Work With What You’ve Got

That’s what my mom always told me growing up, anyway. Work with what you’ve got. She’d unleash that saying whenever I would whine because I didn’t have a fancy enough bike, couldn’t afford the latest toy or outfit, or, later, when I didn’t have enough to go to my favorite college. It used to frustrate me to no end. But the woman had a point—which I’ll get to in just a minute.

In my last post, I talked about credit card debt. If money is supposedly the root of all evil, then lack of money—credit card debt, more specifically—is a close second. It’s not just the debt, but the interest that kills you—once you’ve spent more than you’ve got, it’s all too easy to keep using the credit card to pay off your purchases. How else are you supposed to do it, unless you win the Lotto or suddenly receive a massive inheritance, right?

But there is a way! You just have to—you guessed it—work with what you’ve got. And if you can master that, solving the rest of your money woes will be a breeze (alright, maybe not a breeze, but it will be a heck of a lot easier).

The fastest way to save is to cut back on your (gulp!) favorite vices, e.g. shoes, coffee, techno gadgets, beauty products, etc. If you’ve got an addiction to it, you’ve probably already got a stash that can tide you over. I recently cleaned out my bathroom and realized I had seven different kinds of shampoo, each about ¾ full (did I think each new bottle was a miracle product that would cure my frizzy hair? Did I think the bottles were pretty? I don’t know). I vowed then and there to not buy another hair product until I had used every drop of what I already had. The same goes for my lipstick, lotions and other beauty potions.

If you clean out your closet, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of shoes that haven’t seen the light of day for a while—pretend they’re new! Lusting after the latest cell phone or PDA? Hold off for awhile. You know you’ll be itching to replace it six months later, when it’s already outdated. Are the kids begging for new toys already? Explain to them why it’s important to appreciate the stuff they already have—probably some of which they just got for Christmas. Once you start working with what you’ve got, you might even savor the breather from material things. When the economy took a dive last year, it’s like it held up a mirror to our culture for the first time—and it was a little bit scary. But now that we know what we don’t like about ourselves, it’s time for a makeover.

Now, along with the material stuff, you’ll probably have to brainstorm other ways to cut back. This is the hard part. If you’re using cash (good for you!), try putting all of your loose change into a jar. Every month, turn it in and put it towards your debt. Maybe you can turn the heater down a few degrees, carpool to work or go jogging in your neighborhood instead of paying for the gym. You’ll find a lot more ideas in our Financial Toolkit (which you can order here, or get by signing up and attending one of our free workshops). A little bit here and there will add up without feeling too restrictive. But if it doesn’t add up enough, don’t give up. Instead, reach out. Get your worries off your chest by talking to a friend or relative. And get help by working with an expert—what you’ll get when you sign up for our free personalized debt analysis. We’ll show you how to work with what you’ve got to get where you need to go.

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