When I first began telling people that I was starting a blog about Christ-Centered Financial Wellness I got a call from a woman I recently met at church. We were casually acquainted and talked about Financial Peace University a few times, but I didn't really know much about her or her financial situation.
So the emotion of her phone call was unexpected. She told me that when I started releasing blogs, I needed to write one on what to do when you’re overwhelmed by the large plastic bag of past due bills that hadn’t been opened in months. She looked and looked for information on what to do next and found nothing. She wanted a plan of action to move beyond the plastic bag of fear.
I was quiet for a moment…remembering my own plastic bag of fear. I could see it in my mind as clearly as if I were still looking at it. It had been years since I had actually seen it but the memory of the fear and the embarrassment were still fresh in my mind.
My bag of fear came after I lost my job and made the decision to become an entrepreneur instead of finding another position. It was probably not the best decision, but at the time I thought it was. The first few years were tough and there were many months when I was afraid to open the mail. I simply piled it in a corner and waited until I had the courage to open the envelopes and the money to make some progress on getting current.
All of these images were in my mind as I listened to my new friend. I softly told her that the first thing she needed to do was pray.
Pray for strength. Pray for courage. Pray for direction and guidance. Pray for wisdom and the know how to make better choices. I told her to pray and ask the Lord for intervention.
Then I shared some of what I'm now sharing with you.
Steps to deal with the plastic bag of fear:
1. Pray. Prayer is first and foremost. Pray often and fervently. And remember that prayer is a conversation with God, which means He gets to talk too. You must be still enough to hear what He’s saying. This takes courage and practice. The more you pray, the more in tuned to God you become. For more information on how to do this, check out 2 Chairs by Bob Beaudine.
2. Sell something. If you have a plastic bag of fear, you must get radical. It will not go away on its own and will require you to take some drastic action. Take a hard look at your life and sell everything you can to create some margin. All of the proceeds from your selling needs to then go to your debt. Find a used book store to sell books, CDs, DVDs, electronic games, cell phones and other tech gear. Keith and I made hundreds of dollars selling our rarely used and duplicate music and movies.
3. OPEN THE PLASTIC BAG. I know you may not want to hear this one, but you have to open the bag! Nothing can change until you do. Call for back-up if you have to…someone to sit with you in support. But you must open the bag. It won't be nearly as bad as you think it is. Remember that the bag is filled with duplicates. Your creditors have been sending the same requests for months. Sort them into stacks and open the newest envelopes first.
4. Deal with housing immediately. Dave Ramsey talks about taking care of your 4 walls before anything else. And housing is definitely one of the four walls. If you are behind on your mortgage or rent, start working on this immediately. Contact your mortgage broker or landlord as soon as possible to arrange a payment plan. They don’t want to evict you or foreclose on your home anymore than you want them to. It's easier for everyone for you to get caught up and back on track.
5. Prioritize everything else. Now that we know about the 4 walls, prioritize the other bills around them. If you have a car loan, contact them next. Then deal with the utility companies. No one else should be paid until you take care of these items. Always pay housing, utilities and car related expenses first. Make arrangements with everyone else to pay a smaller amount until your crisis is over.
6. Defer student loans. If you have student loans and cannot manage the payments associated with your plastic bag of fear, defer the payment. NOTE: Please be aware that student loan interest accrues daily (see my previous post on why student loans are dangerous). Deferring the payment should be a short term solution used only until you can get your crisis under control.
7. Get a part-time job or overtime. The reality is you will probably need some extra income to get your crisis under control. If overtime is available at your place of employment, this is ideal. If not, pizza delivery or anything else you can find will do just fine. All of the extra money should be applied to your debt. Don't blow your debt snowball money on extravagant purchases! There will be plenty of time for those purchases when your crisis is over.
8. Tighten your budget. This one is super important. Now would be the time to cut anything that is not absolutely necessary from the budget. Walk around the neighborhood (or inside your church) instead of paying for a gym membership. Limit eating out. Invite friends over for potluck instead. Get creative and squeeze as much money out of your existing budget as you can. Use your newfound funds to get current on your plastic bag of fear!
9. Consider a financial coach. When Keith and I got married and combined our debt, it created a different kind of fear. We didn't have a plastic bag of overdue bills. We just had a ton of debt. It was incredibly overwhelming for me. One of the ways I got past the fear was working with a financial coach. The monthly investment was a huge sacrifice for us, but we both believed we would benefit from having someone else guiding us through our mess. It made a world of difference. If you would like a free consultation on your financial situation, I'm happy to help. Find out more about my coaching program here.
Have you ever had something that was so overwhelming that you did not think you had the courage to face it? Have you ever had a financial crisis so intense that you felt paralyzed to do anything about it?
I have good news! Your plastic bag of fear does not have to overwhelm you any longer. But you must take action.
I hope the ideas listed in this article help you get past the fear and onto a journey of Christ-Centered Financial Wellness.
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT) says that "God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." It will not be a quick process, but it can be done!
You can do this! You can overcome the plastic bag of fear!
What changes will you make in the next 7 days to get a better handle on your finances? Log in and comment below. (Click here for tips on how to log in to comment.)
See you next week! In the meantime...be well...be encouraged.