This week was significant in my financial life. For a reason that used to be completely insignificant to me.
We finally caught up on our bills!
I imagine some of you reading this won’t understand why this is a big deal. I mean, paying your bills is pretty boring to think about, let alone write about. But I also imagine some of you understand all too well why I feel the need to share.
Before I was laid off and unable to find full-time work, I was always on top of our bills. I was one of those people that would pay the bill within a day or two of receiving it, opposed to waiting for the due date. It was easier for me that way.
But when there was no money in my account, due dates were anything but easy.
At first, things were okay, but it didn’t take long before we found ourselves living paycheck to paycheck.
Keeping a roof over our heads and food on our table had to come first. And some months, even making that happen was a struggle.
HOW WE MANAGED WHEN THINGS WERE TOUGH
We managed as best we could by staying organized. I recorded every due date and amount for each bill or regular expense on our kitchen calendar so we always knew where we stood.
Each payday, we’d look at what expenses we had coming up and compare that to the amount of money we had. Some weeks we were fine. Others we were not. (My husband works shift work and I was only working part-time, so our hours – and therefore our pay – varied each week.)
When the numbers didn’t work out, we’d pick a bill or two to purposely pay late so that we could spread it out over more than one paycheck, and make sure we had enough money to get by.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before paying a bill a bit late to turned into paying it a month or two late.
I constantly read articles about how to get back on track, hoping to discover something new. But they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know or wasn’t already trying to do.
We were organized. We prioritized. We cut back on everything we could. And I tried desperately to find a job to earn more money.
Thankfully, we managed to stay on top of our bills enough to avoid having our services cut off.
But I still felt out of control whenever we couldn’t pay a bill on time or not at all.
Paying late fees sucked.
I felt ashamed the odd time we got a notice or collection call.
It was embarrassing to talk about because I was sure that people thought we were just being lazy. Or that we were spending our money on lavish things instead of paying our bills. I assure you, we were not.
IT TOOK US 6 MONTHS TO CATCH UP
I thought we’d be back on track as soon as I was back to work full time. I certainly didn’t think it’d take us 6 months!
But we didn’t fall behind overnight, and we weren’t going to catch up that quickly, either.
We made paying off all the bills a priority, but there were other needs that we were neglecting or going without all this time, too. Things like minor car maintenance, and replacing my glued-back-together winter boots.
It also didn’t help that because I was making money again, we had to add my student loan back to our list of monthly bills.
CELEBRATE THE (SMALL) WINS
So, why am I so excited about paying our bills? It’s not something you typically really think about, let alone “celebrate”.
But if you’ve struggled at all to pay your bills, you’ll understand.
I believe that when it comes to your finances it’s important to celebrate the wins – no matter how small they might seem.
For me, this was a big win. We accomplished the first step (of many) towards becoming debt free and meeting our financial goals. And now we can focus on what’s next.
YOUR TURN: What financial wins – big or small – have you accomplished lately?
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and making a living. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a FREE library of career & job search resources.