Facing your financial fears

Don't Bury Your Head in the Sand!

by Jill Cooper

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I had a dog once, who when I would scold him, would run and hide under the bed. He knew he had done something wrong and thought that by hiding he wouldn't get into trouble as much. I think he figured if he couldn't see me, I couldn't see him and he wouldn't get scolded.

There was just one slight problem. He couldn't fit under the bed. Only his head and front paws were hidden, but his back half was in full view. He had put himself in the worst possible position, but since he had buried himself under the bed, he didn't know that.

It's human (and critter) nature to think that if I don't acknowledge something that it won't come to pass or it will go away and I won't have to deal with it. We are often like the two-year-old who thinks there's a monster in his room. He will cover his head up with a pillow thinking, "If I can't see the monster, then the monster can't see me and it will go away."

We as adults laugh and think how silly this is. We know that if there really was a monster, hiding our head under a pillow would not help us. If anything hiding our heads would make it worse because we can't see what the monster is doing and so we are unable to come up with a plan of attack to protect ourselves. Meanwhile, the monster takes a bite out of our britches.

Even though we find the dog's or the two-year-old's actions foolish and amusing, many of us do the very same thing when we don't deal with our financial situation and our debt. Have you ever decided not to open a bill or look at a credit card statement because you don't want to know what the balance is? Clicking your heels and saying "There's no place like home" is not going to help.

Are you heading for debt trouble? This simple checklist can help you find out and provide options for doing something about it.

How about your bank statement? Do you balance it every month or just throw it in with the pile of unopened bills because you don't want to know how much is in your account? I hear someone saying "But I don't know how to balance it." Then learn. There isn't a bank in the world that isn't willing to show you how to balance a checkbook if you ask.

My grandson in the third grade has enough math skills to balance a checkbook, but I often hear from college graduates, full of pride with their degrees, that they can't balance a bank statement. It is just another excuse that helps them keep their heads buried in the sand. Learning to balance your checking account is much easier, much less time consuming and much less stressful than hiding from the monster.

Another excuse many people use is refusing to use cash. Often when helping people get their credit card debt under control, I suggest that they get rid of the credit cards and just carry a small amount of cash in their wallet. The first thing that I always hear (and I have honestly never had anyone yet say anything different) is "I can't carry cash because I will spend it." This statement makes no sense to me. What do they think they are doing when they pull out their credit cards to buy something? Lack of self control is lack of self control no matter how you package it.

Related: The Subtle Psychology of Credit Cards

If you allow yourself $20 cash, don't keep credit cards in your wallet and you are shopping, you may spend the full $20, but when it is gone there just "ain't no more" to spend. On the other hand, when you use a credit card, once you spend $20, you can pull it out again and spend another $20 and another and then maybe even $100. You don't even have to keep track of how much you spend for the day. Just stuff the receipt away and put your head under the bed!

If you have a credit card problem, you will end up spending two to four times as much with the credit card than if you just use cash. But this is why people in financial denial love credit cards. They don't have to acknowledge or see how much they have spent. If I don't see it, it won't hurt me.

Would you like to
pay off your credit cards
in less time
for less money?

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, it says, "When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things." We need to put away childish or foolish actions where our money is concerned and start using adult reasoning concerning it.

If this is you, stop burying your head in the sand! Stop being afraid and start taking an honest look at your finances. Open those bills, balance those bank statements and acknowledge how much you spend! Then figure out how to get it under control.

Just to keep our email box from overflowing with misunderstanding, I thought I should clarify this one thing: If your financial situation is fully under control, but you use a credit card for convenience or for reward points or some other reason and pay it off every month, this story is not referring to you. I am specifically addressing people who don't know how much they spend or who do not spend within their income.

Jill Cooper is a frugal living expert and the co-editor of LivingOnADime.com. As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income.

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