If you are struggling with debt and financial insecurity, I have definitely been there, done that, and got through it! I want to help you find more calm, confidence and clarity in your life by reducing your stress, mom guilt, and self criticism through help and inspiration from others.
I’m sharing a dose of inspiration about four hacks in the areas of Financial Security, Success, Self Image, and Education.
These hacks are especially timely right now because so many people are facing money problems due to job losses during the pandemic. I’ve been through tough times like these before. During the last recession, my husband and I both lost our jobs, which were not high paying to begin with. So we didn’t have savings. But we did have a side business we had started that also took a hit during the economic downturn. Thanks to mentors and books and courses, I figured out how to hack my way out of my financial mess and my emotional breakdown.
I’m starting with Financial Security because this is the one that can do the most emotional damage when you are in the midst of dealing with it. The first step to dealing with financial insecurity is to admit the problem and the extent of the problem to yourself. When I was struggling financially, I was trying to make money in different ways from different sources as a freelancer and business owner, so I didn’t really know how much was coming in and out. I had credit cards to pay for any expenses that came up, whether they were for business or personal. When it got to the point where I was adding more to my debt every month because my expenses were exceeding my income, I kept telling myself it was temporary. I was maxing out credit cards and thinking I would catch up later. It finally hit me hard when I was at the grocery store and couldn’t take my cart full of groceries home because my final credit card stopped working. That was the day I realized I needed help.
This is the next step. This is hard for a lot of us. Many moms like me believe we can do it all ourselves. I didn’t know where to turn. I had family who could lend me money for groceries that week, but what about next week. And the week after. I had to find a long-term solution because my problem had gotten worse over time and was going to take time to get better. I did something I never thought I would do, something a lot of people in this country are doing now who never expected to do. I went to a food pantry. I didn’t even know if I would qualify. I did. I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself. After leaving there with a full load of groceries, I felt the release of a huge burden. The people there all wanted to help me. They didn’t judge me. I cried on the way home. It’s not something I wanted to do, but it was such a relief knowing I could feed my family no matter if I made money that week or not.
When you have major money problems there are 3 main things you HAVE to do -- reduce expenses, increase income, and change your mindset. I know this is a theme for a lot of my hacks, but it is a big factor. Not the only factor, but it makes a difference. I am proof of that.
Of course you should stop spending money on frills like restaurants and entertainment. You still eat, but it’s cheaper to cook yourself. You still have fun, but you play games you have and watch free movies. And if you still don’t have enough money to cover basic necessities, you have to be resourceful. There are lots of other ways to be resourceful. For years, I got my kids free clothes, books, toys, sports equipment, and even a swing set from freecycle.org. There are other communities like this where people offer to give away items for free to anyone willing to pick them up. Check them out and appreciate the givers. People love to give when it is appreciated.
In terms of increasing income, that is very tough when it’s a hard time to find work like now. When you can’t find a job -- and we looked for months and sent hundreds and hundreds of resumes with very little results -- you have to take side gigs. At one time I had 7 part-time jobs.
No matter how much you decrease expenses and increase income, you will continue to have money problems if you are approaching the world from the perspective that you are lacking. Your mindset makes it so much harder to escape your money problems. For years I heard the experts tell me I had to approach the world from a place of abundance, that there is plenty of money out there for me and everyone else. It’s just a matter of knowing it will come to me. That is so hard to do when you have more bills to pay than you have money coming in. It doesn’t make sense, but it is true. I was only able to turn around my finances after I turned around my attitude. It is not easy, but it is possible. But it’s not just your attitude you have to change.
When you feel you are struggling financially, you feel like a failure. But money doesn’t define your success. And success is not a destination. It is a journey. You may have certain goals that you don’t reach, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t successful. I worked for years as a television reporter and always wanted a job at a network station in my hometown, but I never got one. I finally learned that I shouldn’t be disappointed in myself, that I should be proud I worked in a position I loved at a network station in Milwaukee. I know many former classmates from college who wanted to be TV reporters and never even got that first job in the industry, or moved up after their first job at a small station. Celebrate your wins and remember how far you’ve come. You can always find people who have done more, but you can also always find people who envy where you are. Be your own cheerleader. I am proud of where you are because you are here, trying to improve yourself and your life. That is a HUGE step.
Self Image may seem similar to success, but it’s not. We usually define success by things we have -- like a good career, a happy marriage, a big house. But we define self image by who we are -- I am a short Italian who annoys people because I talk a lot. I am also a petite sassy woman who communicates well. The first description is a negative self image. The second one is positive. They both describe the same attributes of me. There are things we can’t change about ourselves, and we not only should accept them but embrace them. Even if we change our outward appearance and lose weight or get a new hairstyle or get cosmetic surgery, it won’t improve our self image in the long run if we don’t love ourselves no matter how we look or who criticizes us. It’s not easy, but keep remembering that what others think of you should have no influence on what you think of yourself.
For many of us, our primary focus is on our kids’ school. We want them to get the best education, and we spend a lot of time worrying about this and often helping them with homework and organizing their assignments and now supervising their remote learning. It’s important to keep all of this in perspective. While there are studies that show certain degrees and certain universities increase chances of success, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the kids who go to those schools and get those degrees already started ahead in many cases, coming from families of wealth. If you’re not in that 1%, you want your kids to grow up to be productive and enjoy their work. So many people make a good living who don’t go to college. People go into fields that are not lucrative and become successful.
Education is not just about school. If your child struggles in school, then academics should not be their only focus. Find something they are good at to boost their confidence and have them educate themselves about that -- it can be sports, crafts, gaming, anything that makes them happy as long as it is safe and legal. But the education piece is not just about your kids. We all can improve our lives if we believe that there is always more to learn. I listen to audiobooks almost every day. Some people read. Some watch webinars or documentaries or get new certifications in their fields. Education should be something that you and all members of your family consider a high priority -- but it doesn’t have to be schooling and classes and degrees. It could be learning about gardening or a cause you want to promote. For both you and your kids, think outside of the box when it comes to education and you won’t feel so much pressure to conform to some societal standard of what it means to be smart or accomplished.
You can join our community by going to MomSub.com and signing up for our new prototype app where we support each other by trading playdates if you live in the Chicago area.