Many of you stayed up late on New Year’s Eve, reflecting back over 2018, thinking about some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do, but found yourself at some point over the last 12 months doing it. Or perhaps you were taking note of all the things you said you were going to do in 2018, but now realize how many of them you didn’t take the time to follow through on.
Others of you woke up early New Years Day, grabbed your journal, and started outlining your resolutions for yet another new year; making promises to yourself to check off each one of the items as an accomplished success over the next 364 days. You had the same good intentions last year, and the year before that, and before that.
For most of us, it’s so much easier making resolutions than it is fulfilling them. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes we’re on our way to success, and LIFE gets in the way. We may resolve to save more money this year, and then end up in a car-totally accident, forced to purchase another vehicle, gaining monthly car payments, because that insurance company you’ve been paying premiums to will only give you about half the cost of another reliable vehicle. Maybe you resolved to look for a new job, and before you land that dream position, you lost your old one. Now, you’re just trying to figure out how to pay the bills, while searching for any new job to provide a paycheck.
Yes, unexpected things come into our lives. Some times we have to change our plans of doing more traveling this year; or put off registering for that foreign language course you’ve been promising yourself; or we may be forced to spend from our savings account to cover medical expenses we didn’t see coming. Life definitely happens.
But many of us fail to reach our goals because we don’t put a plan in place for how to accomplish them. We start talking about all of the things we want to accomplish and think that just writing them down is enough to keep us motivated and focused. In reality, writing resolutions or even setting goals, without including a list of strategies on how you plan to accomplish each goal, is little more than just dreaming. And strategies alone won’t do it, unless you’re willing to follow through with your plan.
If you desire to get out of debt this year, but you don’t do anything to change your current spending habits, then it’s unlikely that you will accomplish your goal.
A couple of weeks ago, I was astonished after reading a post by a woman who was asking advice in one of those social media forums where the focus of the group was on sharing ways people become more financially responsible; how they’d gotten their finances, credit scores, budgets, and other things under control. After reading what she posted, I saw MANY things that was obviously out of balance with her thought process and actions, beyond what she intended to be the main focus of her question.
This woman was writing for advice on whether or not she should ignore her phone bill (amount in the several hundreds of dollars) until after she got back from an international vacation she had planned because she didn’t have enough money to do both — pay her bill AND keep her plans for the trip. Her reasons were both humorous and sad to read. She had already paid for the actual trip and had saved up money to use for spending (presumably for meals, tips, excursions, etc.). A couple of weeks before she was suppose to leave, she gave her sister that money to get her car out from repossession. Then she talked about how her phone bill, now due, was so high because her sister and a cousin were also on her plan, and that neither one of them had paid their portion of the bill. She went on to mention that her sister said she didn’t have the money to repay her for the car or her part of the phone bill; etc. etc. You know where this is going.
Perhaps traveling outside the country was a dream of hers that she’d planned for all year. She did the right thing paying for it throughout the year, and then saving up for spending money. But the other things she was doing with her finances is what’s baffling. Having other adults on your phone plan is risky. I seriously doubt that the December bill was the first time one or both of those family members failed to pay their part of the bill. I could write five more blogs on the dangers of extending too much financial grace to grown adults. The title of the first one would be “Stop Being an Enabler!“
Then there’s the question of giving up your hard earned and saved money to help someone get a car out from repossession. Is it unfortunate that her sister won’t have access to her car for a few days or weeks? Yes. Is that an emergency worth spending her money on? No. There are other ways for the sister to get around, including getting rides with friends, family, and other forms of transportation. Is it her responsibility to bail her sister out of a situation like this? NO. If you’re ever considering doing something like this, first ask yourself how did that person get to the point that their car got repossessed. And then ask yourself, can you afford to go without ever seeing your money again, since it’s likely that they’re not going to have the financial resources to pay you back anytime soon, if ever.
What disturbed me the most about this scenario was how many respondents on the page actually told her to go on her trip on not to worry about the phone bill; someone suggesting she just cancel the service. Their advice was that the phone bill could wait, and that she “deserved” to do something fun. One respondent even said (when challenged by someone else who felt otherwise), that people “can’t just work all the time;” that paying bills wasn’t everything in life; and that everyone deserved some time to have some fun and enjoy themselves.
Even as I write this, I’m still baffled by a response as financially ignorant as this one. You’re not only messing with your credit score when you fail to pay your bills, but the bill will still be waiting on you to pay when you return, only it’ll be higher. And depending on how much time lapses, there’s also the possibility that the phone company turns your account over to a collection agency. Then there’s the reality that if your family members can’t afford to pay you back, AND you just left to go out of the country for vacation, spending the rest of the money you have, how are you going to make good on that bill when you do get back?
Unless your financial planning includes putting aside money each paycheck to use to bail other people out of their financial problems, then don’t do it; at least don’t unless it’s a real emergency. This is especially important if your attempts to help someone else with their financial crisis then creates a financial crisis of your own.
If you want to make changes to how you approach your resolutions, then start by creating a Plan. Don’t just journal thoughts in a book. Write down your Goals. List your strategies. Create a timeline. And outline the tactics to keep you on point.