Money. It’s something we all think about, worry about, and use on a daily basis. But for something that is so important to our lives, it is something only a few really know how to use and manage. We often think that ‘if only I had more money’ or ‘if things didn’t cost so much’ we would be happier and better off. No we wouldn’t. A person could make twice as much as they do now, yet if they don’t keep their spending and consuming in line, they’ll spend every last cent they have. What you make or don’t make is not as important as how much we spend and even keep. Those of us living in the more developed countries can live pretty decent on what we make as long as we know what we’re spending on what, make sure what we spend is less than we make, and even set aside some money for emergencies or other purposes.
Some keep saying if only I had more money. What you make doesn’t really matter if you keep spending more than you make and have to rely on credit cards or pay day loans just to make it to the next payday. I personally live pretty decent on what little I make just from my disability pension. But this is because I got deadly serious about budgeting my limited money and got out of debt. I’ve been completely debt free for right at a year. But it’s only because I stick to my budget. I write out my budget every month and decide how much I spend for food, fuel and maintenance for my car, household expenses, clothing, and minor miscellaneous items after my rent is covered. It is possible to live on just a disability pension as long as you get out of debt and control your expenses. Yes this means passing on some things. Yes this means hunting for bargains. Yes this means shopping for clothes at Goodwill or Wal-Mart instead of The Gap or Neiman Marcus. There is no point in looking good if it puts you in debt to a credit card company or a pay day loan place. There is no reason to keep up with your neighbors or friends when they are behind on their rent and their relationships are falling apart because they aren’t managing their money well. Such people who look good even when broke are what a friend of mine from Texas called ‘Big Hat but No Cattle.’
The best bit of advice I can give to those with a mental illness, or any disability, who are living on a disability pension and/or working a low paying job and struggling to make ends meet are 1) Make a budget and track every dollar you make and 2) Get out of debt and stay out of debt. You might think you can limp along as long as you keep getting your checks or the job keeps up. But those pensions could possibly get reduced, just like what is happening in Greece, Cyprus, Argentina, and any number of countries that for whatever reasons got overextended and mismanaged their finances. My USA is no exception, we overextended ourselves not just through military spending but by promising everyone who asked what they wanted without planning on how to pay for it. The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we can ‘have it all.’ In all honesty, we have to pick and choose what we get because we and our resources are finite and limited. Many of our current problems, as individuals, businesses, and governments wouldn’t be having the instabilities and problems we have if we merely didn’t spend more than we bring in.
But to get out of debt, you may have to do some drastic things. You may have to give up enjoyable things. You may have to give up smoking, drinking, lottery tickets, electronic trinkets, move to a cheaper place, maybe even reconcile with family and ask them for help. If you are behind on your payments, talk to those you owe money. Tell them everything and see if you can work something out. Some may even be willing to clear some of your debt, but that is not a license to go back and do the stupid things that got you into trouble to begin with. Look at it as the real life ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card. Yes, it will be tough going for awhile. It will suck when you can’t go to restaurants or the bar with your friends. It won’t be glamorous at all. But if you are in trouble money wise, you need to get out of debt and adhere to a budget by any means necessary. I was and I had to do some major adjustments that short term really sucked. But they paid off long term. I don’t worry about sending money to a credit card company. I don’t worry about if I can make rent because I know I can. I even manage to put some of my disability pension into an emergency fund.
It would have been great if we learned how to manage money and budget in our formal education. But we didn’t so we have to learn it now as adults. And yes this is required. Money by itself is not evil any more than wheat seeds and livestock were in farming societies in ancient times. Money is the tool of survival in the 21st century. We all would be wise to learn how to manage it better. Good authors to read on money management are out there, as are youtube videos. My personal favorites include Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. Check some their work out.