The Stress of Starting To Clean Up My Finances

Starting to clean up my finances

I have spent the day digging through my personal finances and holy fuck everything’s a mess. I need to keep reminding myself that this is all fixable – which honestly, at this moment, feels like a really big lie. I have way less money than I thought. But no shortage of bills. While the rational part of my brain keeps telling me everything is going to be fine, the anxiety feels like a 5-year-old on a sugar high running around the room screaming, “we’re doomed!” at the top of her lungs.

My husband and I run our own business, we are artists and do quite well. With half of November left, and Black Friday coming it is the second most profitable half a month in the calendar so I know, that by the end of November we are going to be fine and perfectly able to go into December without worrying if we can pay the bills.

This is a bottom of the barrel moment for me. I am comforted by the thought that many people who decide to really fix their finances have, and survive this feeling. I am not alone!

So let’s look at some of the good things that have come out of today.

1. I don’t want my daughter starting her life out with the complete lack of knowledge about how to handle her personal finances that I had.

My stunningly large lack of knowledge led to some super poor choices, one of which was bankruptcy because that was the primary way my family dealt with debt. My mother and stepfather have both declared bankruptcy at least twice, but I’m inclined to say three times.  I am kind of ashamed at how poorly I’ve taught my daughter to handle money just through how I’ve talked about it and how I have openly avoided it. But it changes now.

2. I have owned my debt.

I am aware of all of its existence and while this is depressing I am no longer afraid of being responsible and dealing with my money. I would avoid bills. Lay them around the house willy nilly and forget them I would get to adulting eventually.

3. I know where our financial problems have come from.

While yes, I have some credit card debt the real problem has been my refusal to be an adult and say no I don’t need to purchase that now. I usually pay cash. This is encouraging. I’m still working on a plan and family budget for how to deal with this, but it feels doable because I am the primary person I have to control.

4. You can’t change what you don’t track.

This is true for all areas of life. Now that I’m aware of my debt I am building systems to track my money so I can get to the future I want. I’ve come up with a plan on what to do with bills, and how I am going to pay them so I know 100% for certain that I afford them. And I have been really bad at saying no to myself when it came to purchases. Knowing I have a negative net worth forces me to ask, “Do you need to purchase that?” followed by, “Do you need to purchase that today?” and ”Is this the best price?”

5.  I am finally going to start a side hustle. Or three. 

Let’s be honest. There is only so much financial belt-tightening that anyone can tolerate. If I am really going to make a dent in this debt it is time to start working on some of the extra projects I’ve had in my head.

As a freelancer, I have been aware of passive and diversified income for a while. I just never did anything about it. I was too busy, or too stressed out to devote actual time to work on extra income generating projects. Now I feel both energized to work on these ideas, but also the financial pressure of contributing more to my families recovery and success because my irresponsibility helped get us here.

In the end, I am hoping that the stress of being on top of my finances is less stressful than being unaware and afraid of every purchase and bill that comes my way.

Today’s action item: work on a flexible food budget & meal plan system that will rein in spending at the grocery store.


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