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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!