This is a Guest Post from Cherie at Queen of Free
Spoiler alert: you may want to point your children who are reading over your shoulder in the other direction. This post contains illustrations sensitive to children.
Most of us can remember the very first time a treasured childhood myth was busted. For me, I sat in the pew of our very Baptist church as a traveling preacher announced to an entire congregation of families that Santa Claus was not real. My parents were shocked. My older brother was appalled. I listened to him accuse my parents of lying to him the entire car ride home.
I took a slightly different approach. I knew that half of my Christmas presents came from my parents and the other half came from Santa. If there was no such thing as Santa, my present intake would decrease a solid 50%. This was no good, no good at all. So after much thought and reflection (or the fifteen minutes that it took to drive home), I announced to my mom and dad that I didn’t care what that preacher said. I was going to believe anyway. Present problem resolved.
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Deep down, I knew that the fairy tale was over though. My myth had been debunked and the magic of that season probably wouldn’t be the same anymore. Learning the truth about Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy can be brutal for some kids. Others of us struggled with our make believe bubble being burst by more real world issues.
Your parents may have divorced, causing you to realize that sometimes even the strongest of bonds can be divided. A friend or family member passes away and you learn the difficult truth of mortality. An adult acts in an immoral or unethical way and you become aware of the fact that no one is perfect, no matter how old they are. Shattering myths sometimes jars us because what we thought to be true becomes shaken. It can be difficult to believe and sometimes shift major paradigms in our lives.
We probably all hold a few grown up myths when it comes to money. Either we’ve heard these untruths our entire lives and just never questioned them or someone trusted sold us a bill of goods slightly inaccurate. These five myths have been rolled out to me over the years and I’m just learning how to debunk them.
Myth #1: Everyone Has a Car Payment
When my a close childhood friend told me at her engagement party her fiance only bought cars with cash, I thought she was crazy. I mean, how do you save up tens of thousands of dollars? Doesn’t everyone have a car payment? No, they don’t. In fact, our family hasn’t had a car payment since 2009.
How to Debunk The Myth
While it might seem challenging, you can save up enough cash to purchase a car without using a payment plan. It may mean that you have to purchase a more affordable vehicle and/or buy a pre-owned car, but you can do it. Begin gradually saving money in an account only meant for replacing a vehicle. If you can, put back a set amount per month. Then, use the cash to purchase the car. Search Craigslist and car dealer websites to find a vehicle that meets your needs. Hint, your needs are a safe vehicle that runs well with lowerish miles. Your needs list should not include a moonroof and Bluetooth capacity. You may also need to buy a good enough for right now car. We’re always on the prowl for a good “Grandma car” – a vehicle that’s been driven very little and well cared for. Vehicles like these don’t really lose their value and you’ll be able to drive it for a short period of time while saving up more money. Then you can turn around and sell that vehicle for close to what you paid for it. Next use the the funds you saved and the money you make to put toward another vehicle.
Myth #2: Everyone Dines Out at least Once a Week
In a culture of convenience and hustle, it’s easy to begin to believe the lie that your family has to eat out on a regular basis. We can even convince ourselves that we have to right to dine out. However, whether it’s a fine dining experience or merely hitting the drive thru, restaurants are a privilege, not a right.
How to Debunk The Myth
Meal planning was one of the major catalysts that helped us pay off over $127K in debt. It’s not evil to eat out now and again but we have to own the fact that dining at a restaurant is in an exponentially higher expense vs. eating at home. Don’t know where to begin? Read How to Become a Meal Planning Rock Star and check out my 10 different $50 ALDI Meal Plans.
Myth #3: You Have to Have Good Credit
Every commercial and every one of your uncles has harped on your for as long as you can remember to have a “good” credit score. How does one obtain a good credit score? You have to purchase things on credit and then pay for them. Unfortunately, the only thing a good credit score really says about your finances is that you’re good at buying things you can’t afford.
How to Debunk The Myth
I know I’ll probably get some push back on this one, but I really could care less about our credit score. We haven’t had a credit card since 2008 (we do have a debit card). We haven’t borrowed money since then either. Each year, our credit score dips a little bit lower because we don’t borrow. Yes, you may have to do a little bit more legwork when it comes to renting an apartment or getting a mortgage if your credit score is non-existent. However, it’s unwise to allow a lender or landlord to determine your lifelong financial habits. Look for a credit union or mortgage company that’s locally owned. Bring cash to the table. Well document the other bills you’ve paid on time as well as your employment history. Don’t ever open a credit card account to “establish” good credit. While some consumers can handle paying their bill off entirely, they are outliers. The majority of people who have credit cards end up in debt (the average U.S. household has $16k+ in credit card debt). When you play with snakes, you will suffer a bite. Striving for a good credit score just might sink you financially.
Myth #4: You Have to Have Student Loans to Go to College
It seems that going to college ranks along with owning a home as the ultimate American dream. However, many families find that when their children graduate from high school that the cost is far more than the amount they’ve been able to save.
How to Debunk The Myth
If graduation is just around the corner, this may be a myth that makes you panic. However, there are several ways to approach the problem of not having enough money. To begin with, be sure that your student is seeking out all possible scholarship opportunities. I’d suggest checking out the books Debt Free U and Confessions of a Scholarship Winner for ideas. It may also be necessary for your student to take a gap year to work and earn money to help pay for college. Lastly, it’s smart to break down the dollar figure to the amount needed per month and even week to pay for higher learning. It may require a second job and/or reductions in lifestyle, but you can cash flow college. It won’t be easy, but a diploma without debt attached to it is worth the hard work. Most people freak out at the large dollar figure and just assume they have to borrow the entire amount allotted.
Myth #5: Only Crazy Cat Food Ladies Use Coupons
Most people think they’re too busy to use coupons on a regular basis and/or the impact of saving $0.50 here or there doesn’t have a great impact on their finances. This couldn’t be further from the truth. According to Dr. Thomas J. Stanley, author of The Millionaire Next Door, the average millionaire uses coupons on a regular basis.
How to Debunk The Myth
Research the best ways to save money at the grocery stores you shop at most frequently. From rewards programs to digital apps, most stores entice consumers with their own unique savings strategies. I’ve outlined a number of smart ways to save money at Kroger, Walmart, ALDI, Target, Meijer, Earth Fare, Fresh Thyme, Sam’s Club, and more! Yes, your coupons might seem minimal at first, but over time the savings add up.
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My childhood Santa experience taught me to question more often. Just because you believe something to be true at first, doesn’t mean you should blindly accept what everyone tells you. Investigate, doubt, and struggle through things to distinguish myth from fact. Seek out opinions from successful people, especially when it comes to money. Often the loudest voices with the most advice don’t have much to show in their personal finances. No one cares about your money more than you do. It’s your job to make the best choices to manage it well. Do the work and make a plan while you debunk more myths of your own!
Cherie Lowe is an author, speaker and hope bringer. Her book Slaying the Debt Dragon details her family’s quest to eliminate over $127K in debt in just under four years. As her alter ego the Queen of Free, Cherie provides offbeat money saving tips and debt slaying inspiration on a daily basis.