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Today I am happy to welcome back my friend Cherie Lowe from the Queen of Free, who has graciously joined us here at LWSL as a regular monthly contributor. Cherie is the author of the amazing book, Slaying the Debt Dragon, which she wrote after paying off more than $127,000 in debt! I am so excited to have her bringing her wealth of knowledge & experience on this subject to LWSL–please join me in making her feel right at home!
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I remember it like yesterday. The summer sun was shining bright and I had just stepped inside to cool off midway through mowing our lawn. Sticky and flecked with grass, I poured a tall glass of ice-cold water immediately guzzling it down. I fell to the floor and popped open my laptop to see what everyone else had been doing while I sweated my way row by row through the front yard.
Everyone else was having all of the fun on Facebook. They were on vacation, getting ready to do go out for a fancy dinner dressed in a brand new dress, riding roller coasters with their kids, headed to the newest summer blockbuster, throwing a party for their friends and family, blessing their kids with fun family activities . . . on and on the feed continued with picture after picture of happy face after happy face, all doing something awesome. My face was neither happy nor awesome.
Instantly, I threw a pity party for my present state. Wearing a stained t-shirt and stretched out running shorts, I felt miserable. In the pursuit of paying off $127K in debt, I was exhausted. Yes the hot summer sun depleted my energy, but the long days had sapped my soul, too.
Thoughts of the good ‘ole summertime conjure up days filled with lemonade, sunshine, family time, parades, and weekend adventures. But with the cookouts, amusement parks, camp fees, higher energy costs, and extra money needed to care for your lawn, summertime can put a damper on your finances especially if you’re in the process of paying off debt. I don’t mean to be alarmist but you need to make a plan NOW to combat the fatigue and unique challenges summertime presents to your financial pursuits.
Here are a few ideas that might help keep you focused on paying off debt during the budget-tempting summer months:
Stop Being So Social (Media)
Perhaps you’re like me. Trolling Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and sometimes even Pinterest can stir up feelings of malcontent. Summer might be the perfect time to eliminate or simply clean up your social media feeds. For some, the simple solution of removing apps from a phone might provide relief. For others, hiding particular people or sites could eschew the digital green-eyed monster of envy. Hit the unsubscribe button on e-mails that cause you to routinely overspend. Scale back the hours you spend trolling Facebook. You don’t have to cancel your accounts but be smart and don’t make my mistake of looking longingly into the lives of others.
Find Free Fun
While summer presents unique expenses, it also provides plenty of activities that don’t cost a dime. The weather in most places is more temperate and provides longer hours of daylight. Head to your local library to see what sorts of summer reading programs are provided (after all, you’ll need to fill all of the hours you won’t be on social media). Remember, reading a great book (I would suggest this one and this one) can refocus your eyes on your journey to pay off debt. Look into movie theaters’ special summer offerings for kids. Check out the community center’s calendar for free concerts and festivals. Look on the nearest metropolitan destination’s convention and visitor’s site for free activities. Create a bucket list of parks to visit in your town or city and hit one or two each week. Your resources might be limited but the fun doesn’t have to be.
Return to Simpler Times
Pause. Take in a deep breath. Reflect on the summers of your childhood. Where did you go? What did you do? Were you on the swing set for hours on end? Did you capture lightening bugs in a jar during the twilight hours? Did you run through the sprinkler, play at the park, or sit in your grandmother’s lap as she read your favorite bedtime store? Maybe it’s time to harken back to the experiences that truly make summer magical. Instead of being whisked away into the hurry and scurry of summertime fun, be intentional about creating moments that last a lifetime but cost very little. Above all else, when it comes to your children, spend time and not money. You can always make more money. You can never recapture missed days and moments.
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Plan a Small Splurge
In my book, it is OK to take a small break from the pursuit of paying off debt to celebrate a milestone. After paying off a specific bill or percentage of your debt, plan to splurge a little. Whether a nice dinner out or a weekend away, or even a Staycation, save up the cash to bankroll your reward. A small splurge from time to time can prevent you from going overboard after long periods of deprivation. Take heed that your splurge doesn’t turn into a spending spree, though. Set a budget and use cash (instead of plastic) to prevent overspending.
Realize You Only See Half of the Story
Remember my pity party that cropped up from my jealousy of others’ photos? In my shortsightedness, I failed to take into the bigger picture. Social media presents a slick one-sided telling of a story. While it may appear that others are happier, wealthier, closer with their spouse, kinder to their children . . . you fill in the “er” blank, that might not necessarily be true. We all have struggles and somehow we typically present the shiniest parts of existence for the world to see – whether that’s on social media or out and about in public. It could be that you really don’t want the fancy dinner out, expensive vacation, or even the trip to the movie theater if it comes at the cost of your marriage, finances, or faith. Contemplate the full story before mistakenly thinking you’re missing out. And realize that your current position of paying off debt is literally a season of your life. It won’t last forever. There will be summers to come when you can choose costly summertime fun. However, you just may discover that you prefer the simple pleasures more.
Stay focused this summer. Even when it’s difficult, resist the urge to quit. Put your best financial foot forward and focus on what you have instead of what you lack. By the time the autumn leaves fly, you’ll have plenty of fantastic memories and greater success with your money.
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.