Two years ago around Christmas time, I decided to totally stop using credit cards. I had just read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Make-Over and it inspired me to start using cash and debit card only. I didn't cut up my credit cards like he recommends, cause that just seemed a little extreme. I was dedicated to not using them - I took them out of my wallet and hid them on the top shelf of my closet.
I created a budget and was sticking to it. Things were going well...until we didn't have enough lights for our Christmas tree. Now, I'm the type who cares deeply about decorations (thanks, mom) and went out at 9pm to get lights. I pulled into the Home Depot parking lot and figured I should check my account before going in. $9. That's all I had in my checking account. $9 freaking dollars. Like wow. Merry Christmas to me.
I sat in my car and cried. "Why does money have to be so tough?! I work so hard and I thought I was doing everything right." I was frustrated and angry at myself for letting it get like this.
After getting all my tears out, I cleaned up and went inside to buy a string of lights. I stood there in that empty and quiet Home Depot looking at the endless row of Christmas tree lights. There had to be some under $9 right? I was definitely humbled in that moment because I was never really the type to compare prices. I just looked for what I wanted and the price was the price. I'd rather get what I wanted even if that meant spending a little more.
But there I was, ignoring the box completely and only looking at the price tag. I stood there calculating what tax would be and praying the box I picked was sitting above the correct price tag.
Numbly I walked to self-checkout and kept my head down. With tears in my eyes, I scanned the box and managed to stay under the $9 limit. I got back to my car in disbelief. "What the hell just happened? This isn't me. I'm good with money. I'm an accountant. I'm getting a degree in finance." I cried all the way home but managed to clean myself up before walking through the front door.
I put those Christmas lights on the tree and you know the crazy thing? Sitting there looking at that Christmas tree all lit, cozied up on the couch with my boyfriend, I felt joyful and a calm washed over me. I had less than a dollar in my checking account but in that moment it didn't matter because I was with the one I loved, in a beautiful apartment filled with the fresh smell of pine, and a sparkling Christmas tree.
*Old salesman voice* But wait, there's more!
Later that night while checking my measly checking account, I realized the ONLY reason I had enough money to buy lights was because my Draft Kings team did well that week and $5 had been deposited into my checking account.
So thank you, Drew Brees, for being the reason I was able to buy Christmas lights. I know it sounds silly, but the moment I realized that without that $5 I would have to have driven home without a box of lights, relief washed over me.
I learned a few things that night but the one that stands out is that I NEVER wanted to feel that way again and I definitely didn't want anyone else to ever feel like that. The deep dread and confusion and sadness that I felt standing in Home Depot because of MONEY.
I had depended solely on credit cards for the majority of my college life. Even though I was working through school, it never seemed like I had enough for the things I needed and wanted - I turned to my credit cards. SO, when I took that crutch away, my money life was in shambles. What I thought I had figured out was actually just a facade.
There comes a point in everyone's life where you hit bottom and realize that maybe you don't have it all figured out. I maybe just reached that point at an earlier age than others. Actually, no, I think this point can be reached multiple times in a person's life. Money and your personal finances, like anything, is a cycle. You have regular inflows and outflows. Things come in and go out. You have good years and bad years.
It happens, but I do know, we will always get through it. We're tough and resilient and we can figure shit out! We are always provided for even when everything seems hopeless. Have you ever experienced this before? On paper, you come up short every month but somehow make it work in real life.
Take comfort in that. Start working on your goals and getting your finances in order but always trust that there is a higher power (God, Universe, Source) that has your back.
Look, I know that my situation was definitely not as dire as others but the principle is the same. There comes a point where you have to take responsibility for where you are and start working your ass off to get out of that place.
& Thank you so much for reading. You're the reason I'm doing this - to help you and hopefully get you through your money struggles quicker than I did.
P.S. My 1:1 Money Coaching Program is now LIVE! Learn more.