This is week four of the How We Got Our Asses Out of the Financial Black Hole series.
If you are just joining in, my family is coming out of a 4-year-long financial shit storm where, among other things (and in a very brief nutshell), we filed for bankruptcy, were on food stamps, and had our house go into foreclosure.
It was a dark time, but we learned a lot, and I’m sharing my story in an effort to 1) give hope and help to people who are in the same situation, and 2) give people who are on the brink of financial disaster some strategies to avoid falling completely into the hole.
To catch you up if you missed the first three episodes, the first thing we did was acknowledge reality and figure out what our actual expenses were.
Second, we cut as much fat as we could.
The third thing we did was stop swimming against the tide.
Now for the next thing we did. This can be very hard for a lot of people
But I think this is very often the reason why a lot of us begin to get into a jam in the first place.
If you are finding yourself in trouble financially, you need to tell people.
I know I’m a little extreme in this department.
I’m not telling you to start a blog and broadcast your money problems to the world.
But when you at least let your close friends and family know that you are struggling, a couple things happen.
First, as soon as you are open and honest, that feeling of needing to keep up with the Joneses pretty much instantly disappears.
Because now that you have been honest, there is no need to try to pretend you can afford all those things that your neighbor can afford.
(Oh, and by the way, there is a VERY GOOD CHANCE your neighbors can’t afford all that shit they have and do either).
And once you are no longer trying to keep up with the Joneses, two other things happen.
One, you feel an immediate lightening. This is figurative, but it’s also literal.
You lift a HUGE weight off your shoulders when you are no longer carrying around secrets.
I have found that financial secrets are especially heavy to carry and they are incredibly draining.
Now that you have unloaded this secret and the accompanying shame that often comes along with it, two more things happen.
First, you are now able to ask for help. Because you aren’t hiding anything.
We asked for a lot of help. This was largely with the kids’ sports.
Not having the money to put your kids in sports when that’s something they really want to do is beyond stressful. And depressing.
But many programs have scholarship opportunities or financial aid or money set aside for people who are in a bad way.
We received a ton of help from our local little league as well as the swim team.
And since I was so open about our situation, one year when travel baseball season started, the coach told me that the expenses for Number 3 to play were totally covered.
I didn’t even have to ask.
That was a great day!
(Learning to accept help can also be a challenge, but we will talk about that next week).
And that’s the next thing that happens when you tell people what’s going on.
People really love to help other people.
And when you are open and honest about where you are, friends, neighbors, even entire communities will come together for you.
They will hand clothes down to you and they will organize meal trains for you and they will anonymously do things for you.
People love a good deed, and they especially love helping families who are going through tough times.
Think of all the stories you see on Facebook about the community or the team or the class or the whatever that rallied and came together to help a person or a cause or a family.
You sat there reading the story and bawling your brains out, right?
We were on the receiving end of that many, many times.
At first it was a little bit difficult to accept the help without feeling guilty or like a failure or like you were a charity case or whatever.
I know. I get it.
But that’s not what people are thinking.
People just want to help.
And here is one more thing that will happen when you share your story.
You might think people are going to judge you and ask, “How could you let yourself get into this situation?” or think to themselves, “I would never let that happen to my family.”
But that’s not what happens.
Instead, a surprising number of people will admit to you that they were in the same situation themselves and they can totally relate.
When I first started sharing these stories, I can’t tell you how many private messages and emails I would get from people telling me how they had gone through the same thing! How they had been on food stamps or had to go to the local food pantry. How their homes had gone into foreclosure.
And those people? The ones who have been through exactly what you are going through?
Many of those people are the ones who help you out when you are really in trouble because they totally get it.
And one of the worst parts of going through financial hardship is that it can feel so incredibly lonely.
So if you are struggling, take it from me!
Don’t hold it in. Let it out.
You have no idea how many people know exactly what you are going through.
Once you aren’t secretly carrying around the burden of your situation, then you don’t feel so alone.
And that makes a world of difference!