So there really is a Debtors Anonymous. You’d think that after ten months of focused debt reduction I’d be aware of that fact. But it took someone’s anonymous comment to bring DA to my attention. Last week, I wrote about my evening with a friend who was facing her own indebtedness, and I compared it with an AA meeting. (See last week’s post, “Sharing A Fellow Debtor’s Moment”.) A reader commented anonymously to let me know that DA actually exists and to provide a link to a DA site.
In looking through the site, I am amazed at the extent to which my own experience is outlined and the precision with which my money habits are identified. I am also encouraged by the fact that, in reading through “The 12 Signs of CompulsiveDebting” I am able to say, “I used to do that, but not anymore.” One of the signs of compulsive debting is “3. Poor saving habits. Not planning for taxes, retirement or other not-recurring but predictable items, and then feeling surprised when they come due . . .” This month, one of our two annual property tax bills comes due, and we are “surprised” by the fact we’re not ready for it.
Annual property tax “surprise”
We’ve been too busy since the Christmas rush with DH’s business. Like the proverbial juggler with too many balls up in the air, we’ve been dropping them. The house isn’t getting cleaned. The dog isn’t getting walked enough. We haven’t sat down to make a monthly budget since October. We’ve been going on auto-pilot, and our money is in a sloppy state.
Furthermore, we have never adopted the habit of checking to what degree we’ve stayed true to our monthly budgets. For instance, we’ve assigned $200 per month for “household” expenses – things like J-Cloths and laundry detergent. But we’ve never checked at the end of any given month to see whether or not we’ve gone over budget in that area. We’ve also budgeted a certain monthly amount to cover the big property tax bills, but because we haven’t kept adequate track of the other areas of the budget, they’ve bled into each other, and our tax money has gradually dissipated.
When DH told me that we might not have enough to cover our property tax bill, I am pleased to note that I was remarkably serene about it. It used to be that any financial crunch sent ripples of anxiety through our household. It was truly awful. This time, I was able to say that I understood why we were facing the crunch, and we moved on to the matter of how to handle it. Would we use the money we’ve been saving to buy a new TV and sofa? Maybe. Would we use the money from our small TFSA (tax-free savings account. We set it up before we began our journey out of debt and have continued putting $101 per month into it.) A little more awkward, but a possibility. Would we extend our line of credit? NO!
Time to regroup
As it turns out, we’re going to squeak by without having to dip into any savings. We might end up with no debt repayment for the month of March, but I’m OK with that. DH and I have to regroup. We can’t go on auto-pilot when it comes to budgeting. We have to make the time both to create a monthly budget and to assess how we’ve done on a month-by-month basis. “Do not be discouraged if you cannot keep perfect records,” says Debtors Anonymous on its “Getting Started” page. “If you lose track, begin again as soon as you can. We believe in progress, not perfection.”
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