houston, We Have A Problem!”. In it, the movie re-enacted NASA’s third attempt to land on the moon which mission ended up being aborted due to an oxygen tank exploding causing a ripple effect of catastrophes. When one astronaut saw the problems surrounding that one problem, he notified NASA’s Space Center in Houston by stating “Houston, We Have a Problem!”

Although, the statement relates to our aeronautical space program, I have definitely made, said, cried and even screamed “Antwain (the hubster), We Have a Problem!”, particularly when it pertained to our finances! From not having enough to “thinking” I finally have more than enough, until…

A car breaks down

A family member has to have surgery (medical bills)

A job loss occurs Or

An unexpected pregnancy takes place

Although these things may happen suddenly and without warning, the truth of the matter is THEY WILL HAPPEN. And what I had to learn (and still learning) is to just PREPARE FOR THE RAIN because it is coming. So, when my husband and I first determined that we were going to hunker down and get our finances in order the first thing we had to do was…

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THERE WAS A PROBLEM

The way we viewed money and “did” money was not working. We had accumulated thousands of dollars of credit card debt in a short amount of time. But in our mind, we figured we were using it out of necessity (i.e. medical bills); however, when we actually sat down to take a look at the purchases, not all of them were a necessity. So, as difficult as it was FOR ME, my husband told me to cut the cards. It was hard, but I later realized that I was using it as a crutch. If the car broke down, I used the card. If I ran out of juice, I used the card. If I went to the mall and saw a dress on sale, I used the card. I was using card constantly and on impulse. So yes, “Houston, I had a problem!” So, we cut the cards and we had to…

GO ON AN “ELIMINATION” SPREE

If an expense was not a “need”, but a “want”, it was cut. Did I need those shoes? Did I need to “do lunch” everyday? Did I need to have all those stations on my satellite TV. We cut it down and went on an “all-cash” system all while living off of one salary (because in the midst of all of this, my work contract had just ended). Was it hard? Yes! Did I cry many days? Yes! We got down to the bare bones, for one, because we really needed to. And for two, because we really HAD to. Since we were living off of one check, elimination was the only option. So, we were able to get “back to the basics” as our grandparents did only buy what we had the cash for. Although, this period was extremely difficult, I am ever so grateful we went through it (of course, I can say that now). Why? Because it allowed us to look directly at our problem and it forced us to take action.

Do you have spending problem (like I did)? Do you use your credit card to get EVERYTHING? Are you buying out of “want” instead of need?

This week I want you to work on some financially related activities that will help you start putting your finances in order. This week for homework, I want you to:

  1. Not use your credit cards for the next week. Whatever you will purchase will be used via cash/debit card. This means you will have to plan ahead for things like lunch if you typically put it on a credit card. By doing this exercise, you will be more conscious of what you spend and notice how readily you purchase things on credit. The next assignment will be to…
  2. Write out a list of all of your monthly expenses…car notes, student loans, rent/mortgage, groceries, auto insurance, even how much you spend each month eating out. Add up the total and subtract that number from your monthly combined take-home pay. (Note: If you have subscribed to my blog, check your email and download your Expense Sheet Worksheet. If you have not subscribed, click here to complete the form and gain access to the worksheet). Once you have subtracted your monthly expenses from your take home pay (monthly, combined income minus monthly expenses), look at the number. Are you spending more than you are bringing in? Do you have money left over? Is there a surplus or deficit? Regardless if the number is a negative or positive, your second goal this week is to…
  3. Determine which bills you can reduce and/or eliminate. For example, could you eat out for lunch three days a week instead of five? Could you move from cable/satellite to Sling? And this week, try to reduce one expense. Look at your expenses worksheet and eliminate/reduce one item.

The goal is to have money left over after paying all of your monthly bills so you can begin working on creating a financial plan (which is what we will begin to do next week). Let’s get to it!

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