Monday, November 19, 2007


Debt is like wilderness survival in many ways. Both involve a lot of hard work, well thought out decisions and potential disasters along the way. As such both situations require a special type of person in order to ensure success in the end objectives, which in both cases include:

  1. Immediate survival
  2. Long time survival
  3. Escape to civilization
Examine the U.S. Army Survival Manual, if you would.

Chapter 2, Psychology of Survival reads as follows:
...some people with little or no survival training have managed to survive life-threatening circumstances. Some people with survival training have not used
their skills and died. A key ingredient in any survival situation is the mental attitude of the individual(s) involved. Having survival skills is important; having the will to survive is essential. Without a [reason] to survive, acquired skills serve little purpose and invaluable knowledge goes to waste.

..the soldier in a survival environment faces many stresses that ultimately impact
on his mind. These stresses can produce thoughts and emotions that, if poorly understood, can transform a confident, well-trained soldier into an indecisive, ineffective individual with questionable ability to survive. Thus, every soldier must be aware of and be able to recognize those stresses commonly associated with survival.
Whether you're a lone survivor of a plane crash in the Andes, a member of a group lost at sea, or someone crippled by their own unfortunate debt this cannot be more useful.

It's easy to see ones self in a more than flattering light. No one likes admitting they could be weak if the correct dice were cast. But chances are, no matter who you are, what you do for a living, or how much you make a year, you too could be turned into a snivelling puddle of goo given the right, very possible circumstances.

The earliest stage of debt management is perhaps the most disheartening and probably the easiest stage to commit "financial suicide" at. The numbers coming in are small, the numbers going out are big, and there's a whole lot of confusion.

Let's examine the early stage of debt. Assume you live in the Western World, you're young, in epic debt and you're a reasonably intelligent person. Why? Because if you're reading this blog, that's probably you down to a T.

Credit card corporations are calling, the land lord is getting itchy, the power company is threatening to cut you off, your car is about to get repossessed, hell, maybe you even have a lawyer or two firing off nasty "we're going to get our client's money, one way or another" letters.
Maybe you even owe Uncle Sam a pretty penny or two.

There's a lot of messages on the answering machine. There's a lot of pissed off knocks at the door. There's a hell of a lot of mail on your dining room table.

You're lost in a tidal wave, a sudden onslaught of numbers and pain. Suddenly you owe everyone everything at once and there's no possible way to appease every one of your creditors. And hey, even if you pay 5 bills this month, 5 more are going to charge you what appears to be an inappropriately large quantity of late fees.

You take on more work. And you visibly whiten when you see American Express chew it up and shit it out on your lawn.

So you fall back to the basics. You tread water. You pay the things that keep you alive, your rent, gas money, electricity, heating oil. But quite like being lost at sea without a life preserver, you get tired of treading water fast.

You get sick and tired of it. You don't want to eat tiny, meager meals. You don't want to work three jobs, two of which you absolutely loathe. You reach a point where you don't even want to look at the bills, because like the screaming alarm clock in the morning, you can't stand it any longer.

They are so terrifying, they bring you physical discomfort.

So you take one last breath before slipping under. You stop fighting. Financially you die. Whether this is declaring bankruptcy, joining the street walkers, or staining your credit report irrecoverably, it doesn't matter.

You just discovered you lack the will to survive. And it hurts. You feel like a failure as a person.

And twenty bucks says you're below 30.

Welcome to the club. And welcome again next time you hit a bump in the road, because that inadequate feeling is a son of a bitch to shake.

But it doesn't have to be like that. No, not in a long shot. Sure, the negative numbers are huge. But chances are you just need a little motivation to stay afloat. You just need to realize it's not the end of the world, you are not alone and the problem is solvable.

And if you make it through this? You're a stronger, smarter and a kinder person. Everyone has a well within them, you just need to tap it and keep it running.

Save for an optimistic attitude, there are several ways to make your life a little less bleak. Here's how:
  1. Enjoy life: Find one thing you enjoy in life that's been changed by your financial woes. Now, get ready.. do it. Really. I give you permission. It's okay. So long as you do not do it in excess and keep your money issues in mind, there is nothing wrong with enjoying life. Some tips? Try to schedule your much missed activity toward the end of the week. It'll make the horribly grueling work week go by faster if you have something to look forward to.

  2. Relax: Are you working two or more jobs? Try to juggle them so you have one full day to yourself. Clean the house a little bit each day during the week so you're not ambushed by home chores on your day of rest. Sleep in, eat a hearty meal. You'll need it for next week.

  3. Get support: No one should have to wade through the wilderness all by their lonesome. The same is true for debt. If you have a choice, talk to someone about your troubles. Are you the one who wears the pants in the household? Not anymore. Let the hubby or missus in on the situation. Share responsibilities, divide and conquer, and for god's sake, communicate. You'll be surprised at the ideas you'll come up with if you're bouncing ideas off of another person.

  4. Get more support: Are you in college? Your school likely offers either peer or professional counseling for little or no cost. Are you out of school, but have some sort of insurance? It might be worth it to investigate if counseling is covered by your plan with little copay.

    Notice I say "counseling" and not "mental help." There are trained, professional individuals out there who will help you through hard times even if you do not have a mental disorder. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking someone to talk with. You're a strong person for admitting you need help.

  5. Get a mother 'effing army!: This is the internet, holmes. Join some debt management forums. Read some debt related blogs (including this one!). Pool your resources. You are certainly not alone. Still not good enough? Look into your local bookstore/libraries/town hall. If there are support groups for propane explosion survivors, there is probably one near you for debt survival.

    No, you do not need to say "Hi, my name is Ed and I'm a shop-a-holic." That'd be fucking stupid.

  6. Get organized: See that huge pile of papers on your coffee table, you know, the ones stamped with "PAYMENT DUE IN FULL SIX MONTHS AGO." Sort through them. Throw out all junkmail (yes, catalogs are junk mail, remember, that's how you got here in the first place), open the bills, throw out the torn envelopes and sort the invoices in chronological order. Paperclip those bad boys together. It's much less terrifying to see a nice, neat stack versus a monster of a mountain, isn't it? And hey, when you're ready to tackle that nice, neat little stack, now you have a better idea who is going to kidnap your precious dog Spot first.

  7. Arm yourself: Okay. Maybe not literally. If the situation is really dire, look into obtaining a CCS (Credit Counseling Service), they'll likely help you out more than you think. Not good enough, want to feel big and bad yourself? Look into getting a Credit Attorney. I'm currently signed up with a CCS myself and it's working fairly well for me so far. I pay one lump sum once a month for roughly 90 percent of my debt. Both may have hidden, undesirable costs associated with them. So be wary.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it's sufficient for the time being. It's enough to tell you that while it may look bleak now, it's far from it. It's okay to be down sometimes, but often its the will to survive alone that keeps us pushing forward.

Don't give up.



The minus sign blues. Updated frequently with first hand knowledge to make your life a little bit more eco-frugal.

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Debt Counter

Bank of America $4,580.18
Providian $5,460.80
Citibank $2,363.90
Capital One $1,270.63
Bank One $1,082.44
Sears $3,854.29
Best Buy $1,631.23
Lane Bryant $238.43
Total: $20,537.65


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Copyright 2007 - 2009 Edward Godbois