Debt: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
- 2008 11 Apr
I had a dog once who, when I scolded him, would run and hide under the bed. He knew he'd done something wrong, and he thought that by hiding he wouldn't get into as much trouble. I think he figured if he couldn't see me then I couldn't see him, and he wouldn't get scolded any more.
There was just one slight problem. He couldn't fit under the bed. Only his head and front paws were hidden but his back half was in full view. He had put himself in the worst possible position but since he had buried himself under the bed he didn't know that.
It's human (and critter) nature to think that if we don't acknowledge something, then it won't come to pass or we won’t have to deal with it. We are often like the two-year-old who thinks there's a monster in his room. He will cover his head up with a pillow thinking, "If I can't see the monster then the monster can't see me, and it will go away."
As adults, we laugh at how silly this logic is. We know that if there really was a monster, hiding our head under a pillow would not help us. If anything, hiding our heads would make it worse because we can't see what the monster is doing and we are unable to come up with a plan of attack. Meanwhile, the monster takes a bite out of our britches.
Even though we find the dog or the two-year-old's actions foolish and amusing, many of us do the very same thing when we don't deal with our financial situation and our debt. Have you ever decided not to open a bill or look at a credit card statement because you don't want to know what the balance is? Clicking your heels and saying "There's no place like home" is not going to help.
How about your bank statement? Do you balance it every month or just throw it in with the pile of unopened bills because you don't want to know how much is in your account? I heard someone saying, "But I don't know how to balance it." Then learn. There isn't a bank in the world that isn't willing to show you how to balance a checkbook if you ask.
My grandson in the third grade has enough math skills to balance a checkbook, but I often hear from college graduates that they can't balance a bank statement. Learning to balance your checkbook is much easier, much less time consuming and much less stressful than hiding from the monster. Trust me.
Another way we bury our heads in the sand is by keeping our credit cards and refusing to use cash. When helping people get their credit card debt under control, I often suggest that they get rid of the credit cards and just carry a small amount of cash in their wallets. But the response I usually get is, "I can't carry cash because I will spend it."
Guess what - when you pull out your credit card to buy something, you are spending money, too. Lack of self control is lack of self control no matter how you package it. It’s true that If you throw out the credit card and allow yourself $20 cash in your wallet, you may spend the full $20, but when it is gone there just "ain't no more" to spend. On the other hand, when you use a credit card, once you spend $20, you can pull it out again and spend another $20 and another and then maybe even $100. Plus interest. You don't even have to keep track of how much you spend for the day. Just stuff the receipt away and put your head under the bed!
If you have a credit card problem, you will end up spending 2-4 times more with the credit card than if you just use cash. (This doesn’t apply If your financial situation is fully under control, but you use a credit card for other reasons.)
The Bible says, "When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put away childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11) We need to put away childish or foolish actions where our money is concerned and start using adult reasoning. If you struggle with the temptation to bury your head in the sand, commit to see the light of day again. Let go of your fear and start taking an honest look at your finances. Open those bills, balance those bank statements and acknowledge how much you spend! Then figure out how to get it under control.
Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the editors of http://www.LivingOnADime.com/ . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Tawra and her husband paid off $20,000 debt in 5 years on $22,000 a year income.