Control your controllable(s), and release your uncontrollable(s).
You know how during a conversation you can tell when someone is committed to being closed-minded? They add all the "buts", "what if's", and highly specific caveats to detract from your point? Well, money is one of those of conversations that really get people into that mode.
I get it. Unlearning beliefs or behaviors you've held your entire life is uncomfortable. It's a challenge to your very valid feelings. Your instinct might be to fiercely defend the very beliefs and behaviors that hold you back. You may feel the urge to do that with this post, so try not to. But if you must, feel free to leave a comment below and start the discussion.
No. 1 Do live beneath your means.
When I was I was in college I worked at a collections law firm as an assistant to an attorney named Michael. One of my responsibilities was drafting letters to debtors. I took the demand letter template typed in the names of each debtor and stamped Michael's name. After a while I started noticing that these debtors usually had M.D. or J.D. as a suffix in their name. Majority of those debtors we were suing for collections were attorneys and doctors. Now, remember that I was a college kid at the time. All around me I saw other students pursuing different degrees in order to provide these prosperous lives for themselves so seeing so many people in prominent careers in collections was shocking to me. Who would go through eight years of college and medical school just to end up broke anyways?
One day, In the middle of typing one of the letters, I turned to Michael and asked, "how are these people who make so much money going into collections?" His response was, "If you make more money, and make more bills then you will still be broke."
From that point on it was ingrained in me to never overextend myself financially. My bills don't increase when my paycheck does, which means that increases in my income result in extra money that's unspoken for. I know people that salivate at the thought of a raise because that means a new car, a house remodel etc. They are already thinking about what to spend the extra money on before it's even in their hands. Don't be that person.
No. 2 Do avoid contracts as much as possible.
I go out of my way to avoid contractual obligations. Contracts have always been an aversion of mine because I like knowing that if a situation no longer suits me that I can move on to one that does. For example, in the days before Netflix and "cord-cutting," I would pay an extra $5 a month for my cable bill to remain contract-free. It was an option they offered and I didn't hesitate to take it. Cable companies have notoriously terrible service and I would never want to be obligated to one and have their early termination fee looming over my hand.
Staying contract-free actually gives you leverage to negotiate and find a lower price. Here's how I would consistently negotiate a reduced bill. Are you ready? It was really an art. Okay, here goes, every 6 months I would call and kindly ask them if they could lower my bill. It was that easy.
It was a 5-minute call maximum. Each time and every time I did it they would lower my bill by $10. Why? Because once a company acquires a customer, it's cheaper to keep them and my not having signed a contract made me a risk to them leaving and going elsewhere. So yeah, initially I paid a bit more to keep myself out of a contract but I ended up saving so much more because I wasn't in a contract and was in a position to negotiate.
No. 3 Don’t obsess over money.
I discovered over the years that you don't need a lot of money to not worry about money and you don't need to have all your bills paid to not worry about money. Let me repeat what I just said. You don't need a lot of money to not worry about money. You don't need all your bills paid to not worry about money.
You may be thinking "tuh, must be nice to not worry about money!" but that's the wrong mindset to have. For clarification, I rarely worried about money, simply because I was worried about other things and that's where my focus was. Don't assume that money is the be all end all of life's challenges.
Some women can't have children or struggle with their health. Some people struggle to find a trustworthy romantic partner. Others have sick family members to care for. Some people have stressful jobs and bad bosses. Some people struggle with their mental health. Some people worry about all of the above and more. That said, my rent and mortgage have been late at times. I've had overdraft situations before and credit card bills have been late at times. Still, I've never worried about money for an extended period of time.
One day I was thinking about my life and areas that I could improve on. After a period of self-reflection, it occurred to me that what I was NOT focused on ALWAYS turned out okay, or better. I never worried about money, but I worried about work, and relationships and both of those topics were quite challenging. Then I started thinking about all the other things that I could be worried about but never have been and those were perfectly fine too like my health, my family, and my pets, the list went on. Where I focused my worry, always made me worry. I repeat it's where I focused my worry that always made me worry. From that moment on I had my gameplan.
If there is something in my life that isn't going as planned, I'm going to pay those situations the minimal amount of focus required and instead tune my greater focus into other things that are going well. I would rather focus on the things in my life that bring me peace, joy, and love like my pets, my family, my hobbies of gaming, and exercise.
I put my plan into action with work and relationships. I threw my hands in the air and said "alright, I don't care!" and both areas of my life did a complete 180. It works for me, and it can work for you.
No. 4 Don’t dread your bills.
Your mental health is precious and like I said earlier, what you worry about will always make you worry.
I don't dread paying bills and sometimes I actually enjoy it, here's why. Have you ever heard the advice "control your controllables?" Well, the adverse of that phrase is "release your uncontrollables" and that's what I'm going to talk to you about regarding your bills.
You have no control over paying your bills, aside from having not made them in the first place. Even still, some bills are unavoidable. For example, *coughs*, If you live in the U.S. and have the nerve to get sick your medical care can result in major bills.
However, the point is, once the bills are a part of your reality, they're there. You must move past the wishing they weren't. Stifle any resentment towards your bills because you stand to gain nothing by making yourself depressed every month like clockwork. Instead, take a practical approach to your bills.
I enjoyed paying large bills because I treated debt pay-down like a game. With each payment, I focused on the dent that I made in the balance and felt grateful for it. Don't get me wrong, sometimes the dent was more of a ding, but it reminded me that no matter what my circumstance wouldn't be permanent. Large bills like medical bills, student loans, and credit cards I reached out to my creditors and kindly negotiated or consolidated. Change what you can change. Is your car payment too high? Trade your car in for a less expensive one or sell it, and use the cash to buy a used car out-right. Control your controllables, and release your uncontrollables.