Monthly Archives: September 2016

How to handle for debt

The book stays true to its root —Melanie’s blog—which she started in January 2013. The book includes Melanie’s experience, as well as “Dear Debt” letters (similar to Dear John letters) that she and some of her readers have contributed over the years.

As introduced above, the book’s format is straightforward, yet it includes some gems, and unique features you won’t necessarily find in other debt reduction books:

  1. A focus on the individual
  2. The hidden power of side hustles
  3. How reducing debt affects your outlook

These points are valuable and so merit a deeper dive.


#1. A Focus on the Individual

Melanie is aware of what someone reading “Dear Debt” needs: support from someone who can say “I’ve been there”. Her writing is full of hope, without dismissing what it’s like to live with the weight of obligation.

Of particular note is what she writes in a section called “You Are Not Your Debt” (pg. 35). Debt can make us feel lesser than, like a loser, and Melanie—a person who’s now debt-free—helps her readers keep things in context, despite the emotional nature of their current situation. She’s also a realist, addressing those times when we all lose steam as we head toward an overwhelming goal, and shares how she felt and overcame her inertia.


#2. The Hidden Power of Side Hustles

“Dear Debt” changed the way I think about side hustles. At first, Melanie presents side hustles as a way to increase your income and that they’re often necessary when a primary occupation is just not enough to live on and also make a significant dent in debt in a reasonable amount of time. But she then also emphasizes side hustles’ potential to help you learn new things, expand your skill set and your confidence over time.

She points out that, because side hustles are usually associated with a willingness on the part of the employer for the hustler to “learn on the job”, it’s a great way to try our hand at something new and unexpected. In her view, our default should be “yes” to any opportunity for a side hustle because we never know what we’re going to learn and we can always find something else if it doesn’t turn out to be a great fit.

[S]ide hustling is all about gaining experience and trying something new. You’re not applying for a salaried job making $100,000. What I’ve learned is that being confident and owning your skills and talents are extremely useful when it comes to landing gigs. (pg. 90)


3. How Reducing Debt Affects Your Outlook

As I read “Dear Debt,” I felt I was right there by Melanie’s side, experiencing every stage of the debt cycle: from getting into it to repaying it to thriving after debt. In her words, you can feel the change in outlook, in her emotional state and in how she experiences life. It’s almost as though she wrote about every stage of it at the very time she was experiencing it.

Avoid Deep In Debt

We started our debt free journey with LOTS of consumer debt. About as much as our gross income. Yep, we screwed up…..BIG TIME.

I remember the day when we sat down and told our four kids that we had made a mess of our money. A BIG mess. We expected them to be ticked. I’m not sure why we expected them to be angry. I mean, it must’ve been obvious to some extent that money wasn’t great by the amount of times we said “no” to anything fun as we struggled to pay the bills each month.

“How did you get into debt?” the then-five-year-old asked.

“Well,” I answered with trepidation, “We spent more money than we had for a lot of years.”

“How can you spend money when you don’t have it?” he replied.

Kids are so logical it’s annoying.

Next thing we knew we were educating our kids about credit cards, about how they give you money to spend on stuff but then ask you to pay back more than you borrowed because of interest.

It was then that the uselessness of it all become crystal clear. The uselessness of keeping up with the Joneses. The uselessness of caring what others think about what we owned or didn’t own. The shock when we realized that we were okay with giving our money to the banks instead of keeping it for ourselves.

We told the kids about how we always believed that wealth was a “luck of the draw” thing: either you had it or you didn’t. And about how we found some info online (the blessed world of personal finance blogs) that showed us that we didn’t have to stay deep in debt and struggling for money.

We told them that we wanted things to be different for our family; that we didn’t want to have to struggle for money anymore. And we told them that our journey to debt freedom meant money would be really tight for a while as we reigned in spending and put extra cash toward debt.

We then made a budget for the first time in our sixteen years of marriage. Like Brian and his family, we used tools like Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball to make a plan for getting out of debt.

Steps to Making Money Better

It’s post election, 2016. I know I’m not alone in wondering what the hell I can or am supposed to do now. Everyone around me is asking what this means for themselves, for America, for the causes they care about, and the safety of their families and friends.

People are experiencing a collective, visceral need to get involved, make a difference… do something! But many I’ve spoken to, while adamant that they want to help, aren’t sure if they can. As soon as their minds jump to “I should donate money”, they immediately feel stress and anxiety because of their own financial situation, or lack of knowledge around money. These are good people who want to make a difference. They have the desire and drive to help, but don’t feel they have the means to do so.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be like this. If you want to give more of yourself but feel like you can’t yet – here is how you can!

This seven-step guide will lead you through the work you need to do in order to make your money matter. You’ll discover why money is important to you, how you currently use your time and money and how your money can better reflect your personal values. You’ll find the tools you need to help put you on firm financial footing so you can help others, and understand the empowerment that comes with a values-based budget. You’ll have the opportunity to choose where you want to donate your time and money and learn the power of gratitude. You’ll move from a sense of helplessness to empowerment as you make decisions with your money that allow you to truly make a difference and impact in your community.

So, let’s get it started!

Note to Self: This is a process. It will not happen overnight! Change rarely does, so don’t expect to blaze through every single step in this post in 30 minutes and come out the other side as conqueror of your finances. But if you are serious about making a difference in not only your life but in the lives of others, then the work you need to do will be well worth it.