Bring it to Barb

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Dear Barb,

I need to take charge of my finances and my life. I am 62, collecting social security and working at a job I like but with low pay, and worse, it is an hour drive each way. The amount of gas in my old truck I spend is insane. I live paycheck to paycheck even with social security. Can you suggest some strategies to make my life easier? I get up at 5:30 a.m. and home at 6 p.m. My heart attack last year slowed me down a lot. I live alone with my dog and my house is affordable, but falling down from deferred maintenance. It is hard to not become depressed and discouraged.

Signed,

Not Seeing Any Light

 

Dear Not Seeing Any Light,

Simply seeing your surroundings as they are, and your circumstances, is a big step and unless you change a “variable” in your life, sadly it will remain the same. Why would it not?

I use the analogy of a pinball machine. Are you the ball that is getting sprung in a swift instant and pinging from right to left wherever it may fall? Or, are you the one controlling the lever and pulling it back, strategically using paddles to control the ball.

When variables change, the outcome changes.

Variables can be any decision that affects your life triggering a different result. For example: laptop time to job search versus television time, sweeping your porch, organizing your cabinets, picking up your surroundings, making a list of home maintenance to budget for your next check versus a nap.

A variable I would suggest you should consider is closer employment. This would require some initial time on the laptop to put your info and resume on Indeed.com and Monster.com at least once, which is free. Then when emails begin coming into you, push the “apply” button on a job type you selected and apply at something closer to where you live. Even less money per hour may pencil out as a wash. Crunch numbers. You then have changed a variable. Now you have two hours added to your day and don’t need a nap after work.

Without changing variables, everything will remain the same with the exception of when you are ping-ponged thru life’s ups and downs like a pinball. Unfortunately, almost all variables have one common denominator to execute a change: effort.

Your brain detects effort, subconsciously deep deep down. Effort causes conscious awareness that you are doing something to improve your life and immediately you feel more in control! This sense of control will give your body and brain some time to diminish that high level of apprehension. Knowing that you are doing something to better your life and situation reduces the anxiety you feel.

With every variable change, whether it be calling to re-rate your auto insurance for the best premium, eating out fewer times, tackling that long overdue sink drip or fixing the front door that squeaks or sticks, these little things all add up to feeling like you are the one in control. Effort is the key.

We all make bad decisions and change our variables the wrong way, or don’t change them at all. But the difference between this happening to someone who’s struggling and it happening to someone who has more resources and money is that it takes longer for the struggling to correct a mistake or the wrong course than it does for someone who can use money to correct it.

Here are some variables that are easy and attainable and only take effort to begin immediately.

  • Take stock of every debt you carry and how much. This includes debt to your parents, children, timeshare dues or storage rentals. Knowledge is powerful and gives a sense of control.
  • Look at what you can do in your home right now that would only take effort. Declutter your garage or home of all broken, worn down and extra duplicates. Keep a running list of things that need to be replaced. Streamline by starting at the front door and working clockwise going through your home, every closet and cabinet, and skipping the kitchen for later. This simple, one-hour each night, to sort as “trash/keep/give away/sell,” will make you feel in control.

Open a savings account if you don’t have one. Start one with $20 a month deposit. Increase $10 more per month. In a year you’ll have a cushion for a car issue or emergencies unforeseen.

Pay off high interest credit cards with largest amount first, while paying less or minimum on lower amounts and interest charged.

Getting a handle on your money is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. It’s like running a five-mile marathon in just one day for your wallet. So GO, run it! There is daylight out there!

 

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