The Joneses have gone budget chic

When I was a kid, I had a friend with “green” parents. But the term green in reference to being eco-friendly had not been coined yet. So we just called them weird.

They grew all their own vegetables, baked their own organic wheat bread, recycled everything and, in general, worried a lot about the environment (her dad also did yoga, which was getting more common but was still lightyears away from being trendy). In the mid-1980s, they were considered liberal, eccentric hippies. Today? They’d be called an average American family. They would be cool.

So what does hippie-chic have to do with your finances? Well, just like the green scene caught on, I have a hunch that financial responsibility will, too.

Times are already changing. Up until the last year or so, people would talk about money—but it was only half the story. We’d flash our credit cards and discuss the things we bought—from the latest cell phones and tech gadgets to our new cars (probably SUVs)—but not how we would pay them. To keep up with the Joneses, we’d purchase publicly and struggle privately.

But I bet if you look around today, you’ll find someone who cut up all her credit cards, someone openly on a budget and someone in danger of losing her home (and probably quite a few people dealing with all three).

Our attitude towards debt is changing. Take foreclosure, for instance. The old way: you can’t make your mortgage payment, but instead of asking for help, you hide the bills and late notices and suffer silently so no one finds out—not your neighbors, co-workers, sometimes not even your spouse. Of course, you’re only putting off the inevitable, as they’ll find out in the end when the bank nails a “foreclosure” sign in your front yard.

I prefer the new way: you let friends and family know you’re in debt, and working to get out. You explain why you can’t go out to dinner or the movies or Starbucks as often, maybe why you can’t exchange presents this year. Heck, they’ll probably tell you they’re doing the same. It seems even the Joneses have gone budget chic. Then follow through on your words. Make a budget and start saving. Look into Chapter 13 bankruptcy. With 10 percent of the nation facing foreclosure, it’s time we get over this bankruptcy stigma.  What’s so bad about saving your house by getting on a payment plan you can actually afford? It sure beats the alternative.

Our stance towards debt is softening. What used to be viewed as a weakness is now seen for what it really is—a common symptom of a national illness (credit dependence). And you should feel rewarded—not punished—for trying to treat it.

If you’re ready to join the bandwagon and bring your debt out into the open, DebtStoppers is here to help. Check out the tried-and-true tips in our new Debt Relief Toolkit. Or come and talk to us at one of our free workshops in Atlanta or Chicago. Not sure where to start? You’re always welcome to sign up for a free one-on-one debt analysis with one of our debt relief experts.

This recession won’t last forever, but despite all its drawbacks it’s changing some things for the better while it’s here. As a nation, we’ve been in denial for decades. Now we’re finally starting to see the light.

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