Financial Progress: It Might Not Start Out Looking Great, But Hang in There

Our oldest daughter is a comic artist,and sometimes her drawing progressions remind me of our financial progress. When Madelyn starts out her drawings, they often look, well, meh. At best. I often find myself thinking that when she sketches out her first draft that maybe she’s not so talented after all. πŸ™‚

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But as her picture progresses, I can start to see subtle changes for the better.

Things often work this way in financial makeovers as well. In our case we started out with a really high amount of consumer debt for our income level. Our debt to income ratio was 65% (our total debt payments equaled 65% of our gross income). Many people told us we should just not bother with the journey and file bankruptcy.

We chose instead to work toward debt payoff. That first year, our consumer debt total dropped by a measly 2 percent. It was a bit disheartening, but we chose to focus on the fact that things were improving.

The next year, we paid off a higher percentage of our debt, but not by much. Likewise, as Madelyn moves along in her picture drawing, there is more progress, though it doesn’t always look like much.

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In year three we had two major family emergencies to deal with, and the debt rose back up again, to a higher number than we’d had before. This reminds me of when Madelyn has to stop, erase some work and start afresh.

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This was a tough break. We were so disheartened at our backward progress. Again, we thought of giving up and just living with the debt or filing bankruptcy. But again we chose to move forward.

In this past year, we’ve made slower progress than we’d like, but it’s been much more than we thought we’d be able to do given the new higher debt totals we started out with.

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Journeys out of debt are often like that, especially if you’re dealing with really high debt numbers compared to your income. It doesn’t feel like you’re making much progress as you watch the numbers go down ever so slowly.

But remember, as you progress, you’re not just paying down debt. You’re developing new habits. You’re learning how to discipline your spending. You’re learning what triggers your spending. You’re learning how to overcome emotional pains that have caused you to not treat yourself as well as you deserve.

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Even though these things may not affect your debt numbers directly, they do affect them indirectly, because learning these things allows you to take steps in gaining traction on your spending habits, your savings habits, etc.

And as those “hidden” aspects of your financial mess improve, so will your journey out of debt. Then you’ll start to see some noticeable progress.

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Little details will start to flesh out and you’ll notice that your financial changes are taking on deeper roots. It’s no longer only about getting out of debt. It’s about changing the way you think about yourself, and your life. You’ll begin to develop deeper layers of “self” and an inner peace that you likely didn’t have before. You’ll begin to understand that your self worth is no longer defined by your net worth.

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And then, the light at the end of the tunnel will begin to come into view. The numbers will really start to move. You may still have a lot left to payoff, but you will realize that you’ve also paid off a lot. The scales will start tipping in your favor and you’ll start to see that you are winning at this debt freedom thing.Β 

The number crunching you’ve been doing and the background work you’ve been doing to get emotionally healthy so that you can gain financial health, will start to pay off. The picture will be prettier and prettier each month, until you can finally get to that place where it’s okay again. Where things are good. Where debt freedom is just around the corner and success is in view.

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This is the image; the picture of a journey complete that you need to hold on to, no matter how dim and “meh” things may seem with your money today. Because the efforts will be worth the wait, even with all of the roadblocks and backslides and days where you feel like it’ll never work.

Hang in there and keep pushing toward the finish line and the final, completed work; it’ll be gorgeous!

14 comments on “Financial Progress: It Might Not Start Out Looking Great, But Hang in There

  1. So true. Things often start off really slow, in fact so slow you might not even be able to note any real progress being made until suddenly you take a step back and see that a whole bunch of progress has been made. That’s why I like to track things monthly but also do yearly reviews and checkups, which is when you can see a lot more of the bigger picture. Cool analogy with your daughters drawings!

  2. Great analogy and illustrate with your daughter’s drawings. Slow and steady wins the race right? Learning from our past mistakes, even if we need to do them over a few times to get them right. In the end it’s so worth it! I think Batman would agree. πŸ™‚

  3. First, I must compliment your daughter on her artwork! It looks amazing! My 13 y.o. daughter likes to draw anime and I love to see her progression.

    My favorite part of the illustration you give is, “It’s no longer only about getting out of debt. It’s about changing the way you think about yourself, and your life.” I don’t know exactly when I got to that point, but I did! And it has affected everything in my life since – my relationships, my self-confidence, my hobbies, my money, my stress…literally everything. It doesn’t happen right out of the gate for sure, but when you persevere, it will, eventually, be life-changing.

    1. Yes!!! This is what we are finding, Amanda. Isn’t it so cool?? I know Ruth has found the same. When you let the path become deeper than about the money, powerful things can happen! Glad to hear your daughter likes her art too; good to see the kids involved in healthy hobbies! Brian’s daughter is an artist is well.

  4. I love this analogy! Your daughter is certainly a gifted artist, and I’m sure you and Rick love seeing her pour herself into her work. So many insightful points here. The one that speaks to me most is the last – holding on to the the vision of the end result. All of the details along the way can make you forget about that end result, but when you keep it in mind, it’s the best motivation in moving forward.

    1. Love that, Ruth!! Yes, it’s so important to keep the end goal at the forefront of your vision. It’s what keeps people pressing toward the finish line!

  5. I think this must be a lot like saving for retirement. You put money away, but it just seems like you will never get any noticeable progress. Then, life happens and you can’t put away as much as you would like, or you even have to take out a 401K loan. But, you just keep contributing as much as you can, and then the momentum starts to pick up. Eventually, the numbers start to climb quickly. Holding onto the motivation must be the key here as well.

    1. Yes, Amy!! So true. In any financial goal this is the case. We have to be careful not to take too much stock in what seems like a lack of progress as the journey moves along. Instead, as Ruth pointed out, keep the vision of the end goal in sight and keep walking toward that finish line. Every dime you save today is a dime you hadn’t saved yesterday, and it all adds up, it really does!

    1. Thanks so much, Mackenize! We’re really proud of her. πŸ™‚ Yes, the parallel to finances is amazing. I’m always in awe of watching her every drawing start out yucky and then seeing the final result.

  6. This is a great post with a positive attitude towards moving forward in your finances. I love the drawings that you incorporated of your daughter’s, she is fantastic and my sons would appreciate that end result picture!

    Thank you for the post

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