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The Worst Financial Habit That Keeps You Broke

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I can’t believe I’ve done this again. Things were going so well. My blog income had allowed me to pay down almost $15,000 of credit card debt in the last 3 months. I was feeling really good about it. Finally, after all the years of going backwards more than forwards, I was making headway. I could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. But old habits bit me in the ass today.

I’ve been waiting for my tax refund to be automatically deposited into my bank account. I had it ear-marked to pay off another credit card. I had received the notice of assessment so I knew what I should be getting. Both of my sons had received their refunds this week and we all filed at the same time so wtf??? I started to worry. Am I being audited? Had I changed bank accounts in the last year? Did the money go to someone else’s account by mistake?

I pulled the notice out of my files today to see if there was a number to call or to find out what I could do. Lo and behold there was a memo on it that I hadn’t read. My refund was being held because of a tax bill still owing from a defunct business almost 10 years ago. Darn it.

The last 15 years have been emotionally hard for me. I went through a divorce, got re-married, had to quit my job to look after my mom and my new husband had 2 major bipolar episodes that had him off work for a year each time. It was really stressful. I had to be the rock for everyone. It took all my energy to take care of everyone else. So when it came to our finances, I didn’t have any strength left to handle them.
I stuck my head in the sand and ignored them.

The Biggest Mistake That Keeps You Financially Strapped

Looking back, the biggest mistake I had made that kept me financially strapped was not knowing what my bills were, what I was spending my money on and having absolutely no plan beyond what I needed to get through each day. In other words, burying my head in the sand.

I was like a junkie on drugs. Everyday was spent looking for a way to just deal with what I needed THAT DAY to keep the wolves from the door. Was it the gas bill? The car payment? Or did we need food.

How exhausting does that sound?

Everything started to turn around once I stopped hiding from my bills. I made a budget. I kept track of every penny coming in and out of my bank account. I logged all of my debt. And most importantly, I made a plan. A plan to pay down debt and save money so that by the time my husband retired, we would be able to live on the reduced income.

It was working really well. On my weekly budget, I even have a list of “must be taken care of soon”. Guess what? That old business tax owing had been carried over on my weekly list for months. Months! Today was just a reminder that even though I was doing really well at being aware of my financial obligations, you have to do more than make a mental note to pay it. You actually have to pay it. Well duh!

Today I was forced to tackle my tax debt. I updated my returns and was able to pay my arrears because I had started a savings account months ago. It is now back to zero but that is ok. It was great to have it when I needed it instead of having to scramble or shuffle it to another debt. And I got to put a big fat checkmark next to my weekly list. It won’t have to be transferred to next week’s list. It feels good to have that off of my plate. The angst and anger of this morning are gone.

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So if you have unopened bills or don’t know exactly how much debt you owe, stop making the biggest mistake that keeps you financially strapped: being in the dark when it comes to your money.

Ignoring your finances comes back to bite you over and over and over again. It may be depressing to know exactly where you stand. But once you know and make a plan, you will feel more in control instead of the scary, free-falling sensation you get when you get an unknown number calling you or the power goes out and you have to think if you paid the bill.

That pit in the bottom of your stomach is your wake up call. You’ve made mistakes. It’s time to face them. It is NEVER too late to fix them. Your future self will thank you.

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